From thrilling fictionalized heists to disturbing true crime sagas, it’s easy to fall in with the wrong crowd when the bad guys are at the center of a great TV show or miniseries. And when you can binge-watch the series on Netflix instead of waiting a week or more between episodes, well, so much the better. That’s why we’re taking a look at the best crime shows that are streaming on Netflix right now. TV this good should be against the law.
This German crime drama is also a period piece: It’s set in interwar Germany’s Weimar Republic. The show follows German police officers in Berlin in 1929. The series weaves tales of crime, sex, and intrigue against the backdrop of the Weimar Republic, which struggles to survive as Germany lurches toward the most terrible years of its history. Babylon Berlin is the most expensive show in any language other than English ever made, and its gloriously lavish set and costumes show off that fact.
One of the most influential shows of the 21st century, Breaking Bad tells the story of a terminally ill science teacher who, determined not to leave his family in debt, begins to make and sell crystal meth. A premise that could have been absurd instead became iconic thanks to superb acting, brilliant cinematography, and characterization that grew in depth and drama over the long arc of the series.
TV shows have long been putting criminals in leading roles, but Dexter’s conceit is a particularly gutsy one. The title character of Dexter is a serial killer who works for the police department, but he’s not the bad guy–thanks to a strict personal code instilled in him by his adoptive father, Dexter only practices his hobby on people who really, really deserve it. He’s essentially a serial killing vigilante hero, satisfying his craving for blood while dealing out extralegal justice to the “real” criminals.
The Frozen Dead
The Frozen Dead opens with a strange discovery in a small French town: the flayed corpse of a headless horse. The bizarre crime is soon linked to years-old murders and a serial killer who is already behind bars. This French mystery series is about “cold cases” in more ways than one.
This American adaptation of a hit Danish series focuses on a murder mystery in Seattle. The driven Sarah Linden and her erratic rookie partner Stephen Holder search for answers and uncover a complicated web of criminal interests. The story continues with new crimes beginning in season three–the show’s last on AMC before it was picked up by Netflix as an original series for season four.
This Spanish-language thriller was originally titled La Casa de Papel, but its translated title gets right to the point: This is a heist thriller. At the center of the series is young Tokio, a woman who finds herself thrust into a dangerous world of high-stakes criminal activity. Available with both English dubbing and subtitles, this thrilling series is well-worth a watch.
Narcos dramatizes the events of several decades on the War on Drugs’ bloodiest front: Colombia. The story, based on true events, follows the infamous Pablo Escobar and, later, the dominant Cali Cartel. It’s more compelling than any fiction could be. Powerful if you know the history and absolutely shocking if you don’t, Narcos is one of the all-time great crime dramas.
Ozark blends crime drama with a classic fish-out-of-water story. Jason Bateman stars as a financial planner who has become entangled with a Mexican drug cartel. When a money-laundering scheme goes wrong, he and his family flee Chicago for the Missouri Ozarks–where they soon find more criminal associations. Also starring Laura Linney, this show is a sharp and smart pleasure.
Peaky Blinders gets its name from its subject, a real-life criminal gang called the Peaky Blinders that operated in Victorian England. The historical Birmingham bad guys make for excellent TV, where they take on real-life rival gangs in fictionalized underworld power struggles and bloody showdowns. Peaky Blinders is a BBC show, but it’s a Netflix original here in the States by virtue of an exclusive distribution deal.
Related: British Crime Dramas to Die For
The People vs. O.J. Simpson
Part of the American Crime Story universe, this star-studded miniseries dramatizes one of the most dramatic and well-publicized trials in American history: O.J. Simpson’s. The former football star and popular celebrity stood accused of a double homicide. It’s entertaining and enlightening whether you lived through the real-life news cycle or not.
This BBC miniseries, a Netflix exclusive here in the States, clocks in at a lean four hours, but it packs a serious punch. The subject is a grisly murder of a couple in rural Scotland. The mystery at the center of Retribution is not who, but why, and the answer comes via a disturbing examination of the lives of the victims’ families. What you discover may leave you wary of your neighbors for a good year or two…
Featured still from 'Money Heist' via Vancouver Productions