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Top 10 British Crime Shows

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Quinn Hough These programs may or may not feature crumpets and a touch of murder. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 British Crime Shows. For this list, we're looking at the most fascinating series on British TV that revolve around unlawful or illegal acts that are usually or typically harmful to others and are thus punishable by law. Special thanks to our user Toby Hughes for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest!

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Top 10 British Crime Shows

These programs may or may not feature crumpets and a touch of murder. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 British Crime Shows.

For this list, we’re looking at the most fascinating series on British TV that revolve around unlawful or illegal acts that are usually or typically harmful to others and are thus punishable by law.

#10: “The Fall” (2013-)

Gillian Anderson stars in this thriller set in Northern Ireland about a female copper on the prowl for a prolific serial killer. The BBC crime drama instantly became a hit after its May 2013 premiere, which captivated viewers due the charming presence of Jamie Dornan and his striking chemistry with his co-star. Unfortunately for both characters, the psychosexual antics of Paul Spector mean no love affair will be had – well, at least let’s hope not. When it’s all said and done, “The Fall” will likely earn a cult following due to Dornan’s role as Christian Grey in the adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But “The Fall” stands on its own.

#9: “Cracker” (1993-95)

There’s nothing like a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, wise-ass gambler with a great nickname – at least on TV. All of these personal traits were rolled into one for Dr. Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, who also happens to be a mastermind criminal psychologist with excellent detective skills. “Cracker” aired for three seasons during the mid-‘90s and explored the personalities working with the Greater Manchester Police – in between crimes, that is. Robbie Coltrane won three consecutive BAFTA awards as the lovable good guy and audiences watched at the edge of their seats each and every episode.

#8: “Luther” (2010-)

The incomparable Idris Elba previously starred in “The Wire,” arguably the finest American crime drama ever, and also appeared in this poignant series about an obsessive Detective Chief Inspector. After failing to arrest a female killer in the first episode, Luther turns to her for “guidance” because, well, that’s what Luther does. He’s got it like that, for better or for worse. The series ran from 2010 to 2013 on BBC One, with a 2-episode special announced for the fall of 2015, proving that audiences can’t get enough of “Luther.”

#7: “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (1989-2013)

While 24 episodes would be a good run for any television series, this epic British adaptation of the famed Agatha Christie character ran for 24 years. David Suchet was hand-selected by the writer’s family and starred for 13 seasons as the Belgian detective with a fanciful mustache. Award-winning actors such as Michael Fassbender, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain once appeared on “Poirot,” and numerous actors often returned to play different characters. Spanning the course of four decades starting in 1989, the series finally wrapped up in 2013, thus leaving millions of fans across the UK with an enormous void.

#6: “Foyle’s War” (2002-15)

Mystery, intrigue and murrrderrr. This ITV drama was set during World War II, but the real battle was between the titular character and the wise guys trying to put one over on their own people. Michael Kitchen starred as the Detective Chief Superintendent; a man living by his own code yet determined to stand up against injustice. “Foyle’s War” is so historically accurate that some viewers actually have to decompress after watching and remember they weren’t at war, but actually eating dinner in their recliner. Ah, Detective Foyle…stern….stern but FAIR.

#5: “Midsomer Murders” (1997-)

The setting: a fictional yet visually alluring county in England. The plot? You guessed it. Red Rum. “Midsomer Murders” premiered on ITV in 1997 and is based on the scrollings of Caroline Graham. Although people die quite easily from episode to episode, the dramedy shows no signs of slowing down and continues to charge forth with DCI John Barnaby played by Neil Dudgeon, after he replaced John Nettles who played DCI Tom Barnaby in the first 13 seasons. While the show’s had some problems with diversity in the past, everybody and their Grandma seems to be content with their “program”.

#4: “Sherlock” (2010-)

Everybody likes to say the name “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” just as everybody likes to read his famous detective stories. But what happens when you throw a little Benedict Cumberbatch into the equation? Oh, just one of the best Sherlock adaptations ever! Each series of “Sherlock” consists of only three episodes, which means that England temporarily shuts down so the people can enjoy their Cumberbatch and co-star Martin Freeman to the fullest. The characters are pleasant, the writing is fierce and the extravagant production typically causes one British head to explode per season. “Sherlock” is serious TV.

#3: “A Touch of Frost” (1992-2010)

Revolving around just a couple of old detectives getting the job done, “A Touch of Frost” premiered way back in 1992 and starred comedic actor David Jason as William Edward “Jack” Frost.” He’s not a perfect character, as he was intending on leaving his wife in the first episode before she passed away, but he damn well tries his best. The comedic banter between Frost and his horn-rimmed spectacle-wearing boss provided for gut-busting laughs over the years until the 68-year-old Jason announced his plans to officially retire the character. If zingers are your desire, then “A Touch of Frost” will supply the goods.

#2: “Inspector Morse” (1987-2000)

He’s a Renaissance man and refined enforcer of the law. He enjoys the company of women even though he suffers from a case of verbal diarrhea. Who is the gentleman of Oxford, you ask? Why, Inspector Morse! John Thaw starred as the clever character from 1987 to 1993, in addition to appearing in several specials thereafter, alongside the working class Sergeant Lewis being played by Kevin Whately. Together, they became the masters of disaster for local criminals, as ol’ Morse utilized his exceptional memory skills to catch the bad guys. Don’t cross this bad ass of the law because he will make you regret it. Believe that.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “Death in Paradise” (2011-)
- “Peaky Blinders” (2013-)
- “Broadchurch” (2013-)
- “Agatha Christie’s Marple” (2004-13)
- “Taggart” (1983-2010)

#1: “Prime Suspect” (1991-2006)

Timely, heavy and undoubtedly difficult to resist, this drama series explored the personal and professional struggles of Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren starred in each of the seven series, which consisted of episodes that could reach 200 minutes or more in length. “Prime Suspect” aired consistently from 1991 to 1996 and inspired numerous American dramas in style and form. After a seven-year hiatus, Mirren reprised her role in 2003 and closed out the story with a thrilling final chapter in 2006. “Prime Suspect” simply operated on another level.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite British crime show? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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