Chernobyl (TV Mini-Series 2019)


Chernobyl (TV Series 2019–2019)

In April 1986, a huge explosion erupted at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine. This series follows the stories of the men and women, who tried to contain the disaster, as well as those who gave their lives preventing a subsequent and worse one.
IMDb  9.4 /10
Metacritic   82%
Creator Craig Mazin
Release Date2019-05-06
Runtime5h 30mins
GenreDrama, History, Thriller
Content RatingTV-MA (TV-MA)
AwardsTop Rated TV #5 | Won 2 Golden Globes. Another 76 wins & 53 nominations.
CompanyHome Box Office (HBO), Sister Pictures, Sky Television
CountryUSA, UK
LanguageEnglish, Russian, Ukrainian
Lyudmilla Ignatenko 5 episodes, 2019
Valery Legasov 5 episodes, 2019
Boris Shcherbina 5 episodes, 2019
Vasily Ignatenko 4 episodes, 2019
Ulana Khomyuk 4 episodes, 2019
Anatoly Dyatlov 4 episodes, 2019
Leonid Toptunov 4 episodes, 2019
Alexandr Akimov 4 episodes, 2019
Viktor Proskuryakov 3 episodes, 2019
Mikhail 3 episodes, 2019
Oksana 3 episodes, 2019
Oksana's Kid 3 episodes, 2019
Nikolai Fomin 3 episodes, 2019
KGB Chairman Charkov 3 episodes, 2019
Viktor Bryukhanov 3 episodes, 2019
Yuvchenko 2 episodes, 2019
Dr. Svetlana Zinchenko 2 episodes, 2019
Mikhail Gorbachev 2 episodes, 2019
Pravik 2 episodes, 2019
General Pikalov 2 episodes, 2019
Brazhnik 2 episodes, 2019
Blond Man 2 episodes, 2019
Sitnikov 2 episodes, 2019
Old Maternity Doctor 2 episodes, 2019
Kibenok 2 episodes, 2019
Perevozchenko 2 episodes, 2019
Kirschenbaum 2 episodes, 2019
Nikolai Gorbachenko 2 episodes, 2019
Aleksandr Kudryavstev / ... 2 episodes, 2019
Boris Stolyarchuk 2 episodes, 2019
General Tarakanov 2 episodes, 2019
Ananenko 2 episodes, 2019
Pavel 2 episodes, 2019
Bezpalov 2 episodes, 2019
Kremlin Aide Female 2 episodes, 2019
Baranov 2 episodes, 2019
Viktor Degtaryenko 2 episodes, 2019
Local Wife / ... 2 episodes, 2019
Local Husband 2 episodes, 2019
Zharkov 2 episodes, 2019

Chernobyl (miniseries)

Chernobyl is a 2019 historical drama television miniseries that revolves around the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and the cleanup efforts that followed. The series was created and written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. It features an ensemble cast led by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson and Paul Ritter. The series was produced by HBO in the United States and Sky UK in the United Kingdom.

The five-part series premiered in the United States on May 6, 2019, and concurrently in the United Kingdom on May 7, to widespread critical acclaim. At the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, it received nineteen nominations and won for Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Writing, while Harris, Skarsgård, and Watson received acting nominations. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, the series won for Best Miniseries or Television Film and Skarsgård won for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

While the series was exhaustively researched, some liberties were taken for dramatic purposes. Critics, experts and witnesses have noted historical and factual discrepancies in the show.


Chernobyl dramatizes the story of the April 1986 nuclear plant disaster which occurred in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union, telling the stories of the people who caused the disaster and those who responded to it. The series depicts some of the lesser-known stories of the disaster, including the efforts of the firefighters who were the first responders on the scene, volunteers, and teams of miners who dug a critical tunnel under Reactor 4.

The miniseries is based in large part on the recollections of Pripyat locals, as told by Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book Voices from Chernobyl.



  • Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute brought in to aid cleanup efforts.
  • Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina, a Council of Ministers' deputy chairman.
  • Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear physicist from Minsk. Khomyuk is a fictional composite character, who is based on the many scientists who investigated the accident.
  • Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov, the deputy chief engineer at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Jessie Buckley as Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the wife of Vasily Ignatenko.
  • Adam Nagaitis as Vasily Ignatenko, a Pripyat firefighter and first responder to the Chernobyl fire.
  • Con O'Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov, the manager of Chernobyl.
  • Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Fomin, the chief engineer at Chernobyl.
  • Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov, the night shift supervisor at Chernobyl.
  • Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov, the senior engineer at Chernobyl.
  • David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • Mark Lewis Jones as Vladimir Pikalov, the commander of the Soviet chemical forces.
  • Alan Williams as Charkov, the KGB's first deputy chairman.
  • Alex Ferns as Andrei Glukhov, the mining crew chief.
  • Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov, the chief supervisor of the cleanup operation.
  • Barry Keoghan as Pavel Gremov, a civilian liquidator draftee.
  • Fares Fares as Bacho, a Georgian soldier and Soviet–Afghan War veteran who trains Pavel.
  • Michael McElhatton as Andrei Stepashin, the prosecutor for the trial of Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin.


