15 Binge-worthy British Crime Dramas (and No, Sherlock is Not on the List)
The Brits sure do know how to cook up some dark and twisty crime dramas, and we're not talking about Sherlock and Broadchurch here.
1. Line of Duty
This series revolves around the Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12) led by Superintendent Ted Hastings. The squad targets bent coppers, and let me tell you, there's no shortage of 'em. Each season hones in on one corrupt officer. The tension? Off the charts. We've got undercover agents, car chases, and jaw-dropping reveals. AC-12 makes you doubt everyone and trust no one. If you start, be prepared to be sucked into a five-season vortex.
When it comes to cold cases, DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan are your guys. These two are like Sherlock and Watson if they were dealing with bones from the '70s. Each season focuses on a body unearthed from the past. The suspects? All folks who'd rather keep their skeletons buried—literally. From the accidental death of a teenage girl to a political figure's shady history, Cassie and Sunny don't let any stone remain unturned.
3. Happy Valley
The valley's not so happy, actually. Set in West Yorkshire, this one follows Sergeant Catherine Cawood, a cop with a tragic past. Her daughter was raped, gave birth to a child, and then committed suicide. The rapist, Tommy, is out of jail, and Catherine wants justice. Meanwhile, a botched kidnapping goes down involving Catherine's grandson. This ain't your run-of-the-mill cop drama. It's a family saga meets crime thriller.
Hold onto your hats; this one's a doozy. Marcella Backland is a detective who comes back to the force when a serial killer reactivates after 11 years. The kicker? She might be connected to the murders. Marcella suffers from blackouts and gets violent—like, waking-up-with-blood-on-her-hands violent. As she hunts the killer, she's also sorta, kinda hunting herself. It's a wild ride from start to finish, with Marcella diving deep into her own psyche.
How about a little historical drama? Set in the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders, this show follows Inspector Edmund Reid and his team in Whitechapel. You'd think they'd be dealing with petty thieves and drunks, but nope—there's a new killer who's mimicking the Ripper's style. As they delve into the underbelly of 19th-century London, they grapple with the newfangled idea of forensics and struggle to keep their own secrets buried.
I mean, come on, it's Idris Elba in the lead role. Do you need another reason to watch? Elba stars as DCI John Luther, a genius but emotionally impulsive detective. Luther deals with the worst humanity has to offer—serial killers, child traffickers, you name it. And he's got this cat-and-mouse thing going with Alice, a brilliant psychopath. The tension is palpable, and Luther's ethical boundaries get blurrier with each case.
7. Scott & Bailey
Meet DC Rachel Bailey and DC Janet Scott, your dynamic duo navigating crime in Manchester. From sordid love affairs gone wrong to twisted family homicides, these ladies tackle it all. But it's not all forensic glamour; they also navigate the muddy waters of work-life balance. The drama hits close to home when Rachel's brother becomes a suspect in a murder case, pulling both detectives into an emotional whirlpool.
As far from the bustling city as you can get, Shetland is set on the remote Scottish Shetland Isles. DI Jimmy Perez is your rugged, sweater-clad detective tackling crime in this isolated locale. Don't let the scenic views fool you; these islands have their share of dark secrets. From a young girl's murder linked to a WWII cover-up to an archaeologist's mysterious death, Perez finds that even remote places have tangled webs of deceit.
9. The Fall
Set in Belfast, this series follows two protagonists—DSI Stella Gibson and Paul Spector, a bereavement counselor who moonlights as a serial killer. Yup, you read that right. The tension escalates as Stella gets closer to unveiling Paul's double life. It's a psychological chess game that explores the darkest corridors of human behavior.
Ever wonder what Inspector Morse was like in his early days? Endeavour is a prequel set in the '60s that answers just that. The series starts with young Endeavour Morse, a Detective Constable with a knack for opera and cryptic crosswords, solving a girl's murder that's linked to a series of deaths. With Oxford as the backdrop, the show weaves social issues of the time with twisty murder plots.
Welsh noir, anyone? Set in the rugged seascapes of Wales, this show follows DCI Tom Mathias, a man running from his past. His first case? Investigating the murder of an elderly woman who's been brutally attacked in her home. But it's not a simple whodunnit; the murder is linked to a local children's home that harbors secrets of its own. It's as much a psychological character study as it is a procedural drama.
12. No Offence
Hitting that sweet spot between dark drama and offbeat humor, this series focuses on a team of Manchester police officers led by the unapologetically brash DI Vivienne Deering. Their main case involves a serial killer targeting women with Down's syndrome. The catch? One of the team's own family members becomes the next target.
A pizza delivery man is shot dead in London, and it seems random at first glance. Enter DI Kip Glaspie, who refuses to accept the easy narrative. As she digs deeper, she finds that the murder has international implications and ties to the British political system. With only four episodes, this mini-series is a tight, tangled web that goes way beyond a single crime.
14. The Shadow Line
This seven-part drama dives deep into the blurred lines between cops and criminals. When a notorious drug lord is found dead, it sets off a chain of events that involve various people, including DI Jonah Gabriel, who's recovering from a bullet in the brain. As Gabriel investigates, he begins to uncover a conspiracy that makes him question his own morality.
If you've got a taste for the macabre, this one's for you. The show starts with a series of murders in Whitechapel that eerily mimic the Jack the Ripper killings. DI Joseph Chandler, an ambitious fast-tracker, is brought in to solve the case. The problem? He's woefully unprepared for the dark, grimy world he's about to step into. From copycat killers to centuries-old crime organizations, the show covers it all.