Entertainment

The 10 Best British Crime Dramas to Watch on Netflix

Philip Bates Updated 05-05-2020

Crime is universal. However, crime drama, specifically its attitude and tone, differs depending on where you live.

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Don’t believe me? Compare the American Elementary to the British Sherlock. Both are based on the same source material and both are excellent, but they’re very different from each other. British detective series have a unique tone and style.

With that in mind, here are the best British crime dramas to watch on Netflix.

1. Sherlock

One of the BBC’s most popular dramas stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson, the iconic figures created by Arthur Conan Doyle. The show is as addictive as the original books, but takes a different approach to the characters and their world.

This is the Great Detective in contemporary London, with cases riffing off of famous stories. Sherlock immediately gained a huge following when it debuted in 2010 because the amount of love is evident throughout.

It’s most notable for its stunning direction. Initially spearheaded by Paul McGuigan (Luke Cage), its ideas are heady, immersive, and incredibly distinctive.

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2. Broadchurch

Broadchurch shows what happens after 11-year-old Daniel Latimer is found dead on the beach of the sleepy seaside town of Broadchurch. This horrific murder tears the close-knit community apart. Who would kill a young boy? And why?

This televisual sensation is a genuinely affecting piece, driven forward by a stunning cast that includes David Tennant, Olivia Colman, and Jodie Whittaker. Season 1, Episode 5 is arguably the most moving instalment, beautifully played by David Bradley (the Harry Potter films).

You might have seen the American adaptation, Gracepoint. However, Broadchurch is vastly superior.

3. Ripper Street

Jack the Ripper had a profound effect on London, and especially on its police force. This gritty, thought-provoking drama takes place shortly after the serial killer’s last murder, where we find Whitechapel’s H Division fighting to maintain peace.

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The show changed considerably across its five seasons, but kept the same contemplative tone. Never shying away from the shocking truths of 1800s culture, the series frequently uncovered the dark truths lurking beneath the propaganda.

It may be foreboding and bloody, but it’s also a surprising tearjerker. Watch the episode titled “Am I Not Monstrous?” to see a prime example of this.

4. Peaky Blinders

Not all crime dramas are about catching a killer. Some put you on the side of the demons and show you how their brutal worldview affects those around them.

Peaky Blinders is a tour de force which quickly earned a legion of loyal viewers, including high-profile fans like Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and the late David Bowie.

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Initially set in 1919 and inspired by real events, the show follows rival street gangs as they wage war across Birmingham, England—primarily the titular clan (led by Cillian Murphy’s Thomas Shelby), whose weapon of choice is a switch blade concealed in the brim of their caps.

5. The Five

Jesse Wells goes missing while playing with his brother and three friends. A serial killer admits to Jesse’s murder, but his body is never found. 20 years later, evidence at a crime scene matches Jesse’s DNA, so is he still alive? Four friends reunite to find out the truth.

Though made by British talent including Danny Brocklehurst (The Stranger) and Mark Tonderai (Doctor Who), The Five is a fusion of cultures, as it was created by American thriller writer, Harlan Coben.

6. Retribution

The true horror of Retribution is revealed by its UK title: One of Us. Suspicions undermining familial relationships is a key part of most crime dramas, but this four-part story immediately hits you with a brilliant twist…

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The brutal stabbing of newlyweds brings together grieving families in the Scottish Highlands. Then a badly-injured man turns up, claiming to be their killer. What should the families do? Will they be better than him, by showing mercy and bringing him to justice? Or will they be guided by the principle of “an eye for an eye”?

7. The Frankenstein Chronicles

Sean Bean doesn’t die in this. Which is surely reason enough to watch this.

The Frankenstein Chronicles is a surprisingly bleak show, even compared to similar series you can watch on Netflix. The investigation begins with the discovery of a corpse in the River Thames. Except this isn’t a normal corpse; it’s pieced together from the bodies of eight missing children.

Someone on the streets of London is trying to create their own patched-together monster in this reimagining of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. If you’ve never experienced Frankenstein before, it’s one of the best free audiobooks you can listen to 20 of the Best Free Audiobooks You Need to Listen To Don't have time to read books? These free audiobooks allow you to enjoy some of the greatest literature of all time. Read More too.

8. Bodyguard

Bodyguard was the TV success story of 2018, and comes from the pen of Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty).

Richard Madden (Marvel’s Eternals) plays PS David Budd, a former soldier suffering from PTSD, assigned to protect the Home Secretary, Julia Montague MP (Keeley Hawes). Budd disagrees with her politics, but must put personal grievances aside when a terrorist plot unfolds around her.

