Crime is bad! But crime on TV? Great! Whether you love a good crime drama or murder mystery because you want to see bad guys get caught or you just want to get tips on how to pull off your own lawless act, TV is full of them. Our list of the best murder mysteries and crime dramas to watch will help you sort out the good from the bad and, hopefully, bring one to your attention that you never knew existed. The newest additions to the list is HBO's We Own This City, a brutal and hardcore examination of police corruption in Baltimore, and HBO Max's The Staircase, a true crime dramatization steeped in the stench of murder.
Below, you'll find a wide-ranging selection of more than two dozen excellent mystery shows available to stream on the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as niche services like Acorn, which is devoted to British dramas. We guarantee that you'll find something that grips you on this eclectic list.
As the creator of HBO's seminal The Wire, David Simon is the de facto king of crime dramas. Simon returns to the streets of Baltimore in We Own This City, an adaptation of Baltimore Sun journalist Justin Fenton's book about the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force, which was corrupt through and through and stressed arrests — legit or not — over actual police work. Jon Bernthal and Josh Charles are excellent as dirty cops, and Simon's thoroughness with everyone involved — good cops, bad cops, politicians, lawyers — is every bit as good as The Wire at its best. -Tim Surette
It's a banner year for true crime cases getting turned into scripted miniseries, so The Staircase is comfortably slotting right in among the rest. Colin Firth, in one of the more impressive performances of the year so far, plays the author Michael Peterson, who in 2001 was accused of murdering his wife after claiming she died by falling down the stairs. The starry cast also includes Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Sophie Turner, and Michael Stuhlbarg. Before you say, "Well I've already seen the documentary, I don't need to see this," know that this adaptation adds enough to make it interesting, including the making of the documentary. -Allison Picurro
Based on the 2003 book of the same name, the FX miniseries (streaming on Hulu) follows a detective (Andrew Garfield) investigating the double homicide of a wife (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her young child in Utah in the 1980s, possibly at the hands of her fundamentalist Mormon in-laws. The series also explores the origins of the Mormon religion, challenging the ideas of blind faith and religious extremism. Told through the investigation into her death and flashbacks before the murder, the moody thriller excels at locking viewers into a story where everyone is a suspect. -Tim Surette
Murder mystery madam Elisabeth Moss stars in this Apple TV+ crime drama with a twist. Kirby (Moss), a survivor of a serial killer (Jamie Bell), hunts down the culprit in 1990s Chicago with the help of a coworker (Narcos' Wagner Moura) at the Chicago Sun-Times. There's just one thing she's keeping to herself: She's hopping through different realities where the details may change, but the killer remains on the hunt for more victims. It's for the crime fan who also wants to dip their toe into some mind-boggling science fiction. -Tim Surette
Set in Tokyo in the late '90s, Tokyo Vice follows an American crime journalist (Ansel Elgort) and a Japanese detective (Ken Watanabe) as they work together to investigate how a loan sharking company connects to a larger underworld conspiracy involving two yakuza clans on the edge of war. It's a methodical procedural about the relationship between journalistic and police work with an impeccably directed pilot from Michael Mann, one of cinema's most acclaimed directors of stylish crime thrillers. -Liam Mathews
This British psychological thriller is something like The Silence of the Lambs with a very sly, very dark sense of humor. It follows Nathan Rose (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), a London detective with a checkered reputation, as he tries to catch "the Ragdoll Killer," a serial killer whose crime scene includes a horrifying sculpture made of six human bodies stitched together and a kill list of his six next targets, which includes Nathan Rose himself. Working with him are his former protege Emily Baxter (Thalissa Teixeira) and an American police officer in London named Lake Edmunds (Lucy Hale, a long way from Pretty Little Liars). It's a clever riff on a serial killer story that plays with the rules of the genre while still lovingly following them. -Liam Mathews
This comedic murder mystery limited series combines the plot mechanics of Knives Out with the sense of humor of an Upright Citizens Brigade sketch. The all-star cast (who, even if they're not super-famous, are all stars) includes Ben Schwartz, Sam Richardson, Ilana Glazer, John Early, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Jamie Demetriou. Most of them are playing old classmates of a pop star (Dave Franco) who was murdered at his own afterparty for his high school reunion. They all had a motive, and each episode tells a different party guest's side of the story. It's very silly, but it's also a genuine murder mystery, with an investigation run by unlikely buddy cops Haddish and Early. It's directed by Christoper Miller of the acclaimed filmmaking duo Lord & Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) in a solo effort. -Liam Mathews
