15 British crime thrillers you need to see
One of the most popular genres of TV shows in the UK is classic British crime fiction. This should come as no surprise to fans of the mystery genre. Not only is Sherlock Holmes a purely British invention, but Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time with her British mysteries, in which both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple solve seemingly unsolvable crimes. From these origins, the history of British television is filled with examples of the popular genre, with detectives of all ages solving everything from crime fiction to locked room cases.
It’s hard to get enough of British charm on TV. And when that charm is carried over to the world of crime fiction, things get a whole lot more interesting. The studios were quick to recognize audiences’ enthusiasm for the genre and the result has been a myriad of exciting and gripping television shows that tackle the subject in their own unique way. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and the British-tinged BritBox, there are so many great mystery shows to choose from, and many of them are set in the sandbox of classic British mysteries that are still popular over a century after Agatha Christie debuted novel written.
15 Poirot (1989-2013)
Agatha Christie remains the best-selling novelist of all time to this day, and it’s all thanks to her unique approach to writing characters and mysteries that even the smartest can’t quite grasp at first. And one of its most famous characters is none other than Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective known for using his brain to solve previously unsolvable crimes. Many actors have taken on the role of Poirot, but none did better than David Suchet in this television series that adapted all of Christie’s novels starring the detective. With a total of 70 episodes, fans of British crime fiction will be delighted with this series.
14 Marshall (2004-2013)
Hercule Poirot may have been the most famous character created by Agatha Christie, but he wasn’t the only detective, nor was he the only interesting and compelling one. Miss Marple also plays the role of a witty older woman in Christie’s novels who is frequently involved in crime fiction. The show maple Two actresses take on the role (Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie), each bringing their own charm and uniqueness to the character. In addition, the cases involving Miss Marple are among the most interesting and complex in the history of British crime fiction.
13 Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994)
Anyone in love with British crime fiction simply cannot live without seeing at least a few episodes of it The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. While younger viewers may have had their first encounter with the famous detective sherlock, this adaptation from the 1980s should not be missed. It relocates Holmes and Dr. Watson to the time they were created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and follows the famous duo through 41 episodes of pure hard hitting English crime stories. The series adapted 17 short stories and two novels by Doyle over its nine seasons.
12 Inspector Morse (1987–2000)
One of the longest-running series in the British crime genre is Inspector Morse, It first aired in 1987 and was only canceled in 2000, over a decade later. John Thaw’s Inspector Morse has become one of the most recognizable faces on English television for his idiosyncratic take on the character. Based on the novel series by Colin Dexter who also created the TV show, Inspector Morse is charming, exciting and absolutely British. This 12-season series is as startling as it is entertaining. The show even had two spin-off series with it Lewis (2006-2015) and Make an effort (2012-2013).
11 Miss Fisher’s Mystery Murder Cases (2012–2015)
The character of Miss Fisher may not be as instantly recognizable as Hercule Poirot or as well known as Sherlock Holmes. However, she is one of the most interesting and well-crafted female detective characters ever to appear in a British crime series. Miss Fisher’s Crime Fiction Set in the 1920s, Miss Fisher follows her journey through life fighting for what is just and good and taking down bad guys. Even though the film only lasted three seasons and ended in 2015, fans loved the character enough to justify the 2020 feature film. Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.
10 Ripper Street (2012-2016)
With an impressive 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Ripper Street and its great ending is a must for fans of British crime fiction. The story takes place in 1889, after Jack the Ripper went on a rampage. In such disheartening times it seems impossible to instill a sense of law and order in this part of East London. The main protagonist of the story is the real-life Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (played by pride and Prejudiceis Matthew Macfadyen), who was at the head of H Division in Whitechapel after the Ripper murders.
9 Death in Paradise (2011-)
In 2011, Scotland Yard DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) began investigating a series of murders on the Caribbean island of Sainte Marie. He hates all things sand, sea and tropics, which serves as the simple comedic backdrop for this British crime series. Poole was killed in season three, only to be replaced by fellow homicide detective Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall). Goodman also left the series and was again replaced in season six by DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon), who has since taken over as series executive.
