15 of the best crime shows for streaming sleuths to unravel

Crime TV shows can be real brainteasers, especially if you like going up against fictional detectives to see who can solve the case first.

Crime series have always been extremely popular among TV fans. It’s easy to figure out why. As humans, we long for thrilling activities and crime shows give us the chance to experience fear and horror without actually putting our lives in danger. Plus, most of the crime shows out there end each episode with the criminal safely behind bars, providing a sense of closure and a happy ending we might not get when binging a good-old regular drama. Also, let’s not forget about the supreme satisfaction associated with figuring out who the criminal is ahead of the big reveal. Pretty addictive stuff.

Luckily for crime television fans, streaming platforms are brimming with intriguing titles to gauge your interest. From funny mysteries to gruesome dramas to shows focused on serial killers, there’s something for everyone. We’ve gathered some of the best crime series available to stream, perfect for when you’re itching to give your brain a bit of a workout.

Top 15 crime series available to stream

  1. Elementary
  2. Luther
  3. Happy Valley
  4. Mindhunter
  5. NCIS
  6. Law and Order: SVU
  7. Broadchurch
  8. Top of the Lake
  9. The Wire
  10. Dexter
  11. Hinterland
  12. Psych
  13. True Detective
  14. The Sinner
  15. Ripper Street

1. Elementary (2012)


A modern take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic character, Elementary sees Sherlock Holmes relocating to New York and helping the NYPD solve difficult cases with the help of Joan Watson, a former surgeon. Watson enters the scene as a sober companion, as Sherlock is an addict who struggles to maintain his sobriety over the course of the series. Their relationship deepens, blossoming into a fruitful partnership.

Elementary is a classic procedural at first glance, but the series wins bonus points for highlighting the special bond that exists between Sherlock and Watson. Also, the episodic mysteries are more complex than with your average crime show and Sherlock’s battle with addiction is downright inspiring. You can binge-watch Elementary on Stan.

Cast:

  • Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes
  • Lucy Liu as Joan Watson
  • Aidan Quinn as Captain Thomas Gregson
  • Jon Michael Hill as Detective Marcus Bell

2. Luther (2010)


Luther stars Idris Elba as the titular character, a highly intelligent but impulsive detective who uses his many skills to hunt down criminals. In Season 1, he gets caught up in a psychological cat-and-mouse game between detective and criminal, which will take a toll on his sanity, to viewers’ delight.

A gritty crime drama, Luther is visually gorgeous and greatly benefits from a powerhouse performance from Elba, perfectly cast as a tortured detective. The show transcends its genre, offering a complex and endearing portrait of the main character. Don’t worry, the plot is gripping as well. You can stream the British drama on both Netflix and Stan.

Cast:

  • Idris Elba as DCI John Luther
  • Dermot Crowley as DSU Martin Schenk
  • Michael Smiley as Benny Silver
  • Warren Brown as DS Justin Ripley

3. Happy Valley (2014)


Happy Valley centres on police sergeant Catherine Cawood, who is still recovering following her daughter’s death a few years earlier. When a kidnapping goes terribly wrong, she has to race to find a young victim while simultaneously battling some pesky inner demons.

Dark and suspenseful, the series manages to pack a lot into only six episodes per season, with Sarah Lancashire delivering an amazing performance in the lead role. This is a show you’ll want to binge, with each instalment upping the intensity to the point where you’ll be dying to find out what happens next. Happy Valley is available to stream on Netflix and Stan.

Cast:

  • Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood
  • Siobhan Finneran as Clare Cartwright
  • Shane Zaza as Shafiq Shah
  • Charlie Murphy as Ann Gallagher

4. Mindhunter (2017)


If you’d like to get a glimpse behind the curtain and are interested in figuring out what makes killers tick, this is the perfect show for you. Mindhunter takes place in the late 70s and follows two FBI agents who try to understand and catch serial killers by studying their minds. Based on a true crime book, the series centres on the agents who kick-started the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit and pioneered the development of modern serial-killer profiling. Fascinating stuff.

Besides the historical importance of the (fictional) series, Mindhunter also keeps viewers glued to the screen thanks to slick visuals and chilling interviews with prolific serial killers (which are based on real people). Even seeing the two leads struggle with bureaucratic obstacles is riveting and more proof that innovation never comes easy, especially within an established institution like the FBI. Stream Mindhunter on Netflix.

