Murder mysteries tend to conjure up very specific imagery. The lone, idiosyncratic detective. A dark and dreary landscape. The mustache of Hercule Poirot. Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick. But the truth is that murder mysteries come in all shapes and sizes. Some are atmospheric and moody. Some are bright and funny. Some are by-the-book procedurals that you watch precisely because they’re reliable and formulaic. And television has them all. No matter your taste, there’s a murder mystery with your name on it (this is much better than there being a murder weapon with your name on it).
In our attempt to highlight the best of the best murder mysteries, we’ve carefully curated a list that features period shows and modern mysteries, stark snow noirs and vivid fairy tales. There are Serious Dramas and shows that find the humor in life alongside the shadow of death. It’s a bit of everything, so no matter what mood you’re in, you’ll likely find something to watch below. These are the best murder mysteries to stream right now.
Mare of Easttown
If you like your small-town murder with a side of deep emotional suffering and personal trauma, the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown is the show for you. Emmy winner Kate Winslet stars in the exquisite seven-episode series as Mare Sheehan, a haggard detective and local basketball star from a town just outside Philadelphia who’s been tasked with solving the murder of a local teen while trying to find several more who’ve gone missing. As is required by Murder Mystery Law, Mare must do all of this while personally hanging on by a thread, her own life having been shattered by a moment of suffering so deep and painful that it has created cracks through her world like a spiderweb. This is the type of show where the central crime arguably comes second to the personal stories, which are a careful study in how everyone is damaged, but Winslet gives the kind of performance that is utterly unforgettable. And thanks to excellent supporting performances from Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson (who also won Emmys for their work) and the incomparable Jean Smart (who was a nominee), it’s a compelling murder mystery that keeps you on your toes until the very end. —Kaitlin Thomas
True Detective: Night Country
The fourth season of True Detective, subtitled Night Country, is the first from someone other than series creator Nic Pizzolatto. Issa López acts as the showrunner, director, and lead writer of the show, which follows Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis), detectives in Ennis, Alaska, who find themselves sucked into an intertwined pair of unsolved deaths. The first is a cold case involving a local indigenous woman, Annie K, who was murdered after protesting against the local mine, while in the second, a group of scientists from a nearby research station were found frozen in the ice amidst perplexing circumstances. As the duo start digging, they’re forced to face elements of their own pasts as they unearth hidden truths about their community. Through its cast of compelling and flawed characters, supernatural undertones, and chilling setting, it convincingly conveys the frigid dread of endless arctic nights and the ghosts that haunt this tundra. —Elijah Gonzalez
If I can only use one word to describe Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s genre-bending series The Afterparty, it’s “super-freaking-fun.” A welcome addition to the trend of comedic murder mysteries, the first season follows the investigation of a high-profile murder that occurs at a high school reunion afterparty, while the second season is set at a wedding. What sets the show apart from other series is that each episode is a retelling of the night’s events as viewed through the lens of a different popular film genre that corresponds to the perspective and personality of the person being interrogated. The result is a series that both operates within and pokes fun at the tropes of not just the formulaic murder mystery, but also romantic comedies, psychological thrillers, musicals, teen dramas, heist movies, period romances, and even Wes Anderson films (though that last one is arguably not a real genre). It’s not a terribly deep show, but with a cast filled with actors and actresses who are often the funniest and best parts of every project they’re in, it’s an exceptionally good time from start to finish. —Kaitlin Thomas
The deck is heavily stacked in the audience’s favor with Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne’s Poker Face, a case-of-the-week “howcatchem” that feels less like an ode to Columbo and more like a gleeful, excited squeal of adoration. Johnson writes and directs the pilot, giving us a welcome return to the darker, restrained type of genre filmmaking he showed in Brick and Looper, which provides an impeccable introduction to the world of Charlie (Lyonne), a nobody who can sniff out when anyone is ever lying. Our perceptive idol still has to slum it across America’s backroads, seemingly drawn to impractical, impossible murders being staged in regional theaters, crummy punk bars, and a militant old folks home. There’s a great deal of texture to the world that a team of capable writers and directors explore, and despite some repetitive structure issues, Poker Face makes us wonder why procedurals like these aren’t on TV year-round. —Rory Doherty