8th Sherlock (2010-2017)
Benedict Cumberbatch’s most famous role apart from that Doctor Strange, came from his main appearance on the show sherlock. It’s the same British crime thrillers that have always followed the fictional Sherlock Holmes, only this time his crime-solving skills are put to good use in modern times. The show ran from 2010 to 2017 and won numerous awards and nominations over that time. Cumberbatch will be joined by other high-profile actors including Martin Freeman, who plays his right-hand man, Doctor John Watson, on the series.
7 River (2015)
Stream now on BritBox and AMC+
Stellan Skarsgård leads the cast of the British crime series Flow. The series originally appeared as a one-off series on BBCOne in October and was released on Netflix in November 2015. Skarsgård takes on the role of Detective Inspector John River, a man plagued by a string of murder victims, but this challenges his sanity that he is an accomplished investigator. The show explores the crime drama aspects of the murders, but primarily personal tragedies that tap into the audience’s emotions and fears.
6 Midsomer Murders (1997-)
Midsomer Murders was a popular British crime series that premiered in the late 1990s. The story is set in the modern fictional county of Midsomer, where detective Tom Barnaby and his young apprentice work tirelessly to solve the local murders. Actor John Nettles took on the lead role of DI Barnaby before retiring in 2011. To keep the show going, Barnaby’s cousin John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) took on the lead role as Midsomer County’s DCI. The show has enjoyed continued success despite this change, having aired 23 seasons to date.
5 Happy Valley (2014–2023)
Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) takes her role seriously as she patrols the streets of West Yorkshire. In the first season, Catherine tries to mend the fragments of her life after her daughter’s suicide and divorce from her husband, along with her obsession with a recently released prisoner, Tommy Lee Royce, who is responsible for her daughter’s rape . happy valley ended with three seasons in which Catherine’s life and Royce’s continued to be intertwined and the detective investigates human trafficking and other murders linked to her nemesis just as she nears retirement age
4 Vera (2011- )
DCI Vera Stanhope and her team of investigators work to solve a series of murders across the Northumberland region vera. The British crime drama relies heavily on Vera’s wit and dour charm to balance the ruthless storylines of the relentless killers in her sphere of responsibility. She has a take-no-prisoners attitude and is exceptionally smart, which makes actress Brenda Blethyn’s character all the more intriguing. This ongoing series has seasons consisting mostly of four episodes, although season 11 had six, making each crime thriller a breeze to watch.
3 Broadchurch (2013-2017)
Stream now on PBS Masterpiece
The British crime drama Broadchurch ran for three seasons until 2017. In the English town of Dorset, DIs Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller work together to solve a murder each. The ensemble cast consists of Doctor WhoDavid Tennant and Oscar winner Olivia Colman are the two main characters, other actors are Jodie Whittaker and Arthur Darvill. Each season consisted of eight episodes, each focusing on a single crime across the three seasons, as the series also shows how those crimes can impact investigators on the case.
2 Luther (2010-2019)
Stream on BritBox & Hoopla now
John Luther, played by Idris Elba, is a genius detective with the UK’s Serious Crime Unit. Luther’s brilliance sometimes causes him to think on par with the criminals he is investigating, which often contributes to his own violent tendencies. Luther’s character is obsessed with critics, so his job as a homicide detective takes precedence over everything else in his life, including personal relationships. The show had an incredible success after it first aired in 2010 and almost 6 million people tuned in Luther for each episode. The series ended after five seasons, although a Luther The film came back again in 2023 with Elba.
1 Unforgotten (2015-)
Stream on Prime Video now
London detectives dig through cold case files in this British crime series. unforgettable is a three series TV show starring Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan. The two specialize in murder and disappearance cases long forgotten by the public but actively solved with their determination. Each season there is a new case. The first four seasons also deal with Cassie’s personal life and her difficulties in balancing family and work. However, Walker left the show after season four and was replaced by Sinéad Keenan as DCI Jessica “Jessie” James.
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