Five British crime shows to add to your watchlist

There's something about British shows that we just love.
01 Jul, 2023

Over the last decade, crime shows have exploded onto our screens. They have become popular choices of entertainment, captivating audiences with their suspenseful storylines and often gritty settings. These shows offer viewers a glimpse into the darker side of human nature, exploring the motivations and psychology behind criminal behaviour. From police procedurals to true crime documentaries, crime TV shows have become a staple of modern television, offering a thrilling and often thought-provoking viewing experience.

British crime TV shows are often praised for their strong storytelling and character development, unlike American ones. They tend to have fewer episodes per season, allowing for a more focused and tightly woven narrative. Additionally, they often feature complex and morally ambiguous characters, with a greater emphasis on psychological depth.

Below we’ll look at some of the shows that have left a lasting impression on audiences around the world.

The Fall (2013-16)

The Fall is a British-Irish crime show that tells the story of a police investigation into a series of murders in Belfast, Northern Ireland, carried out by a sadistic and methodical serial killer named Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan.

Gillian Anderson stars as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who is brought in from London to lead the investigation. The series deeply delves into the psyche of Paul Spector as he continues to evade the authorities throughout the span of the series.

The show was praised for its gripping storyline, chilling atmosphere, and strong performances by the lead actors. It also tackled themes of misogyny and violence against women, which resonated with many viewers. Overall, The Fall was a critically acclaimed and popular series that kept audiences on the edge of their seats.

Luther (2010-2019)

Luther follows the story of the brilliant but troubled detective, John Luther, played by Idris Elba, who works for the Serious Crime Unit in London. Luther is haunted by his past and struggles with his own demons as he tries to solve some of the most complex and violent cases in the city.

What makes things more complicated for him is the entrance of Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, who is a highly intelligent and manipulative character. Her presence upends Luther’s personal and professional life, as she becomes both a friend and a foe to the troubled detective.

The show’s intense and powerful storyline, as well as the outstanding performances of the lead actors, led to several awards over the years, including the Golden Globes, Screen Actors’ Guild, and Critics’ Choice Awards. Elba’s portrayal of the complex and flawed Luther was particularly noteworthy and helped to make the show a massive hit with audiences.

Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Broadchurch is an anthology series that explores different crimes in every season. The show is set in a small coastal town in Dorset, England, and follows Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman) and Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant) who are tasked with solving the cases.

The first season focuses on the murder of a young boy, while the second season deals with the trial of the accused killer. The third and final season takes on a different crime altogether, exploring a sexual assault case. Each season of the show is self-contained, with a different story and a new set of characters, but still retains the same atmosphere and themes that made the first season so successful.

The show was lauded for its gripping storyline, strong performances by the lead actors, and its exploration of themes such as grief, loss, and betrayal. The chemistry between Colman and Tennant, both accomplished actors, was also a major factor in the show’s success.

Marcella (2016-2021)

Marcella follows Marcella Backland, played by Anna Friel, a former detective who returns to work in the London Metropolitan Police after a 10-year hiatus. Marcella is tasked with investigating a series of gruesome murders that seem to be linked to her own past. She is a complex and enigmatic character, struggling with personal demons and family issues while she tries to solve the case.

Marcella is known for its many plot twists, which kept viewers guessing throughout the series. The lead character suffers from blackouts and memory loss, which makes her an unreliable narrator. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that her blackouts are connected to the murders she is investigating. The identity of the killer is kept secret until the very end, with many suspects and red herrings along the way. When the killer is finally revealed, it comes as a shock to the audience.

The show’s intricate and multi-layered storyline kept viewers on the edge of their seats and was led by the superb performances of Anna Friel as the troubled Marcella.

Sherlock (2010-2017)

No list of crime shows would be complete without Sherlock. The show is based on the classic Sherlock Holmes detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and features Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character, with Martin Freeman playing his sidekick, Dr John Watson.

The show’s modern take on the classic stories, along with its use of cutting-edge technology and cinematography, led to an instant cult following and a meteoric rise to stardom for Cumberbatch and Freeman.

The show’s plot twists and cliffhangers were a major draw for viewers, with each season ending on a high note. Some of the key plot twists include the reveal of Sherlock’s arch-nemesis, the introduction of Sherlock’s sister Eurus and her involvement in a series of murders, and the apparent death of Sherlock in the final episode of season two.

The show’s use of visual cues and foreshadowing, along with the clever and intricate puzzles that Sherlock solves, made it a thrilling and engaging series that kept viewers hooked until the very end.

British crime TV shows have undoubtedly left a lasting impact on audiences across the world. From the chilling and psychological exploration of killers in The Fall, to the complex and flawed detective in Luther, these shows have redefined the crime genre with their gripping storylines and exceptional performances. Undoubtedly, they are a must-watch for any crime TV enthusiast.