Crime shows have been around since the beginning of television. There is something special about them that grabs the attention of audiences around the world. Maybe it is the action scenes, or the three-dimensional characters, or perhaps the twists and turns of the plot. Crime shows mostly revolve around serial killers or drug dealers but they’re all stylistically and thematically different. Some lean more for drama, others for comedy, and even for romance. As far as the line of demarcation is concerned, there’s quite a lot of overlap with respect to what can be classified as a crime drama. The said overlap can be with another genre, most notably action, thriller, or a fantasy. If we take a good look at the advent of crime TV shows, we’re in for a luck. Be it ‘The X-Files’, ‘Sopranos’, ‘Oz’, or ‘Cops’, the ’90s have witnessed a good surge in crime television series and many of these are on air to this day. ‘NCIS’ can be a good example.
If we look at the way these television series are made, there are quite a lot of commonalities among all of them. There is definitely an intention of committing a crime or there’s a heinous crime that has already been committed. More often than not, we’ve also witnessed television shows where the characters don’t know whether a crime has been committed. Of late, we’ve been witnessing a rising demand for the (crime) dramas that are based on real stories or true crimes. Series like ‘American Vandal’, ‘Narcos’, ‘El Chapo’, ‘Making a Murderer’ etc. are great examples. Although many of them aren’t wholly based on real-life stories, their inspirations are definitely criminals who have been caught and brought to justice or those who disappeared or are still on the loose.
Whether it is a crime drama or a fantasy, a horror television show or a thriller series with a dash of the criminal mindset put into it, Netflix always has been a great place to binge-watch such outstanding television shows. The streaming giant has an impressive collection of crime series and so we did some research and compiled some of the finest titles from this genre. Here’s the list of really good crime shows on Netflix that are available to stream right now:
25. Orange is the New Black (2013- )
Convicted of a decade old crime of transporting drug money to an ex-girlfriend, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is sentenced to a year and a half behind bars. The show revolves around her life as she faces this enormous challenge in a female prison but it also focuses on her inmates and those who work there. New relationships and factions come to being within the all-female prison and we get to see different shades of the characters around Piper – something which we earlier thought off as a boring prison inmates love story. Nominated six times for the Golden Globes, this Netflix original is extremely engaging and addictive. The show has a lot of characters and they’re all extremely well written. In addition, the cast (that includes Piper Chapman, Uzo Aduba, Taryn Manning, Laura Prepon, etc) is also immensely talented.
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24. 13 Reasons Why (2017 – )
A bone-chilling narrative which gets murkier with each set and each side of the tape, especially for the protagonist Clay Jensen, ’13 Reasons Why’ tells the story of a high school student and Clay’s friend Hannah Baker, who committed suicide by drowning herself in a bathtub and slitting her wrists. In the present day, a gloomy Clay Jensen receives a box with a bunch of audio cassette tapes, left at his doorstep. Apparently, those were recorded by Hannah Baker prior to her suicide and each of the tapes is on a subject — either on one of her friends or acquaintances — who were directly or indirectly complicit in the crime that led to her suicide. As the tapes unfold, Clay gets to know of a heinous crime that led to her suicide. ’13 Reasons Why’ also has a second season which mostly comprises of the investigations surrounding Hannah’s suicide and court appearances. The TV show received critical praise and was hailed as one of the best high school-based television shows.
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23. Criminal Minds (2005 – )
Based out in Quantico, Virginia, and currently in its 13th season and counting, ‘Criminal Minds’ goes a step beyond solving the crime and is all about decoding the criminal, knowing his/her next moves well in advance and performing a behavioural analysis based on similar past crimes by other criminals. Basically, it is all about stepping into the criminals’ shoes. The Behavioural Analysis Unit is a sub-division of the FBI which has a group of profilers who assist the cops and other local government agencies in decoding some of the most heinous crimes committed in the history of America. Because the profilers’ job is very demanding, we also get to see their personal sides in the show and the narrative oscillates between the characters, their work lives and their personal lives. ‘Criminal Minds’ is also the recipient of People’s Choice Award and has been nominated multiple times for Emmy’s and Golden Globe Awards.
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22. The Blacklist (2013 – )
Featuring the ever-dashing James Spader in a leading role, a performance which will be remembered for decades to come, ‘The Blacklist’ begins with the narrative of Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former U.S. Navy operative turned businessman who has been on the run for quite some time and has been on many U.S. Most Wanted lists. Several Government agencies have also issued lookouts for him. Not only is he cunning, elusive and a professional con man, but he has also successfully evaded his capture for more than two decades. Elizabeth Keen is a fresh recruit who’s been out of Quantico recently. Red surrenders to the FBI and agrees to share information about the most dangerous criminals of the world, in lieu of immunity from any sort of prosecution. He also insists that he’d talk and communicate only with Elizabeth and no one else. Red and Liz come closer in due course, while they solve a criminal case every episode.
