The 6 Best TV Miniseries Of All Time — And Where To Watch Them

While a somewhat rare phenomenon in the entertainment medium, TV miniseries have managed to accrue their own favorable audience of viewers over the past several decades. In more recent years especially, the concept of a limited series has gained increased relevance, with more and more television shows opting for a finite length as opposed to the multi-season format of a full-fledged TV series. As fantastic as new series like Shogun and Masters of the Air have been, it’s also worth pointing out how many other exceptional miniseries have been released in the past, from harrowing historical epics to evocative period dramas.

Band of Brothers

HBO

Among the finest HBO series ever made, Band of Brothers follows the exploits of an American paratrooper company in World War II, complete with an in-depth portrayal of their first-hand experiences in battle. Never shying away from the horrors of combat, Band of Brothers also underscored the unique fraternal bond formed by soldiers on the frontline–the shared hardship of their experiences forever solidifying their lifelong friendships. Watch Band of Brothers on Netflix and Max.

Chernobyl

HBO

The best miniseries in recent memory, Chernobyl focuses on the disastrous fallout that ravaged the titular Russian city in the spring of 1986. A palpable period thriller, the series specifically chronicles the heroic efforts of scientists attempting to contain the radioactive fallout–sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Employing an ensemble cast of phenomenal actors (including Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and Jessie Buckley), Chernobyl’s evaluation of its main subject matter makes it among the most engrossing HBO series in the network’s history. Watch Chernobyl on Max.

Roots

ABC

For a long time, Roots essentially was the prototypical miniseries, remaining synonymous with the idea of a limited TV series for several decades. Based on Alex Haley’s best-selling novel, Roots provided an unflinching look at the stark reality of slavery in early American history, focusing on the perspective of enslaved persons captured from their native home in Africa. Drawing extraordinarily high ratings upon its debut in 1977, it continues to stand tall as one of the defining TV series of the 1970s. Watch Roots on Amazon Video.

Lonesome Dove

CBS

A sweeping adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s celebrated Western, Lonesome Dove is that rare Western capable of entertaining a mass audience of viewers, rather than simply satisfying longtime fans of Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Living up to the heights of McMurtry’s original novel, Lonesome Dove broke down the conventional norms of the traditional Western narrative, analyzing such topics as masculinity, violence, age, and youthful adventure. Wonderfully acted by stars Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove elevated the entire concept of a miniseries after the debut of Roots a decade earlier. Watch Lonesome Dove on Peacock and Tubi.

John Adams

HBO

Within the larger expanse of American history, most people tend to look past the contributions of the second U.S. president John Adams–the Founding Father and statesman who succeeded George Washington’s place as commander-in-chief. Exploring the vastly underrated public official is the HBO miniseries John Adams, as played by the always fantastic Paul Giamatti. An introspective study of its eponymous historical figure, John Adams displays the numerous strengths and abundant flaws of this wildly misunderstood U.S. diplomat, from his vast intelligence and selfless patriotism to his narcissistic desire for approval and praise. Watch John Adams on Max.

The Queen’s Gambit

Netflix

Among the most popular Netflix exclusives released to the streaming platform yet, The Queen’s Gambit somehow made the niche sport of chess a universally approachable topic for every member of the audience. Following Anya Taylor-Joy’s troubled chess prodigy as she climbs through the sport’s hierarchy, The Queen’s Gambit weaves in a number of more philosophical and relatable topics, including an intelligent exploration of ambition, depression, and alcoholism. Through its layered treatment of its main character, the series offered a fresh new take on the tried-and-true sports drama. Watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Fangoria, Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Sportskeeda, and MDLinx, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020.