  • Adam Lundgren as Vyacheslav Brazhnik, the senior turbine operator at Chernobyl.
  • Karl Davies as Viktor Proskuryakov, a senior reactor control engineer trainee at Chernobyl.
  • Donald Sumpter as Zharkov, a Pripyat executive committee member.
  • Billy Postlethwaite as Boris Stolyarchuk, the senior unit #4 control engineer at Chernobyl.
  • Joshua Leese as Igor Kirschenbaum, a senior turbine control engineer at Chernobyl.
  • Nadia Clifford as Svetlana Zinchenko, a doctor treating Vasily Ignatenko and others with radiation sickness.
  • Jamie Sives as Anatoly Sitnikov, the deputy chief operational engineer at Chernobyl sent to inspect the exploded core.
  • Baltasar Breki Samper as Alexei Ananenko, one of the volunteers who drained water in Chernobyl's basement to prevent an explosion.
  • Philip Barantini as Valeri Bezpalov, one of the volunteers who drained water in Chernobyl's basement to prevent an explosion.
  • Oscar Giese as Boris Baranov, one of the volunteers who drained water in Chernobyl's basement to prevent an explosion.
  • Douggie McMeekin as Aleksandr Yuvchenko, a senior engineer-mechanic on duty the night of the explosion.
  • Michael Socha as Mikhail, a resident of Pripyat and father of a young baby who are both present on the bridge watching the fire.


  • Natasha Radski as Russian news reader.
  • Jay Simpson as Valeriy Perevozchenko, the foreman in the reactor section.
  • Michael Colgan as Mikhail Shchadov, Soviet Minister of Coal Industry.
  • James Cosmo as a miner.
  • Hilton McRae as Milan Kadnikov, the judge presiding over the trial of Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin.
  • Kieran O'Brien as Valery Khodemchuk, the night shift main circulating pump operator at Chernobyl.
  • Alexej Manvelov as Garo, an Armenian soldier who accompanies Bacho and Pavel.
  • Josef Altin as Soldier