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21. Lucifer (2015 – )
Lucifer Morningstar is the Devil himself, who has descended upon Earth after abandoning Hell, to have some fun, and also ends up running a nightclub of his own which is named “Lux”. After witnessing the brutal murder of a pop star, he is seemingly disturbed and so is Mazikeen, who’s a demon. LAPD detective Chloe is investigating the murder and is intrigued by the way with which Lucifer can make people reveal their dirtiest secrets. Intrigued by Chloe’s goodness at heart, Lucifer decides to help her out in her ways to punish criminals using law and justice. When God’s emissary tries to persuade Lucifer to return to Hell, he must decide whether he still wants to be the Dark Lord he’s always been. The lead actor Tom Ellis was praised for his flawless delivery and exuding a demeanour befitting the Devil himself.
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20. Bodyguard (2018 – )
A recent addition to Netflix, ‘Bodyguard’ tells the story of Police Sergeant David Budd, an army veteran who still suffers from his episodes of PTSD and is often deemed as erratic, unstable and impulsive. He works for the Specialist Protection Branch of the London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is in charge of protecting VIPs and Royalty, mostly men and women of import. He is married to Vicky and has two kids, but has been living in his own apartment and visits his wife and kids once in a while.
After foiling a bombing attempt on a train in which he’s travelling with his kids by successfully persuading the female suicide bomber to not blow herself up, he is assigned the security detail of Julia Montague, the outspoken Home Secretary. Terrorist attacks and vicious attempts on the life of Montague need to be foiled by Budd at all costs, while he also gets into a romantic relationship with her. ‘Bodyguard’ recorded one of the highest viewerships in the history of BBC dramas.
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19. How to Get Away with Murder (2014 – )
Annalise Keating is one of the most prominent criminal attorneys, who also teaches the School of Law at the Middleton University in Philadelphia. With internship around the corner, five of her brightest students — Wes, Connor, Asher, Laurel and Michaela — are selected to intern at her own firm, who will be known as “The Keating 5” hereafter and will work with the other employees of the firm. As they jump into the middle of two ongoing investigations — one of Annalise’s own husband Sam and other of Sam’s mistress Lila — they are intrigued by the turn of events that took place that led to the murders and killings. Although there is a lot of non-linear narrative in the initial episodes of the first season, things become clear eventually and the cover-ups follow, using the criminal law expertise from Annalise herself. ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ has often featured in the Top Ten Lists of Best Crime Dramas ever made.
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18. The Fall (2013 – 2016)
Superintendent of Police and ace-detective Stella Gibson is the centre point of this crime drama that is set mostly in the Irish city of Belfast. The series begins with Stella Gibson being attached to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and assigned with a serial killer’s case. The killer goes by the name of Paul Spector. Apparently, from over a month, Spector has been selectively identifying and murdering young women in and around the city. Stella has to put up a staggering case against the killer while dealing with the politics and peer pressure within and outside the PSNI. ‘The Fall’ has been nominated for multiple awards and has won the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe award of 2014.
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17. Happy! (2017 – )
While there’s nothing much to be very happy about it, ‘Happy!’ tells the story of Nick, a disgraced police officer and beat cop who lives his loner life in a pall of gloom, drinking away his sorrows and venting his frustration on petty criminals during the night as a form of his rough justice. After surviving a heart attack, he comes in contact with Happy, a blue unicorn only he could see and talk to. Apparently, Nick also has an estranged daughter Hailey who hails Nick as her hero. And Hailey has been abducted by a man who was posing as Santa Claus. Happy seeks Nick’s help in proving to Hailey, who’s the real hero, and Nick takes it upon himself to punish the kidnappers. ‘Happy!’ is a very relatable story (despite the unicorn) and a father’s love for his daughter is something you can look forward to.
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16. Ozark (2017 – )
With a widespread cast and a multitude of complex and layered narratives, ‘Ozark’ begins with a financial planner and investor Marty Byrde, who lives an idyllic life with his family of four — wife Wendy and kids Charlotte and Jonah — in a Chicago suburb. Under the hood and unbeknownst to everyone else, Marty is also a money launderer to one of the Mexican drug cartels. When one of the deals with the Mexicans goes wrong, he moves to the Missouri Ozarks with his family, in order to lay low for a few days. In the Ozarks, life isn’t easy either as he is constantly troubled by criminal gangs including the vicious Snells. Although not a thumping, nail-biting crime-drama, ‘Ozark’ received heavy praise for Jason Bateman’s performance in the leading role.
