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11 Best British Crime Dramas, Ranked — Sure to Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat

From World War I intrigue to crime-solving priests to island murders, this list has it all!

Crime dramas always make for captivating viewing, and there’s something particularly intriguing about a British take on the genre. These shows are perfect for binge watching, since British series typically have shorter seasons than their American counterparts, and they’re all filled with evocative cinematography, powerhouse performances and fascinating stories that will keep you guessing.

Whether you’re looking for a classy period mystery or a taut modern-day thriller, you’re sure to find a show worth watching on our ranked list of the best British crime dramas.

11. Endeavour (2012 — 2023)

British crime drama, Endeavour, promotional photo, 2022
Roger Allam and Shaun Evans in Endeavour (2022)Mammoth Screen/Masterpiece/ITV Studios/MoviestillsDB

A prequel to the long-running series Inspector Morse, Endeavour takes place in the mid ’60s and early ’70s. The show follows a young Endeavour Morse (played by Shaun Evans — and yes, Endeavour is the character’s actual first name! ), who has left Oxford University to become a detective constable. 

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Working alongside his senior partner, detective Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), Morse takes on a number of captivating investigations around Oxford. Each episode of the mystery series runs 90 minutes, meaning you can really lose yourself in its twisty period plots.

Watch Endeavour on Amazon Prime now.

10. Father Brown (2013 — present)

In the early ’50s, Father Brown (Mark Williams), a Roman Catholic priest, uses his distinctive skills to solve various crimes — mostly murders that happen in his idyllic town. This long-running crime drama was just renewed for an eleventh season.

Williams’ performance as the mild-mannered priest with keen intellect and a wry sense of humor makes the show a must-watch. While the priest solves mysteries, his habit of offering advice and finding clues annoys the local police inspector. He still does his priestly duties: In every episode he tells the perpetrator that they need to repent for their sins.

Watch Father Brown on Amazon Prime now.

9. Vera  (2011 — present)

Brenda Blethyn in British crime drama, Vera, 2022
Brenda Blethyn in Vera (2022)Silverprint Pictures/ITV Studios/MoviestillsDB

This British crime series is based on the Vera Stanhope novels by Ann Cleeves and stars veteran actress Brenda Blethyn as Vera, a nearly-retired detective chief inspector.

Blethyn is a treat to watch as the scruffy inspector who obsesses over solving each murder, picking up small clues her team might have missed along the way. The settings throughout North East England are beautiful, and you can almost feel the bitter cold when the wind whistles by Vera’s well-worn raincoat (or as the Brits would say, her mac!) and hat.

Watch Vera on Amazon Prime now.

8. The Missing (2014 — 2016)

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare — your child has gone missing. Such is the premise of this British drama series. In season one, Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) loses his five-year old son on their way to a soccer game in France. He blames himself and becomes obsessed with finding out the fate of his missing child.

After eight long years of dedicating every waking hour to finding answers, new evidence comes to the forefront and the high-stakes series has plenty of twists and turns. As an anthology series, season two of The Missing features a different story and all-new characters.

Watch The Missing on The Roku Channel now.

7. Midsomer Murders (1997 — present)

This detective series has been running continuously since 1997, albeit with some cast changes in 2011. Detective John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon), is called upon to find clues and solve grotesque murders in the picturesque towns within the fictional English county of Midsomer.

While the subject matter is dark, Midsomer Murders stands apart from other crime shows thanks to its moments of quirky humor.

Watch Midsomer Murders on The Roku Channel now.

6. Unforgotten (2015 — present)

Unforgotten is a mystery centered on investigators trying to unravel years of lies and cover-ups of cold cases. Detective Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and her partner, Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhjaskar) face the challenges of seeing how much those being investigated have changed over time and learning what they’re willing to risk for telling the truth now — sometimes 40 years after the crime was committed.   

Watch Unforgotten on Amazon Prime now.

5. Red Riding (2009)

This three-part series set between 1974 and 1983 explores the Yorkshire Ripper Killings, wherein a serial killer stalked Yorkshire, England.

The series blends elements of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory into a story with film noir elements. There are no neat solutions, and at times the show can get quite violent as it dramatizes the harrowing events.

Watch Red Riding on Amazon Prime now.

4. Death in Paradise (2011 — present)

Kris Marshall in Death in Paradise, 2015
Kris Marshall in Death in Paradise (2015) best British crime dramasBBC/Red Planet Pictures/iPlayer/MoviestillsDB

Longing for a vacation but can’t get away? Then settle in for a few episodes of Death in Paradise. The series follows a London Metro Police officer who is transferred to a Caribbean island to investigate and solve complex murders.

Different officers rotate in over the course of 12 seasons, which helps keep things interesting, and the show gives an intriguing look at the dark side of island life, with a winning mix of drama and humor.

Watch Death in Paradise on Amazon Prime now.

3. Annika (2021 — present)

Annika is based on a popular series of BBC radio dramas. Nicola Walker (who also stars in Unforgotten) stars in both the radio show and the current crime series.

The show follows the witty and enigmatic detective Annika Strandhed, who is heading up the newly formed Glasgow-based Marine Homicide Unit. As she investigates eerie murder cases, she breaks the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience about her perspective. This aspect of the show sets it apart from the typical procedural.

Watch Annika on Amazon Prime now.

2. The Night Manager (2016)

British author John le Carré is an icon of the mystery genre. The Night Manager is an international spy story about Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston, best-known as the Marvel Universe villain Loki), an Englishman working as a night manager at a luxury hotel in Cairo.

Pine gets involved with a local woman, but it turns out she’s a gangster’s girlfriend and she ultimately gets murdered. Fearing for his own life, Pine escapes and ends up working at a remote Swiss hotel. Things don’t go too smoothly there either, as Pine is recruited by the British Foreign Office and assigned to investigate illegal arms trading. The dangerous game of cat and mouse boasts an outstanding cast also including Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman

Watch The Night Manager on The Roku Channel now.

1. Peaky Blinders (2013 — 2022)

Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders, 2019
Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders (2019) best British crime dramasBBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions/Tiger Aspect Productions/Screen Yorkshire/MoviestillsDB

Peaky Blinders takes place in the aftermath of World War I. Inspired by true events, it follows the exploits of the Peaky Blinders gang, and reveals the dramatic story of the ambitious, shrewd crime boss Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy, now best-known as the star of Oppenheimer), a war veteran using his influence in the organized crime world to carve out a better life for his family.  

Watch Peaky Blinders on Netflix now.

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