Former military police investigator Jack Reacher has been traveling around the country solving crimes and beating up people who deserve it since 1997, when author Lee Child published his first Jack Reacher novel, The Killing Floor. That novel gets adapted in this new series that stars big ol' beefcake Alan Ritchson as the brilliant detective with the bulging biceps. In the first season, Reacher visits a small Georgia town and quickly gets arrested for a murder he didn't commit, which leads to him helping a pair of local cops figure out who did. And when it gets personal for Reacher, he gets totally committed to unraveling the criminal conspiracy that has the whole town in its grips. -Liam Mathews
Like so many murder mysteries, The White Lotus opens with a dead body, but that's not exactly what the show is about. Well, that's not all it's about. The dramedy is a classic upstairs-downstairs story, set at an idyllic resort in Hawaii, following the lives of the guests and the staff for one fateful week. It's just so addictive, with its sharp, incisive writing and its cast of eccentric characters, like Jennifer Coolidge's emotionally fragile Tanya and Murray Bartlett's high-strung hotel manager Armond. But even when you take a minute to laugh at the misadventures of the extraordinarily wealthy, The White Lotus pushes forward with a creeping sense of impending doom, since you can't help but wonder who, exactly, is going to end up dead at the end. It's the kind of show that lets you have as much fun trying to unravel the central murder as you do thinking about what all the images in the hotel wallpaper mean. -Allison Picurro
Only Murders in the Building is at the center of a strange and wonderful Venn Diagram. It's got sleuthing, Steve Martin and Martin Short, Selena Gomez, jokes about podcasts, fake Broadway musical flops, and Sting. The comedy-crime-farce hybrid follows a trio of neighbors — an egotistical actor with one TV hit (Martin), a washed-up Broadway director (Short), and an enigmatic artist (Gomez) — who come together to investigate a murder in their building. The series isn't as ha-ha funny as fans of Martin and Short might expect, but it's immediately charming. It's a cozy, old-school mystery about three lonely people with secrets that gets both sadder and sillier as it goes. -Kelly Connolly
On the surface, Mare of Easttown seems like any other crime show about a grizzled cop solving a case. The series follows the titular Mare (Kate Winslet, giving one of the best performances of her career), a Pennsylvania detective, as she investigates the killing of a local teen girl while simultaneously coping with her own deeply set trauma. But despite how many dark murder dramas are out there, Mare is special: It is an enthralling mystery; it is a character study of damaged people; it is, occasionally, a mother-daughter sitcom. Mare is a showcase for an outstanding group of actors — not just Winslet, but also Evan Peters as Mare's partner, Jean Smart as her mother, and Julianne Nicholson as her best friend, all doing their best Delco accent work. It's an example of how to effectively world-build, how to make a TV small town feel like a real small town. It's the show that gave us Jean Smart playing Fruit Ninja on an iPad. There were a few weeks when Mare was the only thing I and everyone I knew could talk about — maybe the closest thing to a quote-unquote watercooler show we've had in a while. It is such an expertly crafted series that even when it kind of misses, you barely care; this just became another detail to unpack. Long after the finale, I'm still thinking about the show's last shot. -Allison Picurro
Not all great murder mysteries have to be frigid, stoic dramas from Scandinavia. Some make murder... fun! HBO Max's Emmy-nominated original series The Flight Attendant is a zippy comedy-drama bursting with infectious energy, spinning a yarn about a flight attendant named Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) who has a crazy evening with a charming passenger (Michiel Huisman), but wakes up next to his murdered body in the morning with no idea what happened. What follows is a globe-trotting thriller as Cassie pursues the killers while trying to clear her own name.
The Nordic noir series known as Broen/Bron, aka The Bridge, kicks off with the discovery of a dead body — or rather, two halves of two different bodies — in the center of a bridge that links Sweden and Denmark. If that sounds familiar, it's because there have been a lot of remakes over the years, including an FX production, also known as The Bridge, that moved the action to the U.S.-Mexico border. The original series is better (sorry to America) and finds members of the Danish and Swedish police having to work together to investigate the crime. Like The Killing, it's one of the Danish shows that have shaped TV around the world.
