We have updated our definitive guide for the best crime drama and thriller shows on Acorn TV for the year 2020 with some of the most exciting new releases.
This year’s list differs from previous year’s editions in few important ways: Acorn TV has introduced many new original shows which made it to our list. Additionally, we incorporated the feedback and comments of our readers on what shows they have loved in the selection process.
Note: For our other coverage of Acorn TV and its shows, please read The 30 Best Crime Drama and Thriller Shows On Acorn TV: 2018 Edition and 40 Best Crime Drama and Thriller Shows On Acorn TV: 2019 Edition. Additionally, BritBox VS. Acorn TV: Which One Is A Better Streaming Service? provides a comparison between Acorn TV and a similar service.
Freshly updated and now in an expanded list, our new selected titles for 2020 are highly addictive and intriguing:
1. THE BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES
This quirky New Zealand mystery follows DI Mike Shepherd, who arrives to the seemingly peaceful town of Brokenwood with a classic car, a country music collection, and an indeterminate number of ex-wives. His assistant, DC Kristin Sims, is a by-the-book investigator 15 years younger than her boss’s car. Shepherd soon discovers that Brokenwood is full of secrets and suspicions.
British drama about food, love and infidelity in Cornwall. Starring Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley) and Emilia Fox (Silent Witness), with Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Jack Taylor) and Vincent Regan (Strike Back, The White Princess). (4 EPS)
Suave, smart, and somewhat strange, Raphaël Balthazar (Tomer Sisley) can make the dead speak like no one else. As a forensic pathologist in Paris, he works with no-nonsense chief inspector Hélène Bach (Hélène de Fougerolles) to solve the city’s most disturbing crimes. But there’s one case that continues to haunt him–the murder of his wife over a decade ago.
4. THE OLDENHEIM TWELVE (Foreign Language)
Hit Dutch mystery thriller about a journalist (Noortje Herlaar, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and a detective (Nasrdin Dchar) brought to Oldenheim to investigate the inexplicable disappearances of twelve village people. (12 EPS)
The show, which was written by Lex Passchier and Martin van Steijn and directed by Anne van der Linden, tells the story of the disappearance of a teenage girl, which in turn leads to a series of bizarre experiences. After 16-year-old Nine disappears one summer evening, a second inhabitant of Oldenheim disappears and it doesn’t stop there, with several other people from the village community disappearing. Is there a serial killer at large or is something supernatural going on?
5. LONDON KILLS, Series 1 (Acorn TV Original Series)
British detective drama from the creator of Suspects. Hugo Speer (The Full Monty), Sharon Small (Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Bailey Patrick (Bodyguard), and newcomer Tori Allen-Martinstar as a team of top murder detectives in the world’s most recognizable city, London. (5 EPS) (TRAILER)
6. MANHUNT (Acorn TV Original Series)
#1 rated ITV British miniseries based upon the memoirs of former London Metropolitan detective DCI Colin Sutton (Martin Clunes, Doc Martin, Men Behaving Badly) who determinedly and tenaciously pursued serial killer Levi Bellfield. (3 EPS)
7. STRAIGHT FORWARD (Acorn TV Original Series)
Danish/New Zealand co-production and family crime drama following a woman (Cecilie Stenspil) seeking revenge after a notorious gangster murders her father. (8 EPS)
My Life Is Murder
8. MY LIFE IS MURDER
Australian drama starring Lucy Lawless (Top of the Lake, Xena: Warrior Princess) as a complex, contrary and compelling private investigator who is a brilliant woman who refuses to give in. Or give up. (10 EPS).
9. Rebecka Martinsson
We do have an implicit bias towards good Scandinavian crime dramas and Rebecka Martinsson is one of those excellent shows which instantly made it to the top of our list. Wall Street Journal recently said this about the show: “In a television world now awash in female coppers, there aren’t many as interesting and human as Rebecka”
This gripping Swedish crime drama follows Rebecka Martinsson, a successful Stockholm lawyer whose life is turned upside down after a violent death in the hometown she tried to leave behind. When a childhood friend suddenly dies Rebecka Martinsson returns home to the north of Kiruna. But not everything is what it seems.
10. Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a six-part British television drama series and is created by screenwriter Stephen Brady. It follows DS Annie Redford (Laura Fraser), a small town police officer with the Scottish Highland Police as she investigates the murder of piano teacher Niall Swift, who is found dead at the bottom of a cliff in the picturesque village of Lochnafoy, Loch Ness.
When it becomes apparent that part of Swift’s brain has been removed, and a human heart belonging to another victim is found close by, Annie’s team realize they are searching for a serial killer. In response, Glasgow based major investigation detective DCI Lauren Quigley (Siobhan Finneran) is brought in to lead the inquiry.
