Best miniseries available to stream

Written by:
July 25, 2019

Best miniseries available to stream

Miniseries have always occupied a particular niche in entertainment. They are longer than movies and shorter than TV shows. Traditionally, miniseries were in-depth documentary projects looking at historical events or adaptations of famous literary classics.

However, due in part to the rise of premium TV like HBO and streaming services like Netflix, the miniseries genre is undergoing a renaissance, taking on topics like the horrors of war or the discrimination of the criminal justice system. Miniseries can have the budget of a movie without the time commitment of a TV show. This makes them excellent options for viewers who don't want to sit through another endless sitcom and celebrity actors who want to sink their teeth into complex characters without being tied down to a show for years.

With so many streaming services available, the catalog of shows to watch has increased exponentially. Gone are the days of flipping on the TV and watching whatever. To help cut through the noise and decide what's worth watching, Stacker used IMDb data to compile a list of the best miniseries to watch on streaming services right now. This slideshow also includes total runtimes so readers can decide how much time they want to commit before starting the miniseries. Stacker ranked the miniseries by IMDb user score as of July 9, 2019, with ties broken by the number of votes. Shows must have at least 3,000 votes to be included in this list. It's also important to note that some limited anthology series like "True Detective" were left out because the IMDb user ratings represent an aggregate rating of the three stand-alone seasons.

Read on to find out which sci-fi anthologies, historical documentaries, thrilling dramas, and faithful adaptations are worth watching. With so much variety, there's a show for everyone on this list.

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1 / 30
Lionsgate Productions

#30. The Lost Room (2006)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 26,953
- Total runtime: 270 min
- Where to stream: Roku Channel

The sci-fi series that starts this list concerns the titular room, which was once part of a motel but mysteriously escaped the bonds of time and space, and its objects, which contain potent power. Three warring factions battle over access to these objects in this head-spinning three-part drama starring Peter Krause, Elle Fanning, Julianna Margulies, and others.

2 / 30

#29. Godless (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 39,344
- Total runtime: 352 min
- Where to stream: Netflix, Hoopla

One of two Westerns on this list, “Godless” stars Jack O'Connell as an outlaw trying to escape justice from his former boss. The ensemble cast also includes Jeff Daniels, Scoot McNairy, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster as outlaws and officers. Much of the time the focus, unlike many Westerns, lies with the women, who include Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever as residents of La Belle, a town run almost entirely by the women left behind after a mining accident killed their male relatives.

3 / 30

#28. The Pacific (2010)

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Votes: 88,404
- Total runtime: 530 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

A companion series to "Band of Brothers," which appears further down this list, "The Pacific" tells the tale of three Marines and their fight in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, as opposed to the Europe-focused storyline of the aforementioned companion show. The ensemble cast includes James Badge Dale and Rami Malek, the latter of which won the Oscar for best actor in 2019.

4 / 30
British Broadcasting Corporation

#27. State of Play (2003)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 8,703
- Total runtime: 127 min
- Where to stream: HBO

The only BBC series on this list that isn't a historical adaptation, "State of Play" is a drama starring John Simm as a journalist investigating the deaths of two young Britons. He later uncovers a deep conspiracy at the heart of the government. The series enthralled critics at the start, but some critics argued that miniseries didn't maintain its quality through the final episode.

5 / 30
Babelsberg Film und Fernsehen

#26. The 10th Kingdom (2000)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 16,453
- Total runtime: 417 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

Bringing together “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and two New Yorkers, the fairytale story of “The 10th Kingdom” captured the hearts of families across America. Though it can be predictable at times, the series combines the fairy tales of old with the pop culture and mannerisms of the new millennium.

6 / 30
British Broadcasting Corporation

#25. Jane Eyre (2006)

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 17,942
- Total runtime: 230 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video, Hulu

Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel "Jane Eyre" has been adapted to the small screen, big screen, stage, opera theatre; even a manga adaptation was released. The four-part 2006 BBC adaptation starring Georgie Henley in the title role was well-liked by critics for its straightforward adaptation of the book.

7 / 30
Cinematograph AB

#24. Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 13,835
- Total runtime: 283 min
- Where to stream: The Criterion Channel

Sweden's Ingmar Bergman was one of the most accomplished filmmakers in the history of cinema, though occasionally he would foray into other formats, like 1973's miniseries "Scenes from a Marriage." The series tells of the disintegrating marriage between two characters, one of which is a family lawyer with a specialty in divorce and stars Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson.

8 / 30
Avalon Television

#23. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 14,529
- Total runtime: 142 min
- Where to stream: YouTube (free)

At the time of broadcast, “Darkplace” brought in few viewers, but has since become a cult classic for its hilarious parody of 1980s television. Presented as a lost miniseries that has only been recovered decades later, “Darkplace” endeavored to make the show seem as 1980s as possible, even creating elaborate fake backstories for the characters, while the actors' names are never mentioned.

