The BEST Episodes of Tales of the Unexpected

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Network: ITV1

Tales Of The Unexpected is a British television series originally aired between 1979 and 1988, made by Anglia Television for ITV. The series was an anthology of different tales. Initially episodes were based on the short stories collected in the books Tales of the Unexpected, Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You by Roald Dahl. The stories were sometimes sinister, sometimes wryly comedic, and usually had a twist ending. The upbeat theme music for the series was written by the prolific film and television composer Ron Grainer.

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The Hitch-Hiker

#1 - The Hitch-Hiker

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Mar 22, 1980

Paul Duveen gives a lift in his ultra-fast new BMW to an elderly hitch-hiker on his way to Epsom for the Derby. Duveen, cajoled into taking the car to its limit, is promptly booked for speeding. In the course of the remaining journey, the passenger reveals his astonishing skills as a professional pickpocket - his name for himself is a fingersmith - and before they finally part, the fingersmith has a little present for Duveen...

star 8.42
43 votes
Writers: Robin Chapman
The Flypaper

#2 - The Flypaper

Season 3 - Episode 1 - Aired Aug 9, 1980

A young girl is being followed by a stalker and is glad to take shelter with the elderly Miss Harrison, who lives in a caravan - but the girl is still in danger, and she disappears.... what has happened to her, and who was the stalker? At the end of the programme, an old man joins Miss Harrison in her caravan, and we see that it is near a lake...

star 8.31
13 votes
Directors: Graham Evans
Writers: Elizabeth Taylor, Robin Chapman
The Tribute

#3 - The Tribute

Season 6 - Episode 11 - Aired Jun 25, 1983

Three English ladies who served the Empire in distant places, Fanny Soane, Mable Ince, and Lady Eleanor Benson, hear of the death of Nanny Dench, who had served all of them. The three ladies decide against the expense of a notice in The Times and plan instead to meet Nanny's niece for lunch. But a shock is in store for them...

star 8.29
7 votes
Writers: Alan Seymour
A Harmless Vanity

#4 - A Harmless Vanity

Season 5 - Episode 9 - Aired Jun 20, 1982

Mary Hitchman's disbelief turns to curiosity when a friend tips her off that her husband George is having an affair with a pretty young secretary. Mary arranges a chance meeting with her rival at a beach party - and George does not foresee what is coming to him.

star 8.11
9 votes
Writers: Jeremy Paul
Wink Three Times

#5 - Wink Three Times

Season 9 - Episode 6 - Aired Apr 15, 1988

Jeremy Tyler, a timid provincial solicitor, is visiting a smart London hotel on a business trip and becomes embroiled in a curious case of mistaken identity. Babs Colport has arranged a blind date through a dating agency. Jeremy, looking for female company, tries to seduce her.

star 8.00
7 votes
Writers: Paul Ableman
Stranger in Town

#6 - Stranger in Town

Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired May 23, 1982

A bearded, simple-minded stranger, wearing a top hat and a multi-colored coat, appears in a village performing conjuring tricks and is soon a favorite with the village children. They call him Sir Columbus, and he seems delightful and harmless. One day, Columbus talks his way into the office of a local business man, reveals himself as an unexpected visitor from the man's guilty past, and commits what seems to be the perfect murder. (This episode is noted for providing a young Jennifer Connelly with her first screen credit.)

star 7.90
10 votes
Directors: Wendy Toye
Writers: Sidney Carroll
The Wrong 'Un

#7 - The Wrong 'Un

Season 6 - Episode 9 - Aired Jun 11, 1983

Helmut Weinrich is a German business man staying in a hotel and looking for a good time after a successful deal. Helmut meets the beautiful and enigmatic Molly, a girl with an edge of danger about her. He ignores the warnings of the hotel's security officer, buys Molly dinner and invites her up to his room...

star 7.88
8 votes
Writers: Paul Ableman
The Stinker

#8 - The Stinker

Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 7, 1980

Jack Cutler is an arrogant millionaire, and in middle age he runs into the meek Harold Tinker, a fellow he was at school with - Tinker remembers being bullied by Cutler, who called him ""Stinker Tinker"". Cutler offers Tinker a job, and, to please his beautiful wife, Tinker accepts. But his old resentment and loathing for Cutler have not gone away, and when he suspects his wife is having an affair with his new boss, something explodes...