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date (EDT)US viewers
UK viewers
1"1:23:45"Johan RenckCraig MazinMay 6, 20190.7560.861
On the second anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Valery Legasov, chief of the commission investigating it, records tapes blaming engineer Anatoly Dyatlov and other superiors for the incident, before hiding the tapes and hanging himself in his Moscow apartment (in real life he died the day after the second anniversary). Two years earlier in Pripyat, firefighter Vasily Ignatenko's pregnant wife Lyudmilla witnesses Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploding (at 01:23:45 a.m.). At Reactor 4's control room, Dyatlov dismisses evidence that their reactor core has exploded. He calls in firefighters and workers, and futilely orders subordinates to manually lower control rods and restore cooling before leaving his post. Multiple plant workers and firefighters, including Vasily, subsequently suffer from acute radiation syndrome (ARS). Plant Director Bryukhanov, Chief Engineer Fomin and Dyatlov conclude that a hydrogen explosion caused leakage of contaminated vessel water, and the Pripyat Executive Committee elects to downplay the incident and blocks evacuation. Dyatlov orders Akimov and Toptunov to manually open the water valves in addition to feed the reactor with water, exposing them to the lethal doses of radiation. Deputy chief operational engineer Sitnikov reports seeing nuclear graphite on the ground and the others reject this. As Dyatlov succumbs to ARS, they force Sitnikov to the roof to make a visual inspection, where he receives a lethal dose of radiation. Legasov is informed of an under control accident at Chernobyl and ordered to provide technical advice to the committee managing the response.
2"Please Remain Calm"Johan RenckCraig MazinMay 13, 20191.0040.891
Seven hours after the explosion, Ulana Khomyuk detects a spike in radiation levels in Minsk. When her concerns are dismissed by local authorities, she sets out for Chernobyl, the likely source. At Pripyat's overloaded hospital, Lyudmilla finds that Vasily and the other ARS patients have been evacuated to Moscow. In Moscow, Legasov explains to Mikhail Gorbachev that the situation is more serious than reported and is sent to Chernobyl with a skeptical Boris Shcherbina. From a helicopter, Legasov points out graphite debris and a blue glow from ionizing radiation, indicating the core is exposed. Shcherbina confronts Bryukhanov and Fomin, who accuse Legasov of misinformation, but General Pikalov has high-range dosimeter readings that prove Legasov is correct. Legasov instructs the military to suppress the fire with sand and boron as an initial step but with risks of its own. As news of the incident spreads, Pripyat is finally evacuated. Upon arrival, Khomyuk warns Legasov and Shcherbina that a destructive steam explosion will occur if the molten core establishes contact with water in the flooded basement. A lethal mission to drain the water is authorized and plant workers Ananenko, Bezpalov, and Baranov volunteer.
3"Open Wide, O Earth"Johan RenckCraig MazinMay 20, 20191.0631.100
The basement is successfully drained, but a nuclear meltdown has begun, threatening to contaminate the groundwater. Shcherbina and Legasov report to Gorbachev that a heat exchanger is needed under the plant, for which Mikhail Shchadov recruits coal miners from Tula, led by Glukhov, to excavate a tunnel in extremely adverse conditions. Shcherbina warns Legasov that they are under KGB surveillance. Legasov sends Khomyuk to a Moscow hospital, where she finds Dyatlov uncooperative but learns from dying Toptunov and Akimov that the reactor exploded after Akimov initiated an emergency shutdown, a scenario thought impossible. Bribing her way into the hospital and lying about her pregnancy, Lyudmilla is allowed to visit Vasily, witnessing the harrowing deterioration of his health and disobeying orders by staying with her husband longer than instructed. During Khomyuk's visit to the hospital, she witnesses Vasily touching Lyudmilla. Realizing that Lyudmilla is pregnant, Khomyuk threatens to report everything to the committee and is arrested by KGB agents. She is imprisoned, but Legasov arranges her release. As Shcherbina and Legasov report to the Central Executive Committee their decontamination plans requiring the mass mobilization of liquidators, Lyudmilla stands among relatives of other deceased ARS victims as Vasily's body, sealed in a zinc casket, is buried in concrete at a mass grave.
4"The Happiness of All Mankind"Johan RenckCraig MazinMay 27, 20191.1931.311
Residents are evacuated from the wider Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and decontamination operations are underway. Civilian draftee Pavel is paired with Soviet–Afghan War veteran Bacho to patrol the Zone to shoot and dispose of abandoned animals due to radioactive contamination. Chernobyl liquidator commander General Nikolai Tarakanov deploys Lunokhod programme rovers to clear the plant's roof for a shelter. After a West German police robot almost instantly fails on the most irradiated level, Tarakanov is forced to cycle 3,828 liquidators to clear it by hand, allowed only 90 seconds each, once. Khomyuk investigates the Moscow archives and confronts a recovering Dyatlov, who knows the government is not interested in the truth. Meeting away from KGB bugs, Shcherbina and Legasov inform Khomyuk they must testify as experts in the trial of Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin, and Legasov will address the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Khomyuk reveals an article about an identical incident at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant in 1975, suppressed by the KGB, and tells them Lyudmilla gave birth to a girl who soon died from radiation poisoning. Khomyuk urges Legasov to tell the IAEA the complete truth, while Shcherbina urges caution to avoid government retaliation.
5"Vichnaya Pamyat"Johan RenckCraig MazinJune 3, 20191.0892.112
Following Legasov's testimony to the IAEA in Vienna, in which he lies, Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin are put on trial in the abandoned city of Chernobyl. Shcherbina is called first to give testimony, explaining the general workings of a nuclear power plant. Khomyuk and Legasov testify on the events leading up to the accident, based on interviews with people in the control room. Flashbacks show that due to a ten-hour delay in a safety test and Dyatlov's impatience to carry it out, the reactor stalled, then experienced a power spike. Akimov activated the emergency shutdown, but a design flaw in the control rods spiked the power to at least ten times the reactor's limit before it exploded. Legasov reveals the suppressed information about the Leningrad plant, admitting he lied in his previous testimony in Vienna. He is detained by the KGB and informed that his testimony will be suppressed in the state media; furthermore, he is forbidden to speak to anyone about Chernobyl, he will receive no credit for his role in containing the disaster, and he will never work again. The ending shows pictures and video of the real-life Legasov and other major figures, revealing their fates, as well as the ongoing aftermath of the accident. It ends with a statement that the show was dedicated to those who "suffered and sacrificed."


Development and writing

Writer Craig Mazin began researching for the project in 2014, by reading books and government reports from inside and outside the Soviet Union. Mazin also interviewed nuclear scientists to learn how a reactor works, and former Soviet citizens to gain a better idea of the culture in 1986. Mazin also read several first-person accounts in order to bring additional authenticity to the story. He explained, "When you're reading the personal stories of people who were there—people who lived near the plant, people who worked at the plant, people who were sent to Chernobyl as part of the effort to clean it up—in those individual accounts, that's really where the story came alive".

