The 28 Best Crime Shows on Netflix, Ranked

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The 28 Best Crime Shows on Netflix, Ranked

Need to dive into a good mystery or follow a fascinating case? We have you covered. There are ton of great crime series on Netflix—below are some of our favorites currently streaming, including recent additions to the service. If you are looking for a wider array of choices, you can also check out our list of the 100 Best TV Shows on Netflix, Ranked.

28. Dexter

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Created by: James Manos Jr.
Stars: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, James Remar, C.S. Lee, Lauren Vélez
Original Network: Showtime

Watch on Netflix

The character development of “the serial killer who kills serial killers” Dexter Morgan over eight seasons is fascinating to follow. If Season 1 saw us trying to come to terms with our empathy towards a murderer, we were eventually cheering an old friend’s slow progression towards something akin to humanity. His moral code might be a world away from ours, but he often does a better job adhering to it than the rest of us. In addition to the constant edge-of-your-seat plot twists, each season gave us incredible guest stars as allies and antagonists, including Jimmy Smits, John C. Lithgow, Peter Weller, Mos Def, Edward James Olmos and Julia Stiles. —Josh Jackson


27. American Crime

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Created by: John Ridley
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Regina King, Richard Cabral, Lily Taylor, Elvis Nolasco
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

I love seeing shows by a theater company and watching the same actors take on new roles with each production: You witness their range and their ability to assume new identities. American Crime is a repertory theater company brought to the small screen. And unlike American Horror Story, which is all flash and gore, American Crime is rooted in harsh realities. The first season tackled an Army veteran killed during a home invasion. Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton play his grieving parents. In the second season, they’re a headmistress and a basketball coach dealing with a sexual assault at a high school party. The third season was set against the backdrop of a North Carolina crop farm. From these starting points the series fans out to tackle a wide array of social, racial and socio-economic issues and to show how our lives, no matter what our circumstances, are interconnected. There are never easy answers or pat resolutions. The series will haunt you and leave you thinking about it months after you’ve watched it. —Amy Amatangelo


26. Tiger King

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Directed by: Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

We’re not saying Tiger King is good, or healthy, or something you won’t feel guilty about watching. It’s impossible to deny the impact this documentary about big cat collectors has had on pop culture over the last 10 days, though, or to argue that the story itself isn’t perversely compelling. Almost nobody is likable in this seven-episode descent into human misery and animal abuse, and yet it’s hard to look away from the egomaniacal fantasies of Joe Exotic, the sex cult drama of Doc Antle, or the slightly classier facade of Carole Baskin, who tries to retain a veneer of bland, bourgeois respectability while keeping cats in captivity and exploiting the labor of her volunteers (and, yes, whose first husband disappeared mysteriously…). Somehow one of the more likable figures is a drug lord who claims to be the basis for Tony Montana—that’s how contemptible almost everybody else in this series is. Yes, this might be bottom-feeder reality trash dressed up with post-Serial true crime prestige—and yes, its central message of “maybe random yahoos shouldn’t be allowed to own endangered wildlife that can kill a human in a heartbeat” is a noble but blazingly obvious one—but damned if it isn’t as entertaining as anything else you’ve seen this year. —Garrett Martin


25. The Fall

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Created by: Allan Cubitt
*Stars:** Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Valene Kane, Séalinín Brennan, Colin Morgan, Bronagh Taggart, Niamh McGrady, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Let it be known that before he was Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan proved his acting chops and charisma as a disturbingly un-disturbable murderer in this superb psychological thriller. Dornan’s mild-mannered husband, father and grief counselor (!) is among the most terrifying onscreen serial killers in recent memory. Paul Spector is a stalker, as exacting and methodical as his eventual pursuer. Enter Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson, a British detective superintendent called to Belfast to look into a spate of gruesome murders. As the cat-and-mouse game intensifies, Anderson’s characterization is its own triumph: analytical, uncompromising, reserved, but brazenly sexual on her own terms, entirely unfazed by the politicking and dick-swinging of her male colleagues. That we know the identity of the killer from the show’s first frames, and yet can’t take our eyes off the screen is a testament to the stealth creep with which The Fall operates. —Amanda Schurr


