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In this already chaotic year of our lord 2023, there’s at least one thing we can all agree on: British crime dramas (an important subdivision of British dramas) are bloody awesome. The genre surged in popularity in the U.S. over the past few years, thanks in part to the BBC series Peaky Blinders and total babe Cillian Murphy. Lucky for you, Peaky Blinders is just one of the many excellent British TV crime dramas available to stream these days. (You’ve probably heard of The Stranger starring Richard Armitage, but if you haven’t, you can thank me later for introducing you two.)
But it’s also more than just beautiful, emotionally reserved men and their sexy posh accents that make British crime dramas a must-see (see also: Richard Madden in Bodyguard. You're welcome.) The shows are genuinely well-written, packed with smart dialogue, and typically have multi-dimensional, gripping plot lines. Not to throw shade, but British crime shows make Law and Order SVU and Criminal Minds look run-of-the-mill...and even boring. (And I worship at the altar of Olivia Benson, so that’s really saying something.)
If the genre is still somewhat foreign to you or if you’ve already made it across the pond and want more proper crime to queue up, Netflix has a badass lineup of British TV crime shows. There's a lil something for everyone, from "catch the serial killer" to "unravel that decades-old mystery," sometimes in the same show. Just don’t blame me when you start using some good ol’ British banter and start looking for clues in your everyday life.
Anatomy of a Scandal
This mini-series is just six episodes, so you'll really have to savor it (if you can resist the urge to blow right through it in one sitting, that is). After the wife of a British Member of Parliament (played by Sienna Miller) finds out a scandalous secret about her husband, she's left trying to keep her life together as he stands trial. Oh! And Michelle Dockery, who you might recognize as Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, plays the prosecutor, so the cast is A+.
Behind Her Eyes
If you prefer your British crime shows with a psychological thriller and super natural elements thrown in, then Behind Her Eyes is probably right up your alley. It's about Louise, a single mother, who starts an affair with her new boss aaaaand also becomes friends with his wife, which, yes, already sounds incredibly messy. On top of that, she soon finds herself caught up in a very dangerous (and deadly) web of secrets.
Based on the very real crimes of serial killer Charles "the Serpent" Sobhraj, this eight-episode series largely takes place in Thailand (with some scenes in India and France, too), BUT it's a BBC show with a cast full of British actors, so it still makes the cut. It retells the Serpent's terrifying crimes, as well as the story of diplomat-turned-detective Herman Knippenberg, who helped track him down.
Picture this: It's 1945 in London, WWII has just ended, and you, a lowly civil servant, are approached by an American agent who wants you to spy on the British government to root out any Russian infiltration. Well, that's what happens to Feef Symonds, and she ends up agreeing to it. Regular crime shows are great and all, but there's something extra interesting about espionage-related crimes, ya feel?
You Don’t Know Me
When a man is accused of murdering a drug dealer and all of the evidence is screaming that he did it, he decides to fire his lawyer (!?) and use the closing argument at his own murder trial to tell his side of the story. He's adamant that he's innocent, but as we all know, it really comes down to what the jury believes.
This six-part series has it all: crime, supernatural thrills, and that top-notch BBC production quality. The story goes like this: when the mother of an accomplished cellist dies by suicide, her daughter finds an unusual link between the death and the disappearance of a young girl more than 20 years ago.
The End of the F***ing World
Where my dark comedy lovers at? This one is right up your alley. Seventeen-year-olds Alyssa and James set out to find Alyssa's estranged father. James (a self-diagnosed psychopath) has already killed animals and thinks he needs to move onto something bigger...and he's got something (er, someone) in mind... I think you can see where this is going.
A group of girls at an elite private school form a club with the purpose of getting back at their bullies, and they call it DGM (short for Don't Get Mad). But when one of their targets is murdered and found holding a note that says DGM, they realize someone's REALLY got it out for them, to the point of trying to frame them for murder.
