Who doesn’t love to watch a good crime drama every now and again? There’s something morbidly fascinating about watching shows focussed on murders, mystery, and intrigue. Maybe you want some crime-based escapism, or maybe you see yourself as a bit of an amateur detective. Either way, there are plenty of great shows out there to fulfill your crime show craving. There are contemporary dramas and ones set years, even centuries ago. There’s comedy-dramas, fantasy-dramas, and good old thrillers. No matter what your particular tastes are, there’s bound to be a series out there for you.
So that you don’t have to trawl through every TV network and streaming service searching for a good show, we’ve listed a fair few of them here. If you’re looking for a pretty lengthy show to keep you busy for a while, you’re in the right place. Conversely, we’ve found a couple of shorter series for those who don’t have time for extreme binge-watching. Either way, you’re going to find a ton of programs to add to your to-watch list!
19. Body of Proof
Body of Proof was one of those unfortunate shows that got canceled way before its time. Dana Delany starred as Dr. Megan Hunt, a former brain surgeon who quit in controversial circumstances. Hunt decided that she’d rather deal with the dead than the living, becoming a medical examiner in Philadelphia. The show follows the various crimes – murder or otherwise – that she and her various sidekicks have to solve.
Added to this is drama surrounding Hunt’s family life: she has a moody teenage daughter and a difficult ex-husband to deal with. There are only three seasons to catch up on, so Body of Proof is perfect for someone who just needs a brief binge.
Long-running CBS drama Elementary takes the classic tale of detective Sherlock Holmes and adds quite a few modern twists. For one, the show is set in modern-day New York rather than Victorian London. Jonny Lee Miller stars as the famous sleuth, while the incredible Lucy Liu plays his companion Joan Watson. Can’t beat a good gender-flip in a remake of a classic tale! While Elementary initially faced criticism for being pretty similar in concept to the BBC’s Sherlock, it won viewers’ hearts before long. The sixth season is currently airing, so you’d better catch up quickly! If you need any more convincing, Natalie Dormer plays a gender-bent Moriarty. What more could you want from a show?
17. Murdoch Mysteries
If you’re looking for a crime drama set in early 20th century Canada, Murdoch Mysteries is the show for you. It stars the impossibly handsome Yannick Bisson as the titular Detective William Murdoch, a Toronto-based policeman who loves to solve a good crime. Of course, he doesn’t have to do it alone. He has numerous sidekicks, our favorite being no-nonsense Brit Inspector Thomas Charles Brackenreid. Murdoch also has a love interest kicking about in the form of pathologist Dr. Julia Ogden. You’ll have to tune in to find out if the two get together! Murdoch Mysteries is now well into its eleventh season, so you have a bit of catching up to do. However, it’s definitely worth it!
If comedy-crime shows are your jam, Castle is definitely for you. Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame stars as the titular Richard Castle, a crime author who decides to shadow the NYPD to gain inspiration. What’s supposed to be a temporary arrangement becomes pretty permanent after Castle gains a taste for crime-solving – and falls for his partner, Detective Kate Beckett. The show ended in 2016 to the general dismay of fans. Although there’s no hope of CBS releasing any new episodes, the 173 (eight seasons) that are out there are definitely worth a watch. The characters are hilarious and the crimes are super interesting. Plus, there’s even an episode about zombies. If that hasn’t convinced you, I don’t know what will.
15. Miss Marple
What crime drama buff hasn’t come across classic Agatha Christie heroine Miss Marple at some point in their life? While she may look like a doddery old woman, Marple is actually a super-sharp sleuth who can see through pretty much everyone. There have been a number of adaptations of Christie’s classic Marple novels over the years, but two series particularly stand out. In the 1980s and 90s, veteran actress Joan Hickson took on this prestigious role for dramatizations of all twelve original books.
A decade later, a reboot series, Agatha Christie’s Marple, premiered. It’s another adaptation that’s definitely worth a watch. Actresses Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie shared the title role for a six-season run. Pretty much every big British actor or actress ever made a cameo in the show at some point, including a young Benedict Cumberbatch. What’s not to love?
