We have updated our definitive guide for the best crime drama and thriller shows on Netflix for the year 2020 with some of the most exciting new releases.
(Note: Our 2019 edition of best Netflix shows can be viewed here. For older coverage, see our 2017 edition of the 40 best crime drama and thriller shows here and The 50 Best Crime Drama and Thriller Shows On Netflix: 2018 Edition here). In a similar fashion to what we did last year, for 2020 we have incorporated the feedback and comments of our readers on what shows they have loved. Additionally, we have removed some of the older shows in which many viewers have already seen.
The latter change has created room for some exciting international titles including Australian, French, and Scandinavian shows. But if you’re a fan of classics and want to explore more those shows, our earlier years’ editions are a good place to start.
Freshly updated and now in an expanded list, our new selections are highly addictive and intriguing.
For 2020 holiday season and beyond, if you are having difficulty working your way through Netflix shows and want to be entertained in a big way, here is your go-to guide. Hopefully our list will make the life easier for you. Without further ado, here’s a round up of the best crime drama and thriller shows on Netflix that you can watch right now (the numbering is for referencing purposes only):
57. Ad Vitam
Ad Vitam is a 2018 French-language TV series starring Yvan Attal, Garance Marillier and Niels Schneider. The plot revolves around a world where death has been conquered through a breakthrough medicine called ‘Regeneration’ and people can live forever. A cop, Darius Asram (Yvan Attal), and a rebellious young woman, Christa Novak (Garance Marillier), are investigating the suicides of seven teenagers.
56. High Seas
High Seas is a Spanish mystery series released on Netflix in May 2019. Its plot surrounds mysterious deaths on a luxurious ship travelling from Spain to Rio de Janeiro in the 1940s that uncover secrets surrounding two sisters who are travelling together.
55. Criminal: France
Criminal: France is a 2019 police procedural anthology series consisting of twelve episodes, with three episodes set in each of four countries, filmed in local languages – France, Spain, Germany and the UK. Set within the confines of a police interrogation room, French investigators engage in intense games of psychological cat-and-mouse with their accused suspects to find the answers they need in order to solve their cases.
This is a Netflix original series and an exciting one: Filmmaker Errol Morris documents a man’s 60-year quest to identify the circumstances of his father’s mysterious death as he uncovers some of the United States’ darkest secrets. This is a genre-bending tale and is increasingly becoming popular among thriller series fans.
53. Dirty John
Debra Newell has a perfect life — from the outside — she’s successful, beautiful and lives in Newport Beach, one of California’s most desirable coastal cities. The only thing missing from her life is love, so when she meets the charismatic, handsome and charming Dr. John Meehan, she is swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance.
Her daughters, Terra and Veronic, set out to prove that he’s just a conman after they are displeased at the fast-tracked relationship and decide to investigate their mother’s new beau for themselves. As Debra gets drawn deeper into his lies, the psychological manipulation has consequences for the entire family.
Just in time for the holiday season comes the heartwarming story of “Perfume,” which follows a half-dozen friends so obsessed with the possibilities of smell that the death of one of them dredges up some extremely unpleasant things about their pasts.
The new series is based on the 1985 Patrick Süskind novel “Perfume,” which was previously adapted into the 2006 Tom Tykwer film “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” starring a pre-Bond Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, and Dustin Hoffman. This new TV venture brings the original story into a modern context, rather than the 18th-century French environs of the novel.
When a woman is found murdered with scent glands excised from her body, a detective probes a group of friends who attended boarding school with her.
51. Babylon Berlin
This is a great new Netflix original for the fans of historical mysteries and crime dramas. Police commissioner Gereon Rath is transferred from Cologne to Berlin, the epicenter of political and social change in the Golden Twenties.
Shellshocked from his service during World War I, he uncovers a dangerous web of intrigue while investigating one of Berlin’s biggest pornography rings. There’s an even bigger conspiracy unfolding, though, when Soviet rebels hijack a train as part of a mission hatched by Trotsky supporters in the city.
