Your Must Watch Guide To European & British Crime Drama
The United Kingdom, Irish and Europeans have been absolutely crushing and I mean CRUSHING the crime drama genre for a little while now. The good news is that people around the world are starting to take notice. It may have started to take off with Luther, but the crime drama genre runs much deeper and there is a wealth or excellent content.
What is not included? The list tried to stick to shows made after 2005. So shows are easy for you to find and watch (many should be available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes etc). Prime Suspect, for example, is not included even though it is a great show.
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Happy Valley (BBC)
Starring: Sarah Lancashire, James Norton & Steve Pemberton.
After a staged kidnapping spirals into a string of brutal crimes. Rural Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood tries track down those responsible, but is distracted by feelings of anger and revenge after the man who shattered her family returns to town.
Summary: Realistic, British, policing, pure crime drama, full season arc.
Line of Duty (BBC)
Starring: Martin Compston, Vicki McClure & Adrian Dunbar.
DS Steve Arnott is transferred to the police anti-corruption unit AC-12. The team investigate a wrongful shooting during a counter-terrorism operation that leads a popular and highly successful police unit to be suspected of corrupt practises.
Summary: Realistic, British, anti corruption, pure crime drama, full season arc.
DCI Banks (ITV)
Starring: Stephen Tompkinson, Jack Deam, Andrea Lowe & Caroline Catz.
DCI Banks is a stubborn dog with a bone type detective. He investigates the most brutal and disturbing murders aided by his young assistants DS Annie Cabbot and DI Helen Morton.
Summary: Based on a novel, 2 episode arc, British, crime drama, police detective .
Starring: Idris Elba, Steven Mackintosh & Ruth Wilson.
Luther is an obsessive, highly intelligent and sometimes violent police detective in the Serious Crime Unit. The passion and obsession that drive him to solve the crime. Also come with the heavy personal burden of not being able to prevent himself from being consumed by the darkness that surrounds him.
Summary: Pure crime drama, British, mental illness, full season arc.
Starring: Olafur Darri Ólafsson, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir & Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson.
In an isolated town in Iceland. A body turns up when tourist ship docks at the towns pier. The small three deep police force desperately try to solve the murder as a powerful storm descends upon the town.
Trapped is one of the most stand out crime dramas in recent years. The Icelandic weather and isolation adds a another interesting dimension to the story.
Summary: Icelandic, slow burn, crime drama, prominent weather, full season arc.
Y Gwyll/Hinterland (S4C/BBC)
Starring: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, Alex Harries & Hannah Daniel.
Hinterland is set in the beautiful, yet isolated countryside of Aberystwyth, Wales. The story follows Tom Mathias, a detective searching for redemption while he and his team solve local murders.
Summary: Celtic Noir, Welsh, Welsh language, feature length episodes, one case per episode.
Inspector George Gently (BBC One)
Starring: Martin Shaw & Lee Ingleby.
Inspector George Gently and his partner Detective Sergeant John Bacchus investigate crimes around the North East of England.
Summary: Based on a novel series, feature length procedural, crime drama, British,
Starring: Nicola Walker & Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The bones of a young man are found under the footings of a demolished house. An investigation into the identity of the man 40 years on begins to expose some dark secrets in the past of four people.
Summary: Crime drama, full season arc, cold case, British.
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård & Nicola Walker.
River took somewhat of a hackneyed premise and made it something original. The story follows police inspector John River. A man whose mind is both brilliant and fragile. He is haunted by the victims of his unsolved murder cases that he must try and lay to rest.
Summary: Mini-series, crime drama, quirky, mental illness, one case per episode and one special cold case in full season arc.
The Killing/Forbrydelsen (DR1)
Starring: Sofie Gråbøl & Søren Dyrberg Malling.
Sarah Lund is on her last day in the Copenhagen police force. She is set to move to Sweden to join her fiancé in the Swedish police force until a young girl is found raped and brutally murdered. She leads the team and partners with her replacement Jan Meyer. The investigation leads down a rabbit hole causing both personal and political consequences.
U.S remake also available. Called “The Killing” and was very well done.
Summary: Crime drama, Danish, full season arc.
Starring: David Tennant & Olivia Coleman.
Broadchurch follows recently transferred detective Alec Hardy and independent local copper Ellie Miller as they search for the killer of a young local boy. The once friendly and quaint town begins to reveal some dark secrets as the media swoop on the news of the murdered boy.
Summary: British, coastal town, full season arc.
Code of a Killer (ITV)
Starring: John Simm & David Threlfall.
