The 10 Best British Crime Dramas to Watch on Netflix

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

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.

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.

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.

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…

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 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 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.

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