While mainly a crime drama, Monk was extremely popular back in the 2000s thanks to its heavy dose of comedy. Tony Shalhoub starred as the titular Adrian Monk, a former homicide detective who suffers from extreme OCD. He solves a number of minor crimes during the course of the series but is always preoccupied with his own wife’s unsolved murder. A wide cast of supporting characters support Monk, mainly his doting assistants Sharona and Natalie. His various therapists also make frequent appearances, often helping the neurotic detective to solve a case. The show ended after eight seasons back in 2009, with its last episode breaking cable TV viewer number records.
13. Blue Bloods
CBS crime offering Blue Bloods is kind of half-way between a detective show and a family drama. It follows the exploits of the Reagans – not the president and his family before you ask, but a family of police officers in the NYPD. Family patriarch Frank, played by Tom Selleck of Friends‘ Dr. Richard Burke fame, is the police commissioner. His sons Danny and Jamie are a detective and a beat cop respectively. It’s not just the guys who get in on the action, however!
Frank’s daughter Erin is an assistant district attorney. His father, Henry, isn’t excluded either, being the retired police commissioner himself. What a family! The show follows the Reagans as they try to solve various crimes while also dealing with personal drama. Blue Blood is midway through its eighth season right now and is definitely worth a watch.
12. The Closer
The Closer was one of the most popular cable series of all time during its original seven-season run. It followed the work of the fictional LAPD Major Crimes Division, mostly dealing with pretty grisly homicides. It’s a female-led crime drama – always a positive – with Kyra Sedgwick taking the show’s helm as the Deputy Chief of the Division.
While The Closer did seem suspiciously similar in its premise and characters to British show Prime Suspect, it had enough originality to make it must-see television. Even though the original series is now long-finished, spin-off Major Crimes has been running for some years now. Both shows are definitely worth a watch.
11. Criminal Minds
No list of incredible crime dramas is complete without Criminal Minds making an appearance. Its unique angle of profiling unknown criminals rather than dealing with actual crimes has made it one of the best shows of its type out there. Despite a lot of cast changes since the show premiered all the way back in 2005, it’s still as engaging and addictive as ever. Set in the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI, the show not only profiles criminals but also gives huge insight into what life as a profiler is like. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty darn tough. We might now be thirteen seasons in but going back and watching all of Criminal Minds is definitely worth the time it takes.
10. Hawaii Five-0
The recent reboot of classic police procedural drama Hawaii Five-0 isn’t one of those annoying remakes that should never have happened. It’s an excellent show that proves that life in the Island State isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! As you might have guessed, the show revolves around an elite police task force dealing with major crimes in – yep, that’s right – Hawaii.
The task force can basically do whatever they want with total immunity and by any means necessary. While they’re technically answerable to the State Governor, he literally never questions their actions. The result is a dramatic and explosive show with some pretty wild storylines! If you want to watch no-holds-barred crime-solving in a picturesque setting, this is the show for you.
Lucifer is a pretty unique show that blends the genres of fantasy and crime. Based on a DC Comic, the show follows Lucifer – that’s right, the actual Devil – as he gets bored in Hell and decides to come and solve some crimes in our world. He’s portrayed by the inherently charming British actor Tom Ellis and is annoyingly sexy for someone who’s quite literally Satan.
Working for the LAPD as a consultant, Lucifer makes a motley bunch of friends and even opens his own nightclub. He frequently tries to tell people that he is, in fact, the Devil. Unsurprisingly, nobody believes him. This quirky and humorous show is definitely worth watching for fans of both old-fashioned crime shows and fantasy dramas.
8. Murder, She Wrote
It may sound like something that only your grandma would watch, but Murder, She Wrote is actually a pretty decent show. It wasn’t one of the most long-running and successful TV shows of all time for nothing! The series follows Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer turned amateur detective. This seemingly innocent old lady seems to attract murder and intrigue wherever she goes. The poor woman can’t even go on vacation without a body turning up. Anyway, Fletcher invariably solves the crime before the hour-long episode is up, making sure to include some witty quips along the way. Angela Lansbury‘s interpretation of the character is basically iconic. If you haven’t seen this show, you’re definitely missing out.
7. Rizzoli & Isles
A crime drama with two female leads?! It’s beyond our wildest dreams! Rizzoli and Isles was the crime show every feminist so desperately needed. Watching police detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles team up each week to solve murders was pretty darn satisfying. The two lead characters are just so incredibly badass!
