The 30 Best Miniseries of All-Time

The 30 Best Miniseries of All-Time

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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.

20. Bad Sisters

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Anne-Marie Duff, Claes Bang, Eva Birthistle, Eve Hewson

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Easy, Grown-up Comedy

Bad Sisters is an Irish miniseries that is part romance, part murder mystery, and all-around cheeky, bold fun. It follows the Garveys, five sisters who’ve developed a tight bond after the untimely death of their parents. They protect each other mainly from their brother-in-law John Paul, whose antics have become increasingly threatening and toxic over the years.

The series is very much in the vein of Big Little Lies, Dead to Me, and Good Girls, where women who’ve kept up with so much for so long finally let loose in a fit of violent rampage. But Bad Sisters narrowly escapes cliches thanks to a winning ensemble and deft handling of its weighty subject matter.

19. The Good Lord Bird

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Actors

Beau Knapp, Daveed Diggs, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke

Moods

A-list actors, Action-packed, Challenging

It’s often said that history is told by the victors. Thankfully, this isn’t the case in The Good Lord Bird, which tracks the tumultuous events preceding the Civil War, as led by real-life abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke). 

Some viewers might already be familiar with the story of how Brown “saved” slaves, but with Black teenager Henry (Joshua Caleb Johnson) as the narrator, history is repositioned and recounted through a fresh new lens. Nuanced questions about slavery, abolition, and even the revered Brown himself are brought up by Henry and his kin, such as: how much of the movement is driven by justice and how much of it by guilt? Should the white savior be absolved or are his intentions inevitably marred by ego?

Accompanying this thought-provoking tale are richly detailed costumes and backdrops, impressive cameos by historical and celebrity figures, and of course, career-defining performances by Hawke and newcomer Johnson. 

18. Kingdom

best

8.5

Country

Japan, South Korea

Actors

Bae Doona, Heo Joon-ho, Heo Jun-ho, Jeon Seok-ho

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dark, Intense

16th century Korea—the small kingdom is governed by a royal family, but the sudden death of the king causes a power struggle among the elite, which in turn opens the window for either genuine change or further corrupt rule. At the heart of this is Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon), who conspires with the rebel scholars to bring his corrupt rivals down.

This all sounds familiar, if not a bit trite, but before you can start to pin it down, Kingdom quickly morphs into something more than just a period drama. The introduction of fantasy, terror, and neverending gore elevates Kingdom into a multi-genre feat—an impressive blend of political intrigue and pure zombie horror that never fails to keep you at the edge of your seat. 

17. Chernobyl

best

8.5

Country

Lithuania, UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Nagaitis, Adrian Rawlins, Alex Ferns, Barry Keoghan

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Intense, Mini-series

It’s a near-impossible feat to turn something as tragic and devastating as the Chernobyl disaster into a gripping and enlightening tale, but the HBO miniseries does just that. Through insightful storytelling, affecting performances, and sharp dialogue, Chernobyl the show stuns viewers into awareness and, at its best, galvanizes them into action. 

It’s a well-crafted five-hour series that does just enough in the way of humanizing a distorted reality, bringing to light the all-too-relevant consequences of power plays and placing the interests of the political elite and national image over real, human lives.

16. Unorthodox

best

8.5

Country

Germany

Actors

Aaron Altaras, Alex Reid, Amit Rahav, Aziz Dyab

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Mini-series

This excellent new miniseries is a drama that takes place in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. Esty, a nineteen-year-old girl who is unhappy in her arranged marriage, escapes this community and travels from New York to Berlin in hopes of starting a new life.

Like all good realistic dramas, there are no truly bad people in Unorthodox. Everyone is trying to do what they think is right, which still makes for very complicated situations. Esty is played by Israeli actor Shira Haas and I know this word is overused but she really is a revelation.

15. Modern Love

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Actors

Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway, Cristin Milioti, Dev Patel

Moods

Mini-series, Romantic

This is one of those reviews where it’s probably enough to say: watch the pilot. There is no better proof of how good Modern Love is than its first episode. The show is based on true stories that were shared in The New York Times column by the same name. That first episode is about the relationship between a doorman and a New Yorker. But, plot twist, Modern Love isn’t just about romantic relationships. It’s also about friendships, family links, and all displays of love and affection. The second episode is with Dev Patel and Catherine Keener, which I found to be also excellent. There are other ones with Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, and many other big names, but the first two episodes are still my favorites. The power of Modern Love is in the riveting true stories it tells. It might as well have been called “you can’t make this stuff up.”

