Back when seasons of television had twenty or more episodes, miniseries were a godsend. It was a relief to have a one-and-done series that was not going to be any longer than ten episodes. Some televised stories can say everything they need to say in that time period and not have to run on for, say, seven seasons.
Nowadays, ironically enough, miniseries have been getting longer and essentially becoming, well, full-length TV series’. Shows like American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and Feud all now compete for the Limited Series Emmy under a rule that deems that each season tells a complete self-contained story. Even though each of these series is technically an anthology series, each individual season is considered a limited series, aka miniseries. If this seems like a confusing and desperate awards grab from networks, that's because it definitely is. Even shows that are officially deemed miniseries when they're released are getting second seasons if they're popular enough, like Fox's Wayward Pines and HBO's Big Little Lies.
Back in the 2000s and earlier, miniseries were just that: miniature series. They told a complete story in ten episodes or less, and due to the short length of their run times, were given bigger budgets, which allowed for more distinguished directors who may not normally direct television, better special effects and production design, and award-winning actors starring in lead roles.
Miniseries were often critically acclaimed and HBO basically ran the game, winning many of their numerous Emmy awards for the assorted miniseries they produced during the 2000s. As a result, there's a high bar for miniseries, and there are many, many great ones that have gone down in television history. These are the 10 greatest miniseries of all time, here for your (short) viewing pleasure.