11. THE POISON TREE
Emmy nominee Matthew Goode (A Discovery of Witches, The Crown) stars in this “gripping… psychological crime thriller” (Mirror, UK) of deception, seduction, and twisted family ties. Released from prison, convicted murderer Rex returns home to his devoted wife, Karen (MyAnna Buring, Ripper Street), who has always maintained his innocence. But Karen is hiding darker secrets than even Rex realizes.
Vera is a British crime drama series based on novels of the same name, written by crime writer Ann Cleeves. To date, eight seasons of the series have been produced and aired.
The series stars Brenda Blethyn as the principal character, Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. Vera is a middle-aged employee of the fictional Northumberland & City Police, who is obsessive about her work and driven by her own demons. She plods along in a constantly disheveled state, but has a calculating mind and, despite her irascible personality, she cares deeply about her work and comrades. Vera forms a close relationship with both of her sergeants, Joe Ashworth (David Leon) and, subsequently, Aiden Healy (Kenny Doughty).
13. Jack Taylor
This is one of Mystery Tribune’s favorites: Jack Taylor is an Irish mystery television drama based on the novels by Ken Bruen. Set in Galway, the program features Iain Glen in the eponymous role of Jack Taylor, a former officer with the Garda Síochána (national police) who becomes a “finder” (private investigator) after leaving the service; Taylor looks for clues others have overlooked, and knows the streets of his hometown like the back of his hand.
14. THE TRUTH WILL OUT
Detective Peter Wendel wants to create an elite team of investigators to crack cold cases. When the police receive a tip that Sweden’s most notorious serial killer is a fraud, and therefore eight killers might have gone free, Wendel gets his chance–but only the dregs of the force are available to work the case. Can his lowly group solve these high-profile crimes? Swedish with English subtitles.
15. Midsomer Murders
A household name for the fans of British msyerty, Midsomer Murders has been on TV since 1997. The show is based on Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnabybook series, as originally adapted by Anthony Horowitz. The current lead character is DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon), who works for Causton CID. Dudgeon’s character is the younger cousin of former lead character DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles). Dudgeon first appeared as randy gardener Daniel Bolt in the Series 4 episode “Garden of Death”. Dudgeon permanently joined the show in 2011 following Nettles’ departure.
The stories are set in modern-day England and revolve around Tom Barnaby’s (later, John Barnaby’s) efforts to solve numerous murders that take place in the idyllic, picturesque but deadly villages of the fictional county of Midsomer.
16. Hamish Macbeth
Hamish Macbeth is a comedy-mystery-drama series made by BBC Scotland and first aired in 1995. It is loosely based on a series of mystery novels by M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney). The series concerns a local police officer, Constable Hamish Macbeth, in the fictitious town of Lochdubh on the west coast of Scotland. The title character was played by Robert Carlyle.
Hamish Macbeth, a police constable in the Northern Constabulary, accompanied by his dog, a West Highland Terrier named Wee Jock, keeps the peace in the small town of Lochdubh (pronounced with the guttural ‘ch’ sound, LoCH-DOO). Macbeth does this in his own way, without undue reliance on the letter of the law and with every intention of avoiding being promoted out of what is his ideal job. He strongly dislikes involvement from Inverness police, and sometimes his main work doesn’t seem to be the capture of local very petty criminals, but to keep them away from prison and penalties.
The major running theme of the series is the tension caused by Hamish’s attraction to both the journalist of the local newspaper, Isobel Sutherland (Shirley Henderson) and the aristocratic author Alexandra Maclean (Valerie Gogan).
17. George Gently
In this acclaimed BBC detective drama, Tony nominee Martin Shaw (Death in Holy Orders) stars as Inspector George Gently, an incorruptible cop transplanted from London to the North East of England in the mid-1960s. Gently and his cocky young protege, John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby, Line of Duty), investigate brutal crimes as they confront the social and political changes of the era.
18. Foyle’s War
Foyle’s War is a British detective drama television series set during (and shortly after) the Second World War, created by Midsomer Murders screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz and commissioned by ITV after the long-running series Inspector Morse ended in 2000.
In this series, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen), a widower, is quiet, methodical, sagacious, scrupulously honest and frequently underestimated by his foes. Many of his cases concern profiteering, the black market and murder, and he is often called on to catch criminals who are taking advantage of the confusion created by the war.
Although Foyle often comes up against high-ranking officials in the British military or intelligence services who would prefer that he mind his own business, he tenaciously seeks justice. Throughout the series, he is assisted by his driver, Samantha “Sam” Stewart(Honeysuckle Weeks), and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell).