Based on the true story of Alec Jeffreys’ discovery DNA fingerprinting. Set in 1984, DCS David Baker investigates two brutal murders of young Leicestershire school girls. Convinced the killer is local, DCS Baker enlists the help of scientist Alec Jefferys to use his groundbreaking DNA technique and catch the killer.
Summary: British, based on a true story, DNA fingerprinting, crime history, biographical, mini-series, 2 feature length episodes.
Inspector Lewis (ITV)
Starring: Kevin Whately & Laurence Fox.
Inspector Lewis is a spin-off of the Inspector Morse series. Inspector Lewis was once a sergeant to Inspector Morse but has been promoted to Detective Inspector. Lewis and his assistant DS James Hathaway solve crimes in the Oxford area.
Summary: British, spin-off, feature length episodes, pure crime drama.
Scott & Bailey (ITV)
Starring: Suranne Jones & Lesley Sharp.
Follows two female detectives in the Manchester police department. Rachel, brilliant but emotionally immature young detective and Janet, a motherly detective who constantly gets drawn into Rachel’s problems. Main writer was Sally Wainwright, one of the strongest writers in the crime/drama genre also known for being the creator/writer for Happy Valley.
Summary: British, full season arc, policing, female leads.
Starring: Brenda Anne Blethyn, David Leon, Kenny Doughty & Jon Morrison.
Quick-witted Vera Stanhope is obsessive about her work. She is the Chief Inspector at the Northumberland & City Police. Vera and her trusted right hand man DS Joe Ashworth solve murders against a breathtaking landscape.
Summary: British, female lead, procedural, crime drama.
Starring: Anna Friel, Nicholas Pinnock & Sinéad Cusack.
A former London detective Marcella Backland is devastated after her husband leaves her. Marcella returns to the job after she is visited by a senior detective looking for details on a new murder that resembles a case she worked 11 years previous.
Summary: British, crime noir, female lead, full season arc.
Chasing Shadows (ITV)
Starring: Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston & Noel Clarke.
A socially awkward detective named Sean Stone is relegated to the missing persons unit after his social skills get him in to trouble with his colleagues. His brilliant mind turns out to be perfect for the role as his pattern recognition skills are second to none. He and his new partner Ruth investigate the most likely missing persons that would be targeted by killers.
Summary: British, missing persons unit, two episode arc.
Starring: Kenneth Branagh.
Detective Kurt Wallander is an existential cop who feels a deep empathy for the victims of murders he investigates. But this empathy means that his personal life and welfare are damaged in the process.
Wallander is a remake of swedish series of the same name.
Summary: British crime drama, remake, feature length episode, based on a novel, swedish town.
Foyle’s War (ITV)
Starring: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks & Anthony Howell.
With World War II raging around him. DCS Christopher Foyle investigates crime on the home front around the Sussex area.
Summary: British, war time crime drama, feature length episodes.
Shetland (BBC Scotland)
Starring: Douglas Henshall, Steven Robertson & Alison O’Donnell.
Based on the novel Red Bones by Ann Cleeves. Shetland follows DI Jimmy Perez as he investigates crime in a close knit community. Set against the stunning Scottish archipelago of Shetland .
Summary: Based on a novel, Scottish, two episode arcs, crime drama, mystery.
The Shadow Line (BBC)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejifor, Christopher Eccleston & Antony Sher.
The Shadow Line looks at the different angles used by police and criminals as they both try to figure out who killed crime boss.
Summary: Mini-series, police & criminal angles, British, full season arc.
Criminal Justice (BBC)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Pete Postlethwaite & Con O’Neill.
A young man named Ben gets side tracked on his way to a party by a young women. He is more of a conservative shy type but is enamoured by this mysterious women. They end up going home together and and Ben passes out in the kitchen. When he goes to leave he goes back upstairs to gather his things and finds the young women dead. He flees but is quickly arrested. Before he knows it he is on trial for murder with no recollection of the night in question.
Criminal Justice is the series that HBO’s The Night Of is based on.
Summary: Legal system, British, full season arc,
I am the target text.
What Remains (BBC)
Starring: David Threlfall, Denise Gough & Jessica Gunning .
The body of a women is found after a young couple move in their new house. She had been missing for two years without it being reported leading to further investigation. After his colleagues close the case as a suicide, newly retired detective Len Harper continues to investigate.
Summary: Mini-series, 1hour episodes, British, full season arc.
Starring: James Purefoy, Dervla Kirwan, Charlie Creed-Miles& Nathaniel Parker.
