With Netflix growing its library of TV shows, we’re seeing more and more shows coming over from across the pond. Whether they’re Netflix originals or shows that aired on British networks like the BBC, there are now more choices than ever. From period pieces to crime dramas, if you’re looking for that stiff upper lip and the dry wit the Brits are known for, Netflix has you covered.
But maybe you don’t know where to start. You’ve run out episodes of Downton Abbey and Doctor Who and are only now wading into Netflix’s offerings. Well, look no further, because here is our list of the 10 Best British Dramas On Netflix.
10 The Crown
The Crown, of course, had to be on the list, since it’s easily one of Netflix’s best drama shows. The show follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding onward. It gives us a glimpse into the world of British royalty beyond those weddings we love so much. The show is beautiful, incredibly well-acted, and Netflix will be premiering season three sometime this year, which means more episodes to binge!
9 London Spy
Starring Ben Whishaw, London Spy is a crime thriller that originally aired on BBC. It follows the story of Danny, who falls in love with a quiet, brilliant man named Alex who just so happens to work for MI6. When Alex mysteriously disappears, Danny, who is pretty much the opposite of Alex in terms of, well… everything, has to try and find out what happened.
The show is captivating and intense and at times frustrating. There’s a healthy dose of conspiracy in there to keep us locked in, and the love story is quite tender and beautiful as well.
Okay, so there are going to be a lot of crime dramas on this list. The Brits just do them so well. This one stars Indira Varma, who you might all remember as Ellaria Sands from Game of Thrones. She plays Detective Sergeant Nina Suresh who, along with other detectives from the local police station, is in charge of investigating a murder. Things, of course, get more complicated the more they find out, as their investigation takes them to Germany.
The show, unfortunately, is only eight episodes long. Still, the show manages to make you care about the characters even in a short amount of time. The relationship between the snarky, whip-smart Suresh and her young, fresh-faced partner Alec is especially fun to watch.
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Disappointingly, there was no Whitney Houston to be heard in this show. In exchange though, we do get to see Game of Thrones alum Richard Madden in action, and it is pretty glorious. Madden plays Sergeant David Budd who serves as the bodyguard to the Home Secretary, Julia Montague. As a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, Budd’s beliefs on the war in the Middle East are at odds with Montague’s, who steadfastly supports both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The show has an undeniable tension throughout, and it’s definitely hard not to binge just to see what happens next. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged, and if that’s not enough, well, Madden’s Scottish accent should be.
Yes, another crime drama, this one based off of a book series by Ann Cleeves. We follow the adventures of DI Jimmy Perez as he solves murders across the Shetland Islands. It’s really the location that makes this show so great. It gives us a look at life in a part of British Isles that most people probably don’t even know exists, and it’s beautiful. A show about murder probably isn’t supposed to be a good tourism pitch, but they way Shetland depicts the islands, it’s hard not to want to go visit.
5 Peaky Blinders
What is there to say about Peaky Blinders that hasn’t already been said? It’s a fantastic show starring Cillian Murphy as the leader of the eponymous gang that was active after the end of WWI. The show’s version of events are fictionalized, but who needs historical accuracy when you have struggles between criminal organizations? Those are far more interesting.
You can catch four seasons on Netflix currently, and with the BBC to air season five sometime this spring, we can probably expect it to come on Netflix sometime in the latter half of the year.
We just seriously can’t get away from the crime dramas on this list. Luther delves into the darker side of criminal investigations, with Idris Elba as the titular character, consumed by his obsession. An obsessive detective isn’t exactly anything new, but Elba does a fantastic job playing this deeply troubled man who often gives in to the darkness inside of him. The complicated relationship he builds with the psychopathic Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, is especially twisted in a way that’s impossible to turn away from.
3 Happy Valley
Happy Valley has a rather uplifting name and also a great sense of humor, but at its core, it’s still a drama. Sarah Lancashire plays Catherine Cawood, a police sergeant juggling her job and caring for her dead daughter’s son, Ryan. Ryan, we find out, is a product of rape, and the story gets deeply serious when Catherine finds out that the man who raped her daughter and ultimately drove her to kill herself is out of prison.
The show is a procedural, but it’s also very much a story about family. It’s a well-written, well-acted show that isn’t on a lot of people’s radars but definitely deserves to be.
2 Black Earth Rising
Black Earth Rising is a recent offering that tackles the Rwandan genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people died at the hands of the Hutu majority. Michaela Coel plays Kate Ashby, a legal investigator and genocide survivor who was adopted by a British human rights lawyer. The story takes place during the present day, as Kate’s adopted mother Eve gears up to prosecute a Tutsi general who once helped stopped the genocide, for war crimes.
But the story isn’t as simple as that, because well, history isn’t as simple as that. As Kate uncovers more during her investigation, she uncovers more about her past and the atrocities in it. While it’s a work of fiction, Black Earth Rising does a good job reminding us about this horrible piece of recent history and everyone, including the western countries who stood by idly, responsible for it.
This is a must-watch for Doctor Who fans because it stars not just one, but two Doctors: David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. But even if you aren’t a fan of the Doctor this show is worth the watch. The drama follows the discovery of a local boy’s body on the beach of a small seaside town called Broadchurch. The story revolves around the investigation, of course, but it also delves deep into how this death affects various members of the town. The boy’s death isn’t just a mystery to be solved; it’s the lynchpin that starts to unravel people’s lives.
The show is as intriguing as a crime thriller as it is heartbreaking as a family drama. Even as the mystery of what happened to Danny Latimer comes to a close, it doesn’t make things easier on anyone involved. The show was so well-received that FOX even tried to make an American adaptation. But it was terrible, so we all just choose to pretend it never happened. It’s for the best.