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15 Best British Crime Dramas of All Time

July 29, 2018
7 min read

Crime is one of the most popular genres of TV shows. These shows have a lot of elements packed into one. From brooding detectives to enigmatic criminals, these shows have mystery, suspense, the thrill of the chase, and even a hint of romance, sometimes. While there are a plethora of shows that the American TV industry provides to its viewers, worldwide, the charm of British shows is steadily capturing an increasing number of audience. These shows come with a fresh approach, a fresh story and a fresh set of complicated characters. Also, you can’t deny the fact that British villains are more fun to watch, because while they are ruthless killers, they are also very polite people (looking at you, Jim Moriarty)!

The best thing about British shows is that they never stretch their stories unnecessarily. Okay, yeah ‘Doctor Who’ has been about for a while now, but that’s an exception. The stories are concentrated and effective. Every little detail is important and you’ll find no redundancies in them, generally. Here’s the list of top British crime drama TV series ever. You can watch some of these British crime dramas on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

 

15. Shetland (2013- present)

Set in the town of Shetland, this show follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and his partner Detective Sergeant Alison Macintosh as they try to solve various cases in their town. It has complex plotting that develops in a gripping way with the characters that grow on you. It could seem a bit slow, but patience is a virtue, and you will be rewarded for it.

 

14. Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

This show might be old, but it is still one of the popular ones. While most shows on this list follow a story that builds up over the seasons to deliver complicated storylines, this one has a bit simpler approach. Every episode involves a new case that doesn’t extend to the next episode. This is a similar pattern to the American shows, so starting from this can be a good choice. With two spin-offs, ‘Inspector Morse’ has a lot of intricate cases to offer.

 

13. Whitechapel (2009-2013)

The Whitechapel district of London is haunted by a killer who is committing gruesome murders in the imitation of Jack the Ripper. Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler and Detective Sergeant Ray Miles have to incorporate the help of Edward Buchan, a historical advisor, to study the methods of this killer and catch him. This show not only provides you with some gripping crime tales, it also helps you learn some history!

 

12. Endeavour (2012-present)

This show is a prequel to another popular British show, ‘Inspector Morse’. It is set in the 1960s and explores the early days of the Endeavour Morse. While its predecessor had a simpler approach, this show followed in the footsteps of its contemporary shows and featured a more character-centric, complicated storyline.

 

11. Vera (2011- present)

Initially based on the book of the same name, this show evolved out of its original content. It follows Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, as she tries to solve cases with her sergeants, Joe Ashworth and Aiden Healy. While Vera seems rather unorganised and a person of unkempt appearance, she has a shrewd intellect that helps her solve difficult cases. For her, work is above all in life, and while this approach of her helps her professionally, it creates problems for her personal life.

 

10. Inspector George Gently (2007-2017)

Deriving inspiration from the novels written by Alan Hunter, this show is set in the 1960s England. Inspector George Gently has been inching towards retirement and he looks forward to it. However, when the murderer of his wife comes back to town, Gently decides to take him down as his last case. He employs the help of the young Detective Sergeant John Bacchus, who is a headstrong person but needs to learn a lot.

 

9. Miss Marple (1984-1992)

Based on the novels of crime-queen Agatha Christie, this show follows the adventures of the famous detective, Miss Marple. Deriving content from the various stories of Christie, this show tried to remain true to its source and became one of the faithful adaptations. While contemporary crime dramas have brought out a new breed of ingenious, dashing detectives, this one goes back to the basics of cracking cases, like Christie did in her novels.

 

8. Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013)

Another famous sleuth of Christie’s design without whom the list of best detectives would be incomplete takes centre-stage in this adaptation of the novels written by Christie. If you haven’t read Christie’s works (which is an utter shame), this show will bring you up to speed with every work of hers that featured Poirot. A bunch of exciting cases and a suave detective solving them is what this show is all about.

 

7. Happy Valley (2014- present)

It has been eight years since Catherine Cawood’s daughter killed herself. She is still struggling to come to terms with her loss while taking care of her late daughter’s son. When the man responsible for her daughter’s death is released from prison, Catherine decides to confront him. But, unbeknownst to her, something else is happening that will change everything for her.

 

6. The Fall (2013-2016)

So, you liked ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and love Jamie Dornan but can’t defend your preferences in front of the people who just find it weird. Well, I can’t say about ‘Fifty Shades’ but you can definitely make a case for Dornan. This show follows the life of a serial killer who roams the streets of Belfast and the detective who tries to catch him. While the killer explores the more normal parts, the ones where he is a father and a husband, of his life, the detective battles her own demons.

 

5. Luther (2010- present)

Idris Elba fans, assemble! Even if you aren’t his fan, you’ll become one after this. John Luther is a dedicated Detective Chief Inspector, but he has never been able to keep his personal and professional life apart. As the cases take a toll on his psyche, he develops an unusual relationship with a psychopath, a murderer whom he couldn’t arrest due to the lack of evidence.

 

4. River (2015)

When his colleague is murdered, Detective Inspector John River vows to catch the one who did it. However, the police department decides not to involve him in the investigation owing to his connection to the case and his close relationship with the victim due to which his mental resolve has been deteriorating. While he conducts his own investigation, River has a lot of problems waiting for him.

 

3. Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, this show tells the story of two detectives who are caught up in the murder investigation of an 11-year-old boy. While they try to pull the threads of every detail, the case gets an extensive media attention which not only interferes with their work but also raises some negative sentiments in the otherwise peaceful community.

 

2. Peaky Blinders (2013- present)

This isn’t your regular cat-and-mouse drama, but it is a crime drama, nonetheless. And one of the best ones at that! Set in the 1920s, it tells the story of the Shelby family who rises from being a small business family in Birmingham to the crime overlords. Starring Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory in the lead roles, it has a supporting cast of actors like Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody and Aidan Gillen. It is one of the best TV shows right now, and if you haven’t watched this yet, well, do it now!

 

1. Sherlock (2010- who knows when!)

The show that shot Benedict Cumberbatch to fame is a modern retelling of the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The most famous detective in the world, Sherlock Holmes, finds himself roaming the streets of modern London as he solves cases and meets new, equally menacing enemies with his partner-in-solving-crime, Dr John Watson. You’ll get to watch some ingenious cases being solved in the easiest manner, meet one of the best villains of all time (Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty is perfection, you’ll fall in love with him) and one of the best bromances on TV. ‘Sherlock’ is smart, funny, thrilling and full of amazing performances by some top-notch actors of this generation.

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