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The Best Documentary Miniseries

Updated October 30, 2020 529 votes 106 voters 4.9k views100 items

List RulesVote 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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  • 1
    Planet Earth II is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    31
    9

    Planet Earth II

    Sir David Attenborough

    Premiered2016

    Planet Earth II (BBC One, 2016) is a British nature documentary series presented and narrated... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Hillary is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    25
    8

    Hillary

    Hillary Clinton

    PremieredMarch 6, 2020

    Hillary (Hulu, 2020) is a documentary miniseries directed by Nanette Burstein. A look at the... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Wild Wild Country is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    17
    5

    Wild Wild Country

    Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, George Meredith

    Premiered2018

    Wild Wild Country (Netflix, 2018) is a documentary series directed by Maclain and Chapman Way.... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    The Jinx: The Life and Deaths  is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    30
    23

    Premiered2015

    The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO, 2015) is a documentary miniseries directed... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Stephen Fry in America is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries

    Premiered2008

    Stephen Fry in America is a six-part BBC television series in which Stephen Fry travels across... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Nature's Great Events is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    13
    5

    Nature's Great Events

    Sigourney Weaver, David Attenborough

    Premiered2009

    Each year, the planet is transformed through some of the most breathtaking natural events... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    The Defiant Ones is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    13
    9

    The Defiant Ones

    Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine

    Premiered2017

    The Defiant Ones (HBO, 2017) is an American documentary miniseries directed by Allen Hughes.... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Death Row Chronicles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    8
    4

    Death Row Chronicles

    Funkmaster Flex, Quincy Jones
    Death Row Chronicles (Bet, 2018) is a six-part documentary series that chronicles the rise and...
  • 9
    The Case Against Adnan Syed is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    The Case Against Adnan Syed (HBO, 2019) is an American documentary television miniseries.... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Prehistoric Park is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    8
    5

    Prehistoric Park

    Nigel Marven, Rod Arthur

    Premiered2006

    Prehistoric Park is a six-episode Docu-fiction television mini-series that premiered on ITV on... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Murder Mountain is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    Murder Mountain (Netflix, 2018) is an American true crime documentary television miniseries.... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Dirty Money is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    Dirty Money (Netflix, 2018) is an American documentary television series documenting various... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Wonders of Life is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    6
    4

    Wonders of Life

    Wonders of Life is a five-part television documentary series presented by physicist Professor... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Five Came Back is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    6
    4

    Five Came Back

    Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg
    Five Came Back (2017, Netflix) is a three-part American documentary based on the 2014 book... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    McMillions is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    2

    McMillions

    Michael C. Pizzuto, Michael A. Pina

    Premiered2020

    McMillions (HBO, 2020) is a crime documentary series directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    Tricky Dick is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    8
    6

    Tricky Dick

    Richard Nixon

    Premiered2019

    Tricky Dick (CNN, 2019) is a documentary television miniseries constructed from CNN archives.... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    The Death of Yugoslavia is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    2

    The Death of Yugoslavia

    The Death of Yugoslavia is a BBC documentary series first broadcast in 1995, and is also the... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Wonders of the Universe is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    6
    5

    Wonders of the Universe

    Brian Cox, Steven Mackintosh

    Premiered2011

    Wonders of the Universe is a 2011 television series produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel,... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Wonders of the Solar System is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    6
    5

    Wonders of the Solar System

    Brian Cox

    Premiered2010

    Wonders of the Solar System is a 2010 television series co-produced by the BBC and Science... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Life in the Undergrowth is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    4

    Life in the Undergrowth

    David Attenborough

    Premiered2005

    Life in the Undergrowth is a BBC nature documentary series written and presented by David... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Stephen Hawking's Grand Design is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    5

    Stephen Hawking's Grand Design

    Benedict Cumberbatch
    Based on his acclaimed new book with science writer Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design,...
  • 22
    Life Story is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    5

    Life Story

    Life Story (BBC One, 2014) is a British natural-history television miniseries. The six-part... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Cooked is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    5

    Cooked

    Michael Pollan, Isaac Pollan
    Cooked (Netflix, 2016) is a documentary miniseries directed by Alex Gibney. Explored through...
  • 24
    James Cameron's Story of Scien is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    5
    6

    James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction

    James Cameron, Ridley Scott

    Premiered2018

    James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction (AMC, 2018) is an American documentary television... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Jack the Ripper is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentary Miniseries
    2
    2

    Jack the Ripper

    Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor

    Premiered1973

    Jack the Ripper is a six-part BBC television drama made in 1973, in which the case of the Jack... more on Wikipedia
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