50. Seven Seconds
Seven Seconds is an American crime drama web television series, based on the Russian film The Major written and directed by Yuri Bykov, that premiered on February 23, 2018, on Netflix. The series, created, executive produced, and showrun by Veena Sud, follows the people involved in investigating the death of a young black boy and the boy’s family as they reel after the loss.
When 15-year-old black cyclist Brenton Butler dies in a hit-and-run accident — with a white police officer behind the wheel of the vehicle — Jersey City explodes with racial tension. This crime drama explores the aftermath of the accident, which includes an attempted cover-up by the police department and a volatile trial.
Assistant prosecutor KJ wants to prosecute the hit-and-run as a hate crime, in addition to a negligent homicide. The longer the case drags on without a resolution, the more tense the situation becomes. Emmy winner Regina King stars as Brenton’s churchgoing mother, Latrice.
49. Dogs of Berlin
Two cops investigate the murder of a famous Turkish-German soccer player, but one of them has underworld connections that mire the case in controversy.
Marcella is a British crime noir detective series produced, written and directed by Hans Rosenfeldt: Former London detective Marcella Backland is devastated when her husband leaves her and their two children. He is head of Legal Affairs at DTG Construction, property developers effectively controlled by the Gibson family.
When Marcella is visited by a senior detective on the murder squad seeking information regarding an unsolved, 11-year-old case of a serial killer who seems to have become active again, Marcella returns to the murder squad. She enters a world of online dating, prostitution, and the dubious dealings of her husband’s employers while trying to save her marriage.
47. La Casa De Papel
This is a new international title. La casa de papel (literally The House of Paper) is a single-season, 15-episode Spanish heist television series created by Álex Pina. It premiered on May 2, 2017 and stars, among others Úrsula Corberó, Paco Tous, and Alba Flores.
In the series, a mysterious man, who goes by the name of El Profesor (“The Professor”), is planning the biggest heist ever told. In order to carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits a gang of eight people with certain abilities who have nothing to lose. The goal is to enter the Royal Mint of Spain so that they can print 2.4 billion euros. In order to do this, they need eleven days of seclusion, during which they will have to deal with sixty-five hostages and the elite forces of the Police.
46. The Witcher
The witcher Geralt, a mutated monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world in which people often prove more wicked than beasts.
45. Father Brown
The series is set during the early 1950s, in the fictional Cotswold village of Kembleford, where Father Brown, priest at St Mary’s Catholic Church, solves murder cases. A bumbling police inspector, who often arrests the wrong suspect, gets annoyed by Father Brown’s success.
Father Brown uses the distinctive skills of his close friends as well as his own wits to solve cases, occasionally to the neglect of his more mundane parish duties. His vocation as a priest often gives him an insight to the truth, so that justice (but sometimes, not the letter of the law) may be served.
His commitment to obeying the Seal of the Confessional often presents unique circumstances. The time period is when Britain was still struggling with deprivations and other hardships in the aftermath of the Second World War. At that time the country still applied the death penalty as a sentence for capital crimes such as murder. Father Brown opposes capital punishment.
We have covered this Finnish crime drama in the past (see here). The series, in a nutshell, is about a brilliant but overworked police detective. The series follows Detective Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen) as he relocates to the small town of Lappeenranta near the Russian border for a quiet life as his wife recovers from a brain tumor. But life is not very peaceful on the border between two worlds.
Created by Bill Dubuque (“The Accountant,” “The Judge”), this drama series stars Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde, a financial planner who relocates his family from Chicago to a summer resort community in the Ozarks.
With wife Wendy and their two kids in tow, Marty is on the move after a money-laundering scheme goes wrong, forcing him to pay off a substantial debt to a Mexican drug lord in order to keep his family safe. While the Byrdes’ fate hangs in the balance, the dire circumstances force the fractured family to reconnect.
After exacting revenge on the people responsible for the deaths of his wife and children, Frank Castle uncovers a conspiracy that runs deeper than New York’s criminal underworld. Now known as the Punisher, he must dig deep into the conspiracy to discover the truth about injustices that affect more than just him and his family.
