Miniseries are a unique category of television production that deserves special attention, especially as we discuss some of the best miniseries to have ever aired. With anywhere from three to twelve episodes, miniseries typically pack a lot of story into a small time frame, which is part of what makes them great. Today, let’s explore some of the best miniseries ever.
Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman
Considering Fargo won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries for the 2013-2014 season, it is no wonder this miniseries would be the starter of our best miniseries list. Furthermore, although it is technically based off of a 1996 film by the same name, this miniseries is considered different and unique by many. In a world inundated by crime drama and reality television, this supplies a unique breath of fresh air worth viewing.
The Pacific (2010)
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama
Starring: James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello, Jon Seda
Winning the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries in 2010, The Pacific not only had superb acting quality, but was produced by several big names in Hollywood: Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman. Knowing Spielberg’s wide variety of productions, and Tom Hanks being a nearly household name, The Pacific quickly became one of the best miniseries not only because of its name associations, but because of the talent of those names.
Downton Abbey (2010)
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton
No one has ever seen a turn of the century period drama quite like Downton Abbey. Its excellent casting draws the viewer in quickly to the lives of those both upstairs and downstairs, making you feel as though you have reverted back to the 1920’s yourself. Although it may no longer be considered a miniseries as it enters its sixth season, it won a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries in 2011.
Little Dorit (2008)
Genres: Drama, Romance
Starring: Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Courtenay
Period dramas have become relatively popular in recent years, but Little Dorit arrived on the scene before their popularity escalated. As such, many enjoy watching this particular miniseries not for its accuracy, but for the excellent casting of roles and the superb screenplay. With writing based on an original manuscript by Charles Dickens, the miniseries appears to do well in accurately portraying not only the characters, but also the mood created throughout Dickens’ writing.
John Adams (2008)
Genres: Biography, Drama, History
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, John Dossett
If you take a quick look on this miniseries’ page on IMDb, you’ll find that it has had a total of thirty eight wins, four of which were Golden Globes, and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries in 2008, and another twenty five nominations! Many have exalted its attention to even the smallest details as well as the superb acting of the leading actors.
Broken Trail (2006)
Starring: Robert Duvall, Thomas Haden Church, Greta Scacchi
As an older period drama, Broken Trail did well enough to earn the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries in 2007, as well as earn nominations for three Golden Globes. While most believe the miniseries’ success is attributed almost solely to the acting of Robert Duvall, the overall casting and writing of the miniseries is what not only helped Duvall to succeed, but made it worth watching from beginning to end, even for those who are not huge fans of westerns.
Elizabeth I (2005)
Genres: Biography, Drama, History
Starring: Helen Mirren, Hugh Dancy, Toby Jones
Winning a vast array of awards, including an Emmy and three Golden Globes, the actors and crew of Elizabeth I outdid themselves in creating a wonderful period drama for viewers to enjoy. Taking on the task of bringing to life one of the most famous monarchs of the world, Helen Mirren is considered to be an amazing actress who knew exactly how to portray Elizabeth.
The Lost Prince (2003)
Genres: Biography, Drama
Starring: Daniel Williams, Matthew James Thomas, Brock Everitt-Elwick
Although it may not be as well-known as the other miniseries on this list, The Lost Prince has still earned enough awards and nominations to be considered one of the best miniseries of its decade. Critics rave that the acting is superb, and the attention to detail is note-worthy, but they also mention the historical aspects of the drama are slightly brushed over. Nevertheless, it is a must see for any period drama fanatic.
Angels in America (2003)
Genres: Drama, Fantasy
Starring: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson
With actors such as these, you can expect to see brilliance come alive on screen - which is why this best miniseries not only won an Emmy Award, but also a total of five Golden Globes. Reviewers almost unanimously say that it is a must-see miniseries, but you must get prepared as it contains a story that may leave you both in shock and amazement.
Genres: Drama, Sci-Fi
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Matt Frewer, Emily Bergly
Not to be confused with the relatively well-known film Taken, this best miniseries hit televisions in 2002 and left its viewers speechless. While reviewers admit this miniseries is depicted as science fiction, they note it’s not the science fiction many may expect. Its awards do not come from the special effects of an alien invasion, but from the depth of character acting portrayed throughout.