9 / 30
teamWorx Produktion für Kino und Fernsehen GmbH

#22. Generation War (2013)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 21,895
- Total runtime: 270 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

This German miniseries sees five friends split up by World War II, each of different backgrounds and each choosing individual paths through the ensuing conflict. Though it stirred up controversy for its portrayal of the protagonists and omission of crucial details, critics and viewers praised the show for its depiction of combat and its unvarnished retelling of German atrocities.

10 / 30
BBC Drama Productions

#21. The Night Of (2016)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 100,399
- Total runtime: 525 min
- Where to stream: HBO

One night changed everything for Naz Khan, the character portrayed by actor and rapper Riz Ahmed in “The Night Of.” After he follows a young woman home for a night of drugs and intimacy, he wakes to find her murdered. Naz is then carted away to jail at Rikers Island. The show is less about the details of the case than the tragedies of our criminal justice system and the violence present in prisons. John Turturro also stars, in a career-defining performance as Naz's seedy yet earnest lawyer.

11 / 30
Granada Television

#20. Brideshead Revisited (1981)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 6,009
- Total runtime: 659 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

“Brideshead Revisited” revisited the 1945 novel of the same title by Evelyn Waugh, adapting it for the screen in an 11-episode serial. The story follows 20 years in the life of Charles Ryder, from 1920 to 1940, and his romances and friendships. Ryder is portrayed by celebrated actor Jeremy Irons in one of his earliest roles and also features Anthony Andrews of “The King's Speech.”

12 / 30

#19. The Defiant Ones (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 9,017
- Total runtime: 260 min
- Where to stream: HBO

The music documentary “The Defiant Ones” centers on Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, music legends from opposite coasts, who come together and help define music for a generation. Many readers may know Dr. Dre for his music or Beats by Dre line of products, but Iovine also has a fascinating history that lends intrigue to this documentary series.

13 / 30

#18. John Adams (2008)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 25,212
- Total runtime: 502 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

"John Adams" presents the first 50 years of the United States, at a time when our peculiar democratic experiment was finding its legs after the war for independence, through the eyes of the union's second president. The most awarded miniseries of all time, "John Adams" scored 13 Emmy Awards, including best actor in a miniseries Emmy for Paul Giamatti, who plays Adams, and best actress for Laura Linney, who plays Abigail Adams.

14 / 30

#17. Generation Kill (2008)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 43,239
- Total runtime: 470 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

"Generation Kill" follows a Rolling Stone journalist, played by Lee Tergesen, who accompanies the USMC's 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as it participates in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The series presents a frank portrayal of life as a soldier in a foreign place. Keep an eye out for a portrayal of James "Mad Dog" Mattis, the former secretary of defense.

15 / 30

#16. Battlestar Galactica (2003)

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 61,751
- Total runtime: 183 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

The beloved sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica” originally ran in 1978 through 1980, before going into cryogenic sleep until its revival in 2003, with the miniseries by the same name which served as a pilot for the next series. The miniseries itself is an exciting look at the war between the humans of the 12 Colonies and the alien Cylons, starring Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell.

16 / 30
D Produciton

#15. Masum (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 8,638
- Total runtime: 445 min
- Where to stream: Netflix

Netflix started as a DVD-delivery service, then transitioned into streaming, and later started churning out their own content. A notable side-effect of Netflix's popularity as a streaming platform is the tendency for international content to gain a significant following outside its country of production. Such was the case for “Masum” (or “Innocent”), a Turkish drama that focuses on a well-respected police chief learning an awful secret.

17 / 30
Clavius Base

#14. From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 9,664
- Total runtime: 639 min
- Where to stream: Fandango Now

A dream that becomes a mission that becomes a reality—the path to the moon for Americans was fraught with disaster at every turn, dramatized in this adaptation of NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. With Tony Goldwyn and Bryan Cranston as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and Tom Hanks hosting, the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries is inspirational at every turn.

18 / 30
Elixir Films

#13. Long Way Round (2004)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 10,870
- Total runtime: 315 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

Two friends, two bikes, and 19,000 miles—that's the premise for “Long Way Round,” which sees movie star Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman travel from London to New York almost entirely on motorcycles, visiting much of Europe and Asia before taking a boat from Russia to Alaska and cruising through Canada and the U.S. in a total of 115 days. “Long Way Round” gives a wheels-on-the-road perspective at famous monuments, foreign cultures, and one friendship, making it a must-see for anyone who enjoys travel documentaries.

19 / 30
Motown Productions

#12. Lonesome Dove (1989)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 18,650
- Total runtime: 384 min
- Where to stream: Hoopla

Though the Western genre has declined in popularity since the Golden Age of Hollywood, occasionally a work of the genre will create a splash. Such was the case with "Lonesome Dove," which sees two former Texas Rangers played by Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall join a cattle drive to Montana. Diane Lane, Danny Glover, and Anjelica Huston also feature.

20 / 30
British Broadcasting Corporation

#11. North & South (2004)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 27,237
- Total runtime: 235 min
- Where to stream: Netflix

In the TV world, few words go together like "The BBC" and "miniseries adaptation of a Victorian novel." "North & South," a BBC miniseries adaptation of the Victorian novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell explores class-based issues when a young woman from southern England moves to the North, along with her parents, and finds a very different social landscape.

