The couch is calling, inviting you in for a good long binge-watch. You crave a story that will sweep you up, characters who will captivate, and a run time that will wash away more hours than your average movie but not an entire weekend. Nothing is better for such a mood than a superb mini-series.
Within just a few episodes, these shows can unfurl rich tales — haunting, historic, heady, or even hilarious. Whether you’re craving gripping thrillers, poignant dramas, royal romance, iconoclastic humor, or wild adventure, we’ve got you covered.
Here are the best mini-series on Max now available to watch:
1. Station Eleven
Mackenzie Davis breaks our hearts in “Station Eleven.”
Credit: Ian Watson / HBO Max
Whether or not you’ve read Emily St. John Mandel’s celebrated novel of the same name, this lavish adaptation proved must-see TV. (Well, not just TV — must-see HBO!) Station Eleven creator/showrunner Patrick Somerville thoughtfully reimagined the setting and some stirring specifics of Mandel’s dystopian drama, making for a story familiar yet surprising. In a world ravaged by plague, a scrappy theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony tours settlements to bring the pleasures of Shakespeare to the survivors. But how did humankind come to this place of ruin and revival? Weaving past and present in a ragged but riveting tapestry, this mini-series gave an almost alarmingly optimistic look at the apocalypse. Grounding the sensational storytelling is a critically heralded cast that includes Mackenzie Davis, Matilda Lawler, Himesh Patel, Gael García Bernal, and Danielle Deadwyler.
How to watch: Station Eleven is streaming on Max.
2. Angels in America
This moving 2003 mini-series is adapted from Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning two-part stage play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Combining fictional characters, historical figures, and ardent symbolism, this ambitious drama was a brazen condemnation of homophobia and America’s handling of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Its story follows several gay men, some suffering from AIDS, some suffering from shame, and most suffering from heartbreak — all of whom are played with soul-gripping conviction. Director Mike Nichols brought together an impeccable ensemble, boasting Broadway stars and movie legends like Patrick Wilson, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Al Pacino, and Meryl Streep. Their efforts combined led not only to radiant critical praise but also 11 Emmy awards, including acting honors for Wright, Parker, Streep, and Pacino.
How to watch: Angels in America is streaming on Max.
3. Mare of Easttown
With a potential Season 2 in the works, we’ll see how long “Mare of Easttown” stays a mini-series.
25 years ago, Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) was a star high school athlete with a promising future ahead of her. Nowadays, she’s a bitter, divorced detective whose name is being dragged through the mud over a missing persons case she couldn’t solve. When another local girl vanishes, Mare must push aside personal dramas — and inner demons — to crack the case. This small but gruff blue-collar town outside of Philadelphia is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, so surely someone must know something. Creator Brad Ingelsby brings together a crackling cast that includes Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, Guy Pearce, and Evan Peters. Together, they build an enveloping atmosphere of snark and suspicion and a darkly amusing crime drama that had tongues wagging, critics cheering, and jaws dropping. It’s no mystery how Mare of Easttown earned 16 Emmy nominations in 2021.
How to watch: Mare of Easttown is streaming on Max.
4. Elizabeth I
The daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, Elizabeth I of England was born into royally outrageous drama, which would define her whole life. This heralded 2005 mini-series focuses on the last 24 years of her 45-year reign, beginning as the so-called Virgin Queen approached middle age. Don’t be fooled by her nickname. This 16th-century monarch had a healthy appetite for sex and romance. But to marry — as her advisors pressure — would mean surrendering her throne to some man who would be king. Dame Helen Mirren brings the fire of passion and fury to her vibrant portrayal of Elizabeth. Lending support as her leading men are the dashing Jeremy Irons and the dreamy-eyed Hugh Dancy. Under the helm of Tom Hooper, history comes alive in a sweeping two-part mini-series that won 9 Emmys. This included honors for Irons, Hooper, and Mirren, as well as Best Mini-Series. From its rich production design to its heart-pounding performances and rousing drama, it’s easy to see why.
How to watch: Elizabeth I is streaming on Max.
Regina King doesn’t stand for injustice or nonsense in “Watchmen.”
Credit: Mark Hill / HBO
In this 2019 superhero show, Damon Lindelof boldly re-imagines the iconic comic book series from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Taking place decades after the events in the comics, this Watchmen centers on Sister Night (Regina King), a Tulsa police detective who wears a nun-like costume to fight crime. In this striking guise, she combats the rising power of a white supremacist group known as the Seventh Kavalry. Thankfully, she won’t have to do it alone, as she’s got some super friends of her own. Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Irons, and Hong Chau co-star, playing characters complex, outrageous, and absolutely riveting. Weaving mature themes with graphic violence and daring socio-political commentary, this audacious adaptation won critical acclaim, a vociferous fan following, and a whopping 11 Emmy Awards, including one for King.
