The HBO cable TV network has been the home for a ton of acclaimed original TV series. However, many HBO miniseries have generated lots of critical and award-winning TV to watch as well. They include looking back at some of the biggest historical events to some hard-hitting crime dramas and even looking ahead at a possible future. Here are our picks for the best HBO limited series you can stream now.
Read: Best HBO Max shows
We suggest accessing these series via HBO Max, the new streaming service with all of HBO’s content, plus a lot more. You can sign up for the service at the link below. The starting cost is $9.99 a month, but you might be able to get the service for free.
Best HBO miniseries:
Band of Brothers
This may be the first great HBO miniseries. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who acted and directed Saving Private Ryan, teamed up again to help produce this World War II series for HBO. It’s a richer look at the American foot soldiers of the war, specifically a team of paratroopers who battle it out in Europe just before, during, and after D-Day. Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, and Donnie Wahlberg are some of the main cast members, and you will also see some appearances by Friends’ David Schwimmer and even Jimmy Fallon.
Catherine The Great
Helen Mirren plays the powerful Empress of Russia in this HBO miniseries. The four-part limited series shows her leading the country for over 50 years in the mid-to-late 18th century. Mirren gives a great performance as Catherine, as she rises to become one of the most powerful world leaders of all time.
Years and Years
This series, co-produced with the BBC, first takes place in the very recent past, 2019, as it follows an extended British family. It then moves into the near future, as a highly conservative politician, played by Emma Thompson, rises in the ranks to become the UK Prime Minister. The series shows how her actions, along with rises in technology, influence this British family, with many unexpected twists and turns.
In April 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, located in the Soviet Union, exploded. This acclaimed HBO limited series examines the reasons behind the worst nuclear plant disaster in history. It also covers the fallout, both literally and metaphorically. As tens of thousands of people get evacuated from the immediate area, the Soviet Union tries to cover up the event. The series shows that the government’s lies about the disaster might have helped in the fall of the Soviet Union a few years later.
The Plot Against America
This HBO miniseries is based on the novel by Phillip Roth. It takes place in the United States in 1940, but in an alternate timeline. In this universe, the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh waged a campaign to run for President against Franklin Roosevelt and eventually wins. The show, which centers mainly on a Jewish family in New Jersey, examines how it deals with Lindbergh’s rule as he slowly turns America into a fascist state. The HBO limited series stars Winona Ryder and John Turturro.
From The Earth To The Moon
After starring in Apollo 13, Tom Hanks extended his time in space with this 1998 HBO miniseries. This 12-episode series chronicles the history of US space exploration, from the founding of NASA to the first Apollo missions, all the way to the end with the last human-crewed lunar landing with Apollo 17. Hanks directed the first episode of this series and wrote or co-wrote several others. There are many well-known actors playing roles in this mini-series, including Tony Goldwyn, Bryan Cranston, Cary Elwes Gary Cole, Sally Field, and many more. It’s perhaps the best TV series to depict the real events of the Apollo space program.
Paul Giamatti plays John Adams in this excellent mini-series. It details the life of one of the most important, but perhaps one of the most little-known, Founding Fathers of the United States. After helping to form the country, Adams is elected as its second President. The mini-series depicts Adams’s life from just before the American Revolution to his death in 1826.
The Night Of
This is a dark, grim, and gritty crime drama set in New York City. A Pakistani-American college student, played by Riz Ahmed, is charged with the murder of a young girl. The series takes a brutal look at the criminal justice system, as we see Ahmed’s character trying to prove his innocence. He’s helped with his attorney, played to perfection by John Turturro.
Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, this is another HBO miniseries with a crime and murder theme. Amy Adams plays a newspaper reporter in St Louis who returns to her rural hometown. Her stated goal is to report on and look into the unsolved murder of a pre-teen girl and the disappearance of another girl in the town. However, she also has to deal with some unresolved family issues of her own.
This show has been put on our HBO miniseries list as a bit of a cheat, at least in our eyes. Watchmen is being labeled as an HBO limited series by the cable network itself. However, we are still hopeful that the second season of this show might come down the pike at some point. For now, we are putting this sequel to the classic alternate history-superhero graphic novel on this list. Developed as a sequel to the graphic novel, it is an excellent continuation of the story originally told by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. It also serves as a look at how racism has and continues to be a major problem in the United States.
Read more: Best DC Comics shows and movies on HBO Max
The works of author Stephen King have been a source of many great TV shows and movies. This limited series is one of the best adaptations of his works. In a small town in Georgia, a young boy has been found murdered, and the evidence at first points to a local teacher and Little League baseball coach. However, the coach denies the charges, and other evidence that comes up seems to indicate that he might actually be innocent. The town’s sheriff has to figure out what’s going on, and it might involve an ancient supernatural being.
Mare of Easttown
Kate Winslet is perfect as Mare Sheehan, a police detective in a small Pennsylvania town. She’s considered a local hero for making the winning shot during a high school basketball championship game 25 years ago. However, her life has been very hard: she divorced her husband, and her son committed suicide. She also has a terrible relationship with her mother, played by Jean Smart. In the midst of all these personal tragedies, Mare has been trying to solve the mystery of a missing young girl for a while, and now another teenaged female has been found murdered. She’s under pressure to solve these cases while also dealing with her own issues. This HBO miniseries feels grounded in reality, as we see Mare’s struggle to find the killer and fight her own demons.
Here are a few HBO miniseries that didn’t quite make our top list
- Angels in America – This adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play stars Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, taking on the AIDS crisis in 1985 New York City.
- I Know This Much is True – Mark Ruffalo plays two roles, identical twin brothers Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. The story deals with Dominick trying to help Thomas, who is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
- Mildred Pierce – Kate Winslet is back in this adaptation of the acclaimed novel. She plays the title character, who grows up in the Great Depression and has many challenges to overcome.
- Gunpower – Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) stars in this historical mini-series about an attempt to kill King James I of England in 1605 by blowing up the House of Lords.
- Lovecraft County – Like Watchmen, this series only got one season. Based on the novel of the same name, it uses supernatural elements to tell a story about black race relations in the 1950s.
That’s our look at the best HBO miniseries you can watch right now. We will add more HBO limited series to this list as they appear on the network.