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The Best Documentary Miniseries 

Ranker TV
Updated June 26, 2020 329 votes 91 voters 4.2k views 78 items

List Rules Vote up the best documentary miniseries that have aired on television. Only shows with six episodes or less.

The best documentary miniseries offer a more in-depth look at their subject than a film but are also digestible in a shorter time than longer shows. The best documentary miniseries ever shown on television may have episodes that are an hour long each but have a defined arc and a clear end. If you’ve been looking for the best limited series documentaries to add some educational value to your TV nights, this list of the best documentary miniseries of all time will help you figure out what needs to go into your queue.

Both the BBC and Netflix have solid histories of creating short documentary shows that tell their stories in no more than a dozen episodes. Even the expansive subjects of Planet Earth II or Natures Great Events are summed up in just six parts. Some series are even shorter, with only two or three episodes - great if you want to spread your documentary viewing across a couple of evenings. Cooked is a food documentary with only four parts that match with each of the four natural elements, and Yellowstone thoroughly examines the natural wonder in only three episodes.

Which miniseries do the best job sharing their subject in six episodes or less? Vote up the best documentary miniseries and add any limited documentary series that are missing.

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list ordered by
1
The Jinx: The Life and D... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Robert Durst, Andrew Jarecki, Gary Napoli

Premiered: 2015

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO, 2015) is a documentary miniseries directed by Andrew Jarecki. Exploring the complicated life of reclusive real estate icon Robert Durst, the ...more
2
Hillary is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Hillary Clinton

Premiered: March 6, 2020

Hillary (Hulu, 2020) is a documentary miniseries directed by Nanette Burstein. A look at the life and work of Hillary Rodham Clinton, interweaving biographical chapters of her life with ...more
3
Wild Wild Country is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, George Meredith, Ma Anand Sheela

Premiered: 2018

Wild Wild Country (Netflix, 2018) is a documentary series directed by Maclain and Chapman Way. When Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh AKA Osho, the world's most controversial guru, builds a utopian city ...more
4
Planet Earth II is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Sir David Attenborough

Premiered: 2016

Planet Earth II (BBC One, 2016) is a British nature documentary series presented and narrated by Sir David Attenborough. This 6-part limited series explores how animals meet the challenges of ...more
5
The Defiant Ones is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, Ice Cube
The Defiant Ones (HBO, 2017) is an American documentary miniseries directed by Allen Hughes. Examining the partnership between Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and their leading roles in a chain of ...more
6
The Case Against Adnan S... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries

Premiered: 2019

The Case Against Adnan Syed (HBO, 2019) is an American documentary television miniseries. Popularized by the podcast, "Serial," the documentary series follows the ongoing story of ...more
7
Prehistoric Park is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Nigel Marven, Rod Arthur, Suzanne McNabb

Premiered: 2006

Prehistoric Park is a six-episode Docu-fiction television mini-series that premiered on ITV on 22 July 2006 and on Animal Planet on 29 October 2006. The program was produced by Impossible ...more
8
Dirty Money is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries

Premiered: 2018

Dirty Money (Netflix, 2018) is an American documentary television series documenting various stories about exposing the greed, corruption, and crime spreading through the global economy.
9
Murder Mountain is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries

Premiered: 2018

Murder Mountain (Netflix, 2018) is an American true crime documentary television miniseries. The 6-part limited series covers an area of Northern California's Humboldt County, including the ...more
10
Wonders of Life is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Wonders of Life

Premiered: 2013

Wonders of Life is a five-part television documentary series presented by physicist Professor Brian Cox. The series was produced by the BBC and Chinese state television network CCTV-9 and aired ...more
11
Nature's Great Events is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Sigourney Weaver, David Attenborough

Premiered: 2009

Each year, the planet is transformed through some of the most breathtaking natural events across our ecosystem, triggered by seasonal changes on a grand scale. These dramatic natural visual ...more
12
Wonders of the Solar Sys... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Wonders of the Solar System Brian Cox

Premiered: 2010

Wonders of the Solar System is a 2010 television series co-produced by the BBC and Science Channel, and hosted by physicist Brian Cox. Wonders of the Solar System was first broadcast in the ...more
13
The Death of Yugoslavia ... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
The Death of Yugoslavia

Premiered: 1995

The Death of Yugoslavia is a BBC documentary series first broadcast in 1995, and is also the name of a book written by Allan Little and Laura Silber that accompanies the series. It covers the ...more
14
Stephen Fry in America ... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Stephen Fry

Premiered: 2008

Stephen Fry in America is a six-part BBC television series in which Stephen Fry travels across the United States, a country in which he was almost born. Just before Fry was born, his father was ...more
15
Five Came Back is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola
Five Came Back (2017, Netflix) is a three-part American documentary based on the 2014 book Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by journalist Mark Harris. Five Came Back ...more
16
Death Row Chronicles is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Funkmaster Flex, Quincy Jones, Kurupt
Death Row Chronicles (Bet, 2018) is a six-part documentary series that chronicles the rise and fall of one of the most iconic hip hop recording labels "Death Row Records" in the 1990s ...more
17
Wonders of the Universe ... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Brian Cox, Steven Mackintosh

Premiered: 2011

Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel, and Science Channel, hosted by physicist Professor Brian Cox. Wonders of the Universe was first ...more
18
Life in the Undergrowth ... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
David Attenborough

Premiered: 2005

Life in the Undergrowth is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the UK from 23 November 2005. A study of the evolution and habits of ...more
19
Tricky Dick is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Richard Nixon

Premiered: 2019

Tricky Dick (CNN, 2019) is a documentary television miniseries constructed from CNN archives. The four-part limited series follows the life and times of 37th US President Richard Nixon and his ...more
20
Stephen Hawking's Grand ... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Stephen Hawking's Grand Design Benedict Cumberbatch
Based on his acclaimed new book with science writer Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, Professor Hawking draws on more than 40 years of his own research and a recent series of observations and ...more
21
Life Story is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Life Story

Premiered: 2014

Life Story (BBC One, 2014) is a British natural-history television miniseries. The six-part limited series reveals the challenges faced by individual animals at different stages of their lives
22
Cooked is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Michael Pollan, Isaac Pollan
Cooked (Netflix, 2016) is a documentary miniseries directed by Alex Gibney. Explored through the lenses of the four natural elements - fire, water, air and earth - the series looks at the ...more
23
James Cameron's Story of... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg

Premiered: 2018

James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction (AMC, 2018) is an American documentary television miniseries. This six-part limited series explores the science fiction genre with some of the greatest ...more
24
Jack the Ripper is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor

Premiered: 1973

Jack the Ripper is a six-part BBC television drama made in 1973, in which the case of the Jack the Ripper murders is reopened and analysed by Detective Chief Superintendents Barlow and Watt. ...more
25
The Elegant Universe is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries

Premiered: 2003

The Elegant Universe is a three-hour documentary by Brian Greene. It explores science’s most elaborate and ambitious theory, the string theory. It won a Peabody award in 2003. Eleven dimensions, ...more