This isn’t just a great thriller: it’ll also be of interest to anyone worried about excessive government surveillance of citizens.

9. Hinterland

Hinterland is a remarkable show; a testament to a production team’s belief in a concept.

It took over two years to raise the £4.2 million (around $5.2 million) budget, and the first season was shot around Aberystwyth, North Wales, across just 124 days—especially surprising considering scenes were filmed twice! That’s because Hinterland was recorded in both English and Welsh, though you’ll only find the former on Netflix.

DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) swaps London for rural Wales, so this program looks stunning. But the murders and disappearances are just as dark as you’d expect. Hinterland is a crime noir that’s as compelling as The Killing, but strangely underrated.

10. Vexed

Let’s end on an upbeat note. Not all crime dramas are gritty and grim. Vexed is a great example of British humor: it finds something to smile about, even in dire circumstances.

Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) is Jack Armstrong, a fairly hapless D.I. paired with professionally-driven partners, played by Lucy Punch and Miranda Raison across its two seasons. The over-the-top situations, with a mix of silly and dark comedy, won’t be for everyone, but is great for fans of The Naked Gun.

And if you’d like to explore similar shows, check out the best British comedies on Netflix The 8 Best British Comedies on Netflix Here are the best British comedies on Netflix for indulging in the UK's eccentricities, awkwardness, and wit. Read More .

The Best British Crime Dramas Are Essential

With so much awesome content on Netflix, it’s difficult to narrow down what to watch during a quiet evening in. But missing these shows really would be criminal.

And if you’re having trouble getting to grips with streaming, check out our ultimate guide to Netflix The Ultimate Netflix Guide: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Netflix This guide offers everything you need to know about using Netflix. Whether you're a new subscriber or an established fan of the best streaming service out there. Read More .

Related topics: Media Streaming, Netflix, Television, TV Recommendations.

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  1. Gene
    May 12, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    If Netflix ever brings back Foyle's War, it is a must-see. Although the final season seemed to be mostly an attempt to wrap things up, everything before was utterly compelling. If there was an award category for "facial acting" then Michael Kitchen would have it sewn up in this series.

  2. Linda Prine
    December 23, 2019 at 3:18 am

    You forgot Scott and Bailey! It was brilliant!

  3. Gail Bruner
    October 20, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Broadchurch is my absolute favorite. Couldn't get into The Fall. Another good one is The Five. Saw all the rest and loved them. LOVE the British crime and drama shows, better written and better acted.

  4. Beth D
    June 18, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Note about the what was written about Happy Valley-
    Tommy Lee Royce was NOT a "convicted rapist". He was involved in drugs who had just done 8 years for drug related offences. The rape he completed nearly 9 years prior to the beginning of the series was NOT REPORTED. Royce was never punished for the crime, it couldn't be proved. Saying he's a "convicted rapist" is confusing possible viewers massively, and robbing them of a huge element of the plot- the fact that Royce was never punished for his hideous crime. I'm a huge fan of Happy Valley and want people to see it with a completely open mind.

  5. Lucero De La Tierra
    March 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Don't forget Hinterland. Great show. Almost like a mini movie every episode.

  6. epii
    January 9, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    This one is on Amazon Prime but 'No Offence' is killer. Starts great and keeps on building. Three seasons so far...

  7. Maggie
    October 11, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I know I'm late to the party but I'm so glad to see so many comments mentioning Midsomer Murders! I've just binged my way through it for the second time and haven't found anything yet that matches up!

  8. Mazz
    September 18, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    You're a little behind. Foyle's War and Poirot are off Netflix unfortunately.

  9. manda
    August 7, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks for this! I have watched most of these, but adding River and Happy Valley to my queue!

  10. Sharon Mullins
    July 23, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    I have watched ALL of these. The best mysteries, and just plain dramas are from Britain. The character development is amazing, and quirky. The limitedness of some of the series is disappointing, because I want them to go on forever.

    Not relying on explosions, and dumbing down.
    .

  11. Emily
    July 13, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    I’m in the middle of The Missing, which I didn’t see mentioned here. It’s primarily filmed in France, but the characters are British and if has a very British “feel” to it.

  12. Sandy
    June 17, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I am so grateful for all of your contributions! I just finished watching the 2 seasons of Marcella and entered the "desperate to see next episode" zone. The cliff hanger was way out there and unpredictable. I have just written down the 40 or so of your suggestions, dinner will be takeout lol

    • Eric M
      July 27, 2018 at 5:45 am

      Ohhh my gosh, 100%. I finished Marcella last night and the last 5 minutes left me with my hand over my mouth (for more reason than one)! I NEED another season!