How to watch: Watchmen is streaming on Max.
6. From the Earth to the Moon
Based on Andrew Chaikin’s non-fiction book A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, this stellar mini-series rocketed audiences back to the ’60s and ’70s to reveal the incredible true stories within NASA’s Apollo program. Produced by Tom Hanks, From the Earth to the Moon was beyond ambitious. Over the course of 12 episodes, it told numerous stories, folding in decades of aeronautics history and heroics, as well as providing 30 portrayals of the astronauts who flew — or were ready to fly — on the Apollo missions. On top of that, remarkable special effects were created to make these trips to the stars feel real to a home audience, putting us in the shoes — or space suits — of these legendary explorers. This 1998 event launched as “TV’s Biggest Mini-Series” and soon landed the Primetime Emmy win for Best Mini-Series. So, take a trip back to see what all the buzz was about.
How to watch: From the Earth to the Moon is streaming on Max.
7. The Lady and the Dale
“The Lady and the Dale” gives us a look at the softer side of Elizabeth Carmichael’s story.
Max has a library of sensational true crime offerings, yet this 2021 mini-series is uniquely fascinating. Directors Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker unfurl the times and trials of Elizabeth Carmichael, who was not only a nationally recognized automobile executive and infamous con artist but also a wife, mother, and transgender trailblazer. For decades, her story has been framed by those who despise her, resulting in a narrative rife with speculation and transphobia. In this challenging and boldly funny four-episode documentary mini-series, Carmichael’s story is reclaimed by balancing the perspective of her haters with in-depth interviews with those who knew her best. With animated photography, a playful soundtrack, and a cheeky sense of adventure, The Lady and the Dale aims not only to showcase the complexity of the late Carmichael, but also to capture her spirit. All this makes for a watch that is surprising, thrilling, and unforgettable.
How to watch: The Lady and the Dale is streaming on Max.
8. True Detective
From the moment Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were cast as a duo of detectives on the hunt for an elusive killer, this 2014 show screamed “prestige TV.” Shortly after its debut, this neo-noir mini-series had audiences screaming too, hollering in horror of the unnerving visuals, cheering over its immersive cinematography, and yarn-walling over how it might end. Heralded filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga helmed the entire premiere season with aplomb, creating a rich world of Southern-fried intrigue, blood-curdling violence, and mind-bending philosophy. Critics cheered. Audiences tuned in, and the Primetime Emmys presented five awards to this daring drama. Sure, all that success led to writer Nic Pizzolatto spinning new stories for successive seasons. But it all began as one damn fine mini-series.
How to watch: True Detective is streaming on Max.
9. I May Destroy You
“I May Destroy You” is the Michaela Coel vehicle of “Chewing Gum” fans’ dreams.
English writer/actress/producer Michaela Coel first broke through with her cheeky, sex-centric comedy series Chewing Gum. With this addictive follow-up, her provocative humor oozes to darker corners, exploring the issues of social media influence, anti-Black racism, consent, and rape culture. In I May Destroy You, Coel stars as Arabella Essiedu, a twenty-something writer who relishes a wild night out on the town. But when one such night ends with a blackout, bloody forehead, and troubling flashbacks, Arabella turns to her friends, new lovers, and lots of dubious distractions to cope. Surrounded by a suitably superb cast, which includes Weruche Opia and Paapa Essiedu, Coel delivers an electrifying portrayal of a woman on the verge. Her critically heralded 12-part creation has won two BAFTAs, one for her lead performance, the other for Best Mini-Series, as well as a slew of Emmy nominations.
How to watch: I May Destroy You is streaming on Max.
10. Fionna and Cake
Fionna and Cake find new adventure.
Fionna and Cake feels like a fever dream for Adventure Time lovers. The new spinoff picks up years after Adventure Time‘s finale, roundabouts the timing of the spinoff movie Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Obsidian. But its eponymous characters began as in-show fan fiction concocted by the kooky Ice King, in a playful diversion that gender-bent all of the characters of Ooo for fresh fun. So how did Adventure Time showrunner Adam Muto spin these two into a whole new mini-series when Fionna and Cake weren’t even canon?*
Finding out is just part of the fun of this inventive mini-series. But be warned: this one will mess you up.