Assisting the vigilante in his quest to fight criminals are best friend Billy Russo, who runs private military corporation Anvil, and former NSA analyst Micro, who shares common enemies with Castle and helps him as part of a so-called marriage of convenience.
41. Alias Grace
This is an interesting Candian-American miniseries for fans of historical mysteries. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood (see here) and adapted by Sarah Polley. The series consists of six episodes and it premiered on CBC on September 25, 2017, and appeared on Netflix on November 3, 2017.
The series tells the story of young Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who is accused and convicted of the 1843 murder of her employer and his housekeeper. Stablehand James McDermott is also convicted of the crime. McDermott is hanged, but Grace is sentenced to life in prison, leading her to become one of the most notorious women of the period in Canada. The story is based on actual 19th-century events.
40. El Chapo
El Chapo is another popular Netflix series based on real events. The series covers the life of the famous druglord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. It premiered on April 23, 2017 at Univision before airing on Netflix worldwide. It stars Marco de la O as the titular character.
The story mostly recounts the beginnings of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in 1985, when he was a low-level member of the Guadalajara Cartel, his rise to power as head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and his downfall.
Mindhunter is based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The series is produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron among others, and debuted worldwide on Netflix on October 13, 2017. In November 2017, it was announced Mindhunter had been renewed for a second season.
Set in 1977 – in the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling at the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how they think with the hope of applying this knowledge to solving ongoing cases.
Dark is a German science fiction thriller and the first German-language Netflix original series (the series is dubbed in English). It debuted on Netflix on December 1, 2017 and received mostly positive reviews from critics. In Dark, the disappearance of two young children in the German town of Winden brings light to the fractured relationships, double lives, and the dark past of four families living there, revealing a mystery that spans three generations.
37. Manhunt: Unabomber
Manhunt: Unabomber is an new drama miniseries which tells the story of the FBI’s hunt for the Unabomber in the 1990s. Agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerld, a fresh-faced criminal profiler with the agency, faces an uphill battle in tracking the infamous criminal but also has to fight against the bureaucracy of the Unabom Task Force (UTF), of which he is a part. Although Fitz pioneers the use of forensic linguistics, others in the UTF dismiss his maverick ideas and new approaches.
Ultimately, though, his new techniques help him identify and capture the Unabomber. The miniseries premiered on August 1, 2017, on Discovery Channel.
José Padilha’s thrilling series about the rise of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Prepare yourself for reading a lot of sub-titles as there is a huge portion of the dialogues in Spanish (The show was filmed in Colombia). Having said that, make sure you add this mind-blowing series to your list as there is plenty of action in this drug-trafficking series and you will not be disappointed.
35. The Killing
Without a doubt, one of the best crime TV series we have watched in years but not on Television. This is a Netflix Original series and it’s not new as it was released in the 2011-2014 period. It has all the elements of drama: A police investigation, a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign. All these elements collide when the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car.
We really love this series: It’s a noir drama story of a detective who used to work in London and now works in the rural areas of Wales and running from his past. If you are into atmospheric, complex narratives similar to Scandinavian crime fictions, you will enjoy this. This series will keep you on the edge the whole time.
There is actually 2 versions of Henning Mankell’s Swedish Detective on Netflix TV series: A British version and a Swedish one. We liked the latter more for its originality but you will enjoy both. A must-watch for Scandinavian crime fiction fans: The episodes are long and more like movies, so you will have Wallander around for a long time if you start this series.
The deceased king rises and a mysterious plague begins to spread; the prince must face a new breed of enemies to unveil the evil scheme and save his people.
31. Jack Taylor
Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”) plays ruthless and literate in this Irish series about a hard-drinking ex-cop turned private investigator. Most of the episodes of this wonderful Irish television drama are set in Galway: The series is based on the Ken Bruen novel series featuring a hero with the same name.
