The 50 Best Crime Drama and Thriller Shows On Netflix: 2018 Edition
For the year 2018, we have conducted a new comprehensive review of new murder mysteries and crime dramas on Netflix to find out the best shows (see our 2017 edition of the 40 best crime dram and thriller shows here).
Update (2021): Our 2021 guide is also available here.
Freshly updated and now in an expanded list, our new selections are highly addictive and intriguing.
Imagine, here you are, looking for the best thriller and crime series to stream on Netflix and you’re stuck, as you are having difficulty working your way through and be entertained in a big way. Hopefully our list will make the life easier for you. Here’s a round up of the best crime drama and thriller shows on Netflix that you can watch right now (the numbering is for referencing purposes only):
Marcella is a British crime noir detective series produced, written and directed by Hans Rosenfeldt: Former London detective Marcella Backland is devastated when her husband leaves her and their two children. He is head of Legal Affairs at DTG Construction, property developers effectively controlled by the Gibson family.
When Marcella is visited by a senior detective on the murder squad seeking information regarding an unsolved, 11-year-old case of a serial killer who seems to have become active again, Marcella returns to the murder squad. She enters a world of online dating, prostitution, and the dubious dealings of her husband’s employers while trying to save her marriage.
49. La Casa De Papel
This is a new international title. La casa de papel (literally The House of Paper) is a single-season, 15-episode Spanish heist television series created by Álex Pina. It premiered on May 2, 2017 and stars, among others Úrsula Corberó, Paco Tous, and Alba Flores.
In the series, a mysterious man, who goes by the name of El Profesor (“The Professor”), is planning the biggest heist ever told. In order to carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits a gang of eight people with certain abilities who have nothing to lose. The goal is to enter the Royal Mint of Spain so that they can print 2.4 billion euros. In order to do this, they need eleven days of seclusion, during which they will have to deal with sixty-five hostages and the elite forces of the Police.
48. Deep Water
This is an Australian crime drama series screened on SBS starting 5 October 2016. This four-part miniseries is directed by Shawn and is based on the historical, unsolved hate murders of possibly 30 to 80 gay men in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and beaches in the 1980s and ’90s. SBS broadcast a documentary of these events, Deep Water: The Real Story (2016), in conjunction with the miniseries.
This is a Netflix original series and an exciting one: Filmmaker Errol Morris documents a man’s 60-year quest to identify the circumstances of his father’s mysterious death as he uncovers some of the United States’ darkest secrets. This is a genre-bending tale and is increasingly becoming popular among thriller series fans.
We have covered this Finnish crime drama in the past (see here). The series, in a nutshell, is about a brilliant but overworked police detective. The series follows Detective Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen) as he relocates to the small town of Lappeenranta near the Russian border for a quiet life as his wife recovers from a brain tumor. But life is not very peaceful on the border between two worlds.
45. Alias Grace
This is an interesting Candian-American miniseries for fans of historical mysteries. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood (see here) and adapted by Sarah Polley. The series consists of six episodes and it premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017, and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 2017.
The series tells the story of young Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who is accused and convicted of the 1843 murder of her employer and his housekeeper. Stablehand James McDermott is also convicted of the crime. McDermott is hanged, but Grace is sentenced to life in prison, leading her to become one of the most notorious women of the period in Canada. The story is based on actual 19th-century events.
44. El Chapo
El Chapo is another popular Netflix series based on real events. The series covers the life of the famous druglord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. It premiered on April 23, 2017 at Univision before airing on Netflix worldwide. It stars Marco de la O as the titular character.
The story mostly recounts the beginnings of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in 1985, when he was a low-level member of the Guadalajara Cartel, his rise to power as head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and his downfall.
Mindhunter is based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The series is produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron among others, and debuted worldwide on Netflix on October 13, 2017. In November 2017, it was announced Mindhunter had been renewed for a second season.
Set in 1977 – in the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling at the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how they think with the hope of applying this knowledge to solving ongoing cases.
