20 Best Crime Drama TV Shows

It's hard to keep track of all the crime drama TV shows. They make so many... why? Because people have an insatiable appetite for them. I know I do. Here are my 20 favorites of all time.

: A young woman sitting on a vintage chair and watching TV

We know that killing and other horrific crimes are unacceptable, fighting is bad, and robbery is downright wrong, yet we can’t deny that watching them happening in front of our eyes (of course, on TV only) is our true guilty pleasure. This can be backed up by viewership number, as one recent report “Consuming Television Crime Drama: A Uses and Gratifications Approach” tells us that multiple crime dramas rank in the top ten of the most watched tv shows in the US.

Makers of crime shows know the nation-wide love for horrifying, thrilling, and mind-blowing crime dramas which is why there is no shortage of them on television screens. But with so many crime dramas coming out literally every other day, it is hard to guess which one would satisfy your crime drama cravings without calling them “meh”.

We have gathered the 20 best crime TV shows that will make you never want to leave your couch. So, here goes the list!

1. YOU

If binge-watching had a face, this would be it!

Recently released crime thriller “YOU” is addictive to the extent that you would probably finish watching it in just a day! Truly binge worthy content. The show, adapted from the popular page-turning thriller book of the same name by Caroline Kepnes, is a startling story of how a bookstore manager falls into a never-ending obsession with one of his customers.

Mind you, it isn’t your classic love story, far from it. The guy is actually a stalker and as it turns out a psychopath as well.

We’re eagerly waiting for the second season now!

2. Sherlock

If you haven’t watched this show yet, you are missing out on some serious cult fiction.

Needless to say, this is a must-watch show that you will instantly fall in love with, especially with the characters and the exceptional acting of all the actors involved.

If you have missed the boat, don’t worry, you can easily catch up. The nice thing about this drama is that unlike other TV shows, every season of Sherlock features only three 90-minute episodes. In no time, you will be watching the just-released episode like every Sherlock binge-viewer.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and watch this series now!

3. Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad TV show

Like Sherlock, the series of Breaking Bad has become a classic!

The story follows a Chemistry teacher – Walter White – shockingly finding out that he has terminal cancer and has only six months to live. That’s not it. His wife is pregnant while his teenage son is struggling with cerebral palsy.

As they say desperate times call for desperate measures and we see it happening in action in this suspenseful drama. In an attempt to earn enough money to improve his family’s financial situation after he is gone, Walter decides to use his chemistry knowledge for making crystal meth. Seems a bit basic right? But watch this show and you will be surprised by all the drama, tension, and some hilarious moments played out on your TV. There is a reason why this TV show is dubbed by audiences and critics alike as one of the best shows ever produced.

4. Luther

The TV drama is (hands-down) the best British crime thrillers in recent times. The TV show revolves around a clever and brilliant detective that uses his own unique abilities to hunt down the vilest criminals of London.

As the show progresses, the crimes become more grotesque and the mounting thrill takes the show to a whole new level. What elevates the show’s worth is the addition of mind-boggling murder mysteries, psychotic serial killers, and sinister actions.

Watch one episode and you will be hooked.

5. Mindhunter

Have you read the amazing crime book – Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker? If yes, then you will be glad to know that there is a TV drama based precisely on that.

The show centers on FBI agents – Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany and a shrewd psychologist – Anna Torv. Together, they interview serial killers in jails to help investigate and solve other ongoing murder cases. These investigators are the ones to coin the name serial killer and have changed the way investigators approach specific cases.

If you love crime investigation shows or dream to be a criminal investigator in the future, this show is just for you!

6. Dexter

Michael Hall of Dexter TV Show

Don’t we all get curious to find out what goes in the mind of a serial killer? Of course, we do. This is why Dexter is considered to be the best crime dramas of all times. But let us just clear one thing – Dexter is not like any other creepy-looking serial killer that takes the lives of innocent people.

What makes him distinguishable from typical serial killers is that he only murders heinous criminals that are responsible for killing innocent people. On the bright side, Dexter is a smart and successful forensic technician of the Miami Metro Police Department. With every new season, new twists and turns take place in Dexter’s life, which are totally worth watching.

Add this crime drama to your watch list!

