Detective television shows always manage to raise the innate investigator we all have within us. The reason why people find detective shows so engaging is that there’s enough space to explore a wide variety of themes and genres. While some shows depend heavily on style, creating a noir-ish and violent narrative, others depend on pure substance.
From the grimy ‘Mindhunter’ to the cerebral ‘Sherlock,’ detective shows contain a large variety of narratives. Detective series have been the staple of most television networks due to their high viewership. In recent times, Netflix has done a great job in not only producing original works but also bringing in other shows to a wide international audience.
20. Perfume (2018)
‘Perfume’ is a German television series, originally known as ‘Parfum’ and is available on Netflix with English audio and subtitles. Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Patrick Suskind, the show is set in the modern day. A series of brutal murders show a pattern of missing scent glands on the corpses. This is traced back to a group of boys at a boarding school who had been experimenting with human scents and who also happened to know one of these victims. ‘Perfume’ has been received well internationally and follows the story of investigators Nadja Simon (Friedericke Becht) and Matthias Kohler (Juergen Maurer), along with Prosecutor Grunberg (Wotan Wilke Mohring). You can watch the series here.
19. Stay Close (2021)
Based on the 2012 namesake Harlan Coben novel, ‘Stay Close’ is a miniseries that revolves around three people: suburban mother Megan Pierce, disillusioned photographer Ray Levine, and tortured police detective Michael Broome. Megan now has everything she ever wanted — a wonderful family with a loving man. But the past tends to come back. When she was younger, Megan was known as Cassie and worked as a stripper at a club called Vipers. She and Ray were in a relationship, and her sudden disappearance devastated the latter. Meanwhile, Michael is haunted by his past and the failure to solve the mystery involving the sudden disappearance of a man named Stuart. When someone else disappears 17 years later, all three protagonists find themselves invariably connected. To explore the plot further, you may watch the show here.
18. Capitani (2019-2022)
‘Capitani’ revolves around detective Luc Capitani, who finds himself assigned to the murder case of a teenage girl in Luxembourg’s Manscheid village. However, being an “outsider” to the place, he faces immense hostility and uncooperativeness, forcing him to enlist the help of a local policewoman. With the duo investigating the murders, they are soon drawn deep into a pit full of deceit, lies, and secrets, which force them to face their conscience with the revelation of the truth. Feel free to check out the series here.
17. The InBESTigators (2019-)
Here is something great for the younger audience who are keen on watching a series in this genre. ‘The InBESTigators’ is an Australian television series that follows a detective agency run by children. With their office in Ezra’s (Aston Droomer) backyard and led by Maurie (Anna Cooke), they come together with their set of skills to solve mysteries in the neighborhood. The other two members of the team are Kyle (Jamil Smyth-Secka), who is athletic and also Ezra’s best friend, and Ava (Abby Bergman), known for her impressive social skills. You can check out the show here.
16. Giri/Haji (2019)
‘Giri/Haji’ is a British television series set in Tokyo and London with dialogues in Japanese as well as English. The title of the show translates to ‘Duty/Shame.’ Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira) is a detective from Tokyo who goes to London in search of his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka), who is presumed dead but also accused of murder. The murder that Yuto is associated with could start a deadly gang war in Tokyo. As Kenzo tries to get to the bottom of it all, he has to face some of the most dangerous bigwigs of the underworld in London and take care of his family back in Tokyo at the same time. You can watch ‘Giri/Haji’ here.
15. The Lincoln Lawyer (2022-)
Based on American author Michael Connelly’s book series about Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Michael “Mickey” Haller, ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ follows Mickey as he replaces a recently killed colleague in a high-profile murder trial where the defendant is a tech billionaire. As Mickey prepares to defend his client, he is helped by his former wife and legal aid, Lorna, and his go-to investigator, Cisco. The series alludes to Mickey’s past when he was forced to deal with his grief and addiction. At the start of the season, Mickey hires a young woman named Izzy to drive him around. Izzy, like Mickey in the past, deals with addiction issues. As the series progresses, Mickey begins to suspect that his client might have been lying to him all along. You may watch ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ here.
