Throwback: 20th Century Television Mini-Series

by urbanemovies | created - 20 Jan 2016 | updated - 13 Feb 2017 | Public

Television mini-series or serials once were special events, that would occur maybe once a year. These mini-series were ratings powerhouses for networks and would be water cooler fodder for an entire month. Such times seems like a distant memory, when there were three channels to watch, a trusty pair of rabbit ears to pull in the signal and you actually had to watch a show the night it aired.

Which 20th century television mini-series* or serial do you remember most fondly as being something special?

* alternate versions or continuations provided in notes for voting and informational purposes

Cast your vote here or Discuss the topic here.

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1. Roots (1977)

TV-14 | 588 min | Biography, Drama, History

A dramatization of author Alex Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation.

Stars: LeVar Burton, Robert Reed, John Amos, Louis Gossett Jr.

Votes: 15,290

Continuation: Roots: The Next Generations (1979) and 21st Century Alternate Version: Roots (2016)

2. The Civil War (1990)

TV-14 | 680 min | Documentary, History, War

A comprehensive survey of the American Civil War.

Stars: David McCullough, Sam Waterston, Julie Harris, Jason Robards

Votes: 11,927

3. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

TV-PG | 327 min | Drama, Romance

While the arrival of wealthy gentlemen sends her marriage-minded mother into a frenzy, willful and opinionated Elizabeth Bennet matches wits with haughty Mr. Darcy.

Stars: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Julia Sawalha

Votes: 70,029

4. Cosmos (1980)

TV-PG | 60 min | Documentary

Astronomer Carl Sagan leads us on an engaging guided tour of the various elements and cosmological theories of the universe.

Stars: Carl Sagan, Jaromír Hanzlík, Jonathan Fahn, Alan Belod

Votes: 33,084

21st Century Alternate Version: Cosmos (2014)

5. It (1990)

TV-PG | 192 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

In 1960, seven pre-teen outcasts fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. Thirty years later, they reunite to stop the demon once and for all when it returns to their hometown.

Stars: Richard Thomas, Tim Reid, Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson

Votes: 109,342

21st Century Alternate Version: It (2017)

6. Sybil (1976)

198 min | Biography, Drama

A young woman whose childhood was so harrowing to her that she developed sixteen different personalities is treated by a doctor.

Stars: Joanne Woodward, Sally Field, Brad Davis, Martine Bartlett

Votes: 6,138

21st Century Alternate Version: Sybil (2007)

7. Anne of Green Gables (1985)

TV-G | 199 min | Drama, Family

An orphan girl, sent to an elderly brother and sister by mistake, charms her new home and community with her fiery spirit and imagination.

Stars: Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, Patricia Hamilton

Votes: 18,132

8. The Stand (1994)

Not Rated | 361 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

After a deadly plague kills most of the world's population, the remaining survivors split into two groups - one led by a benevolent elder and the other by a maleficent being - to face each other in a final battle between good and evil.

Stars: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo

Votes: 29,721

9. Das Boot (1985–1987)

TV-MA | 293 min | Drama, Thriller, War

A World War II German U-Boat crew have a terrifying patrol mission in the early days of the war.

Stars: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch

Votes: 23,738

Alternate Version: Das Boot (1981) and 21st Century Continuation Version: Das Boot (2018)

10. Lonesome Dove (1989)

TV-14 | 384 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

Two former Texas Rangers renew their spirit of adventure as they and several other residents of a small Texas town join a cattle drive to the Montana Territory.

Stars: Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane

Votes: 19,060

11. House of Cards (1990)

TV-14 | 226 min | Drama

The schemes of a ruthlessly ambitious British politician who will stop at nothing to get to the top.

Stars: Ian Richardson, Susannah Harker, Miles Anderson, Alphonsia Emmanuel

Votes: 12,763

21st Century Alternate Version: House of Cards (2013)

12. From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

TV-14 | 60 min | Action, Drama, History

Dramatized portrayal of the Apollo manned space program.

Stars: Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy, Lane Smith, David Andrews

Votes: 10,191

13. The World at War (1973–1976)

TV-PG | 52 min | Documentary, History, War

A groundbreaking 26-part documentary series narrated by the actor Laurence Olivier about the deadliest conflict in history, World War II.

Stars: Laurence Olivier, Anthony Eden, Averell Harriman, Albert Speer

Votes: 19,672

14. Merlin (1998)

Not Rated | 182 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

The legendary wizard tells his story of his war against Queen Mab of the Sidhe and his creation of Camelot.

Stars: Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, John Gielgud, Rutger Hauer

Votes: 19,672

21st Century Alternate Version: Merlin (2008)

15. Storm of the Century (1999– )

PG-13 | 257 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A dangerous blizzard hits an isolated town and brings along a mysterious stranger intent on terrorizing people for his own desires.

Stars: Becky Ann Baker, Kathleen Chalfant, Adam Zolotin, Adam LeFevre

Votes: 18,902

16. V (1983)

Unrated | 197 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

When aliens come to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist.

