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Best crime dramas on Netflix: great detective series to watch

It’d be criminal to miss the best crime dramas on Netflix.

Best crime dramas on Netflix: great detective series to watch
Marc Chacksfield
16 September 2020

There's something cathartic about watching the best crime dramas. Given true crime dramas have gripped the world in the past few years, the genre as a whole can be pretty exhausting. When you’re done debating your Adnans and Averys in Serial and Making a Murderer, it can be almost relaxing to settle down with a cuppa and some fictional Netflix detective series.

UPDATE:Criminal UK: Season 2 is available now on Netflix. The show, is an absolute delight and deserves its place in our best crime dramas on Netflix guide. Its premise is superb: it's is set pretty much entirely in an interrogation room and has a bunch of guest stars. In the second season, this includes Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington. If you haven't watched the first season yet, then we recommend it - it's one of the most original things on this list and will certainly have you gripped.

Here’s a round up of the best crime dramas on Netflix that you can watch right now. No need to wait on tenterhooks for the next episode to appear, because seriously, what kind of a person just watches one episode of a TV series anymore? Certainly not the ones going through our best Netflix TV shows article.

Few genres lend themselves so readily to binge-watching as crime, by virtue of the fact that there’s a mystery to be solved and therefore a reason that you have to get to the end right now.

Here are some crime shows that should be eating up all your weekends for the foreseeable future, or if you’re looking for something else, make sure to check our guide to thebest sci-fi TV series and best Marvel movies.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

Best Netflix crime dramas

1. Mindhunter

Watch now on Netflix

This show has a novel premise, with two FBI agents from the bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit interviewing a laundry list of real-life and well-known serial killers in order to try to find out what’s going through their heads. We’ve already seen portrayals of the likes of Ed Kemper and Montie Rissell, while the upcoming second season is expected to introduce audiences to Charles Manson and, according to some rumours, David Berkowitz.

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When Sherlock launched in 2010 it immediately had the feeling of a show that would be beloved for years, as if it had already been around for decades but we’d only just noticed. Even once you know how all the crimes were committed it still bears repeat viewing for the beautifully drawn friendship between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

More ways to watch: Series 1 -4 Boxset at Amazon on Blu-ray | DVD

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Best Netflix crime dramas

3. Breaking Bad

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Obviously. We’re not going to berate you if you haven’t seen it yet, but you know you’ve got a treat in store when you do get round to it, and that you’re probably going to have to cancel all your plans until you’ve finished it.

More ways to watch: The Complete Series on DVD | Blu-ray | Digital Download

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One of the best British crime thrillers of recent years, with Idris Elba playing the growling Detective Chief Inspector who blurs the lines between right and wrong in order to get the job done. As the series develops, the crimes stretch across multiple episodes and the complications of Luther’s life become ever more tangled, making it almost impossible to watch just one episode.

More ways to watch: Series 1 -5 on DVD | Blu-ray | Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

5. Peaky Blinders

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If Gangs of New York had a sequel and that sequel was set in Birmingham, this is what it would be. An absolute British triumph of television starring Cillian Murphy as crime boss Tommy Shelby as he runs rackets post World War I with his flat-capped gang, The Peaky Blinders. Notable appearances from Sam Neill other big names couple together to make it one of the best things the BBC has made in years.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1-4 on DVD | Blu-ray | Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

6. The Sinner

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The Sinner upends the classic crime show format by showing the bloody murder – and who did it – from the get-go. Instead, we spend a fascinating season investigating why the crime was committed in the first place. Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman put in totally pitch-perfect performances and we now have a second season to enjoy.