21 / 30
HBO Documentary Films

#10. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Votes: 33,639
- Total runtime: 279 min
- Where to stream: HBO

People who've heard of this HBO documentary have probably learned about it because of the headlines it spawned with the massive revelation in its final episode. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning documentary is still worth watching even if people already know the ending. In an age of true-crime content coming out of every studio, it's rare that a documentary series puts someone in jail, rather than helps get them out of it.

22 / 30
British Broadcasting Corporation

#9. I, Claudius (1976)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 14,317
- Total runtime: 669 min
- Where to stream: Hoopla, Acorn TV

A dramatic series about the rise of the Roman Empire, “I, Claudius” was adapted by the BBC from two books by historical novelist Robert Graves. For those who miss the political treachery and strategy of “Game of Thrones,” the scheming of Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero will go far to fill that hole in their lives. Furthermore, “I, Claudius” was such an involved production that it prompted a 2002 documentary about the series itself.

23 / 30
Cartoon Network Studios

#8. Over the Garden Wall (2014)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 29,172
- Total runtime: 110 min
- Where to stream: Hulu

The only animated program on this list, "Over the Garden Wall" is also the shortest, but that didn't stop it from winning an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 2015. Elijah Wood stars as one of two half-brothers journeying across an enchanted landscape, trying to find their way home. 

24 / 30
CC&C Clarke Costelle & Cie

#7. Apocalypse: The Second World War (2009)

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 7,045
- Total runtime: 312 min
- Where to stream: Smithsonian Channel

For those looking for an unflinching look at World War II, look no further than the French documentary series “Apocalypse,” which is composed solely of actual footage from the war which has been colorized. Martin Sheen narrated the version currently streaming on the Smithsonian Channel.

25 / 30
British Broadcasting Corporation

#6. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 68,405
- Total runtime: 327 min
- Where to stream: Hulu

For as long as there have been movies, war has been waged over whether movie adaptations of books are better than the books themselves. “Pride and Prejudice” sidestepped that argument by splitting up the adaptation of the world-famous Jane Austen novel into six parts. It worked: The series was critically acclaimed and helped to launch the careers of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, who portrayed Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet.

26 / 30
American Documentaries Inc.

#5. The Civil War (1990)

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Votes: 11,195
- Total runtime: 680 min
- Where to stream: Netflix

As the following slide, “The Civil War” is a historical documentary by Ken Burns, using primary sources like letters, paintings, and photographs to spell out the story of America's most divisive conflict. It was in this series that Burns first used slow panning and zooming across the photographs, a technique now known as the “Ken Burns effect.”

27 / 30
Florentine Films

#4. The Vietnam War (2017)

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Votes: 12,429
- Total runtime: 990 min
- Where to stream: Prime Video

The final Ken Burns documentary series on this list, the 10-part work takes an in-depth, mature look at the conflict from the perspective of the people who lived through both the war and the corresponding protest movement instead of talking heads. A thoroughly researched work, the documentary series shows interviews with 79 witnesses, and the research involved combing through hundreds of hours of archival footage and thousands of photographs.

28 / 30
Forward Movement

#3. When They See Us (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Votes: 29,746
- Total runtime: 296 min
- Where to stream: Netflix

In 1989, a jogger was assaulted in Central Park, leading to the prosecution of five minors and a nation enthralled by every detail of the widely publicized case. Thirty years later, "Selma" and "13th" filmmaker Ava DuVernay returns to the case with a dramatic adaptation of the arrest, trial, sentence, and release of the "Exonerated Five." The four-part miniseries pulls no punches as it depicts the racism of the NYPD, the harshness of the media coverage, the brutality of prison, and the difficulty of adjustment to post-incarceration life. Jharrel Jerome was nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Korey Wise.

29 / 30

#2. Band of Brothers (2001)

- IMDb user rating: 9.5
- Votes: 326,465
- Total runtime: 594 min
- Where to stream: HBO

Take Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and put them together and magical things happen; after 1998's smash hit “Saving Private Ryan,” the two teamed up three years later to produce “Band of Brothers,” another historical military work. “Band of Brothers” follows the men of “Easy” Company, a parachute infantry regiment during World War II that engaged in missions across Europe. With a large ensemble cast and dedicated production budget, “Band of Brothers” portrays the horrors of war and the courageous acts of heroism that led to its end.

30 / 30

#1. Chernobyl (2019)

- IMDb user rating: 9.6
- Votes: 298,866
- Total runtime: 330 min
- Where to stream: HBO

Legions of “Game of Thrones” fans, disappointed by the lackluster finale, quickly found another epic story to latch on to with “Chernobyl,” the dramatic adaptation of the real-life meltdown of a Soviet nuclear power plant. Led by Jared Harris of “Mad Men” fame, the show presents a frank portrayal of the disaster's effects on ordinary citizens and the clumsiness of the sprawling bureaucracy attempting to contain the accident. Acts of heroism abound in the face of acute radiation poisoning (or worse, the wrath of the State), showing the worst of nature can bring out the best in humanity.

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