24. The Sinner

Created by: Derek Simonds
Stars: Jessica Biel, Christopher Abbott, Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon, Chris Messina, Matt Bomer
Original Network: USA

Watch on Netflix

Each season, USA’s The Sinner opens with a crime whose perpetrator is immediately revealed. The question is never a whodunnit, but instead asks why. And that, really, is at the core of why many of us enjoy crime dramas so much. The unraveling of the mystery is the thing, but The Sinner makes it all about the psychology of the crime; the mystery to unravel is embedded in the past of the person who committed this heinous act. For drama fans (and crime drama fans in particular), The Sinner remains a very underrated anthology that always delivers a solid case with a great cast around it. It’s a good binge watch, and there’s no prior knowledge that’s really necessary to dive into any season of the new series. The first season was about a young mother who murders a stranger on the beach, the second about a cult and a missing girl, and the third about two men who made a pact in college that is coming due. In each, we dive into the personal stories behind the crimes in engrossing ways, all led by Bill Pullman’s ragged detective Harry Ambrose, as he wrestles with his own demons. —Allison Keene


23. Black Lightning

Created by: Salim Akil
Stars: Cress Williams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams, Christine Adams, Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, Damon Gupton, James Remar
Original Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix

Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse (just recently valorized by a $400 million cash contract made to keep the universe-runner around until 2024) has been an undeniable success for The CW—and for the DC universe on screen. But it has not, historically, had a great deal to say about the deeply rooted prejudices of the real world that have conspired to create the violence and terror that shape places like the Glades in Green Arrow’s Star City, or that are mirrored in the bigotry metahumans face by “normal” society. Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil’s addition to the fold, Black Lightning, takes that challenge head on, positioning endemic racism and systemic inequity as the central evils a real superhero would find himself (or, in the case of Nafessa Williams’ Thunder, herself) up against. It then uses those injustices, and the tensions they cause within not just communities but individual families (Black Lightning, as played by Cress Williams, is father to two superpowered daughters), to tell a compelling, heady story about what it means to do what is right in a world that resembles our own more than any superhero story to date. (Although Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger may give the show a run for its money). Plus, its soundtrack? Double platinum. —Alexis Gunderson


22. Dirty John

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Created by: Alexandra Cunningham
Stars: Connie Britton, Eric Bana, Juno Temple, Julia Garner
Original Network: Bravo

Watch on Netflix

One of the best things about this deliciously pulpy true crime series, based on the popular podcast, is how quickly things move. In only the second episode, the cracks in the seemingly perfect world shared by John (a terrific Eric Bana) and Debra (Connie Britton) are crumbling. By the time John says to Debra’s beloved nephew, “You should be glad your dad killed your mom,” the series has moved into straight-up horror thriller territory. Britton (and her fabulous hair) make every project better, but Dirty John’s grifter story benefits from a strong cast all around. It’s also easy to be fascinated by Debra’s mother, Arlane (Jean Smart), who seems so willing to accept the new man in her daughter’s life despite the warning signs. “I love him because he loves you,” she tells her. She might be the key to why Debra, a successful and smart business woman, is so gullible when it comes to love—with devastating consequences. Dirty John is extra TV calories you might not need, but should devour anyway. — Amy Amatangelo


21. Making a Murderer

Created by: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

After the Serial podcast captured the zeitgeist, Netflix brought viewers the true story of Steven Avery, a man wrongly convicted of a brutal assault. He sued law enforcement, and while in the middle of that suit, he became the suspect of a brand new crime. The docuseries’ first season covers 30 years in Avery’s life, and like Serial, became a phenomenon that had us all playing armchair judge and jury. (A less acclaimed follow-up debuted in October 2018). —Amy Amatangelo


20. Collateral

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Created by: David Hare
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Nathaniel Martello-White, Jeany Spark, Nicola Walker, John Simm, Billie Piper, Hayley Squires
Original Network: BBC Two

