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The X-Files is a science fiction-thriller franchise, initially conceived by Chris Carter. The franchise generally focused on paranormal or unexplained happenings. The first franchise release, simply titled The X-Files, first aired in September 1993 and ended in May 2002. The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans (e.g., "The Truth Is Out There", "Trust No One", "I Want to Believe") became pop culture touchstones in the 1990s. 1996 saw the release of the franchise's first television spin off, entitled Millennium. In 1998, the first X-Files feature film was released, eventually grossing over 180 million United States dollars. A third series spinoff, The Lone Gunmen, was released in 2001 and abruptly cancelled. In 2002, Fox cancelled the franchise's first and last series, The X-Files. After a six-year break, the second film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, was released. It grossed roughly 60 million United States dollars worldwide. The franchise currently remains on hiatus.

In addition to film and television, the The X-Files franchise has expanded into other media, including books, video games, and comic books. These supplements to the film and television series have resulted in significant development of the show's fictional universe and mythology.

Due to multiple developers working separately and independently on the franchise over the years, the various X-Files productions are not entirely consistent with each other; and while no set of works forms an official canon, the largest following exists for the three live-action series. Through the work of various authors and developers, at least six separate story cycles can be discerned, some of which are continuations of the other ones (either endorsed or unendorsed by their ancestor).

Television series

The most common topics in the franchise were paranormal happenings, including but not limited to alien abductions, genetic mutations, and psychic abilities. The X-Files originally followed Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and their work in the FBImarker office dedicated to the X-Files. Their investigations generally concentrate cases which are declared unsolvable by normal procedures. The X-Files was generally divided into two classes of episodes, most of them being monster-of-the-week, or "stand-alone" episodes. Other episodes focused on the X-Files mytharc, which followed a government conspiracy to hide the truth about the existence of extraterrestial life.

Millennium followed former Special agent Frank Black, a skilled criminal psychologist who could predict the actions of murderers and serial killers. This often led Black to investigate the most brutal and horrific crimes. Black eventually became a consultant for the Millennium Group, which believed that the world as we know it would come to an end at the beginning of the new millennium. In the third season Black turns on the group and rejoins the FBImarker as a special agent.

The Lone Gunmen followed the characters Richard Langly, Melvin Frohike, John Fitzgerald Byers (all of whom were recurring characters in the X-Files) and new character Jimmy Bond in their attempts to compile a conspiracy-theorist magazine.

Feature films

The first feature film, The X-Files: Fight the Future was released in 1998 in between the fifth and sixth season. It was intended to be a continuation of the season five finale "The End", but also be able to stand on its own. Season six opener "The Beginning" picked up where the film left off. The majority of the film was shot in the break between the show's fourth and fifth seasons. The film follows the actions of Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) after their dismissal from the the X-Files division.

Unlike the first film, the plot of The X-Files: I Want To Believe does not focus on the series' ongoing extraterrestrial-based "mytharc" and instead works as a standalone thriller-horror story. The film details ex-agents Mulder and Scully's search for a missing FBI agentmarker. While Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) makes a notable appearance, John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) are absent from the film.

Media releases

Film Release date Box office revenue Director
United States Foreign Total
The X-Files: Fight the Future June 19, 1998 $83,898,313 $105,278,110 $189,176,423 Rob Bowman
The X-Files: I Want to Believe July 25, 2008 $20,982,478 $47,386,956 $68,369,434 Chris Carter
Series Creator(s) Original Run Episodes Seasons
Debut End
The X-Files Chris Carter September 10, 1993 May 19, 2002 202 9
Millennium Chris Carter October 25, 1996 May 21, 1999 61 3
The Lone Gunmen Chris Carter March 2, 2001 May 11, 2001 13 1



There are three series of novels based on the The X-Files franchise, one based on each of the three shows. During the run of the television series, The X-Files, many books based on it were released, written, including novels based on episodes, a series of comic books from Topps Comics, and many "official" and "unauthorized" non-fiction books. Some of the novels, which were published in both hardcover and trade paperback editions, were adapted into audio books read by two of the series' stars, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi. Three X-Files books rose to the top-selling list over Europe and North America. These books were The Official Guide to the X Files, The Unofficial X Files Companion and The X Files Book of the Unexplained. In 2004, The US-based Topps Comics and, most recently, DC Comics imprint Wildstorm launched a new series of licensed tie-in comics based on The X-Files. The Fox Broadcasting Network publishes the official The X-Files Magazine. In total, five novels have been based on Millennium, the first being a novelization of the "Pilot episode". Some novels were also released as audiobooks read by actor Bill Smitrovitch.

Toys and games

The X-Files spawned a large number of spin-off products. A The X-Files Collectible Card Game was released in 1996, and an expansion pack was released in 1997. The X-Files has inspired three video games. In 1998, The X-Files: The Game was released for the PC and Macintosh and a year later for the PlayStation. This game is set within the timeline of the second or third season and follows Agent Craig Willmore in his search for the missing Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. In 2000, Fox Interactive released The X-Files: Unrestricted Access, a game-style database for Windows and Mac, which allowed users access to every case file. Then, in 2004, The X-Files: Resist or Serve was released for the PlayStation 2. This game is an original story set in the seventh season and allows the player control of both Mulder and Scully. Both games feature acting and voice work from members of the series' cast. A 12 inch Frank Black figurine was issued by Sideshow in the same mold as The X-Files Special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully earlier.


The X-Files franchise has influenced many shows over the years and became a television touchstone of the 90s. The first show, The X-Files, became an international hit and its two main actors, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, became international sex symbols. Shows such as Bones, Fringe and Lost have cited The X-Files as a major influece. The show has also topped ranking polls worldwide, but most notably in the english speaking world.

The two television spin off's have, on the other hand, made less impact. Millennium, while well-received by many critics, garnered criticism for the episodes being similar to each other in content and themes. Variety magazine reviewer Jeremy Gerard, although his review was mostly favorable, criticized it for giving him the "nagging feeling" that it wanted to hurt him. Many reviewers noted the dark story lines of the series, which were constantly mentioned as a reason why the show never became widely popular. The second spin off, entitled The Lone Gunmen, lasted only one season due to declining viewership, although it too earned largely positive reviews.


  1. O'Donnel, Maureen (June 25, 1997) "UFO lore alive in Chicago area". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on July 27, 2009.

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