Barrister Will Travers leaves his high powered job after a series of traumatic events. After an old friend is accused of murder Will must decide whether he can go back and face his demons.
Summary: 5 part series, law, British, full season arc.
Fortitude (Sky Atlantic)
Starring: Sofie Gråbøl,Luke Treadaway, Mia Jexen, Richard Dormer & Stanley Tucci.
Fortitude is a tiny international community set on the edge of the Arctic Circle. There has never been any violent crime in the area until now.
Summary: Thriller, mystery, arctic, prominent weather, full season arc.
Follow the Money/Bedrag (BBC)
Starring: Thomas Bo Larsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Esben Smed Jensen & Natalie Madueño.
A renewable energy company called Evergreen is being investigated after an illegal worker dies in some suspicious circumstances.
Summary: Danish, conspiracy, crime thriller, full season arc.
Starring: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Joseph Malerba & Karole Rocher.
A police officer named Max is wrongly accused of criminal misconduct leading to his suicide. The suicide leads everyone to believe that Max was guilty causing the lives of his four colleagues to be turned upside down. The four do whatever that can, legal or illegal to clear Max’s name.
Braqou has been dubbed the French shield.
Summary: Police, French, full season arc.
Starring: Peter Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, David Oyelowo & Hugh Simon.
Follows the missions of the team that work in “the grid” of Britain’s spy agency MI-5.
Summary: Spy thriller, British, full season arc.
Wire in the Blood (ITV)
Starring: Robson Green, Hermione Norris & Mark Penfold.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill helps the Major Incident Team (MIT) of Bradfield police track down serial killers using profiles he builds based on the killers behaviours.
Summary: Feature length episodes, psychological crime thriller, based on a novel.
The Fall (BBC/RTÉ One)
Starring: Gillian Anderson & Jamie Dornan.
The Fall follows two hunters, one a police officer. The other a serial killer. Stella must find Paul Gibson, a man attacking young professional women.
Summary: Cat and mouse, crime thriller, Northern Ireland, full season arc.
The Bridge/Bron (SVT1/DR1)
Starring: Sofia Helin, Kim Bodnia & Thure Lindhardt.
A body is found cut in two on a bridge that connects Denmark & Sweden. Half the body is on the Danish side and the other half on the Swedish side. The countries must put politics aside and work together find the killer.
Also see “The Tunnel” an English/French version. If you have only seen the American version of The Bridge check out Bron and The Tunnel as you have seen the worst of the three.
Summary: Political crime thriller, Denmark, Sweden, full season arc.
Starring: Caroline Proust, Grégory Fitoussi, Philippe Duclos, Thierry Godard, Audrey Fleurot & Fred Bianconi.
Follows a criminal investigation in Paris. Spiral looks at the investigation from the points of view of all involved.
Summary: Crime drama thriller, French, full season arc.
I am the target text.
Les Témoins/Witnesses (La Une/France 2)
Starring: Thierry Lhermitte, Marie Dompnie, Catherine Mouchet & Jan Hammenecke.
Police in a small coastal French town discover bodies placed in suspicious ways in a display home. The former chief of police is implicated and the murders and detectives Justin and Sandra must investigate.
Summary: Mini-series, French, crime drama noir, full season arc.
Life on Mars (BBC)
Starring: John Simm, Philip Glenister & Liz White.
After being hit by a car in 2006, Sam Tyler wakes up in 1973. He finds himself working in the same job in the same place but three decades earlier. His 21st century attitudes make it difficult for him to fit into the force in the 70’s.
Summary: British, 1970s policing, crime drama/mystery, procedural with arc.
For more 70’s Shows check out, 5 Upcoming TV Shows Set In The 70’s.
Ashes to Ashes (BBC)
Starring: Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes & Dean Andrews.
DI Alex Drake is shot and lands in 1981. There she meets DCI Gene Hunt who joins the London Metropolitan Police in an attempt to deal with the ‘Southern Nancy’ criminal scum.
Sequel to the above Life on Mars.
Summary: British, 1980s policing, crime drama mystery, procedural with arc.
The Bletchley Circle (ITV)
Starring: Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle, Julie Graham & Hattie Morahan.
Four women who worked as code breakers during World War II find themselves dissatisfied with regular civilian life. Seeing a constant failure by the police to properly investigate crime. They form a team to investigate themselves.
Summary: Mini-series, all female leads, Post War, British, full season arc.
Starring: Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis & Steve Pemberton.
The detectives in London’s Whitechapel district investigate copy cat murders of historical serial killers.
Summary: Crime mystery thriller, historical murders, British, full season arc.
