Criminal Minds is a crime drama show that appears similar to other options in this genre. However, Criminal Minds stands out due to its depiction of gruesome crimes. You can say it is more unhinged. However, not all episodes are equal, so we are going to look at the best Criminal Minds episodes.
Despite being concluded in 2020, the show was revived again in 2022. So it is safe to say that there’s a cult following for this show. That following has refused to let this show die despite it being on air for more than 15 years.
So while we wait for the next season of Criminal Minds, why not take a look at the top 20 best Criminal Minds episodes of all time?
Criminal Minds started airing in September 2005. It currently has 16 seasons, and it is set to return for another season next year.
The premise of the show is quite simple. It revolves around a team of profilers from the FBI’s BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit). This team’s purpose is to analyze the most dangerous criminal minds in order to stop crime and prevent precious lives from being lost.
This series differs from other crime shows as it focuses more on the criminal’s and victims’ psychology rather than the crime scene. The writers have based some episodes on real-life cases and stories as well.
20 Best Criminal Minds Episodes
The show has a total of 334 episodes as of now, and trust me when I believe you that not all of them are worth watching. There are only a handful of episodes that can be described as the best Criminal Minds episodes. Let’s take a look at some of these episodes.
20. Season 1, Episode 9
We are starting our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes with the first season. The 9th episode of the first season is titled “Derailed.” This episode revolves around a hostage situation. Overall, it is a pretty good episode with a compelling storyline.
In this episode, a paranoid and schizophrenic person takes an entire train hostage. However, Elle is also present among these hostages. Seeing her, the criminal gets even more paranoid as he is afraid of being followed around.
19. Season 1, Episode 18
Another episode from season 1 makes its way on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes. This episode is titled “Somebody’s Watching.” This episode focuses on the dark side of Hollywood.
The LAPD brings in Gideon and Reid for consultation while they investigate a series of murders. All of these murders revolve around a young actress who actually gets attracted to Reid. This episode is a classic “stalker.” storyline and has a lot of suspense to keep you interested.
18. Season 4, Episode 3
Taking a shift from season 1 (for now), we have the episode titled “Minimal Loss.” It is the third episode of season 4. It revolves around an undercover operation featuring Prentiss and Reid.
They have to breach an underground cult that is involved in child abuse. However, things go sideways when the cult leader takes Prentiss and Reid hostage. This entire episode is very strong and cuts no corners when it comes to effective storytelling and suspense.
17. Season 1, Episode 6
Coming back to season 1, we have “L.S.D.K.” It is the 6th episode of season 1. In this episode, The team is tracking a sniper in Illinois, who, for some reason, doesn’t kill his victims but injures them.
On the other hand, Reid loses his firearms after failing the firearms qualification exam. This causes him a lot of trouble when he and Hotch get trapped in a life-threatening situation. Overall, the writing and execution of this episode put it on this list of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
16. Season 5, Episode 12
“The Uncanny Valley” is the 12th episode of Criminal Minds season 5. It aired on January 13, 2010. The Entire episode has a very creepy yet sad and miserable feeling attached to it. This particular tone works greatly in favor of the story.
The story of this episode revolves around the BAU, who is sent to Atlantic City to profile a suspect who is kidnapping particular kinds of women and has an odd personal interest. All in all, it is a very moving and chilling episode of Criminal Minds that deserves all your attention.
15. Season 3, Episode 16
The next entry on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes is the 16th episode of season 3. In this episode, The BAU travels to West Bune to investigate a violent killing spree that supposedly involves a teenage boy.
Reid, in particular, finds himself a bit too personally involved in this case. So he is the highlight of this episode as well. His character development throughout the episode is remarkable. “Elephant’s Memory” proves to be a really solid and emotional episode.
14. Season 4, Episode 20
Season 4’s episode 20 revolves around the BAU investigating a serial killer that is targeting male college students on spring break. A man and a woman are supposedly involved together in this crime. This episode is titled “Conflicted,” and it is one of those episodes that really goes all out.
Jackson Rathbone stands out due to his remarkable performance. He slips right into the character so naturally. His performance in this episode is enough to put it on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
13. Season 7, Episode 11
“True Genius” is the next entry on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes. It is the 11th episode of season 7. It aired on January 18, 2012. This episode is slightly inspired by the real-life Zodiac Killer.
In this episode, The BAU investigates a string of homicides that makes them think the “Zodiac Killer” may have returned. On the other hand, Reid questions his own intellect after attending a seminar hosted by the crime novelist Patricia Cornwell.
12. Season 14, Episode 1
The first episode of season 14 is titled “300.” It is actually the 300th episode of the show which is a huge achievement for any show. Moreover, season 14 provided the much-needed positive direction for the show after a couple of mediocre seasons.