Cast:

  • Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford
  • Holt McCallany as Bill Tench
  • Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford
  • Anna Torv as Wendy Carr

5. NCIS (2003)


NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. As you might have cleverly deduced already, the show follows a group of special agents tasked with solving crimes that involve the US Navy and Marine Corps. They are led by Leroy Jethro Gibb, who has to manage a team consisting of several colourful personalities, each with their own expertise ranging from forensics to threat assessment.

A straight-forward procedural, NCIS is perfect for when you want something light, but engaging. The series is extremely successful in the US, where it’s currently airing its 16th season. Six seasons are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. If you’re into it, you should also check out the spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles. Similar premise, different crime-solving team.

Cast:

  • Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs
  • David McCallum as Donald Mallard
  • Pauley Perrette as Abby Sciuto
  • Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo

6. Law and Order: SVU (1999)


At the moment, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is the longest running non-animated US primetime TV series. Don’t worry, it’s worth the time investment, thanks to compelling characters and interesting storylines. The show centres on Olivia Benson, a detective who investigates crimes of a sexual nature. Cases are often ripped from the headlines, so a lot of episodes are based on actual crimes that occurred in the US.

Due to the nature of the crimes featured (rapes and sexual offences), SVU can get dark and emotional. In this particular case, we recommend you give binge-watching a break and take it one episode at a time. Four seasons are currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Cast:

  • Mariska Hargitay as Olivia Benson
  • Ice-T as Odafin Tutuola
  • Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler
  • Dann Florek as Donald Cragen

7. Broadchurch (2013)


Broadchurch shows how a grizzly crime can affect a small community. When the body of a young boy is found on a beach, two detectives have to work together to figure out what happened, all while dealing with the media madness that usually accompanies such a case. More and more townspeople get drawn into the investigation and it quickly becomes clear that the community won’t be able to find peace until the criminal is finally brought to justice.

Beautifully shot and acted, Broadchurch is a pleasure to watch thanks to an intelligent script and some fabulous characters you’ll find yourself caring about in no time. It’s everything a crime series should be: riveting, clever and heartbreaking. Stream it on Netflix.

Cast:

  • David Tennant as Alec Hardy
  • Olivia Colman as Ellie Miller
  • Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer
  • Andrew Buchan as Mark Latimer

8. Top of the Lake (2013)


While visiting her dying mother, detective Robin Griffin investigates the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of a local drug lord. She is determined to get to the bottom of things, despite the fact that the local police force is uncooperative and the family doesn’t seem interested in lending a helping hand. At the same time, Robin embarks on a fascinating journey of self-discovery, uncovering difficult secrets from her past.

Disturbing and atmospheric, Top of the Lake will keep you on the edge of your seat thanks to an intriguing mystery and a nuanced performance from Elizabeth Moss. You’ll be eager to find out more not only about the missing girl, but also about Robin’s troubled past. Stream the series on Foxtel Now.

Cast:

  • Elisabeth Moss as Robin Griffin
  • David Wenham as Al Parker
  • Peter Mullan as Matt
  • Thomas M. Wright as Johnno

9. The Wire (2002)


Regarded as one of the greatest crime series of all time, The Wire provides a comprehensive look at the narcotics scene in Baltimore through the eyes of both law enforcers and drug dealers. The show takes a while to get started, but it seamlessly pulls the viewer in with the help of intriguing story arcs and some thoughtful commentary on America’s drug problems. Ten years after it went off the air, it’s still as relevant as ever.

Instead of serving one case per episode, The Wire takes one investigation and follows it through an entire season, allowing characters and viewers to get a better sense of what’s going on. Watching The Wire is like reading a good, engrossing book – you won’t be able to pinpoint the exact moment you got hooked, but you won’t be able to put it down afterwards. Stream the acclaimed series on Foxtel Now.

Cast:

  • Dominic West as Det. James 'Jimmy' McNulty
  • John Doman as Dep. Comm. for Operations William A. Rawls
  • Michael Kenneth Williams as Omar Little
  • Deirdre Lovejoy as Asst. State's Atty. Rhonda Pearlman

10. Dexter (2006)


Most crime series centre on the detectives tasked with keeping the world safe. Not so much with Dexter, a show that follows a brilliant serial killer with a moral compass. While the titular character does have the urge to kill, he picks his victims from a pool of criminals, all in order to justify his grisly lifestyle choices. By day, he works as a blood splatter expert who helps detectives solve murders. Ironic.