19. JACK IRISH
Emmy Award-winner Guy Pearce (Memento, Iron Man 3) is ex-lawyer turned PI Jack Irish in this acclaimed Aussie noir series. Aided by journalist-and sometimes girlfriend-Linda Hillier (Marta Dusseldorp, A Place to Call Home, Janet King), Jack takes on cases that plunge him into Melbourne’s criminal underbelly. “With romance, exotic suspense, and dry wit, Jack’s the whole package” -TV Guide.
20. THE GOOD KARMA HOSPITAL
Set in a colorful coastal town in Southern India, the charming medical drama stars Amrita Acharia (Game of Thrones) and Amanda Redman (New Tricks) as doctors at an under-resourced and over-worked cottage hospital. (6 EPS)
21. KEEPING FAITH, Series 2 (Acorn TV Original Series)
The BBC Wales international sensation returns with Eve Myles (Victoria, Broadchurch) as Faith and her family reel from the dramatic aftermath of Series 1. (6 EPS).
In this compelling French mystery, Gabriel Cauvy (Bruno Solo, Blood on the Docks) contends with the sudden death of his wife, Rebecca, in a suspicious car wreck. When the police blame the crash on Rebecca for drunk driving, Gabriel sets out to clear her name, but his search for the truth is more dangerous than he could have imagined.
23. Poirot Collection
This is now a classic: David Suchet is a pitch-perfect Poirot in these gorgeously filmed adaptations of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. The diminuitive detective cracks cases with a sharp mind, dry wit, and help from his friends, including Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser, Sharpe), Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson, Boomers, The Good Karma Hospital), and Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker, My Family, Mr. Selfridge).
24. Line of Duty
Like other police units, AC-12 investigates criminals–but the lawbreakers it catches are police officers working in the line of duty. Martin Compston (Monarch of the Glen), Lennie James (The Walking Dead), and Keeley Hawes (The Casual Vacancy) star in this critically adored series called “unmissible” by The Times (UK).
Likened to Broadchurch and The Killing by critics, this psychological mystery is “must-see TV…taut, stylish, and suspenseful” (The Irish Times).
BAFTA nominee Adrian Dunbar (Line of Duty) stars as a respected doctor in a small Irish town. When his wife dies, everyone believes it was an accident–except his daughter (Carolina Main, Unforgotten), who mistrusts her father because of a childhood trauma.
26. Acceptable Rick
This is an amazing Irish series and and Acorn TV original drama: After her husband is murdered, Sarah Manning slowly realizes that she knew almost nothing about his past. The investigation forces her to reckon with who he actually was–and what he did in his work for a shadowy global organization.
27. Above Suspicion
Kelly Reilly (True Detective) and Ciaran Hinds (Game of Thrones) star in this riveting detective series from Prime Suspect creator Lynda La Plante. With thrilling storytelling and smoldering chemistry between Reilly and Hinds, it’s “easily one of the best detective shows on the box” (Wales on Sunday, UK).
28. Agatha Christie’s Marple
Although our favorite Miss Marple is the one portrayed in the 1980s by Joan Hickson, this series is also a high quality one: Proper, demure, and sharp as a tack, Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth is brilliantly portrayed by Geraldine McEwan (1-3) and Julia McKenzie (4-5) in these charming period mysteries.
29. Murdoch Mysteries
Murdoch Mysteries is a Canadian television drama series featuring Yannick Bisson as William Murdoch, a police detective working in Toronto, Ontario, around the turn of the twentieth century. The television series is based on characters from the novel series by Maureen Jennings.
30. Agatha Raisin
This show is a top pick for many cozy mystery fans: Ashley Jensen stars in this quintessentially British village mystery based on the bestselling books by M.C. Beaton. Burnt out on office politics, Agatha Raisin retires early to a picturesque village in the Cotswolds and soon finds a second career as an amateur detective investigating mischief, mayhem, and murder her deceptively quaint town.
31. Jericho of Scotland Yard
“Robert Lindsay (My Family) stars as Chief Inspector Michael Jericho of Scotland Yard, a respected, uncompromising, and forward-thinking detective investigating high-profile murders in 1950s London. Set during a fascinating period of Britain’s social history, the series is more than a whodunnit, offering a peek at the explosion of shifting attitudes after the Second World War.
32. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
This stylish and sexy period mystery stars Essie Davis (The Babadook) as Phryne Fisher, a thoroughly modern woman operating in a mostly male world. Set in 1920s Melbourne, the series follows the glamorous lady detective as she goes about her work with a pistol close at hand and, more often than not, a male admirer even closer.
33. Pie In The Sky
This lighthearted mystery stars Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter) as DI Henry Crabbe, a good cop who finally retires from the force and opens his dream restaurant. He hopes to while away his retirement serving up his favorite dishes, but his old boss puts his plans on the back burner. “An enjoyably British mix of character comedy and murder mystery” –MSN Entertainment.