The show ran for seven seasons between 2010 and 2016. Fans were pretty devastated when TNT canceled it, but at least we have over a hundred episodes to keep rewatching for all eternity. Despite a lot of fans reading some romantic subtext in Rizzoli and Isles’ relationship, it’s claimed that they’re merely ‘best friends’ who are totally straight. Sure they are, TNT. You keep telling yourself that.
6. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a quirky but enjoyable crime drama set in 1920s Melbourne. It follows the adventures of Miss Phryne Fisher, a private detective who most certainly doesn’t need a man. She’s fiercely independent, incredibly intelligent, and pretty glamorous to boot. She’s diligently determined to solve every crime possible and is generally pretty successful in her endeavors.
Aside from the plot being pretty strong, this show’s costumes are AMAZING. There’s some serious 1920s flapper vibes going on, as well as Downton Abbey-esque fashion. If I were you, I’d start catching up on this show’s three seasons as quickly as possible: a follow-up film is entering production this year!
Rosewood is another crime show that got canceled way too prematurely. Set in Miami, it followed private pathologist Dr. Beaumont Rosewood as he solved numerous crimes passed on to him by local law enforcement. Rosewood’s specialty was most definitely murder, with a wide range of shocking killings providing the basis for each episode.
Intertwined with all of this crime-solving was Rosewood’s frustration at dealing with his overbearing mother and the mutual attraction between the pathologist and Detective Annalise Villa. Unfortunately, fans didn’t get much closure with regards to these long-term storylines. FOX canceled the show after two seasons due to poor reviews, despite its high ratings. While it’s not the most revolutionary show in the world, it’s certainly not bad! It’s perfect for those who don’t want to start a time-consuming series.
Another famous Agatha Christie detective, another amazing TV adaptation. English actor David Suchet portrayed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for over twenty years. He only stopped because the writers of Agatha Christie’s Poirot literally ran out of material to adapt!
Over thirteen seasons, Poirot solved all manner of strange cases ranging from minor crimes to full-on murder. The series was set in the years preceding the Second World War, mainly dealing with the troubles of the British aristocracy. It’s classy, quite comedic at times, and a must-watch for any self-respecting crime drama fan. Plus, it’s another one of those shows that stars pretty much every famous actor or actress ever. If you’re looking for a whos-who of the British TV and film industry, Poirot is the perfect place to start.
3. Diagnosis: Murder
Sure, Diagnosis: Murder is cheesy at times, but it’s also an infinitely entertaining show. Real-life father and son Dick and Barry Van Dyke starred as Dr. Mark Sloan and his homicide detective son Steve. This plucky pair solved hundreds of murders during the show’s nearly decade-long run and had a lot of fun doing it.
An endearing range of supporting doctors and administrators assisted the Sloans in their endeavors. The gang got themselves into some pretty amusing scrapes over the years. If you ever need to kick back and watch a crime show that’s fun and fluffy, Diagnosis: Murder is the one for you.
Perception may have only lasted for three seasons, but its unique perspective on crime-solving has given it a pretty large fanbase. The show centers around Dr. Daniel Pierce, a schizophrenic neuroscientist who often assists the FBI in their investigations. Pierce constantly highlights the complexities and paradoxes of human perception while solving these complex cases, and each crime usually relates to a certain part of the brain.
Alongside actual, real-life sidekicks, Pierce shares his work with Natalie, his imaginary best friend who’s a product of his mental illness. The show’s focus on human behavior and neuroscience gave it an edge compared to other series and kept its audience hooked. If you’re looking for something a bit ‘different’, give Perception a try.
1. Law and Order: SVU
We couldn’t talk about crime dramas without including Law and Order: SVU. Let’s face it – every single wannabe detective kinda wishes they were Olivia Benson. Pop superstar Taylor Swift even named a cat after her! While cast members have been and gone throughout the series’ nineteen seasons so far, Benson has remained a constant source of utter badassery.
Will we ever get tired of watching her apprehend some of the worst criminals in the system? Probably not. While a lot of the cases are pretty dark, they’re invariably portrayed in a respectful and sensitive manner. There’s a reason SVU has run for so long – it’s just so good!