A crime series with a twist, Dexter has a lot going for it, including a cheeky performance from Michael C. Hall and a fine balance between horror and character drama. It’s a dark and challenging series but offers enough twists and moments of light comedy to keep viewers coming back for more. Stream it on Stan.

Cast:

  • Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan
  • Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan
  • David Zayas as Sgt. Angel Batista
  • James Remar as Harry Morgan

11. Hinterland (2013)


Hinterland is a Welsh noir crime series revolving around the intense and troubled DCI Tom Mathias. On his first day on the job in Aberystwyth, he is tasked to investigate the disappearance of an elderly woman who used to manage a children's home in an enigmatic village called Devil's Bridge. Expect beautiful landscapes and a haunting gothic atmosphere that’s hard to resist.

Besides boasting a compelling main character, Hinterland tells stories about a forgotten part of northern Europe, a premise that should be more than enough to draw in veteran crime fans. Fun fact: each line delivered on the show has been shot twice, in both English and Welsh. You can stream the series on Netflix or Foxtel Now.

Cast:

  • Richard Harrington as DCI Tom Mathias
  • Mali Harries as DI Mared Rhys
  • Alex Harries as DC Lloyd Ellis
  • Hannah Daniel as DS Sian Owen

12. Psych (2006)


If you’re looking for a lighter spin on the crime procedural, Psych is the perfect pick. The show follows Shawn, a young man with incredible powers of observation, who convinces the cops that he's a psychic and starts consulting on cases with help from his best friend, Gus.

A refreshing take on the crime-solving genre, Psych can get too goofy for its own good, but it generally provides enough character development and heartwarming moments to balance things out. Moreover, the mysteries are inventive and Shawn is hilarious, so you’ll have a great time binge-watching this one. All eight seasons of the show are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Cast:

  • James Roday as Shawn Spencer
  • Dulé Hill as Burton Guster
  • Timothy Omundson as Carlton Lassiter
  • Maggie Lawson as Juliet O'Hara

13. True Detective (2014)


True Detective is an anthology crime drama, which means that each season revolves around a different case and features a different cast of characters. In Season 1, the show focuses on a pair of homicide detectives in Louisiana, played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. It opens in 1995 and then fast forwards to 2012, showing how a single case has greatly impacted the two leads, who struggle to deal with their inner demons in separate, equally destructive ways.

A bold and skilfully made drama, True Detective makes the most of its talented cast and tells a haunting story, leaving the viewer both horrified and mesmerised. You can stream True Detective on Foxtel Now.

Cast:

  • Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rust Cohle
  • Woody Harrelson as Detective Marty Hart
  • Michelle Monaghan as Maggie Hart
  • Michael Potts as Detective Maynard Gilbough

14. The Sinner (2017)


Unlike most crime series, The Sinner doesn’t focus on the who, but the why. A young mother, portrayed by Jessica Biel, performs a vile act of violence, sparking confusion in the local community and an investigation by the police. She doesn’t remember why she committed the crime, so a detective delves into her past trying to uncover a motive.

The show is thrilling and thought-provoking, shocking and addictive. Like any good page turner (it was adapted from the international bestselling novel of the same name), The Sinner pulls viewers in from the very first scene and keeps them hooked until they finally get some answers. Also, if you got used to thinking of Biel simply as Mrs Justin Timberlake, you’ll quickly reassess after watching her here. Stream The Sinner on Netflix.

Cast:

  • Jessica Biel as Cora Tannetti
  • Bill Pullman as Harry Ambrose
  • Dohn Norwood as Dan Leroy
  • Christopher Abbott as Mason Tannetti

15. Ripper Street (2012)


The action in Ripper Street takes place in the late 1800s, about 6 months after the final murder committed by the infamous Jack the Ripper. The show follows the H Division, a police precinct tasked with keeping peace in the district. Detective Inspector Edmund Reid is quickly drawn into the criminal underworld of Victorian London, where each crime elicits fear that the ruthless serial killer might be back.

Dark and gritty, Ripper Street greatly benefits from superlative active and striking visuals. The mysteries are not too shabby either, so this is a great binge for any fan of murderous period dramas. Ripper Street is available to stream on Stan.

Cast:

  • Matthew Macfadyen as Det. Insp. Edmund Reid
  • Adam Rothenberg as Cpt. Homer Jackson
  • MyAnna Buring as Long Susan
  • Jerome Flynn as Det. Sgt. Bennet Drake

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