Watch on Netflix

The four-episode UK 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


19. Dead to Me

Created by: Liz Feldman
Stars: Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Max Jenkins, Sam McCarthy, Luke Roessler, Ed Asner
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) meet not so cute at a grief support group. Jen’s husband died three months ago in a hit and run accident. Judy’s fiancé died eight weeks ago of a heart attack. They develop a friendship over their mutual anguish and their love of Facts of Life (Jen is a Jo, Judy a Tootie). Before long Judy is moving into Jen’s guest house and a beautiful friendship is formed. Or is it? Netflix is keen on keeping the pilot’s big reveal a secret. I watched it with my husband and didn’t even let him know there was a secret and he still guessed it within minutes of the show’s opening. But no matter. The series, rooted in terrific performances from Applegate and Cardellini, is a fascinating mix of humor and pathos. The show deftly balances both extremes and pull both off. I never know what the twisty Dead to Me is really up to and that’s just the way I like it. —Amy Amatangelo


18. Top Boy

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Created by: Ronan Bennett
Stars: Ashley Walters, Kane Robinson, Micheal Ward, Shone Romulus, Malcolm Kamulete, David Omoregie
Original Network: Channel 4

Watch on Netflix

What do you get when an alleged former IRA bomber from the Falls Road in Belfast (who spent time in the infamous Long Kesh prison on charges of murder) becomes a respected novelist and, in his fifties, creates a TV show based on gang culture in East London? This singular biography, belonging to Ronan Bennett, yields up Top Boy, the UK’s slightly less ambitious answer to The Wire. The first two seasons debuted in 2011 and 2013, making the show’s return one of the most unlikely TV events of the year. This is more than welcome—amidst the stifling realism and cruelty of the fictional Summerhouse estates, there is poetry (like The Wire, the patois is a delight) and vulnerable humanity, subject always to the grinding machinery of systemic violence. Sharon Duncan-Brewster is excellent as Lisa, the resilient mother of Ra’Nell, who was the star until the creators realized what they had in Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson, two real-life rappers who are spectacular as Dushane and Sully—friends and enemies fighting for oxygen and power in a world that is loath to give up either for very long.—Shane Ryan


17. Jessica Jones

Created by: Melissa Rosenberg
Stars: Krysten Ritter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Mike Colter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, Susie Abromeit
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Marvel’s first team-up with Netflix, 2015’s excellent Daredevil, took the shiny Marvel Cinematic Universe and rubbed much needed dirt on it. Jessica Jones furthers the trend with a psychological thriller that is, somehow, more brutal and dark than its Hell’s Kitchen contemporary. Unlike Daredevil, Jones not only redraws the lines for a Marvel production, but redefines what a comic book show can be. The emphasis is not on physical but mental destruction—in Season One, that caused by Kilgrave (David Tennant), a sociopath with mind-control powers, and in Season Two, that of Jones’ (the terrific Krysten Ritter) search for her origins. Netflix’s binge model is used to its full-effect, each episode’s conclusion begging the viewer to let the train roll on. And, like a victim of Kilgrave, it’s impossible not to abide. Jessica Jones keeps the viewer guessing, leaving them suspended in a state of fear and anxiety for perilous, wonderful hours. —Eric Walters


16. Mindhunter

Created by: Joe Penhall
Stars: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cotter Smith and Cameron Britton
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

The name and the description may have you assuming that this is a typical network procedural: FBI agents interview psychopaths in order to catch murderers. But Mindhunter is as much Mad Men as it is Law & Order. Produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, the story follows two real-life agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, the original King George III in Hamilton on Broadway) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with consulting psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) in the FBI’s nascent Behavioral Science Unit. Joe Penhall’s series is based on a similarly titled true crime book. Interviewing and cataloguing convicted serial killers (a phrase the trio invents) leads to them helping on active cases, but it also affects each of their personal lives in different ways. Cameron Britton is particularly unforgettable as notorious murderer and necrophiliac Edmund Kemper. The second season focuses on the Atlanta child murders, and doesn’t let viewers off easy. —Josh Jackson


15. Manhunt: Unabomber

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Created by: Greg Yaitanes, Andrew Sodroski
Stars: Sam Worthington, Paul Bettany, Chris Noth, Jane Lynch, Mark Duplass, and Keisha Castle-Hughes
Original Network: Discovery Channel

