The 30 Best Miniseries of All-Time

Updated September 15, 2022 • Staff

One and done, that's how miniseries seasons work. It's always so much more enriching to watch 4 different stories with different casts and themes than watching 4 seasons of the same show. So in this list, we count down the best mini-series of all time.

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30.

Devs

This mini-series by Alex Garland (28 Days Later writer and Ex Machina director) is about a tech company like Google that has a building that only select developers (devs) work in. Sergei is one of the lucky ones that get the call but he disappears after his first day. His girlfriend, who works for the same company, tries to find out what happened to him, first by uncovering well-kept dark secrets about that building. If you liked Mr. Robot or Ex Machina, you will love this. And a surprise bonus: Nick Offerman plays the CEO of the company, in a great serious role.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Jin Ha, Nick Offerman, Sonoya Mizuno
Rating: TV-MA

Free Watching Options:

Watch Devs on Hulu for free
29.

River

This six-chapter British miniseries stars the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgård as an erratic London police detective. He starts seeing visions or “manifests” of his recently murdered colleague and tries to solve her case even though he was excluded from it. River blends reality and illusion in a thoughtful and original police thriller.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Eddie Marsan, Georgina Rich, Lesley Manville, Nicola Walker, Owen Teale, Sorcha Cusack, Stellan Skarsgård, Steve Nicolson, Turlough Convery
Rating: TV-MA
28.

Small Axe

This impressive body of work defies any classification: it’s a collection of five films that have been put together into a miniseries. Director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) collected a timeless set of stories set from the ‘60s to ‘80s about London’s West Indian community and their struggle with rampant racism.

The first film, Mangrove, bears the name of the restaurant at the center of the story. As a sanctuary for the community, the restaurant quickly becomes the target of a racist police division that employs various tactics to disrupt  its popularity. The local chapter of the Black Panthers and its charismatic leader (played by Letitia Wright) get involved.

Mangrove and Lovers Rock, the next episode, were in the selection of the Cannes Film Festival that got canceled because of the pandemic.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama

Free Watching Options:

Watch Small Axe on Amazon Prime for free
27.

Our Flag Means Death

The scene: 1717, the Golden Age of Piracy; the people: brute criminals living on nothing but loot. Seems typical enough for a pirate story, but more than just an action-packed swashbuckling treat, Our Flag Means Death is also a raging ensemble comedy that is both modern and subversive as it dares to recast masculinity in a whole new light. 

The show follows Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), a flamboyant aristocrat who leaves his pampered life and turns to the sea in search of deeper meaning and purpose. Specifically, he’s out to figure out, once and for all, what it means to be a man. Does it entail remorseless murder and a stoic acceptance of one’s responsibility, as he’s been taught and taunted to do for so long, or is there more to it than that? The wannabe pirate gets closer to answering these questions when he meets and eventually falls for the legendary Blackbeard, played warmly and hilariously by Taika Waititi.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Action, Action & Adventure, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, History
Actor: Con O'Neill, David Fane, Ewen Bremner, Guz Khan, Joel Fry, Kristian Nairn, Matthew Maher, Nathan Foad, Rhys Darby, Rory Kinnear, Samson Kayo, Taika Waititi, Vico Ortiz
Rating: 18+
26.

For All Mankind

What if the 1960s space race never ended? For All Mankind imagines such a world; here, Russia's cosmonauts arrive on the moon first, the galaxy holds resources beyond belief, and global wars have expanded in stakes and scale. More than just the final frontier, outer space is now the focal point of warring nations hungry to capitalize and claim new assets. 

For All Mankind's out-of-this-world premise alone make it a thrilling watch, but you'll be glad to know that the show also feels intimate and affecting thanks to its fully fleshed-out characters. If you're looking for an epic but grounded story to lose yourself in, this is it. 

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, War & Politics
Actor: Casey Johnson, Casey W. Johnson, Coral Peña, Cynthy Wu, Edi Gathegi, Jodi Balfour, Joel Kinnaman, Krys Marshall, Michael Dorman, Sarah Jones, Shantel VanSanten, Sonya Walger, Wrenn Schmidt
Rating: TV-MA
25.

The Act

Based on true events, the series follows the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and the murder of her mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, who was accused of abusing her daughter by fabricating her illnesses and disabilities. The strange case that gained publicity following a viral 2016 BuzzFeed story and a 2017 HBO documentary works well as an absorbing, well-paced drama. Each episode is visually interesting, offering compelling imagery with a palpable tension. Haunting and spectacularly acted by both Patricia Arquette and Joey King, The Act is a highly-recommended television series, perfect for drama and true crime fans.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Crime, Drama
Actor: AnnaSophia Robb, Calum Worthy, Chloe Sevigny, Joey King, Patricia Arquette

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Act on Hulu for free
24.