Stars: Jane Badler, Michael Durrell, Faye Grant, Peter Nelson

Votes: 12,398

Continuation: V (1984) and 21st Century Alternate Version: V (2009)

17. Shogun (1980)

547 min | Adventure, Drama, History

An English navigator becomes both a player and pawn in the complex political games in feudal Japan.

Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Shimada, Furankî Sakai

Votes: 10,831

Alternate Version: Shogun (1980)

18. North and South, Book I (1985)

561 min | Drama, History, Romance

Two friends, one northern and one southern, struggle to maintain their friendship as events build towards the American Civil War.

Stars: Kirstie Alley, Georg Stanford Brown, David Carradine, Philip Casnoff

Votes: 8,971

19. The Thorn Birds (1983)

460 min | Drama, Romance

In the arid 1920s Australian Outback, a Catholic priest and the beautiful granddaughter of a vast sheep station owner stand powerless before God's will, tormented by desire. How far are they willing to go in the name of love?

Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward, Christopher Plummer, Bryan Brown

Votes: 7,527

20. Wives and Daughters (1999– )

TV-PG | 301 min | Drama

The daughter of a country doctor copes with an unwanted stepmother, an impetuous stepsister, burdensome secrets, the town gossips, and the tug on her own heartstrings for a man who thinks of her only as a friend.

Stars: Francesca Annis, Justine Waddell, Bill Paterson, Keeley Hawes

Votes: 6,330

Alternate Version: Wives and Daughters (1971)

21. I, Claudius (1976)

Not Rated | 669 min | Biography, Drama, History

The history of the Roman Empire as experienced by one of its rulers.

Stars: Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed

Votes: 14,702

22. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

TV-G | 382 min | Biography, Drama, History

Beginning before the Nativity and extending through the Crucifixion and Resurrection, this mini-series brings to life all of the sweeping drama in the life of Jesus, as told by the Gospels.

Stars: Robert Powell, Olivia Hussey, Laurence Olivier, James Mason

Votes: 18,199

Alternate Version: Jesus of Nazareth (1956)

23. Anne of Avonlea (1987)

230 min | Drama, Family, Romance

Anne Shirley accepts a teaching position at a girls boarding school in a town dominated by a rich and belligerant family determined to make her life miserable.

Stars: Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Marilyn Lightstone, Schuyler Grant

Votes: 8,036

Alternate Version: Anne of Avonlea (1975)

24. Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

PG | 283 min | Drama

Ten years within the marriage of Marianne and Johan.

Stars: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson, Bibi Andersson, Gunnel Lindblom

Votes: 14,036

25. The Beatles Anthology (1995–1996)

600 min | Documentary, Music

An autobiographical documentary of the greatest of the rock bands.

Stars: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, George Martin

Votes: 6,075

26. Brideshead Revisited (1981)

659 min | Drama, Romance

Two young men meet at Oxford. Charles Ryder, though of no family or money, becomes friends with Sebastian Flyte when Sebastian throws up in his college room through an open window. He then ... See full summary »

Stars: Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick, Roger Milner, Phoebe Nicholls

Votes: 6,213

21st Century Alternate Version: Brideshead Revisited (2008)

27. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

TV-14 | 290 min | Drama, Thriller

In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet Agent within MI6's echelons.

Stars: Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, George Sewell

Votes: 7,187

28. Prime Suspect (1991)

207 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A female police detective investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades.

Stars: Helen Mirren, John Benfield, Tom Bell, Jack Ellis

Votes: 6,076

29. The Winds of War (1983)

883 min | Drama, Romance, War

The trials of the Henry and Jastrow families in the early years of World War II.

Stars: Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Houseman

Votes: 3,414

30. The Godfather Saga (1977)

434 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) were re-edited together in chronological order with additional footage added.

Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan

Votes: 3,977

31. Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)

TV-PG | 60 min | Drama

An examination of the trials and tribulations of the Jordache family, from the period following World War II to the late 1960s.

Stars: Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte, Susan Blakely, Dorothy McGuire

Votes: 2,526

32. Dekalog (1989–1990)

TV-MA | 572 min | Drama

100 Metascore

Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.

Stars: Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Aleksander Bardini, Olaf Lubaszenko

Votes: 19,381 | Gross: $0.10M

33. The 10th Kingdom (2000)

Not Rated | 417 min | Adventure, Comedy, Family

A father and daughter are caught in a parallel universe where the great queens Snow White, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood have had their kingdoms fragmented by warring trolls, giants and goblins.

Stars: Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Scott Cohen, Dianne Wiest, Daniel Lapaine

Votes: 16,778

34. Dune (2000– )

Not Rated | 265 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

A three-part miniseries on politics, betrayal, lust, greed and the coming of a Messiah. Based on Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel.

Stars: William Hurt, Alec Newman, Giancarlo Giannini, Uwe Ochsenknecht

Votes: 17,102

21st Century Continuations: Children of Dune (2003)

35. The Kingdom (1994–1997)

TV-MA | 561 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Doctors at an ultramodern hospital in Denmark become convinced, by way of weird, inexplicable happenings, that the place is haunted.

Stars: Ernst-Hugo Järegård, Kirsten Rolffes, Ghita Nørby, Holger Juul Hansen

Votes: 16,306 | Gross: $0.09M



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