Watch on Netflix

Following the success of true crime dramas like American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Unabomber takes a look at Ted Kaczynski (a nearly unrecognizable Paul Bettany) who, over an 18 year period, killed three people and injured 23 others in a mail bombing campaign that terrorized the nation until he was captured in 1996. The eight-episode series follows criminal profiler Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) as he uncovers the identity of the Unabomber while working within a system that doesn’t necessarily appreciate his maverick ways. With an all-star cast and a fascinating look into the early days of profiling through language (not to mention how Kaczynski himself was radicalized—by a U.S. government program, no less), the riveting series is a worthy deep-dive into the ideology of both a man who terrorized a nation, and one who created a system to stop him. —Amy Amatangelo and Allison Keene


14. American Vandal

Created by: Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault
Stars: Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Jimmy Tatro
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

American Vandal is the tongue-in-cheek antidote to the “true crime” craze: a “prestige docuseries” on the subject of dick-drawing, set on dismantling the form from within. After all, its understanding of the form is impeccable: With dramatic cold opens, floated theories and test cases; interviews, illustrations and re-creations; careful cliffhangers and a Jinx-style hot mic, it applies the genre’s commonplaces to absurd situations with aplomb. It’s a pungently goofy reminder that the history of “true crime” is dominated by “lowbrow” media—pulpy magazines, grocery-store paperbacks, salacious installments of Dateline or 20/20—and that its newfound sense of “prestige” is primarily a function of style. Still, American Vandal’s most surprising strength is not its satire but its steady construction of a narrative backdrop even more compelling than its creators realize. Call it Fast Times at Hanover High: The series’ amusing slice of schoolyard life. —Matt Brennan


13. Hap and Leonard

Created by: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici
Stars: James Purefoy, Michael K. Williams
Original Network: SundanceTV

Watch on Netflix

There are so many things that Hap and Leonard does that are wonderfully unique in this TV landscape. Based on Joe R. Lansdale’s books, the series is an authentic story about the south, capturing the tone and cadence of its location with aplomb. It’s also a blue collar story that isn’t just about being poor in East Texas, but that desperation informs everything that happens in this wacky yet soulful series. The two men at the heart of the show are best friends and total opposites—one is a straight white hippy, the other is black, gay, conservative—and they support each other, joke and fight like brothers. These things are all taken as being typical in Hap and Leonard, which thoughtfully followed-up a wild first season with an incredibly emotional second, and a heartbreaking third. With laconic East Texas style, the 80s-set series deals with a new villain each season (as Hap and Leonard accidentally stumble into their path) with humor and heart, never ignoring the racial politics of the region. It’s a show that illustrates how people with even the most disparate viewpoints can find common or at least cordial ground, and the consequences of what happens when they don’t. The woefully overlooked series is stocked with an amazing cast, and two actors who know how to convincingly (and never cartoonishly) pull off a Texas drawl. —Allison Keene


12. Peaky Blinders

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Created by: Steven Knight
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Iddo Goldberg
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Netflix

Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill star in this rock ’n‘ roll gangster drama set in 1919 in the West Midlands industrial city of Birmingham (music from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes adds a modern touch to the period proceedings). Murphy is a soldier-turned-ambitious kingpin of the Shelby crime family. Neill is the equally ruthless inspector out to dismantle his organization, who enlists a lovely mole (Annabelle Wallis, also of Fleming) to aid his campaign. (Tom Hardy joins the cast in the second season.) As the steely, azure-eyed Tommy Shelby, Murphy brings his trademark quiet intensity to a multidimensional antihero, one of several thoughtful characterizations in the Shelby clan. As for the gang’s/ show’s namesake, picture razor blades sewn into the brim of its wearers’ caps and you’ll get the head-butting, eye-gouging extent of Peaky Blinders’ viciousness. —Amanda Schurr


11. Giri/Haji

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Created by: Joe Barton
Stars: Takehiro Hira, Kelly Macdonald, Y?suke Kubozuka, Will Sharpe
Original Network: BBC Two