34. NO OFFENCE
From the creator of Shameless comes an “exhilarating” (The Independent, UK) police comedy-drama with fierce female characters and a shrewd, irreverent take on crime. Joanna Scanlan (Notes on a Scandal) and Elaine Cassidy (Acceptable Risk) star as Manchester detectives hunting for a serial killer in this BAFTA Award nominee for Best Drama Series.
35. Murder In Suburbia
Doc Martin’s Caroline Catz and Lisa Faulkner (EastEnders) star in this light-hearted crime drama about a pair of unlikely partners tasked with investigating crimes in the leafy suburb of Middleford. Although they couldn’t be more different, Ash and Scribbs are unstoppable as they tackle cases with a blend of ironic humor and chutzpah.
36. Mr. And Mrs. Murder
In this Aussie import, fun-loving and flirtatious married couple Nicola (Kat Stewart, Offspring) and Charlie Buchanan (Shaun Micallef) run a cleaning service for crime scenes. The amateur detectives quickly realize that closing cases comes just as naturally as cleaning them up.
37. The Broker’s Man
Kevin Whately (Inspector Lewis) stars as Jimmy Griffin, an ex-cop turned insurance investigator in this winning British detective series. Jimmy’s cunning and insight are well-suited to the business of exposing con men and other fraudsters. With his police training, he’s able to take on any case, no matter how dangerous. If only he could be as successful in his personal life.
38. The Level
This gripping Acorn TV Original features “a great cast and a twist-filled plot” (Evening Standard, UK). DS Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome) is a good cop with a secret: drug trafficker Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister, Life on Mars) is like a father to her. Co-stars Robert James-Collier (Downton Abbey), Joe Absolom (Doc Martin), and Amanda Burton (The Commander).
Michael Kitchen (Foyle’s War), Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), and Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) star in this intriguing miniseries. When neurotic Greg (Kitchen) is implicated in his business partner’s death, witness Marcey (Okonedo) helps him dispose of the corpse–but quickly begins to wonder what she has gotten herself into.
40. Mind Games
DI Frances O’Neil is a former nun turned criminal profiler who gets into the minds of murderers to solve crimes. When two women are found tied to chairs and beaten to death in their own homes, Frances realizes that these murders, which were initially thought to be burglaries gone wrong, are instead the work of a serial killer
41. Black Work
This powerful crime thriller written by Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies) dives into the murky depths of undercover police work and tells the story of a woman willing to risk everything to protect her family. Sheridan Smith (Jonathan Creek, Accused) delivers a powerhouse performance as Jo Gillespie, a police constable who embarks on a dangerous investigation of her husband’s death.
An outstanding ensemble cast including Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) anchors this engrossing UK crime drama from the producers of Broadchurch. After a 14-year-old girl goes missing ahead of her central role in the local Mayday pageant, forcing residents of the local community start to wonder which one of them might be responsible for her abduction.
Still grieving his wife’s suicide, Detective Harry Anglesea returns to Auckland’s Major Crime Unit after four weeks of bereavement leave in his native Samoa. But his self-destructive behavior indicates he’s less ready to get back to work than he thinks. Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders) and Oscar Kightley star.
44. SERANGOON ROAD
Don Hany (Underbelly) stars as Sam Callaghan an Australian expat and former army officer, who spent his childhood in a Singaporean prison camp in this HBO Asia Original. When Patricia Cheng (Joan Chen, Twin Peaks) seeks his help to keep her detective agency afloat following her husband’s murder, Sam quickly becomes the man to call to get a job done. Not available in Canada.
45. QUEENS OF MYSTERY (Acorn TV Original Series)
Charming, female-led mystery series created by Julian Unthank (Doc Martin, New Tricks). A young police detective (Olivia Vinall, The Woman in White) is aided by her three crime/mystery-writing aunts (Julie Graham, The Bletchley Circle; Siobhan Redmond, Alfresco; and Sarah Woodward, The Politician’s Husband), whether she wants it or not. (6 EPS)
46. PITCHING IN (Acorn TV Original Series)
BBC Wales/BBC One drama starring Larry Lamb (EastEnders) and Hayley Mills (The Parent Trap) set on the north Wales coast, tells the story of three generations of the same family, all struggling to make the best of a very unusual situation.
47. THE SECRET AGENT
In this thrilling BBC adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s timeless novel, Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones (Detectorists, The Hunger Games) stars as Anton Verloc, an unassuming Soho shopkeeper. Unbeknownst to even his loyal wife, Winnie (Vicky McClure, Line of Duty, Broadchurch), Verloc also works for the Russian embassy as a spy. “Fascinatingly prescient [and] moving” -Radio Times (UK).
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