10 popular Netflix Original Miniseries ranked from worst to best
Tired of searching through the seemingly endless category menus for the best Netflix Original miniseries?
It might be a little harder than ever right now, as Netflix has changed its rules on account sharing in Canada, and many are having to cancel their subscriptions. Last year some great movies streamed and hit theaters, so at least we’ll always have that option.
But for those who remain, we’re here to help.
All of Netflix’s original TV series are incredibly popular, but perhaps even more so are the mini-series. These are contained within stories of a single season, allowing for low engagement and no risk from showrunners… taking the show straight to the gutter.
When it comes to limited series television, especially in the binge model, few have done it better than Netflix. In most cases these are basically just long movies.
Sure, there are unforgettable imitations (The I country), splitting head scratches (Insane) and mini-series that became way too long a series (the sinner)but there are plenty of must-see one-season shows.
For this top 10 list, we consider any series with a season that has a predetermined number of episodes with a defined beginning, middle, and end.
Here are our picks for the best Netflix Original miniseries, from worst to best.
10. Ascending Black Earth
Sometimes Netflix makes shows in co-production with BBC. black mirror is a good example of this as Netflix comes in for the later seasons.
Ascending Black Eartha program on the prosecution of international war criminals is another example.
Starring Michaela Coel (i can destroy you), this is a legal thriller with the gripping pace of a Grisham novel, but with themes and content that intensely depict generational trauma and the quest for justice.
It’s a delicate balance that shows a history of abuse within a relationship, especially when it involves physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. If you don’t push the issue far enough, it can feel superficial when the root cause of being stuck in a situation that’s never really explored is there. Too far, and it can become completely unattributable.
maidwith Margaret Qualley (Once upon a time in Hollywood), creates a mother-daughter relationship that we desperately root for, believe in, and also understand when the allure of going back seems like the right decision.
Characters are complicated maid. Even supporting characters have complex backstories and personalities, and even if they’re barely explored, they’re felt, and that contributes to a show where authenticity is felt in every moment.
8. Wet Hot American Summer
Does that count? It’s based on a movie that came out in 2001. There are also two Netflix seasons, but one is a reboot and the other is 10 years later, so it might not count, but we’re including it.
Netflix Original comedy isn’t very good, to put it nicely. It’s hard to find those classic comedies that make you laugh all the time and also have a story that (kinda) interests you.
The story takes place on the last full day of a fictional summer camp spoofing teen sex comedy and features a star cast that includes Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler and many more.
This show is a classic western in many ways. Set in 1884, a young outlaw (Jack O’Connell) is on the run from his vengeful mentor. He ends up in a small town in New Mexico, where he rests and waits, showing signs of being an extremely capable gunslinger.
Apart from the cast, the interesting choice of recordings and the great score, what makes this limited series so unique? This New Mexico town is populated almost exclusively by women.
Oh, and this show was created by Scott Frank, who also created a TV series by the same name that you may have heard of as well The Queen’s Gambit.
Unbelievablewhich won four Emmy Awards and stars the well-loved Toni Collette, is based on real-life cop Edna Hendershot, who works to solve the case of a serial rapist.
Fictional stories are a way of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and creating empathy for a person and a situation Unbelievable does exactly that at the perfect time.
This story shows the audience how victims can be tricked into changing their story by the people who are supposed to be helping them. It shows why someone might not be willing to speak up. It shows how easy it can be for some people to get away with an attack and how much effort it can take to do the right thing.
5. The Queen’s Gambit
The Queen’s Gambit at 5’o clock?!?
Yes, we put it in the middle of the list. It might be the most popular, it’s awesome, but no, it’s not the best.
This show is successful for many reasons, one of which is that it is about chess. You’d think that would be a handicap for some, but people love to watch the underdog grow into a success story. This show is a historical piece, an underdog story, and a story of struggle. It also has exceptional cinematography and acting, led by the always interesting Anya Taylor-Joy.
4. Midnight Mass
Not very many people saw it midnight fair, but this should be required in October. We won’t give it away, but this is a classic monster movie told through the eyes of a small and remote island town.
Created by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) this is a chilling horror story coupled with long, drawn out scenes of characters delivering emotional monologues. It’s heavy drama until the screams start.
This four-part series (entirely in Yiddish) is based on the autobiography by Deborah Feldman, Unorthodox: The scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots.
The show, which was nominated for eight Primetime Emmy Awards, follows a 19-year-old Jewish woman living unhappily in an arranged marriage and the journey she embarks on to find herself and her own faith.
It’s intimate with captivating performances and makes for an engaging story.
2. Haunting of Hill House
The horror show that remastered the classics.
Based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, this miniseries follows two different timelines and several different members of the Crain family. The show is utterly spooky, with creatures, hidden ghosts, lengthy one-shot scenes with horrifying visuals, and some of the scariest jump scares in any medium.
The emotional connection we have with each character, who have their own issues (apart from the haunted house) is why we care about this story, but the horror is why we love it.
1. When they see us
This show was created, co-written and directed by the incredibly talented Ava DuVernay for Netflix. It’s a tough watch, a frustrating watch, and an annoying watch that should be looked at.
It is based on the events of the 1989 Central Park Jogger case, the true story when five black and Hispanic male suspects were falsely accused and then charged with the rape and assault of a white woman in New York City. If you don’t know the ending, we won’t spoil it, because while this is a well-crafted docudrama that every real person sees as a person and not a character, it’s also an absorbing legal drama.
Critics praised the show and won multiple awards, but it lands at number one on this list because the limited series has lingered in our minds and hearts for so long.