When three working-class teens enroll in an exclusive private school in Spain, the clash between them and the wealthy students leads to murder.
Case premiered in Iceland in 2015 and has now made it to Netflix in 2016. Although the idea behind the series is not really out of the box, it’s an exciting series for those who love Scandinavian crime fiction. A smart lawyer whose drinking and recklessness send him on a path of self-destruction finds new purpose in investigating a teenager’s apparent suicide.
Witnesses is a French television police procedural drama noir series by Marc Herpoux and Hervé Hadmar. It made its debut on Belgian channel La Une in November 2014 and on France 2 in March 2015. Now you can watch the first season of the series on Netflix as well. In this noir story, a young female detective is put in charge of a case and must delve into her partner’s mysterious past in order to solve it. Not bad, right?
So far two episodes of this exciting British mystery are out. This is another one of our favorites: Very well-written and the cast is great! When the corpse of an 11-year-old British boy, Danny Latimer, is found bloodied and dirty on an idyllic beach, a small Dorset community becomes the focus of a police investigation and media madness.
Out-of-town Detective Inspector Alec Hardy gets the point position over Detective Sgt. Ellie Miller — who feels the job should have been hers. Now she must engage in an efficient working relationship with taciturn Hardy.
26. Hotel Beau Séjour
Hotel Beau Séjour is a Dutch-language (Flemish) Belgian supernatural crime drama television series. In the first season, in the village Lanklaar, in Limburg, Maasland, near Belgium’s Dutch border, Belgian teenager Kato Hoeven (Lynn Van Royen) awakens at the small Hotel Beau Séjour to find a bloody corpse in the bathtub – her own. She has no memory of the day before her death or why she was there.
25. Mar de plástico
If you want to explore with some great Spanish drama, this is a great title: In a town in southern Spain where racial tensions run high among the workers in its many greenhouses, a cop investigates the murder of a young woman.
Another one of our favorite, this series is based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson. In this contemporary crime drama, the Australian actor Robert Taylor stars in the title role, the charismatic and dedicated sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.
Longmire patrols the county with a brave face and sense of humor, but deep inside he hides the pain of his wife’s recent death. With the urging of his daughter, Cady, and the help of Vic, a new female deputy, Longmire gains a new appreciation of his job and decides to run for re-election. He’s committed to putting his life back together, one piece at a time, and he often calls on best friend and confidant Henry Standing Bear for support.
Police procedural mixed with just the right dose of science fiction: That’s what the Continuum is all about. Detective Kiera Cameron is a cop from the year 2077 who was raised to rely on technology more than anything else, even herself. Now she and a group of deadly criminals called Liber8 are trapped in present-day Vancouver.
Cameron needs to stop Liber8 before it can take down the corporations which will one day rule the world — thus altering the course of the future and changing the 2077 that Cameron calls home. She enlists the help of a teenage tech genius named Alec Sadler to help figure out a way to get her back to her own time, and she manages to work with the Vancouver Police Department with Detective Carlos Fonnegra to keep an eye on Liber8. With different ideals and backgrounds, Cameron and Fonnegra clash, but they trust each other, and Cameron is slowly learning to trust herself as well.
22. Peaky Blinders
The series is primarily set in Birmingham, England, and follows the exploits of the Shelby crime family in the aftermath of the First World War. The fictional gang is loosely based on the Peaky Blinders, a real 19th century urban youth gang who were active in the city from the 1890s to the early twentieth century.
21. Crossing Lines
Donald Sutherland’s great acting makes this series a great watch: The theme of the series is also very international. A special crime unit investigates serialized crimes that cross over European borders, to hunt down criminals and bring them to justice. 3 seasons of this series are out so far and the show is very promising!
20. Foyle’s War
For those who like historical mysteries, this is a nice series to follow. As World War II rages on, criminals try to take advantage of the resulting chaos. In Hastings, they aren’t having much luck, thanks to Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. As Foyle’s son Andrew, a fighter pilot in the RAF, fights the enemy at war, Foyle battles the black market, profiteering and murder on the home front. He is dogged in his pursuit of justice, honest to a fault and frequently underestimated by his opponents. Together with his sergeant and his driver, Foyle wages his own war on crime.