14. Evil Genius

8.5

Country

d

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Challenging, Docu-series

There is footage and coverage to prove that the pizza bomber story actually happened but watching Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist everything is so intriguing it is almost impossible to believe. A pizza-delivery guy shows up to rob a bank with what he says is a bomb secured around his neck, something that he claims is part of a treasure hunt. By robbing the bank, he will unlock the next set of clues that will allow him to defuse the bomb. Bank tellers comply but on the way out he is suddenly arrested by the police, who doubt his claims, handcuff him and keep him at a distance. The device he has around his neck then starts beeping. What follows is one of the most unusual investigations ever led by security forces, brilliantly framed by executive producers Duplass brothers. A perfect follow-up to their other amazing True-crime Netflix collaboration, Wild Wild Country, it’s a tight 4-episodes that is equally terrifying and intriguing.

13. The Playlist

best

8.6

Country

Sweden, United Kingdom

Actors

Agnes Kittelsen, Christian Hillborg, Edvin Endre, Ella Rappich

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Mini-series, Smart

In the early 2000s, amid the rapid rise of online piracy and the consequent fall of paid music, tech genius Daniel Ek would find Spotify, a revolutionary streaming platform that served as a middle ground between user accessibility and artist rights. But even now, at its peak, Spotify’s success seems mystifying. How did they get away with providing free music to all? 

Enter The Playlist—an impressive attempt at answering that very question. In this fictionalized account, key players in Spotify’s success are given their own episode-long arc, starting with the visionary himself, Ek (played by Edvin Endre), followed by the artist, the coder, and the industry insider, to name a few. By employing multiple perspectives, each with its own cinematic style (a particular favorite is that of the lawyer’s, the most experimental out of all the episodes), The Playlist manages to spin the technical and complicated story of Spotify’s origins into something fresh, dynamic, and addictive. Despite utilizing the Rashomon effect—risky but rewarding in this case—The Playlist rarely strays from its main point and, the result is a lean, well-rounded story that’s just as credible as it is heightened. 

12. Over the Garden Wall

best

8.6

Country

United States of America

Actors

Elijah Wood

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Easy, Mini-series

Over the Garden Wall consists of 10 episodes that together run just under two hours. While each episode stands alone, it’s easy to watch the entire series in one sitting. The story beckons you to go deeper into its fantastical forest called the Unknown, at the center of which lies a dark mystery, and two boys on a quest to return home.

Wirt (Elijah Wood) and his younger half-brother Greg (Collin Dean) are lost in these enchanted woods. Beatrice, a talking bird, befriends the boys and offers to guide them home. Here, the trio encounter singing frogs, beastly creatures, and sinister forces hidden in the shadows.

There is no other series quite like Over the Garden Wall, which so perfectly balances its comedic and melancholic moments. If you’re looking for something a little bittersweet, musical, and fun, this miniseries will surely hit the spot—that is, if you’re brave enough to enter its Unknown.

11. The Pharmacist

8.6

Country

United States of America

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive, Mini-series

We call it a Netflix true crime documentary, but, in fact, this compelling four-parter is much more than that. It homes in on the fate of an immensely empathetic, soft-spoken, and likable family man, who loses his teenage son to drug-related violence in New Orleans’ notorious Lower 9th Ward in 1999. With corruption rampant in the city’s police department, he takes matters into his own hands and investigates his son’s murder by himself.

In doing so, main protagonist Dan Schneider notices a rise in opioid prescriptions from one doctor in particular. Fueled by a relentless determination to protect other children from addiction, he quits his job and begins gathering evidence against this doctor and, by extension, the company responsible for the sale of the notorious opioid-based painkiller Oxycodone: Purdue Pharma. In the course of his investigation, Schneider records all his findings, evidence, and intimate thoughts on audio and video. This sense of immediacy and the pretty breathtaking twists of his story make this Netflix production rise above other true crime formats. It uses the power and charisma of one individual to come to grips with a crisis of global proportions.

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