Dark is a German science fiction thriller and the first German-language Netflix original series (the series is dubbed in English). It debuted on Netflix on December 1, 2017 and received mostly positive reviews from critics. In Dark, the disappearance of two young children in the German town of Winden brings light to the fractured relationships, double lives, and the dark past of four families living there, revealing a mystery that spans three generations.
41. Manhunt: Unabomber
Manhunt: Unabomber is an new drama miniseries which tells the story of the FBI’s hunt for the Unabomber in the 1990s. Agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerld, a fresh-faced criminal profiler with the agency, faces an uphill battle in tracking the infamous criminal but also has to fight against the bureaucracy of the Unabom Task Force (UTF), of which he is a part. Although Fitz pioneers the use of forensic linguistics, others in the UTF dismiss his maverick ideas and new approaches.
Ultimately, though, his new techniques help him identify and capture the Unabomber. The miniseries premiered on August 1, 2017, on Discovery Channel.
José Padilha’s thrilling series about the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Prepare yourself for reading a lot of sub-titles as there is a huge portion of the dialogues in Spanish (The show was filmed in Colombia). Having said that, make sure you add this mind-blowing series to your list as there is plenty of action in this drug-trafficking series and you will not be disappointed.
39. The Killing
Without a doubt, one of the best crime TV series we have watched in years but not on Television. This is a Netflix Original series and it’s not new as it was released in the 2011-2014 period. It has all the elements of drama: A police investigation, a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign. All these elements collide when the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car.
We really love this series: It’s a noir drama story of a detective who used to work in London and now works in the rural areas of Wales and running from his past. If you are into atmospheric, complex narratives similar to Scandinavian crime fictions, you will enjoy this. This series will keep you on the edge the whole time.
There is actually 2 versions of Henning Mankell’s Swedish Detective on Netflix TV series: A British version and a Swedish one. We liked the latter more for its originality but you will enjoy both. A must-watch for Scandinavian crime fiction fans: The episodes are long and more like movies, so you will have Wallander around for a long time if you start this series.
If you are into British Crime dramas, this new production of BBC is a satisfactory streaming experience. A sad yet genius detective is tracking down the weird serial killers while getting his personal life under control. So far there are 4 seasons of this series out so you have plenty of watching material with this great police procedural.
35. Jack Taylor
Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”) plays ruthless and literate in this Irish series about a hard-drinking ex-cop turned private investigator. Most of the episodes of this wonderful Irish television drama are set in Galway: The series is based on the Ken Bruen novel series featuring a hero with the same name.
34. No Second Chance
No Second Chance was originally written by Harlan Coben, and published in 2003 as a stand-alone thriller. The novel was the first international Book of the Month Club pick in 2003 due to its global appeal and now as a TV series, it has already become an extremely popular one. In No Second Chance, a doctor is searching frantically for her missing baby daughter and soon finds herself tangled in a web of ruthless criminals.
Case premiered in Iceland in 2015 and has now made it to Netflix in 2016. Although the idea behind the series is not really out of the box, it’s an exciting series for those who love Scandinavian crime fiction. A smart lawyer whose drinking and recklessness send him on a path of self-destruction finds new purpose in investigating a teenager’s apparent suicide.
Witnesses is a French television police procedural drama noir series by Marc Herpoux and Hervé Hadmar. It made its debut on Belgian channel La Une in November 2014 and on France 2 in March 2015. Now you can watch the first season of the series on Netflix as well. In this noir story, a young female detective is put in charge of a case and must delve into her partner’s mysterious past in order to solve it. Not bad, right?
So far two episodes of this exciting British mystery are out. This is another one of our favorites: Very well-written and the cast is great! When the corpse of an 11-year-old British boy, Danny Latimer, is found bloodied and dirty on an idyllic beach, a small Dorset community becomes the focus of a police investigation and media madness.
Out-of-town Detective Inspector Alec Hardy gets the point position over Detective Sgt. Ellie Miller — who feels the job should have been hers. Now she must engage in an efficient working relationship with taciturn Hardy.
30. Agatha Christie’s Poirot
Time for some classics, right? If you want to travel to the golden age of mystery literature, there are 13 seasons of Agatha Christie’s famous detective available for you to stream day and night. Played masterfully by the British actor David Suchet, this is one of those TV shows which you should not miss.
