If you’re someone who’d rather watch a gory ending than a happy one, your next foray into the world of television might be best served with the best crime shows available. These shows have everything, grit, gore, the human condition, serial killers, and are a great way to spend a Friday night in or a week at home alone. Best of all, all of these shows are available on Netflix, which means any cliff hangers can be fixed as easily as pressing the next episode button.
Based on a real-life unit of the FBI, Criminal Minds details the life and work of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. This crack team of criminal profilers uses in-depth psychology and behavior analysis to identify serial killers across America. In a show that could be dreary and raw, Criminal Minds manages to portray hard-hitting cases with terror and intrigue while still instilling audiences with plenty of thrills and the heartwarming experience of watching a found family live their lives. It’s especially great to start from the beginning, which features some exceptional 2000s fashion staples.
If you say you like crime shows but you haven’t watched Mindhunter, are you even a crime fanatic? Created with the care and detail of a David Fincher film, Mindhunter details another FBI Behavioral unit, except this time, the best way to catch a serial killer is to learn from one. Set in the 1980s, Mindhunter’s main characters pioneer using psychology to catch America’s earliest and most notorious serial killers, in a show that is as dark as it is a fantastic watch.
A show about the devil might not immediately sound like your next crime classic watch, but Lucifer manages to fit God, monsters, and murder in its jampacked episodes. A reimagining of the classic “good cop bad cop tale”, the bad cop in this instance just so happens to be the eternal king of hell, up for a quick holiday in the city of Angels. When owning a nightclub and fulfilling desires isn’t enough to keep him occupied, Lucifer accidentally becomes a partner to LAPD detective Chloe Decker. While the show has plenty of supernatural elements, as Lucifer’s biggest problems follow him from hell to L.A, every episode begins and ends with Lucifer and the detective solving a gruesome murder— making the show pretty good fun all around.
If you have a habit of rooting for the people committing the crime, look no further than Dexter. This classic showtime series follows Dexter Morgan, a forensic specialist for the Miami Police Department that uses bloodstain pattern analysis to solve crimes. So what’s the twist? Well, Dexter isn’t’ just a lowly police tech. He’s also a serial killer, who hunts down other famous murderers who have escaped justice. It’s like if Batman had a day job, and a fun penchant for aggressive murder. Because of his job, Dexter is extremely knowledgeable about dispatching and disposing of bodies, which makes his methodical kills and voiceovers a deranged but fun viewing experience.
The best crime shows are always the ones that refuse to shy away from the horror of the crime. And Hannibal might be the one show that takes that mentality to the next level. In a way that can only be described as nauseatingly beautiful, Hannibal tells the tale of young FBI profiler Will Graham (I’m sensing a pattern), who investigates serial killers by imagining himself in their bodies, visually committing their gruesome murders. Because any normal employer would be concerned by that, he is sent to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who also happens to ritually murder and eat people (but you know, in a classy way). Will wants to be normal, Hannibal wants him to start killing people, it’s a match made in crime television heaven.
If you’ve never heard of Carole Baskin or Joe Exotic, count yourself lucky. After you’re done doing that, watch Tiger King. This true-crime docu-series captures the actual, honest to god, very much true story of Joe Exotic: a gay, eccentric owner of a private exotic animal zoo. While a story about raising and owning tigers in captivity would be crazy enough on its own, Joe’s feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin starts as internet trolling and ends with Joe in prison for attempted murder. Want to find out how? Just click play.
While most crime shows are treated as fun forays into a killer’s psyche, Unbelievable turns the genre back on its head. Based on a real-life story, this mini-series follows two detectives as they untangle serial rape cases in Washington and Canada. Most of their victims are called liars, traumatized, and unable to move on with their lives. It takes the work of the two detectives to unravel the case while highlighting the severe and incredibly unfair process of the U.S justice system’s procedure with rape cases. While Unbelievable isn’t the most fun watch, it’s an incredible story that details how belief can change a victim’s life forever.