  13. Anastasia
    June 7, 2018 at 10:32 am

    I can't believe this list didn't contain Prime Suspect, the original with Helen Mirren. One of the most brilliantly conceived slices of British crime realism ever brought to the screen. (The remake, Prime Suspect 1973, is widely agreed to be a travesty...the team at ITV seemingly kicked original writer Lynda La Plante (who is also one of the UK's best loved crime thriller novelists ever) out of production, even though it was her writing, combined with Helen Mirren's embodiment of this role,) that created the ultimate magic. Please watch it if you haven't already, it will take you on a dark but unforgettable journey.

    • michele ring
      October 2, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      I adored prime suspect and its stories and characters have stayed with me. Im still amazed at her incredible ability to convey complex feelings with a glance a twitch a smirk.
      I stand amazed.

    • Reza
      March 14, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      OMG, I know I am jsut way way too late to this party ;-) I have to agree with Anastasia. I just finished watch Prime Suspect 1991. Dame Helen Mirren was just the BEST. I watched the whole 15 episodes within 3 nights in a row of my insomniac restless nights :-( as you just cannot wait to watch episode by episode, I just wish this series never stop up to now). I have also watched Luther, Sherlock, Marcella, the Fall, Line of Duty is also great. But I want more and more of the Prime Suspect and Line of Duty.

  14. Alexandra
    May 1, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Oh I forgot to mention DI Banks or is it DCI Banks. Either way if you like Line of Duty DCI Banks is a great show. It's on Hulu TV

    • Auswazza
      January 10, 2019 at 6:09 am

      Forget the TV Series. Stephen Tompkinson as Banks is the most dreadful portrayal I have ever seen. Nothing like the character envisaged from the original novels. All he knows about acting is to look surly and scowl all the time.
      Read the novels by Peter Robinson. Worth the time and forget the TV series.

    • Henry S. Winokur
      January 10, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      You forgot "DCI Banks" on Amazon Prime.

  15. Alexandra
    May 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    OMG, this was the best article I read this week. I am addicted to British TV and have subscribed to acorn TV since it began. I frequently dig through Netflix to find things I have missed as well. So why was this article great, not so much the content as I have seen 9 out of 10 of the listed series, but all the comments where people have suggested the series that we're not listed has given me a new list to work through. One I have been watching is Loch Ness. It's another good one but only one series (season) at this point. My favorite show which will drive me crazy waiting for a new season or series is Line of Duty. Well back to reading comments for other suggestions. Hip hip hooray for British TV. Oh, Crownies and Janet King we're good as well as Silk if you're into legal dramas.

    • cheryl
      May 21, 2018 at 3:40 am

      I am also addicted to bbc dramas. they do crime dramas so much better. Happy Valley is excellent. Scott & bailey is really good, sort of along the line of dci banks but with 2 females. Line of duty is really good. Vera is as well. If you havent watched it yet, Last tango in halifax is excellent..not a crime drama but very, good. Doctor Foster is another good one. I don't know if all of these are on netflix. Oh, The Fall is another good crime series.

  16. Sue Jackson
    April 28, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    Line of Duty is an absolute must. However although not British The Killing is still up there in my estimation comparable to the Brits- watched it 2x

  17. Ron
    March 15, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Vera is another great show

    • juliette
      March 26, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Vera is terrific--my favorite. Netflix stops at Season 7. Season 8 is on Britbox.

      • Ginny
        April 27, 2018 at 10:39 pm

        I don’t see Vera on Netflix at all.

  18. Venetianblond
    March 14, 2018 at 2:27 am

    Grandchester, George Gently are a couple more favorites, along with our very favorite Midsummer Murders....love the Brit shows!
    ,

  19. Frida Butler
    February 2, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    I cannot believe that you did not include ENDEAVOUR on this list. As good as or better than most you've chosen. Or maybe it is not on Netflix???

    • Venetianblond
      March 14, 2018 at 2:28 am

      Oh love love love love Endeavour

  20. NICOLE
    January 30, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    I love most of what has been listed below but one that was not mentioned was "FORTITUDE". It was amazing. Also on ACORN, "BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES" it is set in New Zealand but it is wonderful. Funny, suspenseful and always a twist.

    • cheryl
      May 21, 2018 at 3:42 am

      if you like fortitude, you will really like "trapped"...way better in my opinion. It is icelandic..and so good. I believe it's on netflix...season 2 is due out fall of 2018

      • barry
        September 23, 2018 at 1:59 am

        Trapped was fantastic. Great casting, plot...

