10 popular Netflix Original Miniseries ranked from worst to best

Feb 27 2023, 11:59 pm

Tired of searching for the best Netflix original Miniseries from the seemingly endless category menus?

It might be a little harder than ever right now, given that Netflix has changed its account-sharing rules in Canada, leaving many to cancel their subscriptions. Last year had some amazing movies stream and hit theatres, so at least we will always have that option.

But for anyone who is left, we are here to help.

All of Netflix’s original TV series are incredibly popular, but the miniseries might be even more so. These are contained to single-season stories, allowing for low commitment and no risk of showrunners…running the show straight into 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 forgettable knockoffs (The I-Land), divisive head-scratchers (Maniac), and miniseries that turned into a way-too-long series (The Sinner), but there are plenty of one-season shows that are must-watches.

For this top 10 list, we are looking at any single-season series that has a predetermined number of episodes with a defined beginning, middle, and end.

Here are our picks for the best Netflix original Miniseries, ranked from worst to best.

10. Black Earth Rising

Sometimes Netflix makes shows as a co-production with BBC. Black Mirror is a good example of this, with Netflix coming in for the later seasons.

Black Earth Rising, a show about the prosecution of international war criminals, is another example of this.

Starring Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You), this is a legal thriller with the riveting pace of a Grisham novel but with themes and content that intensely portray generational trauma and the search for justice.

9. Maid 

It’s a delicate balance showing the story of abuse within a relationship, especially when it’s physical, sexual, and emotional. If you don’t push the subject matter far enough, it can feel shallow with the root cause of staying in a situation that never really gets explored. Too far, and it can become completely unrelatable.

Maid, starring 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 appeal of going back seems like the right decision.

Characters are complicated in Maid. Even side characters have complex backstories and personalities, and even if barely explored, they are felt, and it adds to this show where authenticity is felt in every moment.

8. Wet Hot American Summer

Does this 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 maybe it doesn’t count, but we’re including it.

Netflix Original comedies are, to put it nicely, not very good. It’s hard to find those classic comedies that have you laughing the entire way that also have a story you (sort of) care about.

The story takes place during the last full day at a fictional summer camp, spoofing teen sex comedies, and with a stacked cast that includes Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, and so many more.

7. Godless 

This show is a classic Western in so many ways. Set in 1884, a young outlaw (Jack O’Connell) is on the run from his vengeful mentor. He winds up in a small New Mexico town, where he rests and waits, showing signs of being an extremely skilled gunslinger.

What makes this limited series so unique, besides the cast, interesting shot choices, and gorgeous score? This New Mexico town is populated almost entirely by women.

Oh, and this show was created by Scott Frank, who also created a TV series you may have also heard of called The Queen’s Gambit.

6. Unbelievable 

Unbelievable, which won four Emmy awards and stars the much-loved Toni Collette, is based on real-life police officer Edna Hendershot working to solve the case of a serial rapist.

Fictional stories are a way to walk in someone else’s shoes and create empathy for a person and a situation, and Unbelievable does just that at the perfect time.

This story shows its audience how victims can be persuaded to change their story by the people that are supposed to be helping them. It shows why someone might be unwilling to speak out. It shows how easy it can be for some people to get away with assault and the effort it can take to do the right thing.

5. The Queen’s Gambit¬†

The Queen’s Gambit at #5?!?

Yes, we put it in the middle of the list. It’s possibly the most popular, it’s fantastic, but no, it’s not the best.

This show hit for many reasons, one of which is that it’s about chess. You’d think that would be a barrier for some, but people love watching the underdog become a success story. This show is a period 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 Midnight Mass, but this should be required viewing during October. We won’t give it away, but this is a classic monster movie told from the eyes of a small and secluded island town.

Created by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) this is a terrifying horror story matched with long, drawn-out scenes of characters giving emotional monologues. It’s a heavy drama until the screams start.

3. Unorthadox 

This four-part series (entirely in Yiddish) is based on Deborah Feldman’s autobiography, 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 beliefs.

It’s intimate with captivating performances, and it makes for a riveting story.

2. Haunting of Hill House 

The horror show that rebooted 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 intensely creepy, with creatures, hidden ghosts, long one-shot scenes with horrifying imagery, and some of the most frightening jump scares in any medium.

The emotional connection we have with every character going through their own issues (besides the haunted house) is why we care about this story, but the horror is why we love it.

1. When They See Us 

Created, co-written, and directed by the incredibly talented Ava DuVernay for Netflix, this show is a hard watch, frustrating watch, and an angering watch that should be required viewing.

It’s based on events of the 1989 Central Park jogger case, the true story of when¬†five Black and Latino male suspects were falsely accused and then prosecuted on rape and assault charges of a white woman in New York City. If you don’t know the ending, we won’t spoil it, because even though this is a well-crafted docudrama that sees each real person as a human being and not a character, it’s also a riveting legal drama.

Critics praised the show, and it won several awards, but it lands on the top spot on this list because of the staying power the limited series has in our minds and hearts.

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