19. Wild District
Jhon Jeiver is a lethal guerrilla fighter who escapes the jungle after the signing of the Colombian Peace Agreements. He arrives in Bogotá escaping from his past and tries to reinsert himself into society while looking to reconnect with his long-lost family; He soon finds himself wrapped in a web of crime and corruption, struggling to understand the ways of the concrete jungle, protect his family from his past, and facing the moral dilemma of choosing what side of the law on which he wants to be.
This is a new Australian release by Netflix. Tidelands is an Australian web television series. The eight-part series is written and created by Stephen M. Irwin and Leigh McGrath, and is produced by Hoodlum Entertainment.
Tidelands follows the story of a former criminal who returns home to the small fishing village of Orphelin Bay. When the body of a local fisherman washes ashore, she must uncover the town’s secrets while investigating its strange inhabitants, who are a group of dangerous half-sirens, half-humans called “Tidelanders”.
This is one of those fresh Netflix Original series: A federal agent tracks four people who suddenly seem to possess entirely new personalities, leading to startling discovery about humanity’s future. Intrigued? We don’t want to spoil the story…just add it to your list and you’d find the partial answer by the end of season 1.
River is a six-part British television drama series, created and written by Abi Morgan and starring Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker. The series center around John River (Stellan Skarsgård). He is a brilliant police inspector whose genius lies side-by-side with the fragility of his mind. He is a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.
Experienced and talented actor Sean Bean plays the role of a CIA operative in this gripping TV show: Working for the FBI’s Deep Cover Operations division, Martin Odum can transform himself into a different person — whether it’s an assignment as a Serbian extremist, a corrupt Chicago police officer, a British special forces colonel, or a legendary computer hacker.
But when he learns that his life, itself, may be a lie, he faces the demands of his job and a desire to solve the mystery of his real identity. And given the choice between the two, Odum doesn’t always make the right decision. From the producers of “Homeland,” “Legends” is based on Robert Littell’s award-winning book.
14. The Writer
Al-Kateb series, listed as “The Writer” on Netflix, tells the story of a best-selling crime novelist whose real life begins to eerily imitating the plot of his own books.
The series is set around the fictional character of Police Sergeant David Budd, a British Army war veteran suffering from PTSD, who is now working for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
He is assigned as the principal protection officer (PPO) for the ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics he despises. As the series unravels, the series comments on many issues regarding the controversy around government monitoring of private information and its regulation, and also on PTSD.
12. Blue Bloods
A police procedural set in New York with 6 seasons available for streaming through Netflix. Tom Selleck stars as Frank Reagan, the New York Police Commissioner, and patriarch of the Reagan clan, a multigenerational family of cops. Frank’s oldest son is Danny, a seasoned detective and Iraqi War veteran who occasionally uses dubious tactics to solve cases.
Daughter Erin, the lone female, is an assistant district attorney. Fresh out of Harvard Law, Jamie is the youngest member and “golden boy” of the family. Jamie gave up a lucrative future in law to continue the family’s tradition in police work, and is asked to participate in a secretive investigation that even his father does not know about.
11. The Frankenstein Chronicles
The Frankenstein Chronicles is a British television period crime drama series that is designed as a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein. Lead actor Sean Bean also acted as an associate producer on the first series. It follows Inspector John Marlott (Bean), a river police officer who uncovers a corpse made up of body parts from eight missing children and sets about to determine who is responsible.
10. Lava Field
Another Scandinavian crime series which we love: When Reykjavik crime detective Helgi Marvin Runarsson is called in to investigate a suicide case on Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the case turns out to be far from simple. Pulled into a sinister trail of evidence, Helgi’s own deeply hidden secrets are unearthed. Will Helgi turn a blind eye to murder in order to save the life of his daughter?