Watch on Netflix

BBC Two’s Giri / Haji, available in the U.S. via Netflix, is already one of the year’s best surprises. The international thriller starts when a Tokyo detective, Kenzo Mori (Takehiro Hira), is tasked by a prominent Yakuza crime family—in conjunction with the police force—to secretly go to London in search of his brother Yuto (Yosuke Kubozuka ), who he thought died a year ago. The hope is that bringing Yuto back will stop a sprawling war that he helped kickstart among the Yakuza factions. But like Kenzo’s investigation into Yuto’s disappearance and faked death, Giri /Haji is full of unexpected twists, not just in its narrative but in its form. It’s dark and violent at times, but also funny and full of heart. At the center of the story is the tale of two brothers, yet it’s also about forged family and discovering the truth about one’s self. The gang war is the framework for the story, which plays out in many ways like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (as far as a variety of different crime bosses all marching toward one another); and yet, one of its most moving scenes takes place during a quiet, makeshift Yom Kippur dinner regarding atonement.

The series is just frankly stunning. And crucially, funny. Though it would be wonderful to spend more time in this world with a second season, there is a palpable and beautiful sense of healing that has ended this one. —Allison Keene


10. Waco

Created by: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle
Stars: Michael Shannon, Taylor Kitsch, Paul Sparks, Rory Culkin, Shea Whigham, Melissa Benoist
Original Network: Paramount Network

Watch on Netflix

I’m old enough to remember when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ (ATF) raid of David Koresh’s compound resulted in a 51-day standoff that left 76 people dead. But I was also full of youthful naïveté and a strong belief about who was right and who was wrong. What I recall most from that time is thinking, “Why would anyone live in a cult and follow a man who thinks he’s God? Why would they give their life for him?”

Waco humanizes the story, making not only Koresh (Taylor Kitsch) but also his followers fully developed characters. The six-episode series focuses on the nine months leading up to the 1993 raid and its horrifying aftermath. By the time we meet Koresh, he’s already the leader of Branch Davidians, “married” to multiple women and the father of 13 children born by these various wives. He has a gift for recognizing the vulnerable and the wounded—the lost souls. In fact, what Waco does best is make Koresh not a monster. It almost poses the question, “Could he be a compassionate leader even though he was sexually abusing a young follower and perhaps others?” Which prompts another: Can I like the miniseries while also being concerned by its perspective? With the thought-provoking, risky, and engaging Waco, the answer is largely, “Yes.” —Amy Amatangelo


9. When They See Us

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Created by: Ava DuVernay
Stars: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

You cannot look away from When They See Us or shelter yourself from the blinding truth. On April 19, 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meli was jogging in Central Park when she was brutally raped and left for dead. In a coma for 12 days, Meli had no memory of what happened to her and was unable to identify her attacker or attackers. The series doesn’t shy away from the horrors of what happened to Meli. A successful white woman left for dead in America’s most famous public space did not sit well with New York City. Everyone—the mayor, the district attorney, the police department—wanted her attackers caught. But somewhere along the line, Manhattan District Attorney Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman, in her first post-scandal role) and NYPD detectives lost sight of wanting to find the actual criminal and decided to solve the crime by any means necessary.

The story itself is overwhelmingly powerful. But there are several key decisions Ava DuVernay makes that turns When They See Us into one of the year’s, if not the decade’s best, programs. One is the casting of five relatively unknown actors to play the boys. The “Central Park Five” were 14-16 years old in 1989 and Rodriguez, Herisse, Jerome, Blackk and Harris not only look young but portray the absolutely vulnerability and fear that their real-life counterparts must have felt. We also get to see their families, who fought so hard for their children. Niecy Nash as Korey’s mom Delores. John Leguizamo as Raymond’s father, who remarries while Raymond is away and struggles to balance his old family with his new one.

