The 9 Best Miniseries on Netflix You’re Missing out On

UPDATED June 13, 2019

Movies are too short for some, shows too long for others. Enter middle-ground solution: miniseries. Now that the “movies are dying” articles are the only thing that’s actually dying, and the “it’s the golden age of TV” ones have stopped being news (why does one being in a golden age mean the other is failing?), there is a newcomer to the scene. Perfected by networks like the BBC in the past, the form is attracting growing attention from Netflix and similar platforms. 4 to 8 episodes, one season, done. Creators have more time to express their ideas, but not too long to have to recycle them. Viewers can be exposed to 7 different stories instead of 7 different seasons of Homeland (they made 4 after he died, four). It’s the perfect medium, and provided Netflix and the BBC keep coming out with good ones like the 5 below, it will be the future.

A captivating documentary series on the struggling state of the police department in Flint, Michigan; and by extension a large proportion of American cities. The town that had made the news for its water crisis is home to another crisis that dates back further: an exponential rise in crime.  The police department, however, keeps losing funding year over year, so much so that they can only have less than 9 one-officer cars patrolling the (large) city at any one time.  A sobering and impressive account that follows officers facing not only harrowing situations in a failing city, but also the constant fear of being laid-off.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 82/100.

Netflix is stopping at nothing to collect the best true crime stories around, a bit like an African dictator looking for aid programs. The latest addition is the incredible thriller mini-series, “The Staircase.” It originally aired in 2004, but Netflix took the same director and allowed him to add new episodes in 2018 to complete the story. 

The plot: A famous American novelist’s wife is found dead, and he is accused of killing her. His life comes under scrutiny as everyone asks whether she died in an accident or was murdered. If you liked their other hit, “Making a Murderer,” you will love this. You should also definitely check out “The Keepers” or Netflix’s binge-worthy crime documentary, “Evil Genius.”

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 82/100.

There are only 20 seats in Formula 1 each year, which means that drivers are racing not only to win but to keep their spots. Every single driver faces cut-throat competition from the rest, as not everyone will be able to compete in the next season. 

Just like Losers, the other Netflix show that premiered around the same time, Formula 1: Drive to Survive focuses on the back of the grid. Lewis Hamilton, the five-time world champion, is rarely seen for example. Instead, you get an inside look into the drivers who are under the most pressure of losing their seats – trying to get the most out of cars that are usually not up to par. 

This makes for a thrilling show that covers almost all of the 2018 championship. If like me you don’t follow F1, the events that take place will be completely new to you too. Which means even more suspense in this well-made and engaging docuseries.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 82/100.

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 robing 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.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 85/100.

There hasn’t been a docuseries as worthy of a binge since the Netflix production Wild Wild Country. 1994 might be even more gripping since its modest episode count (five) doesn’t delay any revelations.

And just like Wild Wild Country, the events in this show get more and more mind-blowing as the episodes roll. Most of the story would be hard to believe if it wasn’t… you know… based on facts and backed by footage and interviews.

The show starts with Mexico’s prominent presidential candidate, a shrewd political activist who was determined to bring change to the political structure, getting shot during a televised political rally.

What follows is a series of in-depth interviews, including with Mexico’s president at the time (pictured above) and pretty much all the relevant people to the story who are still alive today.

This is a rich, informative, and fascinating account of a violent and tumultuous year in Mexico. As the people being interviewed point out, understanding the relevance of 1994 in Mexican politics will help understand the country’s political and economic landscape today.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 90/100.

A dramatic take on the life and capture of Ted Kaczynski, popularly known as UNABOMBER(UNiversity and Airline BOMber) from the eyes of an FBI profiler. Kaczynski was responsible for 16 bombings, and it took 17 years for the FBI to catch him. To date, he’s the target of the most expensive chase the FBI has ever launched. The show is not a mystery (facts are the matter of public domain) and doesn’t even pretend to be one. Instead, it focuses on the complex motives of the UNABOMBER, as well as the bureaucracy that the FBI ran through trying to catch him. It’s a really well-made, engrossing show that’s hard not to watch in one take. It’s 8 episodes of 40 minutes, so pick the time you start it wisely.

User rating: 93/100. Staff rating: 94/100.

Some of the best black actors working today team up for When They See Us – the list includes Michael K William (Omar Little from The Wire) Jovan Adepo (Fences) and Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight).

And as most on-camera faces in this miniseries are recognizable (there is also Felicity Huffman and Michael Peña), so is the writer, director, and creator of the show, Ava DuVernay. She is the director of Selma, for which she became the first female black director to ever be nominated for an Oscar.

I’m spending a lot of time on credentials because the performances and high-quality direction are one of the few things that will get you through this show. It’s a tough watch – chronicling the story of five black teenagers who get falsely accused of rape. The case, known as The Central Park Five, was also made into an excellent documentary by the same name (available on Amazon Prime).

When They See Us goes through the mechanisms and details of how the U.S. justice system framed these teenagers. It also pays special attention to their time in prison, and their family relationships. It’s an excruciating but incredibly important watch.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 94/100.

A Netflix documentary mini-series that follows the relocation of a cult from India to a small town in Oregon and the ensuing events. It’s a completely true story, but the events it portrays are so bizarre and unexpected that they have to be seen to be believed. The cult, led by a controversial Indian guru, drew worldwide attention to its beginnings in India and then to its conflict with the locals once it relocated to the United States. If you were a contemporary, you must know that the town is Antelope and the guru is Bhagwan or Osho, but if you were not, it is very unlikely you’ve even heard of it. What was a very significant moment in American media and history has been long forgotten, and is retold here in a captivating way. An extremely well-executed and a powerful account of a very unlikely story.

User rating: 74/100. Staff rating: 98/100.