Mazin's interest in creating the series originated when he decided to write something that addressed "how we're struggling with the global war on the truth right now". Another inspiration is that he knew Chernobyl exploded, but he did not know why. He explained, "I didn't know why, and I thought there was this inexplicable gap in my knowledge ... So, I began reading about it, just out of this very dry, intellectual curiosity, and what I discovered was that, while the story of the explosion is fascinating, and we make it really clear exactly why and how it happened, what really grabbed me and held me were the incredible stories of the human beings who lived through it, and who suffered and sacrificed to save the people that they loved, to save their countrymen and to save a continent, and continued to do so, against odds that were startling and kept getting worse. I was so moved by it. It was like I had discovered a war that people just hadn't really depicted, and I became obsessed". Mazin said that "The lesson of Chernobyl isn't that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous".

In preparation for the miniseries, Mazin visited the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Mazin made the decision in the early stages not to use Russian or Ukrainian accents, and instead, have the actors use their natural accents. Mazin explained, "We had an initial thought that we didn't want to do the 'Boris and Natasha' clichéd accent because the Russian accent can turn comic very easily. At first, we thought that maybe we would have people do these sort of vaguely Eastern European accents—not really strong but noticeable. What we found very quickly is that actors will act accents. They will not act, they will act accents and we were losing everything about these people that we loved. Honestly, I think after maybe one or two auditions we said 'Ok, new rule. We're not doing that anymore'". Mazin also did not cast any American actors, as that could potentially pull the audience out of the story.

On July 26, 2017, it was announced that HBO and Sky had given a series order to Chernobyl. It was HBO's first co-production with Sky UK. The five-episode miniseries was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. Mazin also served as an executive producer alongside Carolyn Strauss and Jane Featherstone, with Chris Fry and Renck acting as co-executive producers. On March 11, 2019, it was announced that the miniseries would premiere on May 6, 2019. On June 4, 2019, Craig Mazin made the original scripts of all episodes available for downloading as PDFs (see External links below).

A companion podcast for the miniseries had new episodes published as each TV episode aired on HBO. The podcast featured conversations between Mazin and host Peter Sagal including discussions of where the show was as true as possible to historical events and where events were consolidated or modified as part of artistic license.


Simultaneously with the initial series announcement, it was confirmed that Jared Harris would star in the series. On March 19, 2018, it was announced that Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson had joined the main cast, marking their second collaboration together after Breaking the Waves. In May 2018, it was announced that Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adrian Rawlins, and Con O'Neill also had joined the cast.


Principal photography began in April 2018 in Lithuania. Initial filming started on May 13, 2018, in Fabijoniškės, a residential district in Vilnius, Lithuania, which was used to portray the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, since the district maintained an authentic Soviet atmosphere. An area of densely built panel housing apartments served as a location for the evacuation scenes. Director Johan Renck heavily criticised the amount of diverse and eye-catching modern windows in the houses, but was not concerned about removing them in post-production. At the end of March, production moved to Visaginas, Lithuania, to shoot both the exterior and interior of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, a decommissioned nuclear power station that is sometimes referred to as "Chernobyl's sister" due to its visual resemblance and the nuclear reactor design used at both Chernobyl and Ignalina (RBMK nuclear power reactor). In early June 2018, production moved to Ukraine to shoot minor final scenes. The filming of Chernobyl took 16 weeks.


The musical score was composed by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir. Music was created using sound recordings from an actual nuclear power plant.

Historical accuracy

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The series was exhaustively researched, but some liberties were taken for dramatic purposes, such as Legasov being present at the trial. The epilogue acknowledges that the character of Ulana Khomyuk is fictional, a composite of multiple Soviet scientists. Chernobyl expert Adam Higginbotham points out in an interview that there was no need for scientists to "uncover the truth"; that "many nuclear scientists knew all along that there were problems with this reactor—the problems that led ultimately to an explosion and disaster". Higginbotham and others also say that the widely reported "Bridge of Death", purportedly used by Pripyat spectators all of whom later died, is an urban legend, and Higginbotham has spoken with someone who was on the bridge. The helicopter crash actually occurred months later than shown.

According to disaster survivors interviewed by the BBC, the show misinterprets characters of Bryukhanov, Fomin and Dyatlov, and incorrectly portrays them as villains. Oleksiy Breus, senior engineer at the Unit 4 even considers their portrayal "not a fiction, but a blatant lie".

According to The Christian Science Monitor correspondent Fred Weir, "Everybody seems to agree that the miniseries goes overboard with its characters, depicting Soviet officials and plant management as too evil and conniving". Russian documentary producer Oleg Voinov who made a film about the Chernobyl disaster said that Chernobyl is "wonderfully shot, professionally edited, and the special effects are great. But it doesn't come close to reflecting reality. A lot of the facts presented are just not true". The New York Times reviewer Mike Hale criticized Chernobyl's "propensity toward Hollywood inflation—to show us things that didn't happen" and for taking "fictional license over the line into contrivance and melodrama". According to Hale, "Mazin puts Legasov on the witness stand at the trial and, in a stroke of pure fantasy, has him boldly denounce Soviet corner-cutting and secrecy, after which he's hauled into a back room by the KGB".