Trapped and Entrapped
For fans of Nordic noir, you can’t go wrong with the exceptionally snowy, totally compelling Icelandic crime drama Trapped (note: the show’s third season, which is treated as a sequel series, is known as Entrapped). The series, centered in a town on the coast that has recently been snowed in, kicks off with the discovery of a headless corpse in the local port. From there, the local police—led by Olafur Darri Olafsson’s Andri, whose work has taken its toll on his home life—embark on a twisted mystery that must be solved before the snow melts and the murderer can escape. It’s a beyond tired cliche to say that the location of a show is another character, but in this case, it’s actually true, as Trapped skillfully uses its remote setting to its advantage, upping the dramatic tension at every turn and leaving characters vulnerable to both the effects of Mother Nature and the killer in town. —Kaitlin Thomas
Only Murders in the Building
This endearing comedic murder mystery stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as a trio of true-crime obsessives who charmingly try to crack a case in their shared apartment building. The neighbors make an unlikely gang: Charles-Haden Savage (Martin) is a washed-up actor who used to star as a TV detective, and the overconfidence he has in his residual investigative skills thinly masks a deeply insecure man; Oliver Putnam (Short) contrasts Charles as a flamboyant former theater director with a big personality and even bigger debts; Mabel (a well-cast Gomez) is a stylish and quietly mysterious young woman who has more of a connection to the first case than she initially lets on. But when they find out they share a suspicion that a tragic suicide in their building was actually a homicide, they decide to try their hand at uncovering the truth—and start a podcast to follow their investigation.
The series—and the podcast within—depend on our central trio being engaging, and the combination of personalities works out well; the cast is wonderfully dynamic, earning laughs while slowly revealing morsels of their secretly lonely lives to each other. Though our heroes like to complicate things, Only Murders in the Building itself keeps things simple; it’s a dazzlingly funny and entertaining series that’s clearly made with a lot of heart. —Kristen Reid
A strong sense of place is often key to a good murder mystery. Shetland, a British crime drama based on the novels of Ann Cleeves that draws its name from its setting on the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland, uses its location to its advantage. At times, the masterful murder mystery—which begins with standalone stories before transitioning to a more serialized narrative—is remote and suffocating. At others, it’s quaint and beautiful. It all comes down to the story and the framing. But since Douglas Henshall’s Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez most often investigates murders, the setting most often reflects the murky nature of the crimes committed. And yet, Shetland isn’t a glumfest. There is plenty to smile about as well, making for a well-rounded viewing experience. —Kaitlin Thomas
Set within the Navajo Nation, Dark Winds is the story of a bank heist and a double murder viewed through the eyes of Lt. Joe Leaphorn, played by the excellent Zahn McClarnon. He and his junior officer Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon) set about solving both cases while the FBI lingers and their own people look on with suspicion. The supernatural elements are subtle enough to contribute rather than subtract; they fit the atmosphere, and never become so egregious or important that it delegitimizes the actual crime story. In fact, it’s necessary to depict a culture that was almost erased; there is still power here. As the mystery deepens, Leaphorn is the prism through which we see the lingering effects of the conquest that is still resonant for the people who ended up on the wrong side of it; just because a murder takes place in 1971 doesn’t mean it cannot trace its dark lineage back through the painful decades. —Shane Ryan
Equal parts witty and riveting, Veronica Mars follows the title character, who is an ostracized high-school student moonlighting as a private eye for her classmates. Kristen Bell uncannily portrays someone who is simultaneously smart, vulnerable, tough and injured. The series, which received a fan-funded movie revival in 2014 and a 2019 Hulu revival, is thematically compelling, stylistically coherent, and fully realized TV show (despite the controversy of the revival’s conclusion). The first season followed Veronica as she solved the murder of her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) and uncovered who assaulted her at a party. The eventual reveal of the murderer was shocking but the show proved it was much more than a one-trick pony. Subsequent seasons introduced new mysteries and corruption all while delivering some of the most fantastic dialogue on television (“Love stinks. You can dress it up in sequins and shoulder pads, but one way or another, you’re just gonna end up alone at the spring dance strapped in uncomfortable underwear.”) For UPN, the series represented a foray into critically acclaimed television. The show was then and remains one of the best TV series of all time. And marshmallows, we pause here to give a special shout out to Jason Dohring, who brought a nuanced combination of cockiness and hurt to bad boy Logan Echolls. —James South and Shaina Pearlman