        • cheryl
          December 30, 2018 at 4:04 pm

          yes! i'm in the states, do you know a site where i can watch it? I noticed it's not on netflixx(season 1)anymore. would love to watch seasn 2 when it comes out next week in Iceland.

  21. Ema
    January 26, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    What about Midsomer murders? For me best crime drama ever.

    • Venetianblond
      March 14, 2018 at 2:29 am

      Us too, Barnaby ( both of them) are the greatest

  22. Karen Anderson
    January 10, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Shetland is my personal favorite. Of course, Poirot is tops.

    • barry
      September 23, 2018 at 2:00 am

      Yes - I liked Shetland a wee bit more than Trapped and Singlehanded

  23. Denise
    December 30, 2017 at 5:56 am

    Marcella and Line of duty are both great. Got me addicted to binge watching big time!

  24. Linda
    November 29, 2017 at 4:33 am

    River was great! Paranoid was one you didn't mention and I don't believe you mentioned The Five.
    All three are really good

  25. Ingrid Sonnichsen
    November 20, 2017 at 2:01 am

    No one mentioned Scott and Bailey - I was totally addicted (Britbox) . Also loved Hinterland, Shetland, The Killing (US) and 19-2 on acorn! Loved that. It's Canadian. The Code (acorn) Aust. and many many others! so many good shows - much better than prime time US!

  26. Jane Kelton
    October 10, 2017 at 1:26 am

    Inspector Morse, George Gently, Midsomer Murders, Top of the Lake, Hinterland and Shetland are all very good.

    • Venetianblond
      March 14, 2018 at 2:30 am

      Inspector Morse and Lewis and Hathaway were excellent! George Gently was superb

  27. Helene Sovern
    September 18, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    "The Five" was fantastic and bingeworthy.

    • Monica D
      October 8, 2017 at 6:17 am

      absolutely! i stayed up whole night watching it!

  28. Rodney Sands
    September 16, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    Endeavour
    Morse
    Lewis
    Prime Suspect
    Vera

    • Bontonite
      February 3, 2018 at 2:41 am

      Never could get through Morse, but its prequel, Endeavor is one of my personal favorites. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam are well matched and each episode is beautifully polished. Prime Suspect, the British version with Helen Mirren, is also excellent.

  29. Merrilee
    September 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Wallander is theoretically Swedish but with a Brit cast and crew. Wonderful series.

    • Richard Z
      September 18, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      Wallander was excellent!

    • Venetianblond
      March 14, 2018 at 2:31 am

      Wallenberg! Oh yes watched that one too, very good

  30. Toni Zapiecki
    September 5, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Father Brown is #1 in my book!

  31. Lil
    September 5, 2017 at 6:09 am

    A great thriller is Spiral. French with subtitles. Worth the read!

    • Dorothy
      October 27, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks...

      I've been thinking that my Netflix was a waste, but you've made me think twice on that.

      I've watched a good bit of Acorn with great pleasure -- all the Time Team episodes as well as a bunch of other stuff, particularly Australian. The comedy has been a disappointment as I've watched a lot of first episodes and never the second.

      I'd like to get BritBox if only for QI, but the BritBox password keeps screwing me up.

  32. Lil
    September 5, 2017 at 6:08 am

    A great thriller is Spiral. French series. The legal system is so different there!

  33. Gabrielle Yoder
    September 5, 2017 at 2:17 am

    I can't believe no one mentioned Whitechapel! It had a few incredible seasons. The show is dark without being disgusting or trashy. Great atmosphere and excellent acting, it started bordering on the supernatural in the last season and just as it was getting even better they stopped the series. But it's worth a binge or three.

  34. Eileen ashe
    August 25, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Love netflix but please more drama series in German and Swedish. I have to go to Amazon MHz to watch my favorites!!!!! THANK YOU (Eileen Ashe) Oregon

  35. Jen Terranova
    August 20, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Midsomer Murder is an excellent series: A crime drama set in the quaint English countryside, at stark contrast to the goings on there. Its been running for 20 years now, a testament to how good it is.

    • D
      August 24, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      Right!!??!!

    • Richard Z
      September 18, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      Love Midsomer!

    • Cheryl
      November 27, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Love Midsomer Murders!!!!!

    • CaliforniaGirl
      January 17, 2018 at 3:00 am

      Love Midsomer Murders! Binged watched all 19 available seasons.