The series seemingly depicts the physicist character Ulana Khomyuk believing that victims of radiation poisoning are radioactive themselves and dangerous to be around, because she reprimands the wife of Vasily Ignatenko, Lyudmilla for touching him while pregnant. This might have been the belief of average people at the time as described by Lyudmilla herself, but not that of a physicist as in reality, once cleaned, victims are generally not themselves dangerous. The protective plastic screens around victims of Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) are used to protect the victims from other people due to their weaker immune system. Some nurses were worried to work in the victims' proximity and indeed soldiers had to carry the bodies after their death. When turbine hall employee Vladimir Shashenok experienced mortally wounding fatal shrapnel from blast debris and entrained hot particles, he, and not the responding firefighter Vasily Ignatenko who died from ARS, needed specific burial arrangements. However, some sources report that the 27 firefighters' bodies, including the one of Vasily Ignatenko, had to be buried beneath heavy amounts of zinc and concrete. Lyudmilla Ignatenko, wife of Vasily Ignatenko, suggests he required similar undertaking; Lyudmilla, who was pregnant at the time but lied to the hospital staff to see her husband, describes accusations from others that the radioactivity she had been exposed to around Vasily while in hospital had a life-threatening impact on her unborn child. Two months later she gave birth to her baby, who died hours after being born.

Leonid Bershidsky, writing for The Moscow Times, finds fault with some of the period details, writing "Some lapses were probably too costly to avoid even when the filmmakers knew about them, like modern plastic windows in Soviet buildings. But there's plenty more. Chernobyl is too far from Moscow to reach by helicopter ... Nor, of course, could Deputy Prime Minister Boris Shcherbina even imagine threatening to throw Valery Legasov, an esteemed member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, off a helicopter—this was 1986, not 1936...". Writing in The New Yorker, Masha Gessen criticizes the series for depicting Soviet citizens "who appear to act out of fear of being shot. This is inaccurate: summary executions, or even delayed executions on orders of a single apparatchik, were not a feature of Soviet life after the nineteen-thirties." According to Gessen, it was the reality of this power relationship that the series most seriously failed to portray. For Gessen, the scenes of scientists criticizing the system in confrontation with bureaucrats were "repetitive and ridiculous"—it would have been unthinkable. The defining condition of Soviet life was resignation.

Major General Nikolai Tarakanov, who headed the real liquidators in 1986, praised HBO for a "great job" in an interview with Russian state media, but stated many of the things that did not happen. For example, stray animals were shot, but not in the residential area and not in the way portrayed in the show; radiation levels were not hidden from the liquidators; he did not see any naked miners. Also, he points to some inconsistencies with Legasov, who did not take part in a major meeting portrayed in the series as he was elsewhere at the time. Plant engineer Oleksiy Breus told the BBC the miners "took off their clothes, but not like it was shown in the film, not right down to nothing".

Pioneering a then novel treatment for the most exposed ARS patients in 1986, then writing a response to the series in 2019, UCLA doctor Robert Gale took issue with the suggestion his patients were dangerous to visitors along with the portrayal of Soviet authorities as reluctant to seek outside help. "I was immediately invited to come to Moscow and shortly thereafter to bring three colleagues," Gale wrote. "In my experience dealing with nuclear accidents, this is rather unusual and indicates a desire to do everything possible to help the victims—throwing politics to the wind. And whilst in Moscow, we were free to expropriate supplies and equipment from many Russian medical centers." Gale said the accident was impossible to cover up, as portrayed by HBO. "Anyone looking at the destroyed reactor building, mass of firefighting equipment, and personnel streaming into the reactor complex—the smoke from the fire clearly visible from Pripyat about 4 km away etc.—I cannot imagine anyone would try to cover this up. It would be like standing in lower Manhattan after destruction of the Twin Towers and pretending there was no problem. ... All governments try to contain bad news of this type," notes Gale. "I see rather little difference between the initial U.S. government reaction to the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident, the initial Japan government reaction to the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, and the Soviet response to Chernobyl."

Families that lived in the nearby area at the time of the disaster have criticized the series as provocative and politically motivated, giving a different view of the events and the aftermath, as well as the way the people reacted.

Anna Korolevskaya, vice director of the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum who helped the team producing the show, says that the makers of the series "could not get beyond the biased western perception of Soviet history".


Critical response

Chernobyl received almost unanimous critical acclaim in the West. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 96% based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 8.94/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Chernobyl rivets with a creeping dread that never dissipates, dramatizing a national tragedy with sterling craft and an intelligent dissection of institutional rot." On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". By June 2019, it had become the highest-rated TV series of all time on IMDb, with a score of 9.7/10 from over 140,000 users. As of October 2020, it is the fifth-highest-rated TV series with a score of 9.4/10 from over 550,000 users.

