It should be no surprise that our pommy mates are veritable masters of crime stories. Chalk it up to the dreary backdrop or a long history of great detective novels, the British have been honing the art for years – and on television, they’ve just about perfected it. We’ve pulled together the ten essential British crime dramas to save you the investigation!
1) Prime Suspect
In an era when melodrama and formulaic whodunits (The Bill; Midsomer Murders) were dominating the small screen, the arguably ahead of its time Prime Suspect came along and blew everybody away. Created by veteran crime writer Lynda La Plante, it stars Dame Helen Mirren as a hardboiled detective fighting crime and workplace sexism.
With compelling performances from Olivia Coleman and David Tennant, Broadchurch is a classic British whodunnit taking cues from the bleak, morally complex stories from the increasingly popular Scandi noir subgenre. When a young boy is murdered in a picturesque seaside town, the police investigation uncovers a messy web of dark secrets. Everyone has something to hide. But who’s covering up a murder?
3) Peaky Blinders
Starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Tom Hardy, this epic drama detailing the rise of the titular criminal gang in post-WWI Birmingham is Britain’s answer to Boardwalk Empire. It is gripping, brutally violent, and totally binge-worthy television.
The series that started Idris Elba’s rise to international stardom, Luther is what happens when you take a old-school hardboiled detective and plonk him smack bang in the middle of a psychological thriller. Dedicated to the point of obsession, Elba’s DCI John Luther is pushed to breaking point when he meets his intellectual equal in the form of a brilliant psychopath.
Created by Doctor Who guru Stephen Moffit, Sherlock is the definitive modern day reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tales and characters. Granted, Sherlock Holmes has been done to death – but even if you’re suffering from fatigue, make sure you watch this one for the outstanding on-screen rapport between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Based on a popular Swedish novel series (which itself received two Swedish-language adaptations), Wallander stars Sir Kenneth Branagh in the title role. Much like Luther, Wallander is as much about the detective’s psyche as it is the mysteries at play, as the gruesome crimes under the microscope slowly take a toll on our hero.
7) The Fall
Focusing on the gripping cat-and-mouse chase between a serial killer and the detective tasked with bringing him to justice, The Fall is an incredibly creepy psychological thriller. Gillian Anderson’s hot streak continues (following the equally fantastic US crime series Hannibal) and Jamie Dornan shows off his acting chops (following the anything but fantastic Fifty Shades series).
8) The Missing
The second season of The Missing is a whodunnit with a curious twist. The suspense begins when the mystery is over. In the opening moments of the first episode, a girl is abducted in the forest outside of a German village. Then, just as quickly (for the audience), she returns — stumbling through the same woods before collapsing in the town square. But she is older now, and ravaged; her eyes are haunted. It is 11 years later. The Missing is a studious drama of humanity, with the detective Julien Baptiste returning from the opening season and evolving into a truly memorable creation thanks to a memorable performance from eminent French actor Tchéky Karyo.
THE MISSING Season 2 is on Digital & DVD now.