How to watch: Fionna and Cake is streaming on Max.
11. Miracle Workers
Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Steve Buscemi have come with a song in their hearts and wild gags on the Oregon Trail.
Credit: Tyler Golden / HBO Max
While mini-series are often dramas, occasionally a comedy breaks through. And no comedy compares with the outside-the-box antics of 2019’s Miracle Workers. It began as a seven-episode arc about two bumbling angels trying to save the world from annihilation by winning a bet with a frustrated God. This might sound like a premise ripe for an epic quest! Instead, creator Simon Rich imagined an office comedy where angels are listless, irritable, or incompetent, and God is a needy, fitful oaf who can’t even impress his parents. “Irreverent” doesn’t even begin to describe the jokes at play here, and the cast — centered around Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Steve Buscemi — makes a meal of every absurd turn, goofy visual gag, and jolting one-liner. Like True Detective, this mini-series was so great that it upgraded to anthology with its following seasons. Thankfully, Miracle Workers kept its cast through a second season in a merciless medieval setting and a third upon the treacherous Oregon Trail. That this bonkers but brilliant show even exists is a miracle.
Olivia Colman is a woman lost in love and murder in “Landscapers.”
Credit: Stefania Rosini / HBO
If you want true crime that gets truly trippy, you’ll appreciate this British offering from writer Ed Sinclair and director Will Sharpe (yes, that Will Sharpe). It’s based on a double homicide case out of Mansfield, England, where despite the brutality of the slayings the motive was love.
Critically acclaimed English actors Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as murderous married couple Susan and Christopher Edwards. The Edwards only loved one thing as much as each other, and that is Hollywood movies. To give a glimpse inside their minds, Landscapers blurs the lines of fact and fiction, staging fantasy scenes inspired by Westerns, romances, and other larger-than-life movies that promise a happy ending. However, a dark humor bleeds through the whimsy, urging audiences to reflect on what’s real, what’s imagined, and what “true crime entertainment” even means.
13. Mind Over Murder
The true crime story at the center of this documentary mini-series is astonishing on several levels. It begins in 1985, when a beloved grandmother was murdered in her own home, leaving a mess of confounding clues behind. One cop was determined to chase down any suspect who might fit into this puzzling crime, even if he had to force the pieces into place. Decades later, the Beatrice Six were exonerated, but their story doesn’t end there. Director Nanfu Wang guides audiences through the case, the accusations, the false confessions, and the aftermath by speaking with members of the Six, the investigator who went from hero to villain, the families of the victims, and a theater troupe trying to make sense of the war waged in conflicting narratives. Over six hour-long episodes, Mind Over Murder not only unfurls a shocking story of horror and homicide, but also one of profound empathy and the healing power of forgiveness.
How to watch: Mind Over Murder is streaming on Max.
14. The Last of Us
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star in “The Last of Us.”
Credit: Liane Hentscher / HBO
Technically, The Last of Us won’t be a limited series for long. After the smashing success of Season 1, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin’s astonishing adaptation of the popular video game was greenlit for Season 2. However, with nine hour-long episodes telling a compelling and self-contained story, The Last of Us definitely scratches that miniseries itch. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star as a pair of survivors thrown together in a post-apocalyptic America, ripped apart by a tenacious fungus that turns man into (essentially) zombies. To save the future of all mankind, mercenary Joel must get snarky teen Ellie across the U.S. to a safe zone. Along the way, they’ll not only have to face a variety of vicious creatures, but also humans who bring new meaning to the word evil. This series not only offers hair-raising horror, goofy puns, and a playlist that’ll get stuck in your brain; it also delivers some of 2023’s most emotionally devastating onscreen moments. Lean into it, and give yourself a good long cry.
How to watch: The Last of Us is streaming on Max.
15. The White Lotus
Like True Detective and Miracle Workers, this dark comedy series is a bit more anthology than strictly mini. Creator Mike White explores the humor to be found among the ridiculously wealthy at a resort that caters to their every whim. While each season is set in a different picturesque locale (Hawaii! Sicily!), they share a setup of a mysterious death in the first episode. Who will be killed? Who is the killer? As the stories of privileged jerks tangle with the hardships of the workers tending to (and exploiting) their desires, viewers are tempted to play whodunnit, even if the show’s not really about that. Come for the murder mystery, the cynical humor, or the star-stuffed cast that includes Jennifer Coolidge, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hollander, Aubrey Plaza, Haley Lu Richardson, Murray Bartlett, and Connie Britton.
How to watch: The White Lotus is streaming on Max.