What better crime show to watch than the murder trial of a crime that dominated pop culture for a decade? The People v. O. J. Simpson is the first American Crime Story and a crime anthology for the ages. Based on the Jeffery Toobin book, The People v. O. J. goes back to the beginning, depicting the O.J in the biggest fight for his life. Going beyond the murder of his ex-wife, the series takes care to break down the trial by both defense and prosecution, setting up the ex-NFL player’s fight for his life like an expert game. With a deep look at the media circus and cultural impact of the trial, the series excels at adding to a story most thought they knew everything about.
Archbishop Keough High School was a normal all-girls school in Baltimore. Then nun Catherine Cesnik was murdered. The Keepers, a Netflix docuseries, explores the background before the disappearance and death of Sister Cathy. Mostly combining interviews and background information, the show artfully weaves facts and thoughts together as one, continuing to ask questions in a way that points viewers to suspicions without giving them the answer.
Sometimes, the most interesting crime shows are the ones that don’t have answers. At least, that’s the case with Netflix’s recent foray into crime documentaries. Unsolved Mysteries, which takes its cues from its name, uses every episode to explore another unsolved murder (and one Alien sighting?). While each of the mysteries goes through the usual suspects, the in-depth interviews with families and the investigating officers make it clear that while there are no charges, everyone has their favorite suspect. Best of all, Netflix just dropped season 2 of the remake, which means getting through new and old episodes will be an absolute breeze.
Think crime but make it British, and you’re close to capturing the magic that makes Broadchurch so good. Featuring Oscar award-winning actress Olivia Coleman and that brunette who used to be on Doctor Who or something, Broadchurch follows the death of an 11-year-old that rocks an English town. The two detectives must work together to parse through the emotions and get to the root of the child’s death, for better or for worse. With cinematography that could rival a blockbuster and a plot filled with thrills, intrigue, and genuine grief, Broadchurch is one of the greatest crime shows Britain has to offer.
What’s better than crime shows? True crime shows. A cultural phenomenon, Making a Murderer is best known for its goal to free Steven Avery, a Wisconsin inmate accused of the sexual assault and murder of Penny Beernsten. Filmed over ten years, the show details how Avery believes he was wrongfully convicted, and the race to have his conviction overturned.
Another true-crime docuseries, this show is based on John Grisham’s famous 2006 book, which follows murders in Ada, Oklahoma. While the show doesn’t give answers, it does call into question the confessions of the men convicted and opens up into how the justice system continues to fail the accused.
This American Crime story plots the death of Gianni Versace, a world-famous designer and auteur, who was murdered in front of his California home in cold blood. The killer, portrayed by Darren Criss, isn’t just a murderer. He’s obsessed with Versace. In an elegant and absolutely breathtaking series, The Assassination of Gianni Versace doesn’t just make his death intriguing. It makes it fashion.
What better way to watch a crime show than to sit down and take in a re-imagining of one of the most famous detectives of all time. In an expert and very odd portrayal, Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in their pre-Hobbit expedition. Watson is a British vet with a psychosomatic limp, who moves in with detective Sherlock Holmes. The two then embark on mystery after mystery, using Sherlock’s brains and Watson’s apologetic nature to solve crimes all around London town.
More than just another sepia-toned show, Ozark follows a family of money launderers, as they move to the Ozark mountains to make amends for ruining an earlier laundering scheme. But while moving away keeps the family out of the hands of a Mexican cartel, it lands them in the arms of local criminals determined to keep their turf. A mafia tale surrounded by firs instead of fists, Ozark is a dark and beautiful show, that keeps you rooting for whoever holds the crown.
Really loved Stranger Things? Pretty good at reading subtitles? Then Dark is the next thing you need to add to your watch list. When a child disappears in a German town, the families most affected must work together to deal with the grief, and uncover a conspiracy far more sinister than anything this world has ever seen.