Kiss Me First
The show jumps between the real world and an animated VR world, so it never gets boring. It follows the story of Leila, who comes across a secret paradise hidden in one of her favorite games. But as these things seem to go, Leila realizes it may not be so perfect when her friend from the game goes missing. Dun dun dunnnnnn.
The much-loved first season features Richard Madden (yum) as protection officer David Budd, a war veteran who is assigned to a security detail for a conservative parliament member (Keeley Hawes). I don't need to tell you, but the twisty intrigue and sexy chemistry are both ~really good~ here. There's been widespread discussion of a second season, which I would like immediately, please and thank you.
A picture perfect soccer mom (Cush Jumbo) has a bunch of dark secrets, and they all come out when a serial killer starts killing again (Richard Armitage is in this one too, if you're a fan). This one's based on a book, if you love crime novels—but be aware the show kinda modified the ending, so you're technically getting two dramas in one.
When a total stranger confronts Adam Price and reveals a secret about his wife, it sends him spiraling down a rabbit hole as he tries to uncover the truth.
If you love your British crime with a side of sci-fi (or even if you don’t), this show is a must-watch. When a DNA researcher believes she’s found a way to genetically match you with your perfect partner, she sets up a matchmaking service to help pair people off with their soul mates. Everything seems super exciting and great, until someone turns up dead.
Any fans of Sherlock Holmes (aka the OG British crime god) will love this show—it's a totally new take on the classic Sherlock tales. It’s about a ragtag group of teens in Victorian England who come together to help a sinister Dr. Watson and his mysterious partner Sherlock Holmes solve supernatural crimes.
Out in London’s East End, the drug trade isn’t exactly hidden. And Ra’Nell, whose mother was just admitted to a mental hospital and whose father died after Ra’Nell killed him, is figuring out how to navigate it all.
Criminal is a Netflix original series that hyper-focuses on police interrogations, each set in a different country: France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. With only three episodes in each season, it’s super snackable, and each time, you get to witness three different perspectives: inside the police interrogation room, what happens behind the one-way mirror and, finally, the area outside the two rooms. Fair warning: This one will utterly mind-f*ck you.
A heartbreaking drama-slash-thriller about a dad whose daughter disappears in what is supposed to be a gated, secure neighborhood. As he desperately searches for her, he begins to realize that what he thought was safe is far from it. This is the kind of show that’ll make you question whether your roommate is actually your friend or some unhinged person trying to get close to you so they can kill your entire family.
I know what you’re thinking so I’ll just come right out and say yes, this show 100 percent lives up to all the hype (and falls under "crime" even if said crime is old-timey). Peaky Blinders will go down in history as one of the greatest things to come out of England, right next to David Beckham and the dress Pippa Middleton wore to Kate and Will’s wedding. If you haven’t heard of Peaky Blinders—either the show or the viral haircut trend—then please leave your bunker and start watching it ASAP.
Okay, so this show is both completely wild and completely thrilling. An English woman heads down to Ibiza to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her brother. White Lines is for anyone who likes murder mixed with sex, drugs, and partying. Pure escapism.
Giri/Haji follows a Tokyo policeman who travels to London to find a wanted murderer who also happens to be his brother. The Japanese-English series is a cross-cultural story that combines cops and family drama in a seriously thrilling show.
If you plow through this list in order and loved The Fall, you’ll have no problem getting addicted to Marcella Backland and company. It’s another cat-and-mouse formula only with more baggage and blackouts that make it hard to separate reality from what’s going on inside Marcella’s head.
Fans of Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones can breathe a sigh of relief: There is life beyond Dorne, and that life exists in the fictional town of Woodmere. Actress Indira Varma plays Detective Sergeant Nina Suresh, who is tasked with solving the murder of a physician found stabbed in a playground.
Clear your schedule (who even has better plans anyway?) and binge Collateral: a four-part series centering on the murder of a pizza delivery driver in London. Mulligan is Kip Glaspie, an Olympic pole vaulter-turned detective. Yep, you read that right.
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