A collage featuring some of the best limited series on Netflix (clockwise from top left): 'MerPeople,' 'Maid,' 'Midnight Mass,' and 'Self-Made'

The Best Limited Series on Netflix Right Now

Limited series on Netflix have really saved us so much time in recent years, haven’t they? Sometimes we just don’t have time or even the attention span to keep up with a show over the span of multiple seasons. We change, our life circumstances change, our interests change, and that show that caught our attention years earlier might not hit the same. Limited series have soared in popularity over the years, allowing us to get our fix of drama, entertainment, tears, and laughter with just one binge session. Or, if you like to take it a bit slower, over the course of a single week.

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Luckily, Netflix has spoiled us with a seemingly endless amount of limited series that explore a wide variety of topics through the lens of numerous genres and experiences. So, keep on scrolling for our list of the best limited series you can watch on Netflix right now.

1. Maid (2021)

A mother and daughter in the forest, the daughter is sitting on her mothers neck playfully.
(Netflix)

Margaret Qualley single-handedly ended the nepotism debate with her extraordinary talents when she starred in the 2021 drama Maid. Inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, the show focuses on single mother Alex, who can’t seem to catch a break. After fleeing an abusive relationship and getting no help from her own dysfunctional mother (played by her own mom, the wonderful Andie MacDowell), Alex moves from shelter to shelter while at one point being on seven different forms of government assistance to provide for her young daughter. She eventually finds a job cleaning the homes of wealthy residents in a bid to pull herself out of poverty, build a better future for her child, and realize her dreams of becoming a writer. In particular, this miniseries shines a light on the plight of those living in poverty in America on a daily basis.

2. Midnight Mass (2021)

Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill in 'Midnight Mass.'
(Netflix)

The cinematography, the writing, and the acting all come together beautifully to deliver the most breathtaking religious horror story in Mike Flanagan’s limited series Midnight Mass. After serving four years in prison for killing someone in a drunk-driving incident, a young man (Criminal Minds actor Zach Gilford) returns to his remote island hometown in a bid to rebuild his life. He arrives at the same time as a charismatic yet mysterious new priest who hopes to renew the island’s faith. However, the priest’s actions cause a divide within the community and it’s not long before a series of mysterious events begin to plague the small town.

3. Unbelievable (2019)

Kaitlyn Dever in the Netflix series 'Unbelievable.' A young woman looks toward the camera. She is upset.
(Netflix)

Based on the 2015 news article An Unbelievable Story of Rape, written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, the Netflix miniseries Unbelievable is based on a series of sexual assaults that occurred in Washington and Colorado between 2008 and 2011. The series centers on a teenager named Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), who is charged with lying about being raped. However, her arrest doesn’t sit well with two female detectives—played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever—who set on a twisted path to discover the truth of what happened to Marie and a slew of other young victims.

4. The Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Beth Harmon studies up on her chess skills in 'The Queen's Gambit.'
(Netflix)

The Queen’s Gambit dominated Netflix in 2020 and further cemented actress Anya Taylor-Joy as a bonafide star as she carried the impressively intricate and complex costume drama with utter perfection. Written and directed by Scott Frank, the show follows Beth Harmon, a young woman born in a 1950s orphanage, who reveals her extraordinary talent for chess and sets out on an unlikely journey to become to greatest chess player in the world—all while grappling with addiction and her personal demons. As expected, award season came calling for this series, which became the first show on a streaming service to win in the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series category at the Emmys. Taylor-Joy also won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.

5. Inventing Anna (2022)

Julia Garner as Anna Sorokin/Anna Delvey in 'Inventing Anna.' She is a stylish young woman wearing glasses, seated in a leather chair
(Netflix)

Julia Garner consistently won rave reviews for her epic performance in Ozark, but Inventing Anna really made us appreciate the true extent of her acting capabilities. In the series, Garner transforms into the role of real-life con artist Anna Delvey, who managed to convince New York’s elite that she was a German heiress and swindled them out of money to fund her extravagant lifestyle. It’s not long before a journalist (Anna Chlumsky) sets out to investigate the story, which has everyone dying to know: is Anna Delvey really a brilliant entrepreneur or just a cunning con artist?

6. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (2020)

Image of Octavia Spencer as Sarah Breedlove in a scene from Netflix's 'Self-Made.' She is a Black woman dressed in a 19th century blue dress with floral embroidery on it and large red buttons with tassels. Her black hair is pulled up into an updo and she smiles as she toasts a glass of champagne.
(Netflix)

Self-Made, based on the biography On Her Own Ground by A’Lelia Bundles, stars Octavia Spencer as Sarah Breedlove and tells the story of how she became Black hair care pioneer and mogul Madam C.J. Walker. While many have hailed Walker as America’s first Black, self-made female millionaire, the truth is that she wasn’t the first, but one of the first. Her mentor, Annie Turnbo Malone (appearing in Self-Made as the fictionalized “Addie Monroe”), was a millionaire first, and there were others. There are many historical inaccuracies in this series, but Spencer’s performance is worth the watch all on its own, and there’s something awesome about watching the story of a Black woman succeeding.

7. From Scratch (2021)

A woman (Zoe Saldana) smiles in a wedding dress, surrounded by friends and family in 'From Scratch'
(Netflix)

Just a little warning in advance—okay, more like a major warning: have your tissue box at the ready for From Scratch. This emotional miniseries starring Zoe Saldana and Eugenio Mastrandrea follows the journey of an American student named Amahle “Amy” Wheeler, who falls in love with Sicilian chef Lino while studying in Italy. After mixing their two cultures and families, the pair finally have their happily ever after, but Lino soon faces a serious health issue which threatens their future. Want to know something even more devastating? It’s based on a true story.

8. Unorthodox (2020)

Shira Haas in 'Unorthodox.' A young woman sits as her head is being shaved in front of other women.
(Netflix)

In Unorthodox, a 19-year-old Hasidic Jewish woman named Esty Shapiro (Shira Haas) escapes an arranged marriage in the Satmar sect of the ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, New York City. She heads to Berlin, where her estranged mother lives, to start a new life abroad. However, while discovering life outside her community and rejecting the beliefs she grew up with, Esty’s past returns as her husband discovers she is pregnant and travels to Berlin to find her.

9. When They See Us (2019)

In 'When They See Us,' a young Black boy is distressed while being interrogated; a hand, belonging to someone out of frame, points in his face.
(Netflix)

When They See Us, which was created, co-written, and directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix, is truly an important watch. Jharrel Jerome, Michael K. Williams, Blair Underwood, Vera Farmiga, Niecy Nash, and many more truly excel in this series, based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case in which five Black and Latino male suspects were falsely accused and then prosecuted on charges related to the rape and assault of a white woman in New York City. The story, which includes the time these five innocent men spent in prison, is followed until their exoneration in 2002.

10. Devil in Ohio (2022)

Emily Deschanel in 'Devil in Ohio.' A woman stands in a cornfield looking concerned.
(Netflix)

Devil in Ohio flew under the radar when it was released on Netflix in 2022, but we still think it is a truly brilliant horror miniseries that deserves more recognition. Emily Deschanel plays psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Mathis, who takes in a young and traumatized patient (Madeleine Arthur) after she escapes from a devil-worshipping cult in a rural neighboring county. However, Suzanne doesn’t realize that taking the teen in puts the lives of her loved ones in danger and must race against time to save her family before they all meet a deadly fate.

11. MerPeople (2023)

Image of a fat, Black woman smiling brightly as she poses while dressed as a mermaid in a scene from Netflix's 'MerPeople.' She has a tiara made of white seashells in her medium afro, a green floral bikini top, and an orange fish tail with blue accents. She's lying on a platform propped up on pillows in front of a mural on a brick wall depicting a mermaid and a crashed ship.
(Netflix)

After seeing The Little Mermaid as children, many of us became obsessed with “being a mermaid” whenever we were in a lake, pool, or bathtub. But did you know that with enough time, resources, and training, not only can you actually become a mermaid, but it can also be your job? MerPeople is a fascinating docuseries that came out earlier this year and follows the people for whom mermaid life is a reality. There’s a whole mermaid community with countless pageants, competitions, and performance opportunities that allow anyone with perseverance and creativity (and, okay, access to money, because those tails are expensive) to live their mermaid dreams among like-minded folks. Yes, there’s plenty of drama under the sea, too, but MerPeople is ultimately about people finding joy.