More ways to watch: Season 1 on DVD | Seasons 1 -3 on Digital download

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Slotting straight into the same universe as the original Cohen Brothers film, Fargo is a charming (and bloody) indie-fied crime series for the coffee house generation. All ironic jumpers, funny characterisations, suspense and Billy Bob Thornton sporting the worst haircut of his career. Essential viewing for anybody with eyeballs. Three seasons are now available on Netflix.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1-2 DVD | Blu-ray | Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

8. Happy Valley

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Across two seasons, police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) grapples with the seedy, drug-plagued communities of West Yorkshire while dealing with her alcoholic sister and the suicide of her daughter. But, as if she hasn’t got enough to deal with, things soon take an even darker turn for her family. Lancashire won a BAFTA for her stunning performance. And season three is incoming.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1 -2 on DVD | Blu-ray | Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

9. Unbelievable

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Based on true events, the series follows a young woman (Kaitlyn Dever) accused of lying to the police about a rape, and two detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) who begin to find the truth as they investigate a spate of similar attacks. It's not the easiest watch and it will almost certainly make you cry and shout with frustration, but it's compelling storytelling of the treatment of sexual assault victims, with all twists and turns you expect from a true crime drama. There are eight episodes in total, each lasting approx. 50 minutes.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

10. Better Call Saul

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OK, so it might not have the same edge-of-your-seat discomfort as Breaking Bad but the televisual return of Saul Goodman definitely has its own weight. Charting the rise (ok, flatline) of Walter White’s future lawyer from morally challenged good guy to hustlin’ legal trickster, it’s a modern classic in its own right. The fifth season of the show is now on Netflix, so get bingeing!

More ways to watch: Seasons 1 - 3 DVD | All seasons Digital download

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In its third thrilling season - with a separate Narcos: Mexico drama to boot - now is the perfect time to watch José Padilha’s series about the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Filmed in Colombia and following Escobar’s life from 1970 to 1992, there’s plenty of action in this true-to-life account. The show even includes real archival footage of the era for an extra (frighteningly) realistic feel.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1 - 3 on DVD | Blu-ray

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Best Netflix crime dramas

12. Manhunt: Unabomber

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You might already be familiar with the infamous hunt for the Unabomber, who carried out a number of bombings from 1978 onwards. Whatever you know about the case, though, it’s well worth checking out this fictionalised account of the search, which stars Paul Bettany as the terrorist and Sam Worthington as Jim Fitzgerald, a real FBI agent involved in the case. The miniseries includes just eight 45-minute episodes, so you should be able to binge your way through it in no time at all.

More ways to watch: DVD | Blu-ray

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When the premise of Ozark was revealed - Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star as as a married couple who have to relocate their family to the Ozarks after a money laundering scheme goes awry - everyone thought the show was just going to be Breaking Bad lite, but after three seasons it is much more than that. Fantastic acting and bags of tension make this one of the best things on Netflix right now.

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Dark quickly transcends the crime genre and morphs into a freaky, truly scary, brain-expanding exploration of time and space. But it keeps at its core a gripping mystery of kids that keep disappearing from a small town. Watch in German but with English subtitles – the English dubbing is a bit naff.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

15. White Collar

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As slick as crime shows get, this stars Matt Bomer as a high class conman who makes a deal with the FBI after he breaks out of prison and is recaptured. He suggests that he uses his considerable devious skills to help his captors bag bigger fish in return for a life lived on the outside. The pleasure is in never being sure who’s tricking whom.

More ways to watch: The Complete Series DVD | Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

16. Hannibal

Available now on Netflix
Watch now on Netflix

A smart – and at times very, very dark – reworking of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon does the impossible: turns Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter back from a pantomime villain into a legitimately scary monster. It doesn’t rush to trade off the more familiar elements from the book or previous movies, instead using a “killer of the week” procedural format to develop the relationship between the psychotic Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and possibly psychotic FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Tasty.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1 - 3 DVD | Blu-ray | HD Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

17. The Stranger

Watch now on Netflix

British crime drama is usually seen on the Beeb and ITV, so it's great to see Netflix try its had at Brit crime and this one is a corker. When a stranger enters the life of Adam Price, something is revealed about his wife that turns his life upside down. This is a twisty, turny thriller that gets a little confusing but is a lot of fun.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

18. Criminal: UK

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It may not have been out long but this Netflix Original is an instant hit. Set in within the four walls of an interrogation room, London investigators go after three suspects, each accused of some pretty horrific crimes. It’s packed full of Britain’s best including David Tennant, Hayley Atwell, Lee Ingleby (Luther, Line of Duty), Rochenda Sandall (Line of Duty, Bandersnatch) and playing the big boss Katherine Kelly. If three episodes isn’t enough for you, there are nine more episodes set across France, Germany and Spain - each with different casts and storylines.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