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15. Person of Interest (2011-2016)
One of my personal favourites on this list, ‘Person of Interest’ is built around the lives of its two often differing protagonists — billionaire programmer Harold Finch and a former CIA-Green Beret agent John Reese who has literally been raised back from his ashes. Apparently, Finch had created a supercomputer for the Government, while he was working for the latter, known by the codename “The Machine”, which can predict any potential acts of terrorism and nail them down to the perpetrators. The Machine was also programmed to trace and identify petty crimes and murders which are not-so-relevant for the Government and are hence purged every night.
Finch, who no longer works for the Government but for his own personal interests, had also inserted a backdoor program which would give him these names before every night’s purge. He recruits John Reese as a hired gun to trace down these potential perpetrators. ‘Person of Interest’ has an intriguing premise and an anticipatory thrill associated with it, thus making it one of the most gripping crime dramas out there.
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14. Happy Valley (2014- )
This is a gripping crime drama set in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire in England. It follows Catherine Cawood, a strong-willed sergeant whose daughter recently committed suicide. When she hears that the man responsible for driving her daughter to suicide is being released, she becomes obsessed with him. When a fake kidnapping goes wrong, she must balance this obsession with her job. The show features Sarah Lancashire and James Norton in lead roles.
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13. Luther (2010-)
In ‘Luther’, Idris Elba plays DCI John Luther, a brilliant but troubled police detective. Luther is not afraid to bend the rules to solve a crime and his edgy tactics are often a concern to his superiors. This is a fast-paced drama that focuses heavily on the main character’s constant struggle between his moral compass and his thirst for justice. Moreover, the secondary characters are also very interesting and entertaining. Season one of the series follows the narrative of John Luther, who’s working at the Serious Crime Unit, the one which helps track and hunt down heinous criminals and murderers, and is on the tail of Alice Morgan, a psychopath who seemingly has a strong connection to Luther. Fast-paced, clever and twisty, ‘Luther’ is certainly one of the most captivating crime dramas on this list.
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12. Mindhunter (2017- )
In the 1970s, two FBI agents try to develop an innovative method that incorporates psychology and sociology to better understand the Means, Motive, Opportunity (MMO) of criminals. Because of their rule-breaking techniques, they must fight for what they believe when everyone around them is skeptical about it. ‘Mindhunter’ is based on the life of John Douglas. The show is incredibly fascinating for those who enjoy crime stories. With suspenseful direction and surprising performances, you will want to leave everything behind and binge-watch it.
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11. The Punisher (2017 – )
An official spin-off of the beloved ‘Daredevil’ television series by Marvel, set in the MCU, ‘The Punisher’ follows the narrative of Frank Castle, a loner who has lost his family owing to a gruesome murder. To avenge the death of his family, he assumes the identity of ‘The Punisher’, a feisty vigilante who wants to avenge the deaths of his wife and children. As he is on a revenge spree, he uncovers a plot which has affected other families too. From a darker side towards the morally upright vigilante, ‘The Punisher’ is a fascinating, visually impressive journey of a lone man who takes upon the underbelly of crime in the New York City. Despite a slower start, ‘The Punisher’ never fails you. Easily one of the best Netflix’s Marvel series, after ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘Daredevil’.
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10. Dark (2017 – )
If you’re looking forward to a mind-boggling and immersive binge-watching experience, this German-language Netflix original series is the one for you. ‘Dark’ is a perfect mashup of time-travel, science fiction and crime.. The series primarily revolves around a set of characters, namely Jonas Kahnwald, a teenager in the present day of 2019, whose father has committed suicide and has left behind a mysterious timed letter; police officer Ulrich Nielsen and Charlotte, the police chief of Winden, Germany. Apparently, in the caves of Winden, a wormhole has opened up, which takes the characters 33 years back and forth in time, creating anomalies and introducing complex narratives.
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9. Dexter (2006-2013)
Dexter Morgan has always been a different kid, obsessed with killing and death. So his adoptive father taught him to kill bad guys who slip through the justice system, while maintaining a normal life. Now a grown-up, Dexter is a Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst by day and a serial killer by night. ‘Dexter’ is a winner of two Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
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8. Making a Murderer (2015-)
‘Making a Murderer’ documents the true story of Steven Avery, who is sent to prison under questionable circumstances, exonerated on DNA evidence 18 years later, and accused of murder shortly after. Avery’s story is a horrifying tale that will leave you to question (and maybe be infuriated with) law enforcement, politicians, and news media. Although a bit lengthy, this documentary is extremely entertaining, and even sometimes unbelievable. Winner of four Emmys, including Outstanding Documentary, it is a must watch for those who enjoy true crime and documentaries.