Starring: Shaun Evans & Roger Allam.
A Prequel to the Inspector Morse series. The series follows Endeavour Morse in the 1960s when he is just first starting out as a detective constable.
Summary: Prequel, British, feature length episodes.
The Missing (BBC/Starz)
Starring: James Nesbit, Frances O’Connor & Tchéky Karyo.
Tony and Emily Hughes are holidaying in the French country with their young son. While on a trip to the local swimming pool Tony and his son stop at the pool bar to check out a world cup match. The happiest day turns into a nightmare after Tonys son Oliver disappears in the crowd. The season follows the investigation.
Summary: British, French, crime drama/mystery, anthology series, full season arc.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman.
Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novels. The series follows Sherlock Holmes and his roommate turned friend Dr. John Watson as they solve crimes in 21st century London.
Summary: British, based on a novel, crime drama/mystery, feature length episodes.
Sherlock Season 4 trailer, news, plots & Speculation.
And Then There Were None (BBC)
Starring: Douglas Booth, Charles Dance, Maeve Dermody, Burn Gorman, Noah Taylor, Anna Martin, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Aidan Turner & Toby Stephens.
Based on an Agatha Christie novel. Ten strangers are invited to an island by an unknown person. At first there is excitement and things are going great. Then suddenly, one by one, the members of the group start turning up dead.
Summary: British, based on a novel, mini-series, crime drama/mystery, full season arc.
London Spy (BBC/Netflix)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Edward Holcroft, Jim Broadbent & Samantha Spiro.
A gay warehouse worker Danny falls in love with mysterious Alex. Just as they realise how perfect they are for each other, Alex disappears. Danny is shocked to find out that his boyfriend is a spy for the Secret Intelligence Service. He goes down a dangerous path for the truth to find out what happened to his partner.
Summary: British, spy, crime drama/mystery, LGBT, full season arc.
Starring: James Norton & Robson Green.
Former Scots Guards and Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers moonlights as a sleuth with DI Geordie Keating. Keating is methodical and Sidney is intuitive. They solve crimes with their complementing styles.
Summary: British, based on a novel, crime drama/mystery.
The Night Manager (BBC/AMC)
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Colman, Tom Hollander & Elizabeth Debicki.
The night manager of a Cairo hotel is recruited by an intelligence agent after he acquires information of arms deals connected to Richard Roper, an English billionaire. He is tasked with infiltrating Ropers inner circle and acquiring enough evidence to put him away.
Summary: Mini-series, European, based on a novel, crime drama/mystery, intelligence.
I am the target text.
Death in Paradise (BBC)
Starring: Ben Miller, Danny John-Jules & Gary Carr.
DI Richard Poole goes from Scotland Yard to the beautiful Saint-Marie’s police department in the Caribbean to solve a fellow English officers murder. After solving the murder he finds that he has become the replacement. Problem is, he hates seafood, the sun, sand and sea. Other than that, the new job is great.
Summary: Caribbean, British, fish out of water, light crime drama, comedy, procedural.
No Offence (Channel 4)
Starring: Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy & Alexandra Roach.
Follows officers in the Manchester Metropolitan Police. They investigate a string of serial murders targeting girls with down syndrome.
Summary: Gallows humour/Black comedy, British, entertainment, crime drama, full season arc.
Rosemary & Thyme (ITV)
Starring: Felicity Kendal & Pam Ferris.
A former police officer, Laura Thyme, is dumped by her husband for a younger woman. She seeks solace in a small town where she meets horticulturalist and professional gardener Rosemary Boxer. The pair get to know each other after they both witness an attempted murder. After solving the mysterious attempted murder, they team up in a gardening business and solve crimes along the way.
Sounds awful, but it is actually a really fun show. Give it a chance if you have not seen it.
Summary: Light drama, comedy, British, Gardening.
Starring: Steven Van Zandt, Marian Saastad Ottesen & Trond Fausa Aurvåg.
A former New York gangster Frank Tagliano is placed in the witness protection program after testifying in a trial against mob boss Aldo Delucci. After a hit is placed on him, Frank asks to be relocated to rural Lilyhammer in Norway. A place that he believes his former associates will never find him.
Summary: Black comedy, American/Norwegian, Gangster, Witness Protection.
New Tricks (BBC)
Starring: Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong & Dennis Waterman.
Follows the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS). Headed by DS Sandra Pullman, the UCOS is made up of retired police officers that are recruited to reinvestigate unsolved crimes.
Summary: Crime drama, procedural, comedy, British.
List by Nagame.