  36. Kathleen Elliott
    July 28, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    We have watched and loved many of the shows on this list. Broad church being one of our favorite. Season 3 has been brilliant. The acting is first rate.
    A show that should be added to your list is Dr. Foster. Wonderfully suspenseful as we watch the good doctor Gemma, played by Suranne Jones, become obsessed as she suspects her husband of having an affair and then systematically goes about destroying his life. Highly addictive. Cannot wait for season two!!
    We will definitely check out some of these recommendations.

  37. Brea
    July 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Wallander & Hinterland are both excellent. I love these British Crime Dramas as well as the ones above (Luther, River, Broadchurch & Happy Valley). Excellent writing and acting. We are hooked and need more. I hope we don't run out of good shows. We are addicted to these shows! We have not yet watched the others mentioned above - so grateful for a list. We also enjoyed Peaky Blinders - it's not a "copper series", more of a 1920's gangster drama. We are nearing the end of The Fall now. I see a couple of others listed in the comments that we will check out.

    I also watched Dr. Blake Mysteries - not as sophisticated as the ones above and somewhat predictable. Also, it is a new crime each episode.

    • Eileen ashe
      August 25, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      Love these shows. MORE SWEDISH AND GERMAN DRAMA SERIES PLEASE

      • Luwdmke
        October 30, 2017 at 12:16 am

        Yes and don't forget the English sub titles.

    • Brea Gratia
      August 25, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Just finished Shetland and it is great too!

      • JRobson
        November 27, 2017 at 2:09 am

        Agreed! Shetland is my number one favorite drama! Loved DI Jimmy Perez.

      • JRobson
        November 27, 2017 at 2:11 am

        Shetland was amazing.

  38. Julie
    June 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    I thought Shetland was terrific.

    • Janet
      June 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Give Hinterland a try.

    • Brea Gratia
      August 25, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      YES and YES awesome!

  39. David Foody
    June 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    You didn't mention " Peaky Blinders "??

    • Philip Bates
      July 16, 2017 at 11:45 am

      I've never seen it, to be honest, although my Dad's a fan and I hear plenty of good things about it. Good tip, David :)

    • Jane Long
      January 28, 2018 at 12:31 am

      Glad you mentioned Peaky Blinders......OMG, we LOVED this along with Line of Duty, Broadchurch, Happy Valley. Thank you all for all the other suggestions, hubby is sick.......guess what we will be doing......!!!

  40. David Foody
    June 6, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    You didn't mention " Peaky Blinders "??

  41. Lisa Dahlen
    May 21, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I really enjoyed Shetland with it's great acting and gorgeous scenery. I have also watched most of these as well. I have shared Broad church with a friend mostly to have an excuse to watch again.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 10:29 am

      If you like Shetland, give Vera a go: although on ITV (whereas Shetland was BBC), they're based on original books by Ann Cleeves too, so a similar tone.

  42. Kirb
    May 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    My wife and I watched Shetland...we enjoyed it. What do others think.

    • Philip Bates
      May 31, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Never watched it myself, but I've read a short Shetland book by Ann Cleeves which was really good - if you've not given the novels a try, you really should! :)

    • Brea Gratia
      August 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      LOVED it!

    • Debbie
      September 23, 2017 at 2:31 am

      I LOVE Shetland!!! The music is fabulous and the noir style is brilliant.

  43. Tony
    April 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Hinterland Seasons 1 & 2 are on Netflix

    • Philip Bates
      April 30, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Brilliant - thanks, Tony. I'll add the show to my "to watch" list!

    • Julie
      August 25, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Season 3 just arrived and I have watched it all - hope there will be additional seasons.

    • Debbie
      September 23, 2017 at 2:32 am

      Hinterland is another brilliant noir series. I really hope they will make more.

  44. DRTigerlilly
    April 27, 2017 at 2:35 am

    Having watched 7 of the 10, I approve this list! Excellent choices! You should also consider Line of Duty and Hinterland. ( There are a couple more, but they are not on Netflix yet)

    • Nick
      April 28, 2017 at 7:49 am

      Line of Duty all the way.

      • Philip Bates
        April 30, 2017 at 12:31 pm

        It was in the shortlist, but I couldn't find it on Netflix! If it's on Netflix, absolutely watch it. Line of Duty is truly one of the most remarkable series on TV. It's beautifully crafted - Jed Mercurio, and the rest of its cast and crew really should be applauded. I'm looking forward to the finale of Series 4 on BBC1 tonight!

        • Sheri
          September 8, 2017 at 12:23 am

          It's only available on DVD in the States. Boo!

        • Alexandra
          May 1, 2018 at 4:35 pm

          Series 4 of Line of Duty is on HULU and it's worth the subscription.

    • Philip Bates
      April 30, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks :) As a lover of crime drama, it was a joy to write!