Reviewers from The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and BBC observed parallels to contemporary society by focusing on the power of information and how dishonest leaders can make mistakes beyond their comprehension. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic hailed the series as a "grim disquisition on the toll of devaluing the truth"; Hank Stuever of The Washington Post praised it for showcasing "what happens when lying is standard and authority is abused". Meera Syal praised Chernobyl as a "fiercely intelligent exposition of the human cost of state censorship. Would love to see similar exposé of the Bhopal disaster". David Morrison was "struck by the attention to accuracy" and says the "series does an outstanding job of presenting the technical and human issues of the accident." Aaron Giovannone writes critically of the series in the socialist publication Jacobin, stating that "even as we worry about the ongoing ecological crisis caused by capitalism, Chernobyl revels in the failure of the historical alternative to capitalism," which reinforces the status quo, offering us "no way out" of the crisis.

Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian response

The miniseries was well-received by some critics and audiences in Russia. Vladimir Medinsky, Russian culture minister, whose father was one of the Chernobyl liquidators, called the series "masterfully made" and "filmed with great respect for ordinary people". It was reported that Russian NTV television channel has been producing its own version of the Chernobyl story in which the CIA plays a key role in the disaster. However, the series in question had been in production since before HBO's miniseries and was not created in response to it. An apparent trailer for the series was uploaded to YouTube but was later deleted following negative reaction.

The Communist Party of Communists of Russia called for a libel lawsuit against Chernobyl's writer, director and producers, describing the show as "disgusting". In a statement, party member Sergey Malinkovich spoke of the party's intentions to lobby TV regulator Roskomnadzor to request that it block local access to the series. Marianna Prysiazhniuk of Vice Media notes that multiple Russian media outlets describe the miniseries as one-sided, incomplete, or anti-Russian propaganda. Argumenty i Fakty dismissed the show as "a caricature and not the truth" and "The only things missing are the bears and accordions!" quipped Stanislav Natanzon, lead anchor of Russia-24, one of the country's main news channels.

In Ukraine, Anna Korolevska, deputy director at the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv, said "Today young people coming to power in Ukraine know nothing about that disaster in 1986. It was a necessary film to make and HBO have obviously tried their best; as for us, we are going to create a special tour about Chernobyl's historic truth, inspired by the HBO series." Bermet Talant, a Ukrainian journalist, noted that "In Russia, a state that still takes pride in the Soviet legacy, the series has faced criticism from the official media. Meanwhile, many in Ukraine appreciated the series for humanizing a tragic chapter in the country's history. Ukrainian viewers also appreciated HBO's "Chernobyl" for praising the heroism and self-sacrifice of ordinary people."

Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, whose book inspired the series, said "We are now witnessing a new phenomenon that Belarusians, who suffered greatly and thought they knew a lot about the tragedy, have completely changed their perception about Chernobyl and are interpreting this tragedy in a whole new way. The authors accomplished this, even though they are from a completely different world – not from Belarus, not from our region." She also noted its popularity with young Belarusians.

US ratings

Viewership and ratings per episode of Chernobyl
No.TitleAir dateRating
DVR viewers
Total viewers
1"1:23:45"May 6, 20190.20.756N/AN/AN/AN/A
2"Please Remain Calm"May 13, 20190.31.0040.20.7160.51.721
3"Open Wide, O Earth"May 20, 20190.31.0630.20.7270.51.791
4"The Happiness of All Mankind"May 27, 20190.31.1930.30.8090.62.003
5"Vichnaya Pamyat"June 3, 20190.31.0890.30.9740.62.064

