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The best limited series to watch on Netflix right now


Is there anything sweeter than a perfect limited series? A crisp, contained story that knows exactly what it’s trying to tell and metes out only the space needed to tell it? In an age when IP is king and there’s always at least a question of how a story could continue, a miniseries is certainly a vulnerable species, especially if it’s high-quality.

That being said: Good miniseries do exist, managing to thrive purely in their intended, limited (non-derogatory!) form. And there’s a plethora of them on Netflix, so you can easily tune in and let “Next episode” take you all the way down. So whether you’re trying to fill up a quiet weekend with something you can watch all of, or you’re just looking for a great show you don’t have to see as an “investment,” here are the best limited series streaming on Netflix.


Alias Grace

Sarah Gadon, wearing mid 19th-century colonial garb, is led away by police officers in Alias Grace.

Photo: Jan Thijs/Netflix

Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) has been summoned to do a psychiatric evaluation of the murderess Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon). This is a fairly standard start to a story that is anything but, adapting Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name to something hypnotic and barbed. Jordan endeavors to suss out which is true, what the real story is, and Grace gamely meets him where he’s at. As she unspools her wicked little tale, she flickers between all the labels levied at her — murderess, innocent, fool — and Gadon’s performance excellently laces them all together. It’s a dance of deception, and Alias Grace is exactly the sort of miniseries that crackles with promise throughout its six episodes. —Zosha Millman

Beef

Danny (Steven Yuen) yells out the window of his car

Photo: Andrew Cooper/Netflix

One of the best shows of 2023, Beef is a high-wire piece of domestic tension, as a road rage incident spills out into a life-changing rivalry. Anchored by terrific lead performances from Steven Yeun and Ali Wong as Danny and Amy, the beefers in question, the show quickly spirals out of control in the best possible way. Supported by Young Mazino’s turn as Danny’s younger brother, consistently strong writing, and a playful artistic approach, Beef is a great case for the value of limited series storytelling. It has a sharp idea of its scope and possibilities and sticks to it, creating strong characters and an intriguing narrative in a fast-paced package.

Something to know before you decide to watch: The show had some controversy on release after horrible comments made by supporting actor David Choe on an old podcast resurfaced, which was only amplified by the cast and creators sticking up for him. That guy sucks, as did the response from the Beef team, but the show rules. —Pete Volk

Godless

Michelle Dockery holds a rifle by her side in the frontier in Godless

Photo: Ursula Coyote/Netflix

The main gimmick of Scott Frank’s Western is that it takes place in a frontier town in the American West where most of the men died in a tragic mining accident. With women making up most of the ensemble cast, Godless offers a different edge to a familiar genre. Michelle Dockery plays a tough-as-nails widow who teams up with a scruffy former outlaw (played by Skins’ Jack O’Connell) to protect a small town from the wrath of a megalomaniac gang leader. The rest of the dynamic cast, from a cocky young deputy to the sheriff’s sister who’s in love with a former prostitute, color out the story and make the stakes of the drama hit even harder. —Petrana Radulovic

The Haunting of Hill House

Hill House surrounded by fog and moonlight in The Haunting of Hill House.

Photo: Steve Dietl/Netflix

It’s not every creator who can knock it out of the park with their first series, but Mike Flanagan — after building a solid career in horror movies — made a huge splash with The Haunting of Hill House. Adapted (or, at least, interpolated) from Shirley Jackson’s seminal book of the same name, Hill House follows a family living in the titular house and struggling with all the ghosts and trauma it inflicts on its residents.

Hill House is a classic for a reason: It’s not only a skillful love letter to Jackson’s knack for spooky foreboding, but a demonstration that horror on TV can build poignant stories around creepy-as-hell jump scares. —ZM

The Keepers

Three middle-aged women cross their arms and look off camera in The Keepers

Image: Netflix

There are two kinds of true crime documentaries: the ones that go viral for all the wrong reasons, and the ones that stick with you long after you roll credits. The Keepers is one of the latter, a harrowing, dark tale about the murder of nun Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969. We never find out exactly what happened to her, but as the docuseries unfolds, we get an inside look at the culture around the all-girls Catholic school she worked at, and how a dark underbelly there might have contributed to her death. It all unravels slowly, but manages to keep the viewer engaged throughout by speaking with a large group of people who were there and have theories and insight. It’s ultimately a tragic story without a satisfying ending, but isn’t that how a lot of crime goes? You don’t always catch the culprit, there isn’t always a punishment, and the families and friends of the victims don’t get the justice they deserve. —Carli Velocci

Maya and the Three

a warrior princess silhouetted by the light of the moon

Image: Netflix

A gorgeous animated special from husband-wife team Jorge Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua, Maya and the Three is a high-stakes action adventure that draws on Mesoamerican mythology. It follows a warrior princess named Maya (Zoe Saldaña) who teams up with three outcasts to save the world from the wrath of the gods. The character design is spectacular, as are the really cool fight sequences, and the world of gods and monsters that Maya and her friends face off against is pretty dang cool. The animated miniseries is slightly more mature than typical all-ages offerings, but still kid-friendly enough to share with the family. Just keep some tissues on hand for that emotional ending. —PR