Godless

Very violent, very Western, and, in a breath of fresh air: very female. Godless is a grim and visually stunning series about a small New Mexico town populated almost entirely by women, including Alice Fletcher, a reserved and self-reliant widow played by Michelle Dockery. Roy Goode (played by Jeff Daniels, who won an Emmy for it) is an outlaw chased by a much worse outlaw, Frank Griffin, who is taking in by the mysterious, gun-toting widows. Written and directed by Scott Frank and executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh, Godless is an honest and powerful show with amazing performances. So amazing, it's hard to single one of them out. If you love Westerns but sometimes find them too foreseeable, this show is for you.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama, Western
Actor: Jack O'Connell, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Sula, Joleen Baughman, Kim Coates, Luke Robertson, Merritt Wever, Michelle Dockery, Rio Alexander, Sam Waterston, Samuel Marty, Scoot McNairy, Tantoo Cardinal, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Rating: TV-MA
23.

Sharp Objects

Based on Gillian Flynn's 2006 debut novel, the two actors are showcased by director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club). Amy Adams stars as the troubled crime reporter Camille Preaker, who investigates a serial murder in her hometown after a stint at a psychiatric hospital. The second female lead is Patricia Clarkson, who stars as Camille's oppressive mother, a small-town socialite. Uncovering the mystery of the city of Wind Gap, anti-hero Camille must delve into the town's gruesome history well as that of her own family, while also confronting her trauma and self-harming behavior. This three-pronged plot and great acting makes for a tense thriller drama. A slow-burner without being slow—grim and disturbing—and one that also packs a lot of insight into the ramifications of abuse.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Actor: Amy Adams, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Elizabeth Perkins, Henry Czerny, Lulu Wilson, Madison Davenport, Matt Craven, Miguel Sandoval, Patricia Clarkson, Sophia Lillis, Sydney Sweeney, Taylor John Smith
Rating: TV-MA
22.

The Looming Tower

The incredible script for this Hulu-produced series comes courtesy of Lawrence Wright, who wrote the Pulitzer-winning book the series is based on, and Dan Futterman, the Oscar-nominated writer who gave us Capote. It is an eye-opening, semi-fictional account of how the CIA and the FBI took conflicting approaches to counteract Al-Qaeda in the lead-up to 9/11, withholding information from each other, and obstructing a unified strategy to combat terror. The disagreements between the two security services are numerous and the relationship between their staff is hostile. At the top, Jeff Daniels plays John O'Neill, the seasoned head of the FBI's Counterterrorism Center, while Peter Sarsgaard stars as Martin Schmidt, the chief of the CIA's respective facility, who are both amazing. Then there's Ali Soufan, played by Tahar Rahim, who is one of only handful FBI agents who speak Arabic back in 1998, just three years before the Towers fell. With all this testosterone flying about, the women in this show are marginalized to the fairly weak romantic storylines, but other than that the series gets a lot of stuff right. Writing, acting, and action are on point and make The Looming Tower a gripping as well as insightful watch.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller, War & Politics
Actor: Alec Baldwin, Annie Parisse, Bill Camp, Jeff Daniels, Louis Cancelmi, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Tahar Rahim, Virginia Kull, Wrenn Schmidt
Director: Alex Gibney, Ali Selim, Craig Zisk, John Dahl, Michael Slovis
Rating: TV-MA

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Looming Tower on Hulu for free
21.

Flint Town

Since the 1960s, Flint, Michigan, has experienced a series of shocks. When General Motors downsized their workforce by several 10.000, the town's population nearly halved. Unsurprisingly, it later became known for being one of the most dangerous cities in the US and for off-the-charts crime statistics. Since 2014, Flint again rose to tragic fame for a public health emergency due to contamination of its local water supply. Flint Town homes in on this perpetual state of crisis through the eyes of the local police department, who had to grapple with this dire scenario, while losing more funding year over year due to the city's deteriorating financial situation. The few officers that are left for policing are at breaking point. The result is a gripping and rich docuseries with a host of strong characters. But it is also a brutal and sobering account of the extent to which an American city is being allowed to fail.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Action & Adventure, Crime, Documentary
Actor: James Tolbert, Karen Weaver, Wayne Suttles
Director: Drea Cooper, Jessica Dimmock, Zackary Canepari
Rating: TV-MA

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