Another amazing series which has already become a classic. Dexter Morgan is a Miami-based blood splatter expert who doesn’t just solve murders; he commits them too. In fact, he’s a serial killer — but he only murders the guilty, so he feels justified with his lifestyle choices.
His policewoman sister and his cop co-workers have no idea Dexter lives a double life; however, adoptive father Harry knows his secret, and does, in fact, help Dexter hone his “skills.” It’s a unique brand of justice for which charming Dexter feels a psychological hunger.
Another one of our favorite, this series is based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson. In this contemporary crime drama, the Australian actor Robert Taylor stars in the title role, the charismatic and dedicated sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.
Longmire patrols the county with a brave face and sense of humor, but deep inside he hides the pain of his wife’s recent death. With the urging of his daughter, Cady, and the help of Vic, a new female deputy, Longmire gains a new appreciation of his job and decides to run for re-election. He’s committed to putting his life back together, one piece at a time, and he often calls on best friend and confidant Henry Standing Bear for support.
Police procedural mixed with just the right dose of science fiction: That’s what the Continuum is all about. Detective Kiera Cameron is a cop from the year 2077 who was raised to rely on technology more than anything else, even herself. Now she and a group of deadly criminals called Liber8 are trapped in present-day Vancouver.
Cameron needs to stop Liber8 before it can take down the corporations which will one day rule the world — thus altering the course of the future and changing the 2077 that Cameron calls home. She enlists the help of a teenage tech genius named Alec Sadler to help figure out a way to get her back to her own time, and she manages to work with the Vancouver Police Department with Detective Carlos Fonnegra to keep an eye on Liber8. With different ideals and backgrounds, Cameron and Fonnegra clash, but they trust each other, and Cameron is slowly learning to trust herself as well.
26. The Following
A very nice serial killer crime series: The FBI calls on Ryan Hardy, a former agent with physical and emotional scars, when Joe Carroll, a notorious serial killer he apprehended years earlier, escapes from death row.
Carroll, an English professor and novelist fixated on Edgar Allan Poe, mutilated and killed 14 women before he was imprisoned. Hardy and the FBI learn that while be was incarcerated, Carroll spent his time gathering a collection of cultlike followers. The recruits prove themselves willing to commit murder, facilitate abductions, and even sacrifice themselves in order to help Carroll with his deadly objectives and achieve his ultimate goal — to exact revenge on Ryan Hardy.
25. Crossing Lines
Donald Sutherland’s great acting makes this series a great watch: The theme of the series is also very international. A special crime unit investigates serialized crimes that cross over European borders, to hunt down criminals and bring them to justice. 3 seasons of this series are out so far and the show is very promising!
24. Foyle’s War
For those who like historical mysteries, this is a nice series to follow. As World War II rages on, criminals try to take advantage of the resulting chaos. In Hastings, they aren’t having much luck, thanks to Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. As Foyle’s son Andrew, a fighter pilot in the RAF, fights the enemy at war, Foyle battles the black market, profiteering and murder on the home front. He is dogged in his pursuit of justice, honest to a fault and frequently underestimated by his opponents. Together with his sergeant and his driver, Foyle wages his own war on crime.
23. Murdoch Mysteries
Another historical mystery this time set in Canada: In Victorian-era Toronto, Inspector William Murdoch uses unconventional scientific methods to crack complex, high-profile murder cases. There are 7 seasons of this show already available on Netflix: Some viewers think the stories are a bit slower compared to the American shows: Having said that, many appreciate the acting and well-written plots.
22. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Yes, we know that everyone out there has seen an episode or more or the extremely popular show at some point. But just so you know, there are 5 seasons of this franchise out there waiting to be streamed. This edgy police procedural has also become one of the classic crime shows of the last 30 years.
This is one of those fresh Netflix Original series: A federal agent tracks four people who suddenly seem to possess entirely new personalities, leading to startling discovery about humanity’s future. Intrigued? We don’t want to spoil the story…just add it to your list and you’d find the partial answer by the end of season 1.