14. Seven Seconds (2018)
Adapted from Russian filmmaker Yuri Bykov’s crime drama ‘The Major’ (2013), ‘Seven Seconds’ follows the African American citizens and Caucasian cops in Jersey City as they get involved in investigating the death of a young black boy. A limited series spanning over ten episodes, ‘Seven Seconds’ is a taut show that not only develops upon the crime and investigation but also explores themes of race relations and societal alienation. Created by Canadian screenwriter Veena Sud, the show is replete with classy performances, for which Oscar-winning actress Regina King went on to win a Black Reel Award for Television and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series. You may stream the show here.
13. The Sinner (2017-2021)
‘The Sinner’ is a detective anthology series developed by Derek Simonds. Its first season is the TV adaptation of Petra Hammesfahr’s 1999 novel of the same name. In season 1, police detective Harry Ambrose tries to figure out whether Cora Tannetti, a woman who grew up in a family of religious fanatics, is guilty of killing a man. It is a rather open-and-shut case, as there is overwhelming evidence that she has done what she is being accused of. And yet, Ambrose insists that there must be something in her past that can explain her current behavior. In the subsequent seasons, Ambrose investigates the death of a young couple in his hometown, a fatal vehicular accident in Upstate New York, and the apparent suicide of a young woman in Maine. You can watch the series here.
12. 1983 (2018)
‘1983’ is a Polish crime drama about a law student, Kajetan Skowron, essayed by Maciej Musiał, and a cop, Anatol Janów, played by Robert Więckiewicz, who, decades after a 1983 terrorist attack, tries to expose a conspiracy that’s kept Poland as a police state and the Iron Curtain standing. Created and written by Joshua Long, the show is built on a gripping, edgy narrative. Netflix’s first original Polish series, ‘1983’ is a nice blend of a historical narrative and crime drama, as it develops upon Polish communism and expands over the conspiracy. With just eight episodes comprising the first, ‘1983’ can be easily completed within a day. You may watch the show here.
11. Marcella (2016-2021)
This ITV series focuses on the eponymous detective who returns to her duty as a police officer after a long interval and immediately starts focusing on a triple murder case. As Marcella investigates further, she realizes this is the work of a serial killer. While she tries to track down this killer to the best of her ability, Marcella herself suffers from random blackout episodes whose cause remains unresolved. In the latter seasons, the gruesomeness of the crimes that Marcella has to solve increase, and so does her personal problems. The use of lights in this series creates a rather chilling mood and makes this series a compelling watch. Feel free to check it out here.
10. Unbelievable (2019)
‘Unbelievable‘ is an incredible miniseries based on a series of heinous real-life rapes that took place in Colorado and Washington State between 2008 to 2011. Borrowing heavily from the 2015 article, An Unbelievable Story of Rape, by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, as well as their 2018 book, A False Report, the series follows the police taking on a rape complaint. However, the supposed victim suddenly recanting her complaint leads to controversies that accuse the victim of lying. That is when two detectives take up the strange case and begin unraveling a sinister web of crime that will keep the audience glued to the screen till the very end. So, if you want to experience it too, you can check out the show here.
9. The Good Cop (2018)
‘The Good Cop’ revolves around father-son duo Big Tony and TJ, who appear to be entirely different from each other. Although former cop Big Tony is loveable at heart, honor is not his strong suit, and he doesn’t agree well with the rules. On the other hand, his son TJ is quite a stickler for them and highly upright when it comes to his duty. With Big Tony serving a seven-year sentence on a corruption conviction, the police department refuses to stay in contact with him. However, depending on his father for street experience, TJ enters a strange partnership, leading to some incredibly hilarious and, at times, emotional moments. You can watch ‘The Good Cop’ here.
8. Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G (2018)
This limited crime anthology series is based on the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls in the late 1990s, which shook the rap industry. The series follows the dual investigations of Detective Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel) and Detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson), who look into the controversial murders of the rap legends. ‘Unsolved’ features Wavyy Jonez as Christopher Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G or Biggie Smalls, and Marcc Rose as Tupac Shakur. Five out of ten episodes in the series have been directed by Emmy winner Anthony Hemmingway. The series saw a solid contribution from Greg Kading, who not only investigated the murders but also wrote a book ‘Murder Rap: The Untold Story of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations.’ You may watch it here.
