The miniseries craze came alive during the late 1970s, but it was in the 80’s that they gained real traction. And while cable networks may have taken a break from them for some time between then and now, with streaming services taking over television, there’s bound to be an influx of more mini-series soon.
But until those are released, what about settling into one (or more) of our favorite collections today? On this list, we count down ten of the best TV miniseries ever produced—ranked by IMDb viewers.
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10 Highest-Rated TV Mini-Series of All Time
- Bodyguard (2018) – 8.1
- Watchmen (2019) – 8.2
- Mare of Easttown (2021) – 8.4
- Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011) – 8.5
- The Night Of (2016) – 8.5
- The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – 8.6
- The Queen’s Gambit (2020) – 8.6
- When They See Us (2019) – 8.9
- Band of Brothers (2001) – 9.4
- Chernobyl (2019) – 9.4
10 Bodyguard (2018)
Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
IMDb: 8.1/10 130K | Popularity: #236
The British political drama, Bodyguard, starring Richard Madden as the war veteran David Budd is one of Netflix’s most captivating shows. After being assigned to protect the home secretary with whom he often disagrees ideologically and politically, Budd must suppress his beliefs to carry out his duties properly.
But when explosive conspiracies arise beneath the surface, events threatening him and those around him are revealed—forcing David into a bitter battle between protecting others while simultaneously struggling against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This series makes for gripping television as it delicately explores mental health issues that can profoundly affect personal relationships & professional life.
9 Watchmen (2019)
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDb: 8.2/10 125K| Popularity: #576
HBO’s limited series Watchmen is the sequel to the popular DC Comic storyline. Regina King and Don Johnson head up this gripping story of cops/vigilantes fighting against racism and social injustice that lasts only one season. However, it may be a bit longer than some other mini-series – it’s worth a tune-in for an action-packed follow-up with high stakes.
8 Mare of Easttown (2021)
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDb: 8.4/10 165K | Popularity: #456
In the spring of 2021, Mare of Easttown made its much-anticipated debut on HBO. Kate Winslet stars as Detective Mare Sheehan, who must juggle solving a murder in her small Pennsylvania town with preventing her life from unraveling completely. The show quickly became an obsession for viewers everywhere and has been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards – making it one to watch.
7 Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)
Genres: Action, Adventure, Biography
IMDb: 8.5/10 140K | Popularity: #1,178| Top 250: #218
Gannicus was a gladiator who became renowned for his bravery in the arena long before Spartacus. His inspiring story is captured in this miniseries, featuring all of the intensity and brutality that viewers have come to expect from historical epics – with an added: “apocalyptic video game look,” according to Ginia Bellafante at The New York Times. Plenty of sex and violence make it genuinely memorable viewing.
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6 The Night Of (2016)
Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery
IMDb: 8.5/10 157K | Popularity: #635| Top 250: #239
From the creators at HBO, The Night Of is a gripping crime drama that follows Pakistani American student Naz (Riz Ahmed) as he navigates through a complex murder case and must face biases in America’s justice system. Originally based on the 2008 British show Criminal Justice, The Night Of premiered during an otherwise quiet summer for television – though its tense atmosphere engaged audiences from start to finish.
John Turturro also stars in this series with four Emmy wins, including one for Riz Ahmed‘s outstanding performance. If you’re looking for a captivating show worthy of recognition-this might be your next favorite pick.
5 The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery
IMDb: 8.6/10 255K | Popularity: #441| Top 250: #168
The Crain family has been forever changed by their experiences at the Hill House. They must confront eerie memories from their childhood home and the traumatic events that drove them away in terror as adults. Mike Flanagan‘s show cleverly uses these five adult siblings to represent each stage of grief: Denial (Steven), Anger (Shirley), Depression (Theo), Bargaining (Luke), and Acceptance (Nell).
It is easy to see why Stephen King declared The Haunting Of Hill House “close to a work of genius.” Join this gripping psychological horror story on its journey through time, with plenty of spine-tingling surprises.
4 The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
IMDb: 8.6/10 479K | Popularity: #339 | Top 250: #170
Anya Taylor-Joy takes on the role of a talented chess expert in Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning miniseries. Based on Walter Tevis‘ novel, “The Queen’s Gambit,” viewers are taken back to 1950s and 1960s America as they follow this young prodigy who struggles with substance abuse. This compelling drama became one of the most viewed streaming scripted limited series ever released by Netflix upon its release.
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3 When They See Us (2019)
Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama
IMDb: 8.9/10 126K | Popularity: #877 | Top 250: #47
When They See Us is Ava DuVernay‘s crime drama produced in a four-part miniseries chronicling the 1989 Central Park Five case. The story follows a group of five teen boys wrongly prosecuted for allegedly raping and assaulting a jogger in New York City, highlighting an epic legal failure and restoring sense to these men as individuals.
With realistic dialogue delivered by outstanding actors, this docudrama engages viewers from start to finish with its captivating plotline centering on social justice issues. By paying homage to those affected by injustice, When They See Us offers remarkable insight into current-day society – making it one of Netflix’s best series yet.
2 Band of Brothers (2001)
Genres: Drama, History, War
IMDb: 9.4/10 480K | Popularity: #219 | Top 250: #4
HBO’s mini-series Band of Brothers is a remarkable tribute to the exceptional courage and heroism shown by Easy Company, part of the 506th Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg worked together to bring Stephen E. Ambrose’s book about Easy Company to life using interviews with actual company members, which provided insight into their struggles as they endured harrowing experiences while fighting for victory in Europe against Nazi Germany during WWII.
This miniseries was met with high praise, earning numerous accolades, including seven Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe award for Best Miniseries or Television Film due to its realistic blend of idealism wrapped around violence occurring within warzones. The 90s saw premium cable networks such as HBO revive interest in miniseries. Band Of Brothers is one classic example demonstrating why these types of television productions can be consequential when created correctly.
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1 Chernobyl (2019)
Genres: Drama, History, Thriller
IMDb: 9.4/10 787K | Popularity: #207 | Top 250: #5
In 2019, HBO aired a five-part historical thriller TV show about one of humanity’s real-world horrors: the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in northern Ukraine in April 1986. The story follows both those who tried to contain and control the disaster as well as all of those who selflessly sacrificed their lives for others.
With solid performances from Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgärd, this dramatized retelling is an incredibly detailed look at how the accident impacted not only its environment but also many people’s personal lives around it. It won 19 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series; no doubt due to its thought-provoking portrayals regarding dishonest leaders’ abilities to abuse authority while simultaneously highlighting true human courage when faced with adversity.
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