20. The Great Train Robbery
This is a two-part series based on a true story and covers the story of the Great Train Robbery of 1963, the biggest in England’s history. With just two episodes of around 90 minutes, you won’t be bored and be able to enjoy this well-crafted historical true-crime drama. We liked the first episode more as it involved the planning phase of the robbery.
River is a six-part British television drama series, created and written by Abi Morgan and starring Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker. The series center around John River (Stellan Skarsgård). He is a brilliant police inspector whose genius lies side-by-side with the fragility of his mind. He is a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.
Experienced and talented actor Sean Bean plays the role of a CIA operative in this gripping TV show: Working for the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations division, Martin Odum can transform himself into a different person — whether it’s an assignment as a Serbian extremist, a corrupt Chicago police officer, a British special forces colonel, or a legendary computer hacker.
But when he learns that his life, itself, may be a lie, he faces the demands of his job and a desire to solve the mystery of his real identity. And given the choice between the two, Odum doesn’t always make the right decision. From the producers of “Homeland,” “Legends” is based on Robert Littell’s award-winning book.
17. Midsomer Murders
This is another British classic mystery series which is based on on the crime-novel series by author Caroline Graham, “Midsomer Murders”. It follows the efforts of Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby to solve crimes that occur in the wealthy, isolated English county of Midsomer, a picturesque and peaceful place on the outside but one filled with amoral and snobbish eccentrics with all kinds of vices.
His latest assistant is Detective Sergeant Jamie Winter. DCI Barnaby took over in series 14, replacing his older cousin, Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, who retired.
16. Blue Bloods
A police procedural set in New York with 6 seasons available for streaming through Netflix. Tom Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the New York Police Commissioner, and patriarch of the Reagan clan, a multigenerational family of cops. Frank’s oldest son is Danny, a seasoned detective and Iraqi War veteran who occasionally uses dubious tactics to solve cases.
Daughter Erin, the lone female, is an assistant district attorney. Fresh out of Harvard Law, Jamie is the youngest member and “golden boy” of the family. Jamie gave up a lucrative future in law to continue the family’s tradition in police work, and is asked to participate in a secretive investigation that even his father does not know about.
What we love about this series is its intriguing plot: After getting in a car accident with his wife and teenage son, Detective Michael Britten finds himself alternating between two different realities. One minute he is navigating a world where his son survived but his wife perished and the next he is in another reality in which his wife is the one that survived.
In order to keep both loved ones alive, Britten begins living in dueling realities. To try to regain some normalcy in his life, the detective returns to solving crimes in both worlds, with a different partner in each.
14. Lava Field
Another Scandinavian crime series which we love: When Reykjavik crime detective Helgi Marvin Runarsson is called in to investigate a suicide case on Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the case turns out to be far from simple. Pulled into a sinister trail of evidence, Helgi’s own deeply hidden secrets are unearthed. Will Helgi turn a blind eye to murder in order to save the life of his daughter?
13. The Returned
Mystery with a dose of supernatural: What a lovely mix! The Returned opens in a small mountain community which is rocked to its core when several local people who are presumed dead suddenly re-appear at their homes. Despite having passed away some years earlier, these ghostly characters appear in human form, they have not aged, and they are completely unaware of their own fatality.
Determined to reclaim their lives and start over, they slowly come to realize that they are not the only ones to have been brought back from the dead. Their return augers torment for their community when a gruesome murder attempt bears a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past. This is a homecoming like no other.
12. The Break
This is a hidden gem: There is a high chance you have not heard of this series but it is the real deal: A police detective mourning a painful loss moves back to his peaceful hometown, only to be drawn into a murder case that dredges up dark secrets. So far one season of this original Netflix show is available for streaming.
11. Happy Valley
A British police procedural with two seasons available so far available for streaming: This is a Netflix Original. Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood pursues the man who assaulted her late daughter, unaware that he is now part of a secret kidnapping plot. The idea behind the series is intriguing and the acting is satisfactory. Two thumbs up!