Aunjanue Ellis as Sharon Salaam, the only parent who understood the system enough to make sure her son didn’t sign a false confession. DuVernay doesn’t make any of them saints. They all make horrible mistakes and painful decisions. But their love for their children is never in doubt. When They See Us is exceedingly difficult to watch. It cut me to my very core. When you see it, I’m sure it will do the same to you. —Amy Amatangelo


8. Alias Grace

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Created by: Sarah Polley, Mary Harron
Stars: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, Zachary Levi, Kerr Logan, David Cronenberg, Paul Gross, Anna Paquin
Networks: CBC/Netflix

Watch on Netflix

Adapted by Sarah Polley from Margaret Atwood’s historical novel, and directed by Mary Harron with forthright shudders of psychological horror, this sterling Canadian limited series is a tightly constructed marvel. In Canada in 1859, “celebrated murderess” Grace Marks (the brilliant Sarah Gadon) submits to an interview with Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft), and their ongoing conversation unearths a pattern of violence and trauma, which Alias Grace spins into a scintillating mystery, an intricate biographical portrait, a lushly appointed period drama, and a ferocious treatment of the distance between what “the world at large” deigns to call harm and the countless ways men cause it. —Matt Brennan


7. Bodyguard

Created by: Jed Mercurio
Stars: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Gina McKee, Sophie Rundle
Original Network: ITV

Watch on Netflix

In Jed Mercurio’s exquisite actioner, there are no rooftop chases, no ticking clocks, no fisticuffs with the villain’s henchmen. Instead, the six-part series finds suspense in watchful camerawork and careful pacing, and it’s this thorough control that makes Bodyguard worthy of your next TV obsession: It refuses shortcuts, rejects ellipses, until it approaches the effect of real time. Rather than treat this as a gimmick though, star Richard Madden and directors Thomas Vincent and John Strickland use the technique to create potent echoes of protagonist David Budd’s torturous vigilance, and indeed the nation’s. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, David receives an assignment to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), a rising political star with her eye on 10 Downing Street—and a reputation as a national security hardliner. The result is an ingenious layering of form atop function, all within the context of a taut political thriller: The series is less 24 or House of Cards than Homeland at its most momentous, stripped of all but its hero’s ability to see what others miss. —Matt Brennan


6. Narcos / Narcos: Mexico

Created by: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro
Stars: Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal / Michael Peña, Diego Luna, José María Yazpik
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

One popular line of criticism has it that Narcos romanticizes the violence and degradation associated with the Colombian drug wars—and drug culture in general—and I would agree that the excellent Wagner Moura plays kingpin Pablo Escobar so engagingly that he becomes a sort of Walter White-esque antihero. And the rhythms of the documentary-style narration are fast-paced in a way that’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie, whipping us along at an almost breakneck speed. Nevertheless, this valid criticism misses the important point that we are watching a work of fiction based on historical figures—not a realdocumentary. And when viewed that way, Narcos was one of the most successful shows on TV in how it managed to flesh out some very dark characters and tell a complicated story with such urgency and clarity. This is not the hyper-realist drug fiction of Traffic or even 2015’s Sicario, but as conflict entertainment goes, it succeeds wonderfully

Similarly, the spinoff/companion series of sorts, Narcos: Mexico, investigates the rise of the powerful Guadalajara Cartel that began by selling cannabis and quickly escalated into cocaine and heroin. The cartel, and the story itself, is led by the conflicted figure of Félix Gallardo (Luna), who wants to make drug selling a business (shades of The Wire’s Stringer Bell are evident everywhere in this portrayal), but must ultimately embrace a ruthless nature to make it work. Gallardo is being hunted by DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Peña), whose fledgling organization doesn’t understand how dangerous these cartels and their growing network are becoming. Anchored by outstanding performances, like the original series, Narcos: Mexico is a deeply compelling dramatization of the drug gangs that continue to plague Mexico (and to some extent, the United States) today, and concludes with a major reveal that sets up a whole new game for Season 2. Filled with emotional twists and turns, Narcos: Mexico perhaps even eclipses its predecessor with outstanding characterizations and a tense story told at a rapid, tantalizing pace. —Shane Ryan and Allison Keene


5. Twin Peaks

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Created by: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Netflix