9. The Returned
Mystery with a dose of supernatural: What a lovely mix! The Returned opens in a small mountain community which is rocked to its core when several local people who are presumed dead suddenly re-appear at their homes. Despite having passed away some years earlier, these ghostly characters appear in human form, they have not aged, and they are completely unaware of their own fatality.
Determined to reclaim their lives and start over, they slowly come to realize that they are not the only ones to have been brought back from the dead. Their return augers torment for their community when a gruesome murder attempt bears a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past. This is a homecoming like no other.
8. The Break
This is a hidden gem: There is a high chance you have not heard of this series but it is the real deal: A police detective mourning a painful loss moves back to his peaceful hometown, only to be drawn into a murder case that dredges up dark secrets. So far one season of this original Netflix show is available for streaming.
7. The Forest
The Forest is a French crime drama television series, created by Delinda Jacobs and directed by Julius Berg. It debuted on Netflix internationally in July 2018 and is one of our favorite crime thrillers for this year.
In The Forest, when a teenaged girl disappears from a village near the Ardennes Forest, local police and a concerned teacher begin to uncover a web of unsettling secrets. As the case progresses, viewers find out more about how dark past connected to the seemingly innocent characters in the village.
6. Demon’s Path
This is a Hong Kong-set horror-comedy series that follows a forensic pathologist who has the ability to see the last 10-seconds of life of the dead. Working together with a friendly exorcist and a policeman, they solve homicide cases. But as their investigations proceed, they become the target of a murderer.
The series is directed by acclaimed Hong Kong screenwriters, Ong Yi Hing and Sunny Lau. It features a line-up of popular Hong Kong artistes including Jim Chim Sui Man, Power Chan Kwok Pong and Ai Wai.
After having a heart attack, a teenager gets a heart transplant to survive. She subsequently becomes consumed by the mystery surrounding her life-saving heart. As she gets closer to uncovering the truth about her donor’s sudden death, she begins to take on the characteristics of the deceased donor, including some that are troublingly sinister. Creator Leah Rachel describes the series — which stars Oscar nominee Uma Thurman — as “a psychological horror story that explores the different ways we metabolize trauma.”
If you have not seen this 21st century reincarnation of the famous detective, you have missed the boat! This is a must watch series which you will love. In this contemporary version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, Dr. John Watson is a war vet just home from Afghanistan. He meets the brilliant but eccentric Holmes when the latter, who serves as a consultant to Scotland Yard, advertises for a flatmate.
Almost as soon as Watson moves into the Baker Street flat, they are embroiled in mysteries, and Sherlock’s nemesis, Moriarty, appears to have a hand in the crimes.
Inspired by the book “The Skeleton Crew” by Deborah Halber and infused with the personal story of producer Wendy West, the series follows the life of a thirty-year-old woman (Ola Serafin) who is forced by circumstances to leave her husband and London, and return to her hometown of Lódz.
While driving her car one night, she witnesses a dramatic situation which looks like suicide, but which she finds highly suspicious. The police seem to be indifferent to the case. Desperate, Ola looks for help on the Internet, where she finds a group of amateur detectives that solve criminal cases the police are unable to.
2. Lost Girl
Lost Girl is a Canadian supernatural drama television series that follows the life of a bisexual succubus named Bo, played by Anna Silk, as she learns to control her superhuman abilities, help those in need, and discover the truth about her origins. The series was created by Michelle Lovretta and produced by Jay Firestone and Prodigy Pictures Inc., with the participation of the Canadian Television Fund (Canada Media Fund), and in association with Shaw Media.
From the creators of “Damages,” “Bloodline” is a dramatic thriller that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community, but their past contains dark secrets that they hope remain buried.
Paranoia and mistrust build as lies pile up, alliances are shattered, and an unthinkable crime takes place. The tight-knit family’s formerly harmonious relationship deteriorates, and good people are forced to consider doing very bad things.
This was our list: Let us know what you think of our picks and leave comments if you have other titles in mind.
Photo Credit: Netflix