David Lynch and Mark Frost's surreal masterpiece Twin Peaks, which premiered on ABC in 1990 and returned for a third season on Showtime in 2017, centers on the investigation into the death of small-town homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose murder exposes a powerful darkness in the community. The show's blend of supernatural horror, melodrama, and absurdity changed television, pushing the bounds of what a mystery show — or any show — could do. Twin Peaks often feels like a nightmare and a dream at once. It taps into the fear that sinister forces hide under the surface of any town, and that true evil doesn't make sense. -Kelly Connolly
HBO's The Outsider, based on Stephen King's chilling murder mystery of the same name, is worth checking out. Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn stars as a detective investigating the gruesome murder of a young boy, and although all the evidence points to an upstanding family man (Jason Bateman), there's more evidence that places him miles and miles away at the time of the murder. Over time it becomes clear there's something supernatural going on, and as the show morphs from a traditional murder mystery into a paranormal investigation, you won't be able to look away, even if you want to.
Omar Sy stars in Lupin as Assane Diop, a man who is essentially a French Bruce Wayne if Batman was more of a cat burglar than dark knight. Inspired by the classic French character Arsène Lupin, known as the "gentleman burglar," Diop starts the series off trying to steal a valuable necklace from the Louvre with a grand heist as part of a revenge plot against the wealthy family responsible for the death of father several years prior. Sy is a charming dude, and the heists and trickery are fun, complicated acts, performed under the guise of being the good guy. It may not be the greatest show Netflix ever put out, but it is a very entertaining distraction that's easy to get through. -Tim Surette
Set in 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake Mysteries follows the city's only female private eyes, the eponymous Frankie Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) and her partner Trudy (Chantel Riley), as they solve cases the police won't take on as well as cases their clients can't take to the authorities. And while the on-screen narrative deals with aspects of social change, the show itself is doubling down on it in the real world; of the 31 episodes aired in the States thus far, 18 were directed by women, while 20 were written or co-written by women. If you've already binge-watched Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (also on this list), make Frankie Drake Mysteries your next stop.
Jane Campion's acclaimed 2013 crime drama Top of the Lake (a second season, Top of the Lake: China Girl, aired in 2017) is not only an engrossing mystery driven, in part, by an excellent performance from Elisabeth Moss, it's also one of the most beautiful TV series we've seen in a long time. Set in and filmed around New Zealand, the six-part series also makes excellent use of its landscape as it follows Moss' Robin Griffin, a detective now living in Sydney and specializing in child protection, who returns to her hometown in New Zealand after her mother falls ill. While there, she begins investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl in a remote lake town, a case that opens up old wounds and leads to a mesmerizing and thoughtful story about surviving in a world dominated by misogyny.
The Icelandic murder mystery series Trapped also stands out for the way it uses its location to its increase the tension that normally accompanies a good crime drama. In Season 1, Andri (Olafur Darri Olafsson), a detective whose job has taken its toll on his family, investigates a case involving a headless corpse that has turned up in the local port. An avalanche soon increases the dramatic stakes and leaves the remote town and its citizens vulnerable and isolated while the police attempt to solve the case before the snow melts and they can escape. Season 2 involves a far-right nationalist group, a power plant's expansion, and a family with so many secrets the twists and turns never seem to stop coming. There are a lot of excellent dramas to come out of the Nordic region, but Trapped is definitely one of the best.
Few recent crime dramas have been harder to shake than Unbelievable. Based on the real events detailed in the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 article "An Unbelievable Story of Rape," the devastating miniseries follows Marie Adler (Kaitlyn Dever), a teenage girl accused of lying about being raped. As she struggles with an uncaring system, she finds hope in the two detectives (Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) who take her trauma seriously. It's a tough story told with grace and empathy that's made unforgettable by the three performers at its center. -Kelly Connolly
As cheery as the title of this BBC One series sounds, Happy Valley is actually very dark and contains some very difficult subject matter. The series centers on a female detective named Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), whose world is turned upside down after the man who sexually assaulted her daughter — which led to the girl birthing an unwanted child and deciding to end her life — is freed from prison. In the process of tracking the assailant down, Cawood accidentally stumbles into a completely unrelated, but ongoing crime. - Amanda Bell
An adaptation of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch novels, Amazon's Bosch follows the gritty life of Los Angeles homicide detective and private investigator Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver). Although the show rarely receives a lot of fanfare, it's quite popular, and for good reason: It has been lauded for its realistic portrayal of police work, as well as its faithful interpretation of Connelly's best-selling books. Plus, it has a sweet jazz soundtrack.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's signature characters come alive in Sherlock, a bromantic series about its eponymous detective, the "high functioning sociopath" Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), and his war veteran sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman). The four-season series was a fan-frenzied affair during its run on the BBC and PBS thanks to its sublime stars, behind-the-scenes talent, and production quality, all of which led to some serious awards for everyone involved. - Amanda Bell
The three-season Australian series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries whisks you back to the 1920s and all the glitz and glamour the decade had to offer. Essie Davis stars as the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, who has a knack for solving intricate and inventive murders (a spider in a shoe!), much to the displeasure of the local police, especially Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). However, the two eventually form a working relationship, and later even a friendship oozing with sexual tension. A feature film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, arrived on Acorn TV in 2020.
