The 30 Best Miniseries on Netflix Right Now

The 30 Best Miniseries on Netflix Right Now

June 5, 2024

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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.

1. Wild Wild Country

best

9.8

Country

United States of America

Actors

George Meredith, Ma Anand Sheela, Osho, Philip Toelkes

Moods

Docu-series, Mini-series, Thought-provoking

Wild Wild Country follows the relocation of a hippie cult from India to Oregon in 1981. You haven’t heard of Wasco Country? Nor had anybody else back then. This ghost town with a handful of god-fearing inhabitants, soon became Rajneeshpuram, the cult’s new homestead, home to a thousand disciples, and the subject of nationwide media attention. Spoiler: the town’s old residents did not think much of it.

Will there be debaucherous orgies, long-haired drop-outs, preaching and chanting? Yes. But, through historical footage and interviews with contemporaries, including Ma Anand Sheela, the power-hungry secretary of the orange-clad guru, you will also be absorbed by chemical weapons and attempted murder, one of the biggest immigration fraud case in US history, and, of course, the mysterious and not-so-mysterious ways that a charismatic cult attracts and manipulates its followers. Across six one-hour episodes, this Netflix miniseries by brothers Maclain and Chapman Way gives a captivating, exhaustive, and powerful account of one of the stranger moments in American media history.

2. Beef

best

9.3

Country

United States of America

Actors

Ali Wong, David Choe, Joseph Lee, Patti Yasutake

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Dark

A parking lot run-in wouldn’t normally warrant anything more than an angry rebuke, but for Danny and Amy (Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, respectively), it’s the final straw that pushes them over the edge and into the domain of unfiltered rage. Years of forced optimism and unreciprocated niceness have led them to this unforgiving point, and instead of going back to how things were, they burry themselves deeper into the ground with each new act of revenge proving more sinister than the last.

Beef could’ve easily been a comical show anchored on silly hi-jinks. Instead, it’s a searing look at anger and repression in modern-day America. Danny and Amy are on opposite ends of the class spectrum, but both are riddled with unending malaise and self-hatred, parts of which are informed by their race, gender, and status as second-generation immigrants in the country. It’s their chase for the elusive American Dream, and not actually each other, that entangles them in a web of deceit and danger.

Juicy with a thrilling aftertaste, each episode of Beef will leave you enthralled, enraged, and ever-hungry for more.

3. Maid

best

9.0

Country

Canada, United States of America

Actors

Andie MacDowell, Anika Noni Rose, Billy Burke, Margaret Qualley

Moods

Mini-series

This excellent drama miniseries starts in the middle of one night when Alex, a 25-year-old, grabs her daughter and flees her home. She is chased by her abusive boyfriend but doesn’t look back. She has 18 dollars to her name.

The story is based on a real-life memoir called “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive”, where Alex’s character (based on executive producer Stephanie Land) does everything to get her daughter and herself to a safe environment. She gets a trial at a cleaning job.

Maid does such a good job at portraying the many stresses that Alex goes through: will she have enough gas? Will she find a safe place to sleep? Will she get to the cleaning job on time? And as the series progresses, the questions become different but the stress is the same – except in episode five, in which she cleans a weird house, and then it becomes an actual horror movie.

And on every other aspect, the show delivers. The cast, led by Margaret Qualley and her real-life mother Andie MacDowell, is phenomenal. Each episode is long enough to leave an impact but not too long to be melodramatic. The scenery (set in Washington state but filmed in British Columbia) is gorgeous. It’s such an all-around great show.

4. RIPLEY

best

9.0

Country

Switzerland, United States of America

Actors

Andrew Scott, Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Mini-series

Ripley delivers an atmosphere-driven, intimately engaging suspense story fueled by money and deceit. The exposition moves slowly, albeit with gorgeous transitions and deliberate, cinematic shots to gush over. But the rich narrative possibilities open up by the second episode, where captivating acting and tense storylines anchor the show simultaneously. Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott), Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn), and Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning) each contribute to an uncomfortable three-way dynamic that you can’t look away from, each a piece of an equation you inexplicably want to root for. This mini-series is a thoroughly compelling, quietly funny work of art already dressed for the awards shows.

5. 1994

best

9.0

Country

Mexico, N/A

Actors

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive, Mini-series

Have you finished Wild Wild Country and are up for another binge-worthy documentary? If so, 1994 might be a compelling option for you to consider. Released on Netflix for the 25th anniversary of the events in 2019, most of the story would be hard to believe if it wasn’t… you know… based on facts and backed up by archival footage and interviews. As it often goes with documentaries, truth is stranger than fiction.

In 1994, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, also known as the EZLN or the Zapatistas, declared war on the Mexican government. This happened after the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was signed into law. Incumbent Mexican president Salinas (pictured above) selected prominent reformist presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio to become his heir. Just three months later, Colosio was shot in Tijuana on live television.

1994 is a rich, informative, and fascinating account of this violent and tumultuous year in Mexican history, featuring in-depth interviews with many of those pulling the strings at the time, including former president Salinas. As the people being interviewed point out, understanding the relevance of 1994 in Mexican politics will help you understand the country’s political and economic landscape today.

6. Unbelievable

8.8

Country

United States of America

Actors

Austin Hebert, Dale Dickey, Danielle Macdonald, Elizabeth Marvel

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Mini-series

Based on the 2015 Pulitzer-Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape”, here is one of the best Netflix productions in a while and definitely the best detective-centric show since the first season of True Detective. The eight-part drama examines the case of a 16-year-old from Washington, who claims she has been raped in her bedroom before rescinding her statement after fierce questioning of the police. Later, her initial story is substantiated by a similar incident surfacing elsewhere.

Two detectives, played masterfully by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, refuse to assume the young girl’s guilt and embark on a relentless journey to catch the perpetrator. In addition to being a thrilling watch and insanely bingeable, Unbelievable was highly praised for shifting the attention from the abusers to the victims and making their stories heard in a true crime format. Everybody should listen closely!

7. The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House

best

8.8

Country

Japan

Actors

Ai Hashimoto, Aju Makita, Arata Iura, Jyo Kairi

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Heart-warming

On the surface, The Makanai is a simple, slice-of-life show about food and friendship. While it is that, to be sure, it’s also a substantial drama that tackles questions about art vs. love, and love vs. companionship, and career vs. purpose. Under the gentle guidance of showrunner Hirokazu Kore-eda (Still Walking, Shoplifters, Broker), who generously allows up-and-coming directors to take the helm on certain episodes, The Makanai feels at once light and hefty, comforting and challenging. We’re seeing mundane events unfold before us as if we were bystanders, but we also understand that there is so much more happening than what meets the eye. A prolonged gaze, a lovingly prepped meal, an especially sharp wing-eye, all of these have much to say about the state of mind of these girls. 

It’s a supremely gentle and culturally rich show with a tender heart; a truly great watch on all accounts.

8. 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.

9. 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. 

10. 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.

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