This is a Netflix original series which hooks up from the beginning with its suspenseful plot: A white-collar suburban father Kyle (Fran Kranz) who is surprised at his office by long-lost college buddy Zack (Adam Goldberg). Zack is as wild and crazy as ever, brimming with excitement about the self-actualization program he’s just finished called Rebirth.
He talks Kyle into going on a weekend-long Rebirth retreat,handing over his keys, wallet, and phone. Thus begins his journey down an bizarre rabbit hole of psychodrama, seduction, and violence.
From the creators of “Damages,” “Bloodline” is a dramatic thriller that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community, but their past contains dark secrets that they hope remain buried. Paranoia and mistrust build as lies pile up, alliances are shattered, and an unthinkable crime takes place. The tight-knit family’s formerly harmonious relationship deteriorates, and good people are forced to consider doing very bad things.
Three seasons of the popular thriller show can be streamed through Netflix. When former government agent and fugitive Raymond “Red” Reddington surrenders to the FBI, he makes them an offer they can’t refuse. On the mysterious condition that he work only with recent Quantico graduate Liz Keen, he agrees to help put away criminals from a list that he compiled, which includes politicians, mobsters, spies and international terrorists — starting with long-thought-dead terrorist Ranko Zamani. As the two pursue their quarry, Red forces the rookie profiler to think like a criminal to see the bigger picture.
7. Breaking Bad
This series has also become a classic! Mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White thinks his life can’t get much worse. His salary barely makes ends meet, a situation not likely to improve once his pregnant wife gives birth, and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. But Walter is dumbstruck when he learns he has terminal cancer.
Realizing that his illness probably will ruin his family financially, Walter makes a desperate bid to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left by turning an old RV into a meth lab on wheels.
If you have not seen this 21st century reincarnation of the famous detective, you have missed the boat! This is a must watch series which you will love. In this contemporary version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, Dr. John Watson is a war vet just home from Afghanistan. He meets the brilliant but eccentric Holmes when the latter, who serves as a consultant to Scotland Yard, advertises for a flatmate.
Almost as soon as Watson moves into the Baker Street flat, they are embroiled in mysteries, and Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty, appears to have a hand in the crimes.
You know Batman: This TV series is not about the comic hero but tells the story of the detective who helped Batman throughout his adventures long before the frightening bat shows up. Jim Gordon is a rising detective in corrupt Gotham City, where his late father was a successful district attorney.
Brave, honest and determined to prove himself, Jim hopes to return the city to the glamorous, purer version he remembers as a child. He and his partner, legendary Detective Harvey Bullock, must navigate the dirty politics of Gotham’s justice system, even as they tackle a high-profile case, the murder of billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon becomes a friend to their young orphan, Bruce.
4. The Fall
The psychological thriller examines the lives of two hunters — one is a serial killer who preys on victims in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the other is a female detective drafted from the London Metropolitan Police to catch him. The local authorities have no suspects and no experience with cases involving sexually motivated serial killers; DSI Stella Gibson has.
She heads a task force dedicated to solving the crime spree, with a simple motto: Anyone not part of the solution is part of the problem. The killer? He’s Paul Spector, a father and a husband leading a double life, as viewers learn from the outset. He’s hiding in plain sight, the protagonist in a cat and mouse game that is every police officer’s worst nightmare.
A very nice and somewhat different crime drama: Set in London, Spotless is the story of a troubled crime scene cleaner, Jean, whose tidy life is turned upside down when his outlaw brother Martin crash lands into his world, entangling them in the deadly dynamics of organized crime. Highly recommended!
2. The Finder
This is another TV series with a relatively original plot: An Iraq war vet suffers a brain injury that triggers the ability to see connections between seemingly unrelated events, objects or people. The characters are likable and the camera-work is great. Overall, if you are tired of typical police procedural plots, you might want to check it out.
1. How to Get Away with Murder
This is a great series if you want to be entertained! A group of ambitious law students and their brilliant criminal defense professor become involved in a twisted murder plot that promises to change the course of their lives. Overall, the acting is decent and the plots are engaging. So far there are three seasons of the show available on Netflix.
This was our list: Let us know what you think of our picks and leave comments if you have other titles in mind.