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries
Premiering in Australia in early 2012 and reaching the American market via Acorn TV and PBS the following year, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was the first of a particular subset of plucky lady detective procedurals to hit the small screen. The series is set in Melbourne in the late 1920s and features Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher, international woman of intrigue, adventure, and investigative nerve. It immediately proved how whizbang successful such a specifically feminine take on the private detective business could be, and quickly became a cult hit. Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, Acorn TV’s zippy spin-off series, takes that cult hit energy and runs with it, kicking its wild “what if Phryne, but modern?” premise off with Phryne’s long-lost niece, Peregrine (Geraldine Hakewill), inheriting her aunt’s estate after Phryne has gone missing in a plane accident in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. This change of literal affairs established, Peregrine, otherwise alone in the world, finds herself free not only to move into Phryne’s house and drive Phryne’s sports car, but also to step into Phryne’s dangerous shoes as Melbourne’s chief amateur P.I., butting heads with handsome local detective James Steed (Joel Jackson, stepping charmingly into Nathan Page’s more serious shoes). Peregrine’s adventures have a slightly different flavor than Phryne’s, of course, but one that’s more than charming enough to turn to Acorn to catch. —Alexis Gunderson
Broadchurch is a riveting U.K. crime drama that focuses on the murder of a young boy. Former Doctor Who star David Tennant leads as detective Alec Hardy, who with his partner Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) must infiltrate a close-knit community on Britain’s Jurassic Coast. Of course, everybody in town has a secret, and no one takes kindly to the mounting media attention. In its first season, as Hardy and Miller continue their investigation, the mystery unfolds in a slow, deceptively languid fashion, lingering on the effects of the child’s death upon the town’s residents. From there things become more sprawling (and arguably less compelling), but still binge-worthy. Creator Chris Chibnall (another Doctor Who vet) is a master of atmosphere (a haunting, piano-driven score; the glistening seaside vistas) and by taking his time with the details, he keeps the whodunit at a slow boil that rewards patient viewers. —Amanda Schurr
Bryan Fuller’s whimsical romantic comedy is one of the most unique shows to ever grace television. The series follows Lee Pace as a pie-maker with the gift to revive dead things for one minute, after which he must either let it die again or have something (or someone) die in its place. In spectacular TV fashion, he uses his gift to help a local private detective (Chi McBride) solve murders, along with his revived childhood love (Anna Friel), whom he can never touch again without killing her forever. Kristin Chenoweth rounds out the supporting cast as Ned’s co-worker, who of course gets a few musical ballads to sing along the way. This fairy-tale romantic comedy is distinct for its bright saturated color palette and fantastical approach to the murder mystery. The series has garnered a passionate cult following since its cancellation, and remains one of the most wonderfully funny and charming shows to ever have been made. —Leila Jordan
There are two things the U.K. is really great at producing: vicars and murder mysteries. So it holds that Grantchester—a story about a murder mystery-solving vicar—would itself be grand. Taking place in the 1950s in the village of Cambridgeshire, the setup is familiar: there’s a young, handsome vicar who has an intuitive way with people, and a gruff, hardboiled detective with whom he improbably becomes friends. The two solve Cases of the Week as vicar Sidney (James Norton) listens to jazz, questions his faith, and tries to stop being in love with his childhood friend Amanda, since they cannot marry. Detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green), meanwhile, is a no-nonsense WWII veteran with a heart of gold and his own domestic issues, both of which give some extra dimension to the show’s procedural aspects. Grantchester is often thoughtful, sweetly compelling, and lightly thrilling—it also includes cozy period details and a dog named Dickens. What more could you want? —Allison Keene