7. Narcos

Narcos TV Show billboard

Based on a true story of the world’s most popular drug lord – Pablo Escobar, Narcos is too good to miss out on. The real-life story of Escobar is a compelling tale that is amazingly documented in this incredible TV drama.

The show brilliantly demonstrates how Escobar up from the ranks of a common thief and kidnapper, and becoming the world’s most powerful and wealthiest criminal of all time. His life story is as interesting as it gets. And every fascinating bit of his life is documented well in the drama.

What will pique your interest is the non-stop action and extremely fast pacing. It is a story of a criminal, what else did you expect?

It is one of those TV shows that you can’t get enough of. Yes, it is that good!

8. Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds TV show cast

If you haven’t seen or even heard of this show before, we don’t what you have been doing all this time. Criminal Minds is a crime show based on real crimes. Sounds interesting, right? The best of all is that it features the most unforgettable characters that have each other’s back through thick and thin.

The show keeps its viewership at all-time highs with special guest appearances. Every now and then, you will come across a talented actor showing off his or her acting prowess; some of them include Aisha Tyler, Cameron Monaghan, Tobin Bell, and Van Der Beek etc.

Just watch the couple of first episodes and you would be fully invested in this TV drama.

9. Pretty Little Liars

You may wonder how on earth a show featuring five pretty teenagers living in a small town – Pennsylvania could be a crime show. Well, watch it and you will realize how wrong you were. this TV drama is all about crime, murder, mystery, and suspense.

The story takes flight when Alison DiLaurentis goes missing and her friends start to get a series of strange texts from an unknown person “A”. The major chunk of the show goes on in finding who this mysterious person “A” is. Other than crime and thrill, the show encapsulates the love life of Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily, our main protagonists of the show.

10. Orange Is the New Black

Orange is the new black billboard sign

Most crime shows have a mysterious air to them. But that’s not the case with Orange Is the New Black. The show is pretty entertaining as it documents the lives of women prisoners, accenting the back stories of all the inmates and a couple of officers as well.

Each of the inmate’s stories highlights how they end up getting in jail. The viewer gets an insight in their childhood, upbringing, and what went wrong down the road. Some characters will even make you wonder how undeserving they are to be locked up inside while others wouldn’t take long to show their twisted, messed-up streak.

If you are interested to find out everything that goes behind bars, look no further than this show!

11. Top of the Lake

What is one common thing about all crime shows? They are never just crime shows. All great crime dramas compel the viewers to delve deeper into them, to explore subtle themes and underlying subtexts.

Top of the Lake is exactly what will motivate you to do that once you start watching this edgy and deeply disturbing TV show. The plot goes as follows:

A 12-year old pregnant girl – Tui – goes missing and the case is handed to Detective Robin Griffin who, while investigating the case, discovers plenty of lies, secrets, and loopholes in the story of a missing girl.

12. Hannibal

Get ready to be blown away by the most epic and plot driven series based on the fictional character Hannibal. You will find human psychology and meaningful human connection at the forefront in this wonderfully directed show.

You will be taken by both villains (especially Hannibal Lecter) and victims alike. Before you know it, you will be deeply attached to the protagonist – Will Graham. The FBI profiler is filled with oodles of empathy and compassion. He does everything in his capacity to save someone’s life even if it demands to risk his own. On the other side of the spectrum is Hannibal whose cold, manipulative and calculating personality will leave you in total awe.

A piece of advice: Focus on the details of the show as the real enjoyment arises from understanding them. This visually stunning and character driven show cannot be missed out on.

13. Sons of Anarchy

Sons of anarchy logo

If you love motorbikes, actions, and plenty of drama, go watch Sons of Anarchy (thank us later). The show is about a Northern California motorcycle gang who is into club fights, drugs, weapons, and many other criminal activities.

From riding motorcycles to drug dealing to taking revenge to fighting that always ends up in the killing of one person or the other, you will see the motorcycle gang doing it all and that too, in style.

14. Peaky Blinders

The primary plot of the show is based on the late 19th century British gang “the Peaky Blinders” that rose to prominence due to their criminal activities. Every two years, a new season of Peaky Blinders starts with a bang, packed with drama, action, murder, and conflicts.

