Taking inspiration from the enduring legacies of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it is impossible not to compile a list of the finest British detective series. Although the cozy murder mystery has become a fixture in the genre, it is the gripping and character-driven narratives that have reigned supreme on television for years. We have assembled a collection of masterpiece mystery shows that will quicken your pulse, stimulate your intellect, and stir your emotions.
Best BBC detective dramas
#1 Foyle’s War
Foyle’s War, the final period piece on this list, revolves around DCS Christopher Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen) investigating crimes and murders along the southern coast of England during World War II. In later series, we follow Foyle as a retired detective turned MI5 agent in the post-war aftermath. Honeysuckle Weeks portrays Samantha Stewart, Foyle’s trustworthy assistant and driver, adding a touch of levity to stories that tackle the darkness of the impending conflict and the pain caused by various crimes. You can find Foyle’s War available for purchase or rental on different streaming services, including Acorn TV in both the U.S. and the U.K.
#2 The Fall
Starring renowned actors Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, The Fall is an unsettling procedural that follows DSU Stella Gibson’s relentless pursuit of a serial killer in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Its tension and haunting atmosphere will stay with you long after you’ve finished watching.
If you’re in the U.K., you can find The Fall on BBC iPlayer, and in the U.S., it’s available on Amazon, Google Play, NBC, Pluto, Tubi, and Peacock, although some services may require a subscription. Moreover, you can watch the iconic detective series even in other countries, but you will need a VPN for a BBC player. To unblock BBC iPlayer, you can use VeePN. I have personally verified that it can unblock TV detective classics on any services with regional restrictions.
#3 Line of Duty
“Line of Duty” easily secures a spot among the all-time favorite British crime shows for many fans. This iconic series offers everything viewers crave in the genre – six captivating seasons, an enthralling ensemble cast including the youthful Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), the devoted Kate Fleming (Vicki McClure), and the steadfast Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), along with an array of corrupt police officers played by renowned talents like Kelly Macdonald, Lennie James, and Thandiwe Newton. The series revolves around the AC-12 internal affairs unit, whose relentless pursuit to expose fellow officers’ wrongdoings and their ties to organized crime might take a few episodes to fully grasp. However, once you become immersed, prepare to be hooked by this gripping narrative.
A picturesque coastal village in Dorset becomes the backdrop for this compelling three-season series, delving into the impact of a child’s murder on a tightly-knit community. For countless American viewers, it marked their introduction to Olivia Colman’s captivating performance as DS Ellie Miller. David Tennant, fresh off his iconic role as The Doctor in “Doctor Who,” brilliantly portrays DI Alec Hardy.
Jodie Whittaker, currently known as The Doctor, plays the heartbroken mother Beth Latimer. Interconnected lives and the dynamics of a small town unfold, with the series focusing on the psychological consequences of the heartbreaking loss. If you can’t find Broadchurch in your library, just install a VPN (here) and try a different region. Usually, it is enough to connect to a server in another country and the film becomes available.
Vera revolves around the brilliant detective, DCI Vera Stanhope (portrayed by Brenda Blethyn), and her dedicated team as they solve a range of chilling murders against the backdrop of the magnificent yet desolate Northumberland landscape. The narratives in Vera are poignant, touching, and unforgettable, intricately intertwined with Vera’s isolation and unwavering commitment to her work. You can catch Vera in the United Kingdom on ITVX and in the United States on Amazon Video and BritBox.
Set in the remote Shetland islands above Scotland, the gripping crime drama “Shetland” follows DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) and his team as they investigate a range of crimes and murders. With the action unfolding within a tight-knit island community, the stakes are always high and personal. “Shetland” can be streamed on BBC iPlayer and ITVX in the U.K. and is also available for purchase or rental on multiple streaming platforms in the U.S.
Chances are you love detective dramas for their unpredictability and ability to keep your attention, and so do we. The BBC has a lot to surprise you with, and we’re just making it easier for you to find the perfect series for you.