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7. Marvel’s Daredevil (2015 – 2018)
Only a few of us realize that ‘Daredevil’ is essentially a crime drama series set in Hell’s Kitchen, an NYC neighbourhood, where a blind, masked vigilante fights crime to the extent he could. ‘Daredevil’ begins with the tragic story of Matt Murdock, who had lost his eyesight in an accidental chemical spill which also heightened his other senses, thus giving him the power of listening to “see” things. As a grown-up, Matt is a lawyer who sets up a law firm along with his friend and associate, Foggy. Matt a.k.a. Daredevil is put up against Wilson Fisk, a criminal overlord who is the caretaker of the New York crime scene and also crosses his path with The Punisher Frank Castle. Charlie Cox is brilliant as the titular Daredevil and so is Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fist, the antagonist. Despite receiving critical praise and popularity, Netflix has closed curtains on ‘Daredevil’ after its third season.
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6. Better Call Saul (2015 – )
So we’ve got another spin-off on this list. ‘Better Call Saul’ is set six years prior to the events of ‘Breaking Bad’. The story is set around the titular Saul Goodman, who is known by his given name Jimmy McGill, a small-time lawyer and a former con artist. The entire series is the narrative of McGill’s transformation into the hired criminal that is Saul Goodman. Mike, a beat cop and an aspiring drug peddler, takes the help of McGill to earn a name in the criminal underworld. All this, while McGill sorts out his priorities including his romantic relationship with Kim Wexler. ‘Better Call Saul’ has great writing and the narrative is perfectly paced, making it extremely engaging and entertaining.
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5. Peaky Blinders (2013- )
This is a British crime drama set in the 1920s in Birmingham, England. The Peaky Blinders were an ambitious gang lead by Tommy Shelby that is not afraid of anything nor anybody. This series not only has a wonderful dark landscape but also quality actors who bring to life very rich characters. If you love Sherlock Holmes, Whitechapel, and other Victorian series, you will love this one. The story begins with the aftermath of the First World War and revolves around two imposing yet polar opposites — Tommy Shelby, a leading gangster and Chester Campbell, a detective. Both form two warring factions put up against each other in the backdrop of a soaring Industrial revolution.
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4. Narcos (2015 -2017)
‘Narcos’ revolves around the history of the cocaine drug cartels in Colombia. The first two seasons tells the true story of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the U.S. DEA agent who is sent to Colombia to catch him. We follow both the business and personal relationship of Pablo Escobar and his associates. It is intriguing to witness how Escobar used all tricks of the trade to either fool, punish or buy the cops and continue his trade despite all the national and international sanctions. The compelling narrative, groundbreaking performances, and gritty action add to the much-needed fervour and ‘Narcos’ makes for a brilliant, edge-of-the-seat watch.
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3. Sacred Games (2018 – )
Easily the best Indian TV series ever made, ‘Sacred Games’ was an unexpected smash hit, thanks to the clever casting and a story based out on a bestselling novel. In a typical protagonist versus antagonist versus the rest of the world setup, ‘Sacred Games’ begins with the story of Ganesh Gaitonde, a notorious criminal who has been on the run and underground for the past 16 years. Sartaj Singh, a morally upright cop who is often troubled with his superior’s nonchalance towards justice, and has been disgraced many times, receives a phone call from Gaitonde who urges him to save the city within the next 25 days or face the music. As a dishevelled and flabbergasted Sartaj traces down Gaitonde while the latter is narrating his entire life’s story over the phone, he finds Gaitonde shooting himself, thus putting a big question mark on the whereabouts of the happenstance that is to occur in the next 25 days. ‘Sacred Games’ is certainly one of the most gripping, entertaining shows you can watch on Netflix.
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2. Sherlock (2010- )
‘Sherlock’ is an innovative and captivating drama that catapulted Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to stardom. Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, ‘Sherlock’ is a modern retelling of the classic detective stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes, along with Doctor Watson, helps Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade in solving complex crimes. It is an incredibly entertaining, mind-bending show. Each episode of every season is dedicated to a criminal, where we can see Sherlock and Doctor Watson breaking the math, bending their minds and trying to figure out all the possibilities that led to the crime. The visuals are a treat for the sore eyes and Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice is out of this freaking world, as always!
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1. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Chemistry teacher Walter White has been just diagnosed with stage III lung cancer. Since he has just a few months left, he decides he has nothing to lose. Worried about the future financial future of his wife and handicapped son, he starts to cook and sell methamphetamine. ‘Breaking Bad’ follows Walter White as he tries to reconcile his family life, the symptoms of his cancer, and his new criminal career, along with one of his ex-students, Jesse Pinkman, who helps Walter White cut the deal with some drug dealers. While watching the series, many episodes would feel like a good old chemistry lesson, with all the elements in it — romance, mystery, drama and the outstanding performance of Bryan Cranston in the leading role. The show won two Golden Globes for Best Television Series – Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama.
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