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5 best Netflix miniseries, ranked

The Queen's Gambit on Netflix

With no shortage of competitors, Netflix may not be the streaming giant it once was, but the platform manages to keep its edge through massively popular and extremely well-made originals. Some Netflix originals that have stood out over the years include binge-worthy miniseries that employ the perfect medium for fans who want to spend hours with an incredible show.

From the captivating The Queen’s Gambit to the award-winning Beef, the best Netflix miniseries pack a punch and offer concise, yet powerful narratives that can keep viewers hooked until the very end. Whether audiences are looking for gripping dramas or intense character studies, there’s bound to be something for every kind of fan. These five miniseries highlight the diverse range of stories that Netflix has always excelled at delivering.

5. Unorthodox (2020)

A man stands next to a young girl in Unorthodox.

In 2020’s Unorthodox, Esty Shapiro (Shira Haas) is a young woman who has just escaped her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Inspired by Deborah Feldman’s memoir, the limited series follows Esty as she flees to Berlin, seeking freedom and a new identity while struggling with an inner conflict as she realizes more about the constraints of her former life. As she discovers a new passion for music, her burgeoning freedom is threatened when her husband, Yanky (Amit Rahav), and his cousin, Moishe (Jeff Wilbusch), are sent to bring her back.

Boasting a wholly unique story about the challenges of breaking free from religious and cultural norms, Unorthodox manages to be both specific and accurate in its depiction of Hasidic customs without ever alienating audiences. The often-overlooked four-part drama miniseries has been praised for this aspect of being both deeply rooted in its particular cultural context while telling a universal story of self-discovery and liberation. This is largely thanks to Shira Haas’ nuanced portrayal of the vulnerable, yet bold Esty, whose tentative steps into a different life will make just about anyone want to root for her success.

4. Maid (2021)

A woman in a maid's uniform scrubbing a surface in the Netflix series Maid.

Based on Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, 2021’s Maid is a hard-hitting miniseries that follows the journey of Alex Russell (Margaret Qualley), a young mother who escapes an abusive relationship and struggles to build a better life for herself and her daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet). Alex takes up work as a housecleaner to make ends meet while navigating a bureaucratic maze as she protects herself and her daughter from their abuser. Despite numerous obstacles, Alex is determined as she fights for her independence and the future of her child.

Maid is one of the best modern miniseries of all time and is widely lauded for its retelling of a personal story and pointed criticism of how society and the government treat victims of abuse. Despite its disheartening moments, the Netflix show still underscores the glimmer of hope that never leaves Alex, with Margaret Qualley capturing this quiet strength and cautious optimism beautifully. Maid excels in its storytelling, with a deliberate pace throughout its 10 episodes that allows audiences to fully immerse themselves in Alex’s world.

3. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

The cast of The Haunting of Hill House pictured in a car.

Haunted house stories don’t get much better than Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, which revolves around the Crain family’s experiences in the titular location. The plot switches between two timelines, the past, where the Crain family moves into Hill House with plans to renovate and sell it, and the present, where the grown children are struggling with the trauma and terrifying experiences they endured in the house. It all leads up to that unforgettable night in 1992 that caused the family to leave the home abruptly.

A ghost story combined with a well-written family drama, The Haunting of Hill House received universal praise for its fascinating story and high production values. The buildup to its chilling climax is full of haunting imagery, and its dark ending is ultimately worth the wait. The 2018 limited series is one of the most complex and innovative entries in the horror genre, making it a must-see for fans who relish a genuine scare.

2. The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Anya Taylor-Joy ponders a chessboard in a scene from The Queen's Gambit.

The Queen’s Gambit is a critically acclaimed Netflix miniseries that chronicles the life of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned prodigy who surprises everyone as she rises to the pinnacle of the chess world. Set in the 1950s and 60s, the series begins with young Beth being sent to an orphanage where she discovers her talent for chess with the help of the janitor, Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp). As Beth grows older, she begins to compete in chess tournaments, defeating seasoned players with her extraordinary skills. Little do they know that her journey is made difficult by substance abuse and the psychological scars of her past.

The 2020 limited series soars thanks to Anya Taylor-Joy’s award-winning performance as Beth, with the actor imbuing her with an effortlessly cool demeanor and disarming charm in the mostly male-dominated settings she enters. She would go on to receive a Golden Globe for her role. The Queen’s Gambit is also credited with a surge of renewed interest in the game, with its seven episodes showing how intense and competitive the tournaments can be.

1. Beef (2023)

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong as Danny and Amy looking at each other confrontationally in Beef.

One road rage incident is all it takes to send two strangers over the edge in Beef, Netflix’s recent hit miniseries that has already won numerous accolades. The show follows these two strangers: Danny Cho (Steven Yeun), a struggling contractor with a younger brother to support, and Amy Lau (Ali Wong), a successful, but deeply unhappy entrepreneur with a clueless husband. Their dramatic encounter on the road sets off a chain reaction of events, leading both characters down increasingly dangerous and chaotic paths that spiral out of control and affect their families, friends, and even their professional lives.

Danny and Amy’s escalating confrontations, each more outrageous than the last, deliberately reach absurd levels that help expose the deep-seated issues and personal traumas that fuel their rage. Behind the deliciously dark comedy, Beef is an unflinching exploration of the pressures of modern life as seen from different socioeconomic perspectives. Through 10 gripping and unpredictable episodes, the miniseries reveals the characters’ complex motivations for their destructive behavior, which ends up being heartbreakingly relatable.

Hannah Saab
Saab whips up SEO-optimized articles as a writer for Digital Trends and updates top-performing articles on Collider.
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