star 7.87
15 votes
Writers: Julian Bond
The Orderly World of Mr Appleby

#9 - The Orderly World of Mr Appleby

Season 2 - Episode 15 - Aired Jun 7, 1980

Arthur Appleby's orderly world centres on his quiet antique and curio shop. He has just married for the fourth time, and his new wife, Martha, discovers Appleby's dark secret - he murdered all her predecessors. But the new Mrs Appleby has a plan to turn the tables on her husband.

star 7.83
12 votes
Writers: Robin Chapman
Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

#10 - Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 31, 1979

Bixby is a New York dentist. Once a month, for many years, his wife goes to Baltimore by train to visit her aunt. She does not tell Bixby about her affair with the Colonel, a single man with a big house near Baltimore, who is the real reason for all these visits.One Christmas, Mrs Bixby gets a parting gift from the Colonel - a splendid mink coat. So that she can explain the coat to her husband, she devises a complicated scheme which depends on pawning the coat and then 'finding' the pawn ticket... but the best laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley.

star 7.83
29 votes
Writers: Ronald Harwood
The Verger

#11 - The Verger

Season 9 - Episode 4 - Aired Jan 22, 1988

Albert and Milly Dobson have given sixteen years of devoted service to their parish church, but a new Vicar arrives who does not like the old ways and has little time for the Dobsons. Following radical changes, a secret Albert has hidden for years causes consternation. In defiance, the couple build a new life... Of course, God moves in mysterious ways.

star 7.78
9 votes
Writers: Denis Cannan
Skeleton in the Cupboard

#12 - Skeleton in the Cupboard

Season 9 - Episode 1 - Aired Dec 18, 1987

Robert Smythe is a ruthless executive with a dangerous twenty-year-old secret... An echo from the past prompts him into a new cover-up of the truth, but his wife becomes suspicious.

star 7.70
10 votes
Writers: Peter Ransley
Proxy

#13 - Proxy

Season 7 - Episode 3 - Aired May 26, 1984

A millionaire media tycoon and two of his lawyer friends are being blackmailed by a scheming woman on account of past affairs with her. When the woman is found murdered in her apartment, the men fear that the police inquiries will lead to one or all of them, and they will be ruined. But then the tycoon's faithful chauffeur, William, thinks up a brilliant way out...

star 7.63
8 votes
Lamb to the Slaughter

#14 - Lamb to the Slaughter

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Apr 14, 1979

An enraged detective's wife kills her husband by smashing in his skull with a heavy blunt instrument - but no murder weapon can be found, and the police are baffled. The answer to the riddle lies under the detectives' noses - or, rather, it did...

star 7.61
33 votes
Writers: Robin Chapman
The Mugger

#15 - The Mugger

Season 7 - Episode 14 - Aired Oct 14, 1984

Gerald Overton is an ambitious politician with the tough job of cracking violent crime. But a chance encounter with a beautiful woman at a dinner party leads him into a nightmare, and his whole career is threatened... Gerald surprises himself when he decides to take the law into his own hands.

star 7.57
7 votes
Directors: Peter Hammond
Writers: Robin Chapman
The Party

#16 - The Party

Season 3 - Episode 9 - Aired Dec 19, 1980

Christmas is in sight, and for Harry Knox, the elderly manager of a toy factory, it is always an unhappy time of year. But this Christmas looks even worse when Harry hears a rumour that the factory is being taken over by foreigners. Then comes the news that young Leighton is organising an office disco the night before the staff party which Henry has been running for many years. The writing is on the wall for Henry's party and his job - he decides his bosses want to push him out, after forty years of loyal service, and he is so enraged that he sets fire to the factory. But there was more to the planned party than Harry realized...

star 7.55
11 votes
Writers: Chaim Bermant
A Dip in the Pool

#17 - A Dip in the Pool

Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired May 12, 1979

William Botibol, an American passenger on a British cruise ship, is anxious to win the rich sweepstake for predicting the distance the ship will travel in twenty-four hours - and William realizes that if the captain were to need to go back to pick up a man overboard, then his own ticket should win. So long as someone sees him go over the side, there can be no real problem...