For a gripping noir detective story with bonus teen drama, watch Veronica Mars. The UPN-turned-CW series stars Kristen Bell as a high schooler, and eventual college student, who moonlights as a private eye, taking on cases for her classmates and her detective father (Enrico Colantoni) while also unraveling season-long mysteries. The one that looms largest is the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried). If you're looking for an intricate crime drama that demands your attention, Veronica Mars is the perfect marathon — at least for the first two seasons. The frustrating Hulu revival is best ignored, and even the third season lost some magic, but the early years of Veronica Mars are unmissable: a smart, dark exploration of trauma and privilege in a town where the haves and the have-nots are at each other's throats. -Kelly Connolly
An engrossing prequel to the beloved British series Inspector Morse, Endeavour stars Shaun Evans as the young Endeavour Morse as he solves murders in 1960s Oxford. Most seasons (there have been seven so far) feature four episodes, that clock in at approximately an hour and a half each, so the show is not exactly a quick binge. But who watches murder mysteries with the intention of plowing through them as quickly as possible? As the series progresses, there are storylines that carry over, much like any other procedural might, so be sure to pay attention.
Set in a sleepy little seaside town, Broadchurch's first season follows two detectives — Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) — on the hunt for the killer of an 11-year-old boy, and, sadly, the suspects list slowly inches into deeply uncomfortable territory. The show continued to enjoy acclaim in its second and third seasons, which, while venturing in some new directions, kept the devastating case that defined the series in the mix. - Amanda Bell
Based on James Runcie's The Grantchester Mysteries, Grantchester sees an incredibly handsome, jazz-loving vicar, Sidney Chambers (James Norton), team up with a local detective, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green), to solve crimes in a small village in the 1950s. Between its immersive storyline and keen character drama aspects, the show makes for an easy binge session. And although Norton departed the show in Season 4, there's still plenty of reason to watch, including the man who took his place: Tom Brittney, who plays Reverend Will Davenport.
For those who stan Idris Elba, Luther is not to be missed. The actor has racked up quite a few trophies — including a Golden Globe — for his depiction of the titular DCI John Luther, whosr dedication to the Serious Crime Unit has cost him dearly on the personal front. Not only does it feature Elba hitting all the right drama marks, but it also gives The Affair's Ruth Wilson room to stretch her legs into even more twisted territory as a psychopathic murderer who becomes an unlikely asset. - Amanda Bell
Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None has been adapted many times, and with good reason — it's one of her best works, if not her best. And BBC One's 2015 adaptation, which starred Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Aidan Turner, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman, and a whole lot of other people you will definitely recognize, is a real highlight. The three-part miniseries follows 10 strangers on a remote island in 1939 who are picked off one by one, and no one knows which one is the murderer or why it's happening.
For those X-Files fans who still haven't gotten enough of Gillian Anderson doing detective things, congrats: The Fall is now at the top of your to-be-watched pile. The actress stars as Stella Gibson, an English detective superintendent trying to catch a serial killer (a pre-50 Shades of Grey, pre-Barb and Star Jamie Dornan) in Northern Ireland before he attacks even more women. -Amanda Bell
If you like your mysteries to make you laugh, Psych is the procedural murder mystery for you. James Roday Rodriguez stars as Shawn Spencer, who pretends to be a psychic detective in order to aid the Santa Barbara Police Department in solving murders. He is helped by his best friend and sometimes unwilling sidekick, Burton Guster (Dule Hill). The show ran for eight seasons and has produced three movie sequels, so this will keep you busy for a while.