This episode also revolves around the cult leader, Benjamin David Merva. When two agents (Reid and Garcia) are kidnapped by his followers, the BAU decides to put a permanent end to his murderous plans.
11. Season 15, Episode 6
The next entry on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes is “Date Night.” It aired on February 5, 2020. In this episode, an old enemy of the BAU returns with extremely specific demands for Dr. Reid after a father and daughter are abducted.
As usual, Aubrey Plaza is great in her role. This episode has more of a cult and divisive following. However, many people enjoyed it due to its interesting yet slightly humorous storyline. Overall, it is an extremely entertaining episode.
10. Season 4, Episode 7
The tenth episode of season 4 is titled “Memoriam.” It is actually the continuation of a previous episode called “The Instincts,” which revolved around the investigation of a young boy’s murder in Las Vegas.
However, this episode revolves around Reid, who gets extremely sunk into this investigation. He actually discovers a deep connection to his own past, including his parents. The story of this episode is extremely well-written and emotionally powerful.
9. Season 4, Episode 24
The next entry on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes is the 24th episode of season 5. It is titled “Amplification.” This episode aired on May 13, 2009. It is another solid entry coming from season 4 of Criminal Minds.
This episode sees The BAU working alongside the U.S. Army to stop a terrorist from releasing a deadly strain of bacteria in Annapolis. This virus has the potential to take countless lives. Overall, “Amplification” proves to be a really effective and engaging episode.
8. Season 10, Episode 21
Airing on April 22, 2015, “Mr. Scratch” is the next episode on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes. This episode revolves around The BAU searching for a suspect who can allegedly control minds.
The episode features an interesting concept, and it is well-executed. It has quite a scary side to it and a gritty tone throughout. Moreover, the acting adds the cherry on top, as it is one of the best-acted episodes as well.
7. Season 6, Episode 18
The 18th episode of season 6 revolves around Prentiss, who has gone missing while following Ian Doyle. So the BAU teams up with JJ to find Prentiss and capture Doyle before it gets too late. The title of this episode is “Lauren.”
Despite being one of the weaker seasons of the show, it manages to give us a wonderful story in the form of “Lauren.” Not only is this episode the best episode of season 6 it is also one of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
6. Season 8, Episode 12
While the name “Zugzwang” may sound like a spell from Harry Potter, it is actually the title of one of the best Criminal Minds episodes. The episode in question is the 12th episode of season 8 of Criminal Minds.
In this episode, Reid joins forces with the BAU to find and save his girlfriend before it’s too late after learning that she has been kidnapped by her stalker. Despite the lackluster ending, fans have praised it for its suspenseful and emotional storyline.
5. Season 2, Episode 11
“Sex, Birth, Death” is one of the best Criminal Minds episodes and is a part of season 2 of the show. It aired on November 29, 2006. This episode is often described as a classic due to its visual style and acting.
The story of this episode revolves around a young man who asks Reid for help regarding his fantasy of killing sex workers. On the other hand, an actual serial killer is out on the loose and killing numerous prostitutes.
4. Season 2, Episode 15
Going back to the early seasons of the show, we have the episode titled “Revelations.” In this episode, the BAU must find the killer who kidnapped Reid. They have to find him with the handful of evidence they have.
“Revelations” is a stylish and intense episode. It has all the right elements. It has a lot of complex emotions and brilliant writing. Overall, it is one of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
3. Season 5, Episode 16
Another episode from season 5 makes its way on our list of the best Criminal Minds episodes. This episode is titled “Mosley Lane,” and it’s the 16th episode of this season.
This episode focuses on a kidnapper who has been on the loose for more than eight years. This predator focuses on children, so the BAU must stop him in time. Overall, the episode has a gut-wrenching and powerful script.
2. Season 11, Episode 11
The 11th episode of season 1 is titled “Entropy.” This episode features Cat Adams. The BAU is trying to catch the entire gang. The plan includes Reid going on a blind date with Adams.
Audrey Plaza again shines in this episode as Cat Adams. The other cast members have also done an incredible job in this thrilling and fast-paced episode. Overall, it’s one of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
1. Season 5, Episode 9
The 100th episode of a show is a really impressive milestone and should be celebrated. So is the case with Criminal Minds’ 100th episode, which is aptly titled “100.” It aired on November 25, 2009.
In this episode, the BAU is focused on catching the Reaper before he hurts Hotchner’s family. This episode is the perfect love letter to Criminal Minds fans. It is a highly thrilling episode and deserves to be called one of the best Criminal Minds episodes.
Criminal Minds continues to be one of the most iconic and thrilling crime shows when the creators really try.
We have tried our best to include the 20 best Criminal Minds episodes in this list. As always, your opinions might be a bit different.