star 7.52
23 votes
Writers: Ronald Harwood
Parson's Pleasure

#18 - Parson's Pleasure

Season 3 - Episode 6 - Aired Nov 30, 1980

Cyril Boggis is a rogue antique dealer who goes around posing as a clergyman and describing himself as President of the Society for the Preservation of Rare Furniture. Cyril makes a handsome living by buying valuable antiques cheap and selling them to Storker, another dealer. One day, Cyril calls on old Farmer Rummins and buys a piece of furniture from him which he knows is worth a fortune. He looks forward to making a huge profit on it - but his luck may be about to run out.

star 7.50
12 votes
Writers: Ronald Harwood
Light Fingers

#19 - Light Fingers

Season 5 - Episode 11 - Aired Jul 4, 1982

Joan Stackpole wants a quiet life. Even talking to her husband Ralph is an ordeal she prefers to avoid. Meanwhile, Ralph has a big problem - someone is stealing the gloves from his glove factory, and the pilfering is throwing all his staff under suspicion, including Cotter, his designer. When Ralph can take no more, he hires a private eye, who forms an ingenious plan to catch the thief, and Ralph tells Joan about it over breakfast. Ralph swears he will get rid of the culprit - but then traces of the thief start turning up in unexpected places...

star 7.50
8 votes
Writers: Ross Thomas
The Dirty Detail

#20 - The Dirty Detail

Season 7 - Episode 1 - Aired May 12, 1984

Fred Pearson is a Vietnam war veteran, but he came out with a miserable service record, thanks to the bullying of Guedo, his sergeant, who constantly gave him dirty detail punishments and broke his nerve. Since discharge, Pearson hasn't been able to keep a job and feels the world is against him. Years on from Vietnam, and after an unsuccessful day of looking for work, Pearson goes to his favourite bar to drown his sorrows and finds Guedo boasting about his time in the army. Pearson sees a chance of revenge...

star 7.50
8 votes
Writers: David Scott Milton
The Best Chess Player in the World

#21 - The Best Chess Player in the World

Season 7 - Episode 2 - Aired May 19, 1984

G.B. Shaw, a successful newpaper proprietor, sets out to use people as if they were pieces on a chessboard. His beautiful wife, Paula, has everything she could want - including a horse, a Ferrari and a very large dress allowance. Then Paula begins to live dangerously by taking a lover, and Shaw decides to deal with the problem in his usual cool, calm and clear-thinking way. But life does not always obey the rules of the game...

star 7.50
6 votes
Writers: Peter Ransley
The Man from the South

#22 - The Man from the South

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Mar 24, 1979

A young American sailor on shore leave in the West Indies is tempted by a crazy bet. To win a new Jaguar, all he need do is to make his cigarette-lighter light ten times without any failures. In return, he has to stake one of his fingers. But what is the truth about Carlos, the high-rolling old man who has proposed the bet?

star 7.47
53 votes
Writers: Kevin Goldstein-Jackson
Taste

#23 - Taste

Season 2 - Episode 7 - Aired Apr 12, 1980

Richard Pratt, a famous middle-aged wine connoisseur, is having dinner with the Schofields for the third time. Twice before, he has won a case of wine from Mike Schofield by correctly identifying the claret served with dinner. This time, Pratt wishes to increase the stakes - he offers his London house and his place in the country against the hand in marriage of the Schofields' teenage daughter, Louise. And Schofield (who is sure he has found a wine no one could identify) persuades Louise to agree to the bet. After all, this wine is unguessable...

star 7.47
15 votes
Writers: Ronald Harwood
Vengeance Is Mine Inc.

#24 - Vengeance Is Mine Inc.

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired Aug 30, 1980

Tom and George, two young college graduates who are out of work in New York, offer satisfaction to the victims of Lionel Brewster, the city's most scurrilous gossip columnist - for a price. Mrs Wilbur has a job for 'Vengeance is Mine Inc', but she gets rather more for her money than she asked for.

star 7.45
11 votes
Writers: John Rosenberg
Never Speak Ill of the Dead

#25 - Never Speak Ill of the Dead

Season 4 - Episode 8 - Aired May 24, 1981

David Rankin is a country doctor with a flighty young wife. Irene's affairs with other men were the talk of the town before she was married - and they still are. No one knows for sure if the gossip has reached the doctor. And then no one knows where Irene has gone... Sim and Bob accuse Dr Rankin of killing his wife and burying her in the cellar - but they have made a big mistake.

star 7.44
9 votes
Writers: Robin Chapman