In this divisive and chaotic year of our lord, 2020, there's still at least one thing we can all agree on: British crime dramas are bloody awesome. The genre surged in popularity in the U.S. over the past few years thanks in part to Peaky Blinders, the BBC original series about a notorious 20th century English street gang that combines strong writing, a thrilling storyline, and cast members that all look (and sound) like Cillian Murphy.
And 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 Bodyguard starring Richard Madden, but if you haven't, you can thank me later for introducing you two. But it's more than just beautiful, emotionally reserved men and their sexy posh accents that make British crime dramas a must. The shows are genuinely well-written, packed with smart dialogue and multi-dimensional, gripping plot lines. Not to throw shade, but British crime shows make Law and Order SVU and Criminal Minds look pretty run-of-the-mill, even cheesy. (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 need more proper crime to queue up, Netflix has a ~killer~ lineup of British TV crime shows. Just don't blame me when you start using some good 'ole British banter.
Prepare for an intense and chilling ride with this Welsh drama series centered around a Detective Chief Investigator, which is just the fancy British name for a head detective. DCI Tom Mathias escapes London and ends up on the outskirts of a town in Wales that's just as dark and gloomy as his own past.
It's pretty normal to think your family is kooky. But if anyone ever tells you that their family takes the cake in the Nuts Department, tell them to get a grip and watch Retribution. "Crazy" doesn't even BEGIN to cover it. At times, this show was so disturbing that I wanted to turn it off, but it's also so intriguing I couldn't actually bring myself to hit pause. Here's the premise: when two newlyweds are found murdered in their apartment, detectives start looking at their families for answers—and what they discover will give you the heebie-jeebies.
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 lastly, 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 crazy person trying to get close to you so they can kill your entire family.
Mark, Danny, Slade, and Pru are childhood friends haunted by a horrific incident that took place when they were kids: they were all playing together when Mark's five-year-old brother straight-up disappeared. When new info surfaces about the unsolved mystery, the four friends, now leading successful adult lives, reunite in an attempt to find out what really happened that day.
I know what you're thinking so I'll just come right out and say yes, this show 1,000% lives up to all the hype. Peaky Blinders will go down in history as one of the greatest things to come out of England, right up there 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.
Travel back in time to the East End of London circa 1889 when the notorious murderer Jack the Ripper haunted the streets. Ripper Street follows a Whitechapel detective as he tries to maintain order in an area replete with murder, brothels, and pubs. Suspenseful and menacing, the series pulls you closer to the darkness lurking in the shadows.
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
Giri/Haji follows a Tokyo policemen 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.
An exhilarating, well-edited series about a war-vet-turned-police-officer who’s assigned to protect a high-ranking British cabinet member. (Her political views are not popular among select members of the government and naturally, the system is extremely corrupt to begin with.) The show’s strength is its storyline: dramatized just enough that you’ll still go outside for fresh air once you polish off another episode—but only after triple-checking that your windows are locked. There’s also an intense soundtrack that will make your heart race.
Classic cat-and-mouse is made all the more sexy thanks to Gillian Anderson (cat) as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan (mouse) as serial killer Paul Spector. The Fall becomes dangerous the moment you find yourself drawn to Dornan’s character, in spite of his twisted tendencies. Consisting of only three short seasons, The Fall will erase Christian Grey and his Red Room from your memory.
Aka one of approximately 200 reasons why Idris Elba should be and deserves to be the next James Bond. As Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, PEOPLE Magazine’s 2018 Sexiest Man Alive tries to find balance between doing his job and fighting his demons. Prepare to be obsessed with Luther as much as Luther is obsessed with pretty much every case he encounters.
Let the soothing sounds of Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice (along with his well-conditioned hair) guide you through four seasons of Sherlock, plus one final special (a movie-length episode, really). Martin Freeman is excellent as Watson, who always seems to be one step behind, while legendary British actress Una Stubbs is just adorable as Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s landlord at 221B Baker Street.
If you're a fan of the extremely talented Olivia Colman (thanks to The Crown or The Favourite or Fleabag), then you need to start Broadchurch. This show has everything: a small town; a murder investigation following the death of a young boy; the beauty and eeriness of coastal England; and Jodie Whittaker, who’s currently the (first-ever female) doctor on Doctor Who.
Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) has a lot on her plate: the aftermath of her teenage daughter’s suicide, a divorce, a sister recovering from alcohol and heroin addiction, and oh, a kidnapping that ties everything and everyone together. You might want to turn your phone off for zero distractions during the first episode, by the way.
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, where actress Indira Varma plays Detective Sergeant Nina Suresh, who’s tasked with solving the murder of a physician found stabbed in a playground.
Clear your schedule (who even have plans these days, anyways?) 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.
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