Midnight Mass

Hamish Linklater as Father Paul in Midnight Mass in the middle of mass

Image: Netflix

The best of Mike Flanagan’s considerable Netflix output, Midnight Mass builds an alluring horror story out of a small church-obsessed community, isolated in middle-of-nowhere New England. Spooky and deeply heartfelt, it’s the best match between Flanagan’s penchant for monologues and the material itself of any of his television projects (the director’s cut of Doctor Sleep also belongs in the top echelon of Flanagan cinema).

Flanagan is also known for working with a repeated cast of players across his projects, but Midnight Mass adds a secret weapon: Hamish Linklater. He’s the perfect fit for this role and this world, and lights the screen on fire every time he appears. —PV

The Queen’s Gambit

Queen’s Gambit: Anya-Taylor Joy sits at chess board, surrounded by men

Photo: Charlie Gray/Netflix

It might be tough to remember now, but when The Queen’s Gambit was released at the end of 2020, it was a huge deal. It was the kind of viral hit that any streaming service hopes to have: a prestige miniseries that captures the attention of both viewers and critics, wins a ton of awards, and even inspires a trend. The Queen’s Gambit was a cultural moment, and rightfully so. The miniseries stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan and prodigy who rises to international chess stardom in the 1960s while struggling with drug addiction and social awkwardness. It’s part sports coming-of-age story, part character drama, and one of the more fascinating primers on competitive chess in recent memory. It never fully explains what’s happening, but it somehow captures it in dynamic detail with extraordinary performances from Taylor-Joy and others, who sell the stakes of these chess matches.

It was so successful that it took on new life outside the confines of Netflix, becoming one of the major catalysts for chess’s surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It even partially led to a resurgence of chess in schools. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to see what the fuss is about. And who knows, you might pick up a new hobby after watching its seven episodes. —CV

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Queen Charlotte, a young Black woman with a tiara perched on her afro, smiles at King George who hugs her from behind.

Photo: Nick Wall/Netflix

The Bridgerton prequel series about young Queen Charlotte and King George is actually the best Bridgerton story out there. Like The Notebook, its flavor of romance leans more on the bittersweet, a reflection on undying love overcoming hurdles in the past juxtaposed with a somber present. As with any Bridgerton story, there are a lot of B-plots and a wide cast of characters, but it’s handled more deftly in the prequel, with all the plots of the past coming together to reflect the present. While plenty of characters from Bridgerton proper return, it’s not required watching for Charlotte and George’s love story. —PR

Salt Fat Acid Heat

two people look delighted at bread

Image: Netflix

Part travel show, part cooking show, and all joy, Salt Fat Acid Heat sees chef Samin Nosrat adapt her book of the same name into a four-episode documentary series. Each episode focuses on one of the four elements in the title, and the show thrives on details, going deep into each of them all while focusing on the joy food brings to us in its many forms.

A particular highlight is the “Salt” episode, in which she travels to Japan and visits a Japanese salt factory, but all of them are excellent — the “Fat” episode in Italy, “Acid” in Mexico, and “Heat” in Nosrat’s hometown of Berkeley, California. The show will change how you see cooking, and inspire you to make food for your loved ones. —PV

Unbelievable

A young woman in a multicolored sweater stands in a courtroom beside a man in a navy blue suit.

Image: Netflix

A true-crime dramatization of a serial rape case in Colorado could so easily have veered into gross sensationalism, but this brilliant, thoughtful, angry, and surprisingly entertaining miniseries avoids every pitfall. It’s deeply concerned with the terrible effect on the victims, via a heartbreaking performance by Kaitlyn Dever, but scorns the usual prurient fascination with the perp. It’s also just a fun, satisfying old-school procedural about two detectives who just didn’t give up, played by the terrific pairing of Merritt Wever and Toni Collette. —Oli Welsh

Wild Wild Country

A slightly grainy, older image of a meeting led by Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh from Wild Wild Country

Image: Netflix

Netflix is no stranger to true crime, but Wild Wild Country was a relatively early release that set the stage for a deluge of dramatic, engrossing, and sometimes trashy documentary miniseries that would proliferate the platform in the coming years. The six-episode series about the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram — a commune in Oregon founded by followers of the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in the 1980s — is a nearly perfect cult documentary. It’s full of twists and turns, with crimes you probably haven’t heard of and talking heads from people who were involved that have… let’s say some interesting things to say. We won’t spoil it for you here, but the group’s story involves local politics, food poisoning, and egos. So, so many egos.

It’s been six years since Wild Wild Country hit the platform, and the truly wild, wild story will still find a way to drill into your brain until you won’t shut up about it at parties. —CV



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