STORIES | My top three favorite British crime dramas.

It’s no secret that moving back to the UK has been on my mind a lot this past year. Thinking about it has seeped into everything I do, even to the point that when browsing Netflix for shows to watch I find myself leaning towards British programs. (I even started watching The Great British Bake Off at one point, much to Dave’s disappointment.) It’s been a fun change to my usual consumption of American reality competitions and dark comedies (which I still love), and I find myself pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed these shows in genres I don’t usually watch.

So today I thought I’d highlight three British crime dramas that I’ve watched and loved on Netflix and I look forward to either celebrating the shows with you in the comments or hearing what other shows you’d recommend!

Of course, a small note that I think is important to mention: I may be biased in liking these shows. Not only are they British programs which automatically win for me right now, they also all feature male leads with high cheekbones. And that may not seem like a big deal to some, but as I mentioned in my Fantastic Beasts post, I am a sucker for men with good cheekbones.

Peaky Blinders

The first show I want to talk about which is arguably my favorite of the bunch is Peaky Blinders. I honestly hesitated to watch this show at first because I remember Dave’s grandma once mentioning something about how she loved it. I mean, that sounds bad, but I really had no clue what it was about and assumed that if she liked it I probably wasn’t the target audience so it wasn’t worth my time. Wrong. wrong. wrong.

A gangster family epic set in 1919 Birmingham, England and centered on a gang who sew razor blades in the peaks of their caps, and their fierce boss Tommy Shelby, who means to move up in the world.

First off, and most importantly, Peaky Blinders has Thomas Shelby. Tommy, as played by Cillian Murphy, leads the gang and he is just so cunning and badass and a bit messed up. I mean, for someone like me who loves villains, he is the guy. To see him face all these challenges, both internally and externally, and pull shit out (while simultaneously sort of falling apart), is just so captivating. I’m always left wondering when it’ll all be too much. (Plus, apart from those cheekbones, he also has such striking eyes!)

It’s not all about Tommy though. His family also features heavily in this show and with four siblings, his aunt, a cousin, his dad, nieces, nephews, etc. – there’s a lot going on. It’s interesting to watch all the relationships between the family members through the duration of this show and it adds higher stakes to everything that happens because the whole family is affected any time something happens within the gang.

Apart from the characters themselves (which, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love) Peaky Blinders is also a great show to watch because it’s historical (set in the 1920s) and beautifully shot. I mean, just watch it already, please. Season one is my favorite so you really can’t go wrong.

Favorite season(s): 1 (2, 4, 3)

Broadchurch

Oh, another show that was a total surprise for me! Prior to pulling Broadchurch up on Netflix, the only experience I had with this show was seeing images of it on marketing material when I did a work placement with its London publisher. I had sensed it was a popular show but didn’t really think it was for me because I never felt interested in crime dramas. I’m glad I finally got bored enough to give it a chance because, once again, I was wrong.

The murder of a young boy in a small coastal town brings a media frenzy, which threatens to tear the community apart.

One of the things I loved most about this show is that for me, this one reminded me the most of what it was like to live in the UK. I mean, not that every day was a crime scene or anything like that. Unlike the other two though, it’s set in current times and not too fantastical so you get more of a sense of the environment, relationships, etc.

But beyond that slight personal appeal, Broadchurch is great because it features heartbreaking stories that are allowed to play out in the full. I mean, some of it is the typical “whodunnit” thing, but I really like how this series goes beyond that to explore how certain crimes can affect everything from the victim itself who has to face many internal battles as a result to the entire town as they all cope to process what has happened and figure out how they can come together to make it better. The crime in season one pretty much plays a role throughout the rest of the series and I like that it’s not just one and done because it never is, is it? Crime has a lasting effect for a lot of people.

I also have to say I really enjoyed the fact that the show revolved around a female-male detective duo with no love story. Maybe that’s not that uncommon and I’ve just been watching all the wrong shows, but I found myself automatically assuming from the beginning that some kind of romantic relationship would develop between the two and I was honestly relieved when it didn’t.

Favorite season(s): 1 (3, 2)

Sherlock

Unlike the other two shows, I never hesitated to watch Sherlock. I mean, how could I? It doesn’t matter how many times the character of Sherlock Holmes has been done, there’s just something about him that always requires further exploring. (Plus, the hype of this show was a bit hard to avoid. I had to watch it just to cure my curiosity. Luckily, I feel it was well deserved.)

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

Obviously one of the best things about this show is the characters of Sherlock and Watson and the dynamic of their relationship. It is one of my favorite bromances in television. Both are so intelligent but broken in their own ways and it’s a lot of fun seeing them play off of each other (and drive each other crazy). I’m not sure I’ll ever be as committed to a friend as these two.

But, more importantly, this show has one of my absolute favorite villains: Moriarty. Ahhh! I can’t even express how much I love this guy. He is just so twisted, so crazy, so intelligent, so wrong. I NEED MORE VILLAINS LIKE HIM IN MY LIFE. Characters like that whose view of the world is so thwarted make things so exciting because everything is a game and you really have no clue what’s going to happen next. I love it. (Oh, and the other villains that pop up in this series are nice too. They’re just not Moriarty.)