12. This Is Pop (2021)

Promotional graphic for the Netflix docuseries 'This is Pop.' The title appears in the upper left-hand corner in pink, blue, and yellow block letters. The rest of the image is a collage featuring musicians throughout history, from T.I, Nick Lahey, and Boys II Men, to Dolly Parton, Blur, and N'Sync.
(Netflix)

Netflix has several really great, multi-season pop culture docuseries on tap, like The Movies That Made Us and The Toys That Made Us, which you’ll fly through if you’re someone who loves soaking up the history and behind-the-scenes stories about the stuff you love. But if you love music and prefer to keep things short, the eight-episode Canadian docuseries This Is Pop is a great watch. Each episode focuses on a different “moment” in pop music, from the auto-tune explosion led by T.I, to the Britpop feud between Oasis and Blur, to “the Boyz II Men effect,” and going all the way back to what the Brill Building in NYC has meant to pop songwriting in the 20th Century.

13. High Score (2020)

Promotional graphic for the Netflix docuseries 'High Score.' The title appears across the bottom in all caps and in 8-bit font. The rest of the image is a huge pile of game controllers and cartridges with a fist emerging from the pile holding a Super NES controller as blue lightning shoots out of it.
(Netflix)

If video games are more your thing, Netflix has something for that, too! High Score is an in-depth, six-episode docuseries about the history of early video games. Even if you think you know all there is to know about games in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, it’s worth a watch! Not only are there some great deep-dives into specific titles and interviews with some of the most important contributors to games, but the series sheds light on areas of gaming history that generally haven’t received much attention: like the story of Gerald Anderson Lawson, the Black man who invented the video game cartridge; or Ryan Best, the gay man who created the first LGBTQIA-themed video game, GayBlade, only to have the game’s original files lost in a move (and eventually found!), but thanks to this docuseries, not lost to history!

14. Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous (2013)

Image of Bo Burnham as Zach Stone in a scene from 'Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous.' He is a white teenage boy with shaggy blondish hair and wearing an orange t-shirt. He's holding up a full-length mirror in his kitchen to reveal a camera crew in the doorway - a fat, brown woman holding the camera, and a white man behind her holding a boom mic.
(Netflix)

OK, this is less a “limited series” and more of a “series that only got one season,” but if you’re looking for quality comedy without a huge time commitment, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous (which originally aired on MTV) is 1000% worth your time. If you’re already a fan of Bo Burnham’s music, stand-up, and his brilliant COVID lockdown project, Inside, Zach Stone allows you to see his first foray into creating narrative fiction. Burnham plays the titular character, a high schooler desperate to become famous. Famous for what, you ask? Doesn’t really matter. The summer before he’s expected to go off to college, Zach decides to hire a film crew to follow him around reality show-style as he tries all manner of activities and schemes to become an overnight celebrity. Of course, Zach’s brash, sardonic humor is a shield protecting him from his own insecurities and fears, which he needs to learn how to address.

15. 1899 (2022)

Promotional cast image for the Netflix show '1899.' It depicts 10 people on the deck of a ship dressed in 19th Century clothing. All are standing except for one man who sits cross-legged in an armchair on the left. Most are white except for one Black man and two Asian women.
(Netflix)

If you loved the German time-travel series Dark, creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar delivered an intriguing, delightfully multilingual follow-up with 1899. This mystery/sci-fi series tells the story of a passenger ship in—you guessed it—1899, upon which emigrants from various countries and socioeconomic strata are traveling to New York. A passenger named Maura Franklin (Emily Beecham), one of the first women doctors in the UK, seems to be unraveling as she starts noticing discrepancies on the ship. As the mystery deepens, she connects with the other passengers and they realize there’s a reason they’re all there together experiencing these things. Friese and bo Odar had a three-season plan for the show, but Netflix infuriatingly canceled the show after its first—which ends on a cliffhanger, no less! Still, you can watch the existing eight episodes on Netflix. Just make sure you watch with someone or know someone who’s seen it, because you will want to dissect 1899 with someone once the last episode is over.

(featured image: Netflix)


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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.