When USA debuted Psych, it was just a little show about a fake psychic who solved crimes. The network was in the nascent stages of its “blue sky” period, a time that included Burn Notice, White Collar, and Royal Pains. Now that the phase is over, it’s easy to declare Psych the best of the no-heavy-watching-required bunch. Starring James Roday Rodriguez, Dule Hill, Timothy Omundson, and Maggie Lawson, the comedy-mystery hybrid is decidedly lighter than most shows centered around solving murders. Frequently hilarious, the series relishes in spoofing the pop-culture landscape and tapping into the zeitgeist both past and present. Almost every episode is themed around a trope, genre, or specific film or TV show. Psych ran for eight seasons and spawned three follow-up films, so don’t be a myopic Chihuahua—dive in. Wait for it. Wait for iiiiiiiit… —Shannon Houston
The United Kingdom has never met a somber murder mystery it didn’t love, and the three-season Welsh drama Hinterland is one of the best examples of the genre. The series stars Richard Harrington as the brooding and enigmatic DCI Tom Mathias, who has relocated to Aberystwyth after being forced out of his position in London for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent. As he solves some rather gruesome murders set against some of the most gorgeous backdrops in the world (you will want to move to Wales after watching this show), the series—like so many that came before it—attempts to also crack the case of its complicated leading man. Adding more intrigue to the series is the fact that it was actually filmed twice: once in Welsh and then again in English (though the latter version does still feature some Welsh). That’s dedication to the craft.—Kaitlin Thomas
There have been a small spate of murder comedies on TV in recent years, and it’s a delightful micro genre. Mixing a mystery and thriller with humor—and doing it well—is no small feat. But Sharon Horgan’s Bad Sisters (based on the 2012 Flemish series Clan) manages it with aplomb. And unlike Hulu’s cozy murder show Only Murders in the Building, Bad Sisters doesn’t have us hunting for the killer so much as hoping whoever it was gets away with it.
This hourlong Apple TV+ series is set in Dublin, where four charismatic and tightly-knit sisters lament that their fifth sister, Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), has had the life sucked out of her by her miserable husband, John Paul (Claes Bang). But each of the Garvey sisters have a bone to pick with John Paul personally, too. Bad Sisters opens with John Paul’s funeral, and we are quickly made to assume the sisters (minus Grace) are responsible. But the truth is not quite so cut and dry; the series flips back and forth between the present and six months prior, when the plan was first hatched. What begins as an idea that one sister has slowly grows into a group effort, as the women individually come to the end of their ropes with their twisted brother-in-law. So, which one is ultimately responsible? For now, it’s enough to appreciate the winning strangeness of how a show about murder can fill us with such unbridled glee. —Allison Keene
The four-episode U.K. prestige crime series takes place in London over the course of four days, after the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery man. Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan plays Kip Glaspie, a detective inspector who refuses to accept this killing as a simple random murder and seeks out the darker truth hidden in the shadows. There are also a host of political, racial, and social implications to the murder that are all given full consideration by the whip-smart dialogue, elevating this series into a thoughtful, compelling work. —Mike Mudano and Allison Keene
AKA Miss Marple, but make it sexy slapstick. Bright and bold and brazenly unconcerned with how big a mismatch her lifestyle is for the tiny Cotswolds village she decamps to as the series starts, Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is an accidental detective with the sharp bob and keen fashion sense of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries‘ Phryne Fisher. A trained investigator she is not, but if you like your mysteries solved by a bullheaded unwillingness to let anything like training or decorum get in the way, Agatha is your woman. One part Cotswolds cozy, one part Scooby-Doo, Agatha Raisin’s goofy pluck is a breath of fresh air. —Alexis Gunderson
Sequels and prequels are notoriously difficult to pull off, which is why the success and strength of Endeavour should not be overlooked. The show stars Shaun Evans as the younger version of the titular detective from the beloved and long-running show Inspector Morse (itself based on a series of novels by Colin Dexter). An engrossing mystery drama with even more episodes than its parent series, the show follows the early career of Endeavour Morse as he solves murders around 1960s Oxford and establishes himself as a detective with a keen ability to unravel even the most complex mystery. Episodes clock in around 90 minutes apiece, and with compelling ongoing character arcs for Morse, his partner Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), and at times even Thursday’s daughter Joan (Sara Vickers), the show is the perfect balance of crime procedural and serialized drama. —Kaitlin Thomas
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