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From Sherlock to Shetland: Best British crime dramas to watch on OTT

From Sherlock to Shetland: Best British crime dramas to watch on OTT
Ryan Gomez

Last Updated:

Some of the best crime dramas on television are from the British Isles. While some names have garnered global fanfare and popularity, some truly magnificent shows have been buried deep inside an avalanche of mediocrity. So here is a list, containing the popular as well some hidden gems, of the top 10 British crime dramas.

1

Peaky Blinders Season 6

9.2
The perfect union of style and substance, Peaky Blinders takes the no.1 spot on this list because it is simply the best written, performed, and most visually stunning TV show from the UK. Set in the early 20th century Birmingham, England, this gangster drama is loosely based on real-life gangsters of the same name. It explores the fabric of socio-politics in Europe and Britain, from the communist movement to the dawn of fascism after the First World War. Cillian Murphy’s portrayal as Thomas Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders, is arguably one of the greatest individual performances on television. The show, like the others on this list, has won numerous awards and accolades as well as for individual performances like Helen McCrory as Polly Gray, who tragically passed away this year.

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2

Line of Duty Season 6

9.1
Line of Duty has steadily gained mainstream recognition as it entered the sixth season of its run. Despite its relative obscurity, this investigative crime drama about a police team investigating corrupt police officers is gripping from the very first line of the series. The unique cinematography, excellent performances by the cast, and brilliantly executed screenplay make this television show one of the best, if not the best police procedurals of the 21st century. Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compton and Vicky McClure’s performances as the AC-12 agents on the hunt for “bent coppers” are outstanding.

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3

Sherlock

9.4
The modern-day retelling of Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s classic characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, and their adventures set in London is one of the most popular shows on this list. This highly intelligent investigative crime drama boasts a stellar cast, where the highly intelligent and socially awkward detective Sherlock Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and the more pragmatic, level headed friend and ‘partner in crime’ Dr Watson is played by Martin Freeman. The show has earned a reputation as one of the best and definitive reimagining of the world’s most famous detective and his sidekick.

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4

Happy Valley Season 3

8.6
The name of this show might suggest that it is a cartoon made for children. It is in fact a gritty police crime drama set in a small town in Northern England. The multiple-award-winning show is undoubtedly one of the most underrated stories told on television. Police Sergeant Catherine Cawood, played by the brilliant Sarah Lancashire, as she deals with crime in society while raising her grandson and taking care of her alcoholic sister back home is a moving tale about loss, redemption and of course the thrills of the investigations

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5

Luther

8.7
The show that introduced Idris Elba to the world. This popular show about DCI John Luther, played by Idris Elba, is one of the more popular names on this list. The show spanned 5 seasons and delivered on a fascinating and gripping tale of a dedicated detective who is willing to explore unconventional and at times unethical means to bring perpetrators of heinous crimes to justice. It also does a deep dive into the psyche of such criminals and how it affects their moral compass.

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6

Killing Eve Season 4

8.4
Based on the Villanelle series of novels by Luke Jennings, this hit TV drama won numerous awards including multiple Best Actor awards for both leading women, Sandro Oh and Jodie Comer. Jodie Comer in particular who plays the sociopathic assassin, Villanelle, brought the character to life straight out from the pages of the novels. It is simply remarkable that Jodie Comer, who in real-life speaks with a thick Scouse accent of Liverpool, has effortlessly mastered a number of languages and accents from across Europe for Killing Eve. The show itself is a cat-and-mouse thriller in which the lives of the investigator, Eve, and the assassin, Villanelle, become intertwined. It is also worth mentioning that it is one of the very few award-winning shows to have two female leads with an all-female list of head writers for each season.

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7

Criminal:UK

8
The only procedural anthology show on this list is Criminal: UK. It is part of Netflix’s four-part series which also includes Criminal: Spain, Criminal: France, and Criminal: Germany. It is also the only show in this list not produced by the BBC. What makes the show even more unique is that each episode tells a story with its entire runtime within the four walls of the interrogation room. The story is told purely through dialogue, the score, the lighting and the framing of the camera angles. Despite its relative self-imposed constraints, it manages to deliver compelling episodes with guest stars like David Tenant, Kit Harrington, Hayley Atwell and Kunal Nayyar

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8

Shetland

8.5
The only show set in Scotland is this underrated hidden gem called Shetland. Set in the small town of Shetland, the story follows DI Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshall as he investigates the crimes in his town. The show refuses to deviate from its grounded narrative, yet manages to keep the audience interested after each episode thanks to the efforts of David Kane, who is the head writer for the show. The story is based on the series of novels by Ann Cleeves. The show has a well written and complex plot expertly gelled together by the brilliant performance of Douglas Henshall.
9

Bodyguard

8.5
A TV show starring Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark in Game of Thrones and acclaimed British star Keeley Hawes was always going to be a winning combination. The show was a success and it became one of the most viewed shows on BBC as well as on Netflix. The political thriller/crime drama set in England revolving around a British MP and her bodyguard won numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Richard Madden. The pacing of the narrative and the overall plot were excellent which gripped the audience from start to finish. Whether Bodyguard returns for a second season remains to be seen

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10

The Serpent

7.9
The latest and the only TV show on this list based on real-life characters is The Serpent. It is about the notorious Charles Shobaraj, played by Tahar Rahim, a serial killer who left a trail of bodies in his wake on the ‘Hippie Trail’, from Europe to South-East Asia. It focuses on the investigation by a Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg, into the crimes committed by Shobaraj and his Canadian girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc, played by Jenna Coleman. The cast was lauded for their performance, with Tahar Rahim, in particular, receiving universal praise for his portrayal of a man who could switch identities with ease.

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