At its heart, Twin Peaks is a detective story, with Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachan), a stalwart, by-the-book FBI agent, descending upon the small logging town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of a young woman. But since this was a TV series conceived using the weird and wonderful visions of David Lynch, it wound up being so much more. Like its nearest antecedent, Blue Velvet, it explores the weirdness that lies beneath the surface of Anytown, U.S.A., including a lot of soap opera-like psychosexual drama and assorted oddball characters like The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) and agoraphobic Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen). The horror of the show came in with the supernatural underpinnings of this storyline, with the killer of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) potentially being an otherworldly force that goes by the name of Bob. Through Lynch’s lens and through the guise of actor Frank Silva, that spirit haunted every last scene in the show, no matter how outlandish and far-reaching it got. With the help of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and the atmosphere created by the set designers, you spent the entirety of the two seasons waiting for something terrible to happen to everyone on screen. And it only made those moments—when things did go sour—feel that much worse. Though Twin Peaks: The Return, which debuted on Showtime in 2017, is not yet available on Netflix, its wild surrealism and resistance to narrative confirm the visionary nature of Lynch’s original. —Robert Ham


4. Hannibal

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Created by: Bryan Fuller
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hugh Dancy
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Netflix

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again;Hannibal airing on a broadcast network was nothing short of a minor miracle. After a stellar inaugural year, Bryan Fuller and company dared to up the stakes for their second go-around, taking major creative risks in the process. These risks came in the form of (among other things) sealing the protagonist in jail for a third of the run, killing off a major character, and ending the season with what I can only describe as the visual equivalent of a mic drop. Even in its weaker moments, the show always offered something memorable, whether it be an impressive visual, or an intense dialogue exchange. And while some viewers no doubt came to Hannibal purely for its inventive, if highly gruesome imagery (there’s certainly that in spades), chances are they ended up staying for the compelling writing, hypnotic performances, and luscious, evocative cinematography. —Mark Rozeman


3. Rectify

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Created by: Ray McKinnon
Stars: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby
Original Network: SundanceTV

Watch on Netflix

Rectify has a simple enough premise: A man sent to rot on Death Row is released from prison after 19 years on a DNA technicality. Sure, the big and small screens have seen their fair share of crime dramas, but Rectify’s plot isn’t what sets it apart: It’s the rest of it that really matters. Daniel Holden, presumably wrongly arrested for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, finds himself back in his small Georgia hometown and greeted by constant life-threatening hostility. The show explores the bonds between Daniel (played to perfection by Aden Young), his family, and his enemies as they struggle to deal with Daniel’s homecoming. Superbly acted (with an understanding of the south that few shows ever achieve), the program successfully manages to be at times heartbreaking and suspenseful, while also beautifully incorporating moments of effortless humor. Rectify is thought-provoking and will make you care about the future of its characters—like all the best shows do. —Rachel Haas


2. Better Call Saul

better call saul inflatable.jpg

Created by: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

When Bob Odenkirk showed up towards the end of the second season of Breaking Bad, playing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, it was a small shock to the system for anyone who has long appreciated his work as a writer and a comic actor on series like SNL and Mr. Show. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a tragic and hilarious tale that would start to take on the scope of an epic Russian novel. This prequel to Vince Gilligan’s meth drama has accomplished the nearly impossible, by expanding upon the source material of Breaking Bad with dynamic and sometimes heartbreaking results. And give full credit to Odenkirk (and his co-stars Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks) for further bringing to life how shaky a person’s morality can be, especially when there’s great gobs of money involved. —Robert Ham


1. Breaking Bad

Created by: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, RJ Mitte, Giancarlo Esposito
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

Some argue that The Wire is TV’s best drama of all time; others stand up for Mad Men or The Sopranos, the latter of which has the benefit of being so important historically that it begins many textbooks’ modern TV eras. But Breaking Bad made its bones quickly, publicly, and with plenty of pizzazz. It entered the TV landscape with just a few episodes of tonally questionable wobbling—the balance-finding of an ambitious acrobat searching for the tightrope’s center—and stuck the landing on the remaining five seasons. Who cares if the first season’s DVD case called it a dramedy? America knew what it was immediately, even if we didn’t know exactly where it was going. How has the tragic ballad of science teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston) weathered its title over the years? If the current TV landscape is anything to judge by, it’s a proud grandfather, looking over its progeny with the same glee and gentle judgment of any overachieving patriarch. Breaking Bad may not have set the paradigm of unlikable anti-heroism in pop drama, but it certainly put the “pop” in the designation. (And don’t forget to watch the show’s probably unnecessary but nevertheless wonderful follow-up film El Camino). —Jacob Oller



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