Last Updated: March 2nd
A mini-series is much more than just a “10-hour movie.” It’s a self-contained story, one that expands over the course of just a handful of episodes. It has a captivating beginning, a thrilling middle, and (hopefully) a satisfying end. It’s a complete binge-watching experience normally filled with prestige actors and award-worthy storytelling. And Netflix is host to more than its fair share of compelling limited series in every genre.
From mind-bending comedies to true crime retellings, period spy dramas, and more, here are the best miniseries on Netflix just waiting to be binged right now.
The Queen’s Gambit
1 season, 7 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
You don’t need to love chess to get obsessed with this drama from Scott Frank. That’s because the board game is just the setting, the battlefield where all the real maneuverings and suspense take place. Anya-Taylor Joy and her mesmerizing stare are front and center here as she plays Beth Harmon, an orphan and chess prodigy whose quest for greatness is only eclipsed by her life-destroying addictions. It’s a coming-of-age story wrapped disguised behind pawns and Sicilian defense tactics and it’s one of the most captivating, thrilling series to land on the streamer in a long time.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Toni Collette, Merritt Weaver, and Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever star in this mini-series that covers some heavy material. Dever plays Marie, a young woman charged with lying about her sexual assault. Collette and Weaver play the lone female detectives who become invested in her case and search for the truth while trying to prevent her rapist from striking again. It’s an interesting look at how we process trauma, and it’s held up by some powerhouse performances.
When They See Us
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 9/10
Director Ava DuVernay’s limited series about the wrongfully accused men in the Central Park Five case is an emotionally heavy reimagining of a truly tragic event in our history. The series sheds light on racial profiling and corruption in the NYPD as a group of young Black men are targeted for a heinous crime and put on trial with little evidence. It’s a gripping, heartbreaking retelling, but one that feels sadly relevant.
1 season, 7 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Written, directed, and created by Scott Frank, who wrote Logan and Out of Sight, Godless, is equal parts a feminist Western and s a show about fathers and sons. The series is set in the 1880s in the small mining town of La Belle, where nearly all of the town’s men have died in a mining accident. Enter Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), a charming gunslinger on the run from the mentor he double-crossed, Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), who — along with his crew out desperadoes — had already murdered everyone in another small town for harboring Goode. The series ultimately pits a town of mostly women against a brutal, merciless outlaw gang. Scoot McNairy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Sam Waterston play lawmen, but the standouts in Godless are Downton Abby‘s nearly unrecognizable shotgun-wielding pioneer woman Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, a bisexual woman all out of f*cks to give. It’s a tremendously good series buoyed by beautiful cinematography, poetic language, a few great shoot-outs, and fine performances from the entire cast.
1 season, 5 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
This BBC drama imagines a clandestine love affair between two men from very different worlds. Ben Whishaw plays Danny, a club-loving hedonist who meets Alex (Edward Holcroft) and instantly falls in love. Alex is reserved and mysterious, something Danny only truly realizes when he turns up dead and news breaks that he was a secret intelligence officer. Danny goes looking for his killer and reconciles his love for a man he barely knew in the process.
1 season, 7 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
There are stories to bizarre, too mind-boggling to be true… and then there’s this seven-part docuseries. Cults, queer romance, exotic cats — this true crime binge has it all. Is Joe Exotic, a gay, gun-loving conman running an exotic zoo out of his home in Oklahoma, a criminal or an American hero? Did animal rights activist Carole Baskin murder her husband and feed him to her tigers? Why are so many zoo employees missing limbs? These are just a few of the questions you’ll ask while watching this train wreck. Have fun, kids.
1 season, 4 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Netflix has a deep well of riveting docuseries to choose from and yet, this show feels distinctly compelling. Maybe it’s because it follows an everyday hero, a small-town pharmacist named Dan Schneider who, after losing his son to drugs, takes on Big Pharma for its role in the Opioid Crisis. Schneider first finds justice for his son’s death in a drug-related shooting before vowing to protect the countless young people overdosing on Oxycontin in his hometown by investigating the sinister dealings of pharmaceutical companies pushing dangerously addictive painkillers on doctors. It’s the kind of story that would make for an Oscar-winning drama, but it’s even better as a docuseries.
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Sacha Baron Cohen dons a new identity in this limited series for Netflix, but it comes with noticeably fewer laughs than his more famous characters. That’s because Cohen inhabits the identity of an Israeli intelligence agent named Eli Cohen, who served undercover for years in ’60s era Syria assuming the name Kamel Amin Thaabet. Cohen (the operative, not the actor) posed as a wealthy importer/exporter who infiltrated the highest echelons of Syrian government during a dangerous period for the two countries and Cohen (the actor, not the operative) does a bang-up job of delivering his most serious performance to date in this war-time thriller.
1 season, 5 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
A zombie outbreak overtakes the set of Big Brother, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this will be a Shaun of the Dead satire of the genre. It’s gruesome. It’s gory. It’s a strong entry in the walking/running undead. All you need to know is that it’s written by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, meaning it’ll be bleak as hell. Much like Black Mirror, Brooker also draws underlining parallels within Dead Set about the global obsession with TV and its perversion of reality. With just five episodes, it’s around just long enough to set itself apart from a cluttered genre before its bloody end.
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Alias Grace, adapted by Sarah Polley from a Margaret Atwood novel which itself is based on a true story, is set in Canada in the middle of the 19th century, where a house servant Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon) has been convicted of a double murder. After spending time in a mental asylum and while serving time in prison, an early version of a therapist is called in to try and discern if Grace is guilty, innocent, lying or telling the truth. Grace’s account of the murders is as confounding to the viewer as it is the doctor, but the truth is not the point. The point of Alias Grace is to illustrate how the men in her life and the lives of the women around her have tyrannized and abused them. They are the product of that abuse, of a system controlled by men, and if a woman were to rise up and murder her terrorizer, who could blame her? It’s a smart, brilliantly acted, and entertaining series, but more than that, it’s an important one for these times.