The incredibly good-looking gangsters (shout out to Thomas Shelby, Arthur Shelby, and John Shelby) with their weird haircuts, which you’ll get used to it, will keep you extremely invested in the show and its characters. The finale of each season takes the cake as it is literally nail-biting. Watch this TV drama to experience all sorts of emotions from happiness to sadness to anger to confusion to trauma and relief.

It would be ignorant of us to not mention the super cool and catchy soundtrack of Peaky Blinders. Although this show is set in the early 20th century, the soundtrack is surprisingly quite modern with its hit theme song “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

15. How to Get Away with a Murder

How to get away with murder cast

The best thing about this crime drama is that it is totally unpredictable. You will never be able to guess what’s going to happen next.

The show revolves around a group of law students that are hired by a law firm to assist their employees with law cases. As the story goes on, mysteries, secret lies, and hidden truths arise, revealing dark sides of each and every character. Every actor does full justice with their characters and the relationship between all characters is brilliantly portrayed.

Every episode leaves you wanting to know more about the show. And in just one sitting, you will finish watching all available seasons.

16. The Fall

If there is any gripping thriller on TV, then it is none other than the Fall. Arguably, it is Gillian Anderson’s career’s best performance as she effortlessly portrays a stunning and powerful police officer.

Another character that makes the Fall worthwhile to watch is Paul Spectre, a troubled man that preys on young, innocent women for sexual pleasure. What’s shocking is that he leads an absolutely normal life with a beautiful wife and two adorable children.

The show is messy, complex, and political, due to which this crime drama is nothing but a masterpiece.

17. Broadchurch

Broadchurch has all the right ingredients to make a compelling crime drama. It is deep, gloomy, creepy, raw, and enthralling. The premise involves two detectives – Olivia Colman and David Tennant – that are investigating the murder of an eleven-year-old boy in a British coastal village. It appears to be a simple story until every individual in the town looks like a suspect.

If you want to see how a mystery should be unraveled, watch this crime show right now. The narrative is, indeed, enticing and engrossing, keeping you hooked from start to finish.

18. Happy Valley

By just giving it a brief glance, this show may appear to be a typical police drama, but a few episodes down and you will realize how wrong your assumptions were. Set in the English county of Yorkshire, the show doesn’t shy away from revealing the dark, grim life of British citizens.

Happy Valley is based on a committed and outstanding police officer Catherine Cawood who has enough, we’d rather say more than enough, going on in her personal life – her teenage daughter commits suicide, her sister is recovering from drug abuse, and a kidnapping case that keep her on toes. Regardless of how dim circumstances are, Cawood never shuns her responsibilities and cracks all the cases with sheer brilliance.

What really ticks the show is the fabulous acting by BAFTA winner Sarah Lancashire as the good cop – Catherine Cawood.

This crime drama is packed with the Yorkshire slang such as “mardy” or “ta’ra”. If you don’t know what these terms mean, then a quick online search will be of great help.

19. Marcella

The near-genius police officer – Marcella is taking some time out of her police career when she learns about a serial killer on the loose who likes to tie hands and feet of his victim and then wrap their head with a plastic bag. The police officer immediately decides to come back to her office and sets up to find this messed-up serial killer. But here is the frightening part – Marcella is not right in the head – she is aggressive and mentally unstable and the worst part, she threw her husband off the stairs!

But does that mean Marcella is that serial killer on the loose? Well, you have to decide that by yourself. Watch this show to witness all the jaw-dropping mysteries unfold right on your screen.

20. The Night Of

John Turturro from The Night Of TV show

Don’t be deceived by the premise as it may seem familiar to you. Once you start watching the show, you will realize it true brilliance.

Based on the BBC series, Criminal Justice, the show highlights the pessimism and fatalism of the 21st century. With murder mystery at its forefront, the TV drama highlights the utterly flawed criminal justice system. It is a truly captivating series that will leave you devastated over the unfolding of scenarios that are an uncanny reflection of real life. With a brilliant cast and amazing performance, this show tops up our list of the best crime dramas that can be seen on television.

It would be a crime to miss these TV shows. So drop whatever you are doing and go watch one (or all) of these great crime dramas that have graced our television screens.

21. True Detective

I’m excited about season 3 of True Detective. Season 1 kicked ass. Season 2 was bad. I hear season 3 is great.

 


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