19. Don't F*ck with Cats

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You don't want to miss this. It is one of the strangest tales to ever hit Netflix and is the true story of a cat killer and how trying to figure out who this person is, another huge revelation is revealed. We don't want to spoil this one, but if you want a compelling watch then this is for you.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

20. Sons of Anarchy

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A series that follows an outlaw biker gang as they run guns, drugs and shoot their way through rival gangs like there’s no tomorrow and Scarface never existed. The whole thing is based around Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which, let’s face, it is a bona fide classic. Throw in motorbikes and more Mexican stand-off situations than you could throw a sombrero at and you’ve got some seriously addictive telly. We’re even set to get a spinoff soon, in the form of Mayans MC.

More ways to watch: Complete Seasons DVD | Blu-ray | HD Digital Download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

21. Money Heist

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Originally set to be just a two-part series, this fevered Spanish crime thriller has ballooned into four parts on Netflix, each part comprising 10 or more so episodes. The plot is simple but very effective: the Professor has plans to pull off some of the most audacious heists in history, recruiting eight people to help him do this. It's fantastic fun.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

22. Whitechapel

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What better subject matter for a crime series than the greatest unsolved murder case of all time – Jack the Ripper? This time though, detectives pursue a Ripper copycat killer in modern-day London. It’s gritty, gripping stuff, and likely to make you a mini Ripper expert as you watch. The second series focuses on a copycat of the Krays’ grisly crimes, while the third series recreates the Ratcliff highway murders. It’s nice to get a bit of a history lesson with your crime.

More ways to watch: Complete Collection DVD | Digital Download

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Safe is a cracking British thriller with a stellar cast. Dexter's Michael C Hall is Tom a widowed surgeon who lives a peaceful life until his eldest daughter goes missing. Over the episodes we find out that the rich neighbourhood he lives in is not quite what is seems.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

24. When They See US

Stream now (Netflix)

Co-written and directed by Ava DuVernay, When They See Us is a powerful dramatised account of the true story of five teens from Harlem who are falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park, New York. Over four episodes we see in detail how an accusation like this can change the lives of people, thanks to a flawed justice system.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

25. How To Get Away With Murder

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There's 5 seasons of How To Get Away With Murder on Netflix. The sixth and final season has just concluded so we're hoping it'll head to Netflix soon. This is a great crime series focused on a law professor who, with five of her students, becomes involved in a murder plot. Yes, it's melodramatic and soapy at times but Viola Davis is just stunning as Annalise Keating, the ruthless lawyer.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

26. The People Vs OJ Simpson

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Both this and the terrific The Assassination of Gianni Versace are streaming on Netflix and make up the first two seasons of American Crime Story. Cuba Gooding Jnr is fantastic as Simpson but the show is packed with great performances - it's melodramatic, yes, but still gripping stuff. Versace is the darker of the two seasons but still a compelling watch.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

27. Undercover

Watch now on Netflix

Undercover follows stellar British lawyer Maya Cobbina (Sophie Okonedo) as she fights to save the life of a man on death row in the States. But the real drama is about to explode back home when something about her husband’s past is revealed. Come for the gripping plot, stay for Okonedo’s out-of-this-world performance.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

28. Orange Is The New Black

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The US doesn’t need John Oliver to dictate the failings of its penal system for comedic effect – no, it already has Orange Is The New Black, the pitch black comedy based on the experiences of Piper Kerman and her memoir about living for a year in a women’s prison. The episodes just get better and better and with season six now added there’s no excuse for missing out on this show.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1-4 DVD | Blu-ray | HD Digital download

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Best Netflix crime dramas

29. White Lines

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White Lines escalates to a point where you'll probably start laughing at its audacity, but it's a fun watch about criminal goings on in Ibiza. It's made by the same creator of Money Heist, so if you like that show style then you are going to be right at home here.

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Best Netflix crime dramas

30. Hinterland

Watch now on Netflix

This noir detective drama has actually been made twice - one with Welsh dialogue and once with English. The latter is on Netflix, and it follows the story of a troubled detective on the run from his London past. With murders and small town secrets a-plenty, it’s an incredibly gripping show that doesn’t lose its human element.

More ways to watch: Seasons 1 - 3 DVD

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