Lastly, I really love how visually stunning this show is. The overlays that pop up for the texts or Sherlock’s thinking process are never too distracting and it’s nice being given extra guidance as to what’s going on in Sherlock’s mind because it moves so quickly!

Favorite season(s): 2 (1, 4, 3)

Let’s Chat

I want to know if you’ve watched any of these British crime dramas and, if you have, what you think of them! What crime dramas would you recommend for me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you want to see what tv shows and movies I’m watching as I’m watching them, be sure to follow me on Trakt.tv.

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12 thoughts on “STORIES | My top three favorite British crime dramas.

    1. Ooh glad to hear you’re enjoying Sherlock! I rewatched the first two seasons before writing this post just so I could reacquaint myself with my favorite villain. I’m curious what your thoughts are on Moriarty. And yes, definitely give Peaky Blinders a chance if you’re looking for something to watch! It’s so good!

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  1. Love the list! We too are fan of the Brit crime TV. Broadchurch was quite heart breaking wasn’t it ?! I also appreciated the non-stereotypical portrayal of female police by Olivia.

    Have you seen killing Eve yet ? It’s by the immensely talented Phoebe Waller bridge, starring Sandra oh.

    Also immensely loved the honorable woman & happy valley

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    1. Yes, Broadchurch was definitely heartbreaking. Olivia did a great job of bringing that character to life.

      I haven’t seen Killing Eve yet. I’m not even sure I’ve heard of it! Oh wait, I just looked it up and it’s new! No wonder I’m not familiar with it. I’ll have to give it a watch. It looks interesting and seems to have positive reviews. Thanks for the rec!

      And that’s the second person to suggest Happy Valley so definitely adding that to my Netflix queue. I’m not sure what held me back from watching it before. That title, maybe? I’ll have to give it a chance.

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  2. Okay you have me sold on Broadchurch. I was vaguely aware that it was some sort of Doctor Who spin-off (I think?), so had been avoiding it, but it sounds like that’s not necessary!

    I loved me some Sherlock, even though I had to be convinced to watch it initially (and now I’m having that same trouble convincing some other people to watch it who I know would love it)! I have to admit that the last season kinda dampened my passion for it though. 😦

    I have yet to watch Peaky Blinders, but it pops up on my Netflix recs all the time, and that Cillian Murphy catches my eye every single time. *kisses fingers like an Italian chef*

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    1. No no no, Broadchurch is not a Doctor Who spin-off! You don’t have to worry about that! It does feature one of the actors who played the Doctor but that’s all they have in common. They’re completely different shows. (I haven’t watched Doctor Who so if it WAS a spin-off I probably wouldn’t have watched it either. :P)

      Yeah, Sherlock can be hit or miss. I liked the last season purely for the fact that it teased some extra elements of my favorite villain and I’m easily won over by things like that, but that was about it. The reveal at the end was just weird. I’m curious what they’ll do with season five though.

      Peaky Blinders is so good! If you’re bored one day and don’t know what to watch, give it a go. Cillian Murphy is DEFINITELY eye-catching and his character that he plays in that show is so smart but messed up – my favorite.

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  3. BBC shows are my absolute favorite! Peaky Blinders is one I still need to start, and knowing you like it, maybe I can bump it up our list. As I said on IG, I love Broadchurch. (I assumed the same thing as you about a romance, and I’m glad we were wrong.) I like Sherlock as well, but I haven’t seen the most recent season. I struggle with long episodes!

    Here are my recs:
    Luther
    The Bletchley Circle
    Happy Valley (don’t let it fool you…it is NOT happy)
    River
    Hinterland

    I also highly recommend Call the Midwife, even though it’s not a crime show.

    Let me know if you watch any!

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    1. Yesss, I mean, I need you to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race but I’ll say put Peaky Blinders first because I loveeee that show and it’s probably better fitted for you since you don’t care for reality shows. It’s just so beautifully done and the acting is great. Plus it IS a BBC show so since those are your favorite you must give it a shot 😉

      I actually have considered watching Happy Valley while browsing Netflix before, I’m not sure what held me back. I’ll have to pop it on the next time I’m scrolling through. And Luther is funny because for some reason in my mind I have it set as a superhero show (and I don’t care for those). I’m guessing I just automatically associate it with Lex Luther? I’ve heard it’s good though so I’ll have to give it a watch. I don’t think I’ve heard of (or remember) the other three.

      Thanks for the recs! I’ll let you know if/when I watch them. Possibly will pop on Luther or Happy Valley next week. 😀

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      1. Thats a good list Maraia! Luther’s s1 was pretty good! Haven’t seen hinterland yet, is it serialised like happy valley or episodic like Luther ?

        And I completely get the idea of being mistaken for a ‘super’ show

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