Awards and nominations

American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for TelevisionJinx Godfrey and Simon Smith (for "Vichnaya Pamyat")Won
American Film Institute AwardsTelevision Programs of the YearChernobylWon
Art Directors Guild AwardsTelevision Movie or Limited SeriesLuke HullWon
Association of Motion Picture Sound AwardsExcellence in sound for a Television DramaChernobylWon
Banff Rockie AwardLimited seriesChernobylWon
Blogos de OroMejor SerieChernobylWon
Mejor Actor en una serieJared HarrisWon
Stellan SkarsgårdNominated
British Academy Scotland AwardsBest Actor in TelevisionAlex FernsWon
British Academy Television AwardsBest Mini-SeriesChernobylWon
Best Leading ActorJared HarrisWon
Best Supporting ActorStellan SkarsgårdNominated
British Academy Television Craft AwardsBest Director: FictionJohan RenckWon
Best Writer: DramaCraig MazinNominated
Best Editing: FictionSimon Smith and Jinx GodfreyWon
Best Costume DesignOdile Dicks-MireauxWon
Best Make Up & Hair DesignDaniel Parker and Barrie GowerNominated
Best Original MusicHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Best Photography & Lighting: FictionJakob IhreWon
Best Production DesignLuke Hull and Claire Levinson-GendlerWon
Best Scripted CastingNina Gold and Robert SterneNominated
Best Sound: FictionStefan Henrix, Joe Beal, Stuart Hilliker and Vincent PiponnieWon
Best Special, Visual & Graphic EffectsLindsay Mcfarlane, Claudius Christian Rauch and Jean-Clément SoretNominated
British Film Designers Guild AwardsInternational TV Drama including Mini Series, TV Movie or Limited SeriesLuke Hull, Karen Wakefield and Claire Levinson-GendlerWon
Broadcast Tech Innovation AwardBest VFX ProjectMax Dennison and Clare CheethamWon
Excellence in Grading (scripted)ChernobylWon
Broadcasting Press Guild AwardsBest Drama SeriesChernobylWon
Best ActorJared HarrisNominated
Best ActressEmily WatsonNominated
Best WriterCraig MazinWon
Casting Society of AmericaLimited SeriesNina Gold and Robert SterneNominated
Cinema Audio Society AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Movie or Limited SeriesVincent Piponnier, Stuart Hilliker, Gibran Farrah and Philip ClementsWon
Clio AwardsTrailer 1 - Gold WinnerChernobylWon
Video Promo Mixed Campaign - Gold WinnerWon
Costume Designers Guild AwardsExcellence in Period TelevisionOdile Dicks-Mireaux (for "Please Remain Calm")Nominated
Critics' Choice Television AwardsBest Limited SeriesChernobylNominated
Best Actor in a Limited Series or Television MovieJared HarrisNominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Television MovieStellan SkarsgårdWon
Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Television MovieEmily WatsonNominated
Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Directing – Movies for Television and Limited SeriesJohan RenckWon
Dorian AwardsTV Drama of the YearChernobylNominated
Edinburgh TV AwardsBest DramaChernobylWon
Best TV ActorJared HarrisNominated
Emily WatsonNominated
Jessie BuckleyNominated
Festival Nazionale del Doppiaggio Voci nell'OmbraTV – Miglior doppiaggio generaleChernobylNominated
Gold Derby AwardsLimited SeriesChernobylWon
Ensemble of the YearJared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis, Con O'Neill, Adrian Rawlins, Sam Troughton, Robert Emms, Emily Watson, David Dencik, Mark Lewis Jones, Alan Williams, Alex Ferns, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Fares Fares and Michael McElhattonNominated
Movie/Limited Series Lead ActorJared HarrisNominated
Movie/Limited Series Supporting ActorStellan SkarsgårdNominated
Movie/Limited Series Supporting ActressEmily WatsonNominated
Limited Series of the DecadeChernobylNominated
TV Movie/Mini Actor of the DecadeJared HarrisNominated
TV Movie/Mini Supporting Actress of the DecadeEmily WatsonNominated
Golden Globe AwardsBest Limited Series or Television FilmChernobylWon
Best Actor – Limited Series or Television FilmJared HarrisNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Limited Series or Television FilmStellan SkarsgårdWon
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Limited Series or Television FilmEmily WatsonNominated
Golden Reel AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Dialogue and ADR for Episodic Long Form Broadcast MediaStefan Henrix, Harry Barnes, Michael MaroussasWon
Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Sound Effects and Foley for Episodic Long Form Broadcast MediaStefan Henrix, Joe Beal, Philip Clements, Tom Stewart, Anna WrightWon
Golden Tomato AwardsBest-reviewed Miniseries and Limited SeriesChernobylWon
Golden Trailer AwardsBest Horror/Thriller (TV Spot/Trailer/Teaser for a Series)ChernobylWon
Gotham AwardsBreakthrough Series – Long FormChernobylNominated
Grammy AwardsBest Score Soundtrack for Visual MediaHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Hollywood Music In Media AwardsBest Original Score - TV Show/Limited SeriesHildur GuðnadóttirNominated
Hollywood Post AllianceOutstanding Editing - Television (Over 30 Minutes)Simon Smith and Jinx Godfrey // Sister PicturesNominated
Outstanding Sound - TelevisionStefan Henrix, Stuart Hilliker, Joe Beal, Michael Maroussas and Harry Barnes // Boom PostNominated
Outstanding Visual Effects - Television (Under 13 Episodes)Lindsay McFarlane, Max Dennison, Clare Cheetham, Steven Godfrey and Luke Letkey // DNEGNominated
Humanitas PrizeLimited Series, TV Movie or Special CategoryCraig Mazin (for "Vichnaya Pamyat")Nominated
