It didn’t take long for The X-Files to make household names of its stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, after its original premiere in September 1993. But take a look back at the beloved sci-fi series’ original run and you’re bound to see a lot more familiar faces.
1. BRYAN CRANSTON // PATRICK CRUMP IN “DRIVE” (NOVEMBER 15, 1998)
Thirteen years before he starred in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, Bryan Cranston starred in a sixth season episode of The X-Files with the same title. He plays Patrick Crump, a desperate man who has been infected with a deadly pathogen and takes Mulder hostage while Scully rushes to find an antidote. Though cast in the role of antagonist, Cranston quickly established his knack for balancing virtues with vices—a talent the episode’s writer, Vince Gilligan, recalled when he was casting the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad years later. “I worked with a lot of great people on The X-Files, but one of the absolute highlights was Bryan, and I knew I wanted to work with him again,” Gilligan told The Star-Ledger. “So when [Walter White] came along, I knew he had the chops.”
2. AARON PAUL // DAVID WINKLE IN “LORD OF THE FLIES” (DECEMBER 16, 2001)
After one-off roles on Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and 3rd Rock from the Sun, Cranston’s future Breaking Bad co-star made a memorable appearance during The X-Files’ ninth (and final) season as the leader of a Jackass-like crew of pranksters who may have a monster-of-the-week among them.
3. JANE LYNCH // ANNE LOKENSGARD IN “LORD OF THE FLIES” (DECEMBER 16, 2001)
Jane Lynch appeared in the same episode as Aaron Paul, playing the mother of Dylan Lokensgard, Paul’s frequent bullying target. But both Lynch and her on-screen son have a secret, which is the episode’s big twist.
4. AND 5. JACK BLACK AND GIOVANNI RIBISI // BART LIQUORI AND DARIN PETER OSWALD IN “D.P.O.” (OCTOBER 6, 1995)
Jack Black and Giovanni Ribisi played friends and video game virtuosos in The X-Files’ third season, one of whom may have learned how to harness the power of lightning. Mulder and Scully make their way to Oklahoma to investigate.
6. RYAN REYNOLDS // JAY “BOOM” DEBOOM IN “SYZYGY” (JANUARY 26, 1996)
In season three, Ryan Reynolds made a brief appearance as a high school jock who learns the hard way that bad things can happen when you hang around with teenage Satanists.
7. FELICITY HUFFMAN // DR. NANCY DA SILVA IN “ICE” (NOVEMBER 5, 1993)
Early on in the premiere season, Mulder and Scully are sent to Alaska to investigate the unexplained deaths of a team of geophysicists. They’re accompanied by a team of doctors, Felicity Huffman among them. In a very The Thing-like turn of events, it’s determined that someone in the group may have been infected by the same parasite that likely killed the team of researchers.
8. SHIA LABEOUF // RICHIE LUPONE IN “THE GOLDBERG VARIATION” (DECEMBER 12, 1999)
Long before he trapped himself in an elevator in the name of art, Shia LaBeouf was a cute kid actor with some surprisingly sophisticated chops. In season seven’s “The Goldberg Variation,” he plays Richie, a sickly kid whose neighbor (played by Sex and the City star Willie Garson) endangers his own life in order to help pay for Richie’s medical bills.
9. BRADLEY WHITFORD // DR. DANIEL TREPKOS IN “FIREWALKER” (NOVEMBER 18, 1994)
In season two’s “Firewalker,” Bradley Whitford plays the somewhat unhinged head of team of scientists who are studying the inside of a volcano. But weird things start happening after a former team member intercepts a transmission which shows the project’s chief seismologist being killed inside of the volcano, and a shadowy figure inside the cave with him (which would be impossible—at least humanly—given the uninhabitable temperatures).
10. LUCY LIU // KIM HSIN IN “HELL MONEY” (MARCH 29, 1996)
A series of mysterious deaths in San Francisco’s Chinatown find Mulder and Scully (unsurprisingly) divided on exactly what's happening: Mulder thinks it’s paranormal, Scully thinks it’s the work of a cult. Their investigation leads them to Lucy Liu, the leukemia-stricken daughter of an immigrant the agents are looking to question.
11. JOHN HAWKES // PHILLIP PADGETT IN “MILAGRO” (APRIL 18, 1999)
Rumor has it that The X-Files creator Chris Carter had this sixth season episode written specifically for Oscar-nominated actor John Hawkes, and it’s easy to see why. His trademark ease in front of the camera—even when the script calls for him to rip out his own beating heart—can elevate any material.
12. BOKEEM WOODBINE // SAMMOM ROQUE IN “THE LIST” (OCTOBER 20, 1995)
In The X-Files’ third season, Fargo star Bokeem Woodbine played a prison inmate who is keeping a list of the five people a recently-executed inmate promised to come back and kill after his death. His attempt to use the list as collateral for being transferred to another prison doesn’t work out the way he planned.
13. LUKE WILSON // SHERIFF HARTWELL IN “BAD BLOOD” (FEBRUARY 22, 1998)
In the same year that he appeared in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, Luke Wilson co-starred in what Gillian Anderson called one of her favorite episodes of The X-Files. “Bad Blood” was a comedic take on the very different perspectives of Mulder and Scully, most memorably seen in the way that Gillian Anderson saw the episode’s guest star versus Mulder’s view of him (as seen in the video above). Bonus points for Wilson being a vampire.
14. OCTAVIA SPENCER // NURSE OCTAVIA IN “MILLENNIUM” (NOVEMBER 28, 1999)
Blink and you might just miss Octavia Spencer. Thirteen years before she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help, the actress had a tiny role—playing a nurse, also named Octavia—in The X-Files’ seventh season.
15. SETH GREEN // EMIL IN “DEEP THROAT” (SEPTEMBER 17, 1993)
Seth Green guest starred on the second episode of The X-Files as a teenage stoner who has his own theories about what the UFO he saw really is.
16. KATHY GRIFFIN // BETTY TEMPLETON/LULU PFEIFFER IN “FIGHT CLUB” (MAY 7, 2000)
Kathy Griffin had audiences seeing double when she played doppelgängers who create mayhem whenever they’re in close proximity to each other.
17. DONAL LOGUE // SPECIAL AGENT TOM COLTON IN “SQUEEZE” (SEPTEMBER 24, 1993)
Early on in the series, Donal Logue—as FBI Special Agent Tom Colton—pays a visit to Scully, his former colleague, to warn her what working with “Spooky” Mulder could do to her professional reputation. She seems to have survived the ordeal.