7. Catching Killers (2021-2023)
A true crime docuseries that chronicles the horrifying details provided by the investigators who have been in charge of cases of serial killers that terrorized neighborhoods. There is no way to overstate such crimes, and by throwing light on the cases, we are not subjected to the extraordinary efforts of the officials and their emotions but also the workings of the minds of the killers. Each episode is bound to get you wondering how a human can commit such a crime as it did the investigators. You may stream ‘Catching Killers’ here.
6. Paranoid (2016)
‘Paranoid’ is an intriguing crime mystery drama show that follows a team of detectives from the fictional town of Woodmere. After finding a woman stabbed to death in a children’s playground, the team finds themselves drawn into a sinister investigation that unravels a dark conspiracy and gets more complex at every turn. Adding to the mystery, an unidentified man keeps sending mysterious clues and leads that seem integral to the killer’s identity. You can watch the series here.
5. Crime Stories: India Detectives (2021)
Created by N Amit and Jack Rampling, ‘Crime Stories: India Detectives’ is a docuseries that showcases four violent crimes, one in each of the four episodes, which are tackled by the Bengaluru city police in India’s own Silicon Valley. From trafficking to extortion to sex work, the series explores the underbelly of Bengaluru through the eyes of those who work to prevent these crimes. The harsh reality hits hard as we see loved ones crying and sometimes even the cops. But don’t be fooled by this. The show has no regard for emotions and goes all in on the genre it aims to be a part of, i.e., crime. If you are up for a raw experience, you can watch the show here.
4. Criminal (2019)
‘Criminal’ is a collection of four different TV shows under one single umbrella, with each of them taking place in a completely different country- France, Germany, Spain, and the UK. The approach the makers of this series have taken is rather bold. The story of each country runs for three episodes, and each of them focuses on a criminal being interviewed by the police. Even though each season’s cast comprises actors and actresses from that particular country itself, the filming was done in one single studio in Madrid, Spain. The locations have also been kept to a minimum, with each story being set in a single interrogation room, a darkroom from which there is a one-way view inside the interrogation room, and a hallway or outside. It is extremely difficult to create a proper story and tell it suitably within such a small confinement, but the makers of this series have done a fantastic job in this regard. Feel free to check it out here.
3. The Blacklist (2013–2023)
‘The Blacklist’ follows Raymond “Red” Reddington, essayed by James Spader, a former U.S. Navy officer who has turned into a high-profile criminal and is on the FBI hit list. Bizarrely, he voluntarily surrenders to the FBI after evading capture for decades. However, he sends a proposition where he has the list of the most dangerous criminals in the world that he has compiled over the years, which he’ll hand over in exchange for immunity from prosecution. In addition, he insists on working solely with a rookie FBI profiler, Elizabeth Keen, essayed by Megan Boone. The show is smartly written, and it perceptively develops upon the procedural elements. A critical darling, most critics have immensely appreciated the dark tonality and James Spader’s engaging performance as the notorious criminal. You can check out the show here.
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2. Young Wallander (2020-2022)
The origin story of an overly-popular character, ‘Young Wallander,’ revolves around newly graduated detective Kurt Wallander in his early twenties. Documenting his growth from a rookie into the seasoned detective we know him to be, the series shows how Wallander personally witnesses a terrifying hate crime in his neighborhood. With a determination to hunt down the perpetrator, Wallander involves himself in the investigation, which, in turn, helps him gain valuable experience and develop facets of his character as he turns into a veteran officer of the law. You can watch ‘Young Wallander’ here.
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1. Mindhunter (2017 –2019)
Adapted from the non-fiction crime book ‘Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit’ (1995), written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, ‘Mindhunter’ is set in the early days of criminal psychology in 1977. It revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford, essayed by Jonathan Groff and Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany, along with psychologist Wendy Carr, who founded FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit within the Training Division at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
The show then portrays their horrifying interviews with imprisoned serial killers that help the FBI to catch and understand such future potential serial killers to understand how they think, with the hope of applying this knowledge to solving ongoing and future cases. Developed by the modern master of thriller and suspense, David Fincher, ‘Mindhunter’ has all the classic Fincher elements that make for an engaging watch. You may watch it here.
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