IGN People's Choice AwardsBest TV seriesChernobylWon
Best drama TV seriesWon
Best dramatic TV performanceJared HarrisWon
Best TV episode"The Happiness of All Mankind"Won
International Film Music Critics AssociationBest Original Score for TelevisionHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Irish Film & Television Academy AwardsActor in a Supporting Role in DramaBarry KeoghanNominated
Actress in a Supporting Role in DramaJessie BuckleyWon
Location Managers Guild AwardsOutstanding Locations in Period TelevisionJonas SpokasWon
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists GuildsTelevision Series, Mini-Series or New Media – Best Period and/or Character Make-UpDaniel Parker and Natasha Nikolic-DunlopNominated
Television Series, Mini-Series or New Media – Best Special Make-Up EffectsDaniel Parker, Barrie Gower and Paul SpateriWon
Television Series, Mini-Series or New Media – Best Period and/or Character Hair StylingDaniel Parker, Julio Parodi and Bozena MaisejenkoNominated
Music + Sound AwardsBest Sound Design in a Television ProgrammeChernobylWon
National Television AwardsNew DramaChernobylWon
Peabody AwardsEntertainmentChernobylWon
Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Limited SeriesCraig Mazin, Carolyn Strauss, Jane Featherstone, Johan Renck, Chris Fry and Sanne WohlenbergWon
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or MovieJared HarrisNominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or MovieStellan Skarsgård (for "Please Remain Calm")Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or MovieEmily Watson (for "Open Wide, O Earth")Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic SpecialJohan RenckWon
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic SpecialCraig MazinWon
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy AwardsOutstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie, or SpecialNina Gold and Robert SterneNominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or MovieJakob Ihre (for "Please Remain Calm")Won
Outstanding Period CostumesOdile Dicks-Mireaux, Holly McLean, Daiva Petrulyte, Anna Munro and Sylvie Org (for "Please Remain Calm")Nominated
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Limited Series or MovieJulio Parodi and Jovana JovanavicNominated
Outstanding Make-up for a Limited Series or Movie (Non-Prosthetic)Daniel Parker and Natasha Nikolic-DunlopNominated
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or SpecialBarrie Gower, Paul Spateri and Daniel ParkerNominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score)Hildur Guðnadóttir (for "Please Remain Calm")Won
Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Program (One Hour or More)Luke Hull, Karen Wakefield and Claire Levinson-GendlerWon
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or MovieJinx Godfrey (for "Open Wide, O Earth")Nominated
Simon Smith (for "Please Remain Calm")Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie, or SpecialStefan Henrix, Joe Beal, Michael Maroussas, Harry Barnes, Andy Wade, Anna Wright (for "1:23:45")Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or MovieStuart Hilliker and Vincent Piponnier (for "1:23:45")Won
Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting RoleMax Dennison, Lindsay McFarlane, Claudius Christian Rauch, Clare Cheetham, Laura Bethencourt Montes, Steven Godfrey, Luke Letkey, Christian Waite and William Foulser (for "1:23:45")Won
Producers Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Producer of Limited Series TelevisionCraig Mazin, Carolyn Strauss, Jane Featherstone, Johan Renck, Chris Fry and Sanne WohlenbergWon
Royal Television Society AwardsMini-SeriesChernobylNominated
Actor (Male)Jared HarrisNominated
Writer (Drama)Craig MazinWon
Royal Television Society Craft & Design AwardsDirector – DramaJohan RenckNominated
Music - Original ScoreHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Costume Design - DramaOdile Dicks-MireauxWon
Make Up Design - DramaDaniel ParkerWon
Photography - Drama & ComedyJakob IhreWon
Production Design - DramaLuke Hull, Clare Levinson-GendlerWon
Sound - DramaStefan Henrix, Stuart Hilliker, Joe Beal, Harry Barnes, Michael MaroussasWon
Satellite AwardsBest MiniseriesChernobylWon
Best Actor – Miniseries or TV FilmJared HarrisWon
Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or TV FilmStellan SkarsgårdNominated
Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or TV FilmEmily WatsonNominated
Screen Actors Guild AwardsOutstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieJared HarrisNominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieEmily WatsonNominated
Sentinel AwardsTopic: Nuclear safetyChernobylWon
Society of Composers and Lyricists AwardsOutstanding Original Score for a Television or Streaming ProductionHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Television Critics Association AwardsProgram of the YearChernobylNominated
Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and SpecialsWon
Televisual Bulldog AwardsBest Drama One-off or SerialChernobylWon
Best Cinematography
Best Music
Best VFX
Venice TV AwardsBest TV SeriesChernobylWon
Visual Effects Society AwardsOutstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal EpisodeMax Dennison, Lindsay McFarlane, Clare Cheetham, Paul Jones and Claudius Christian Rauch (for "1:23:45")Won
World Soundtrack AwardsTelevision Composer of the YearHildur GuðnadóttirWon
Writers Guild of America AwardsLong Form – OriginalCraig MazinWon