One of the most popular genres of television shows in the United Kingdom are classical British murder mysteries. This should come as no surprise to fans of the mystery genre. Not only is Sherlock Holmes a pure British invention, but Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time with her British mysteries involving both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple solving seemingly unsolvable crimes. From these origins, the history of British television is full of examples of the popular genre, with sleuths of all ages solving everything from murder mysteries to locked room cases.

It’s hard to get enough of British charm brought into television. And when that charm finds itself transported into the world of murder mysteries, things get exponentially more interesting. Studios were quick to pick up on audiences’ love for the genre, and the result is a myriad of thrilling and exciting television shows that have their own take on the matter. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, and the British-flavored BritBox, there are so many great mystery shows to choose from, and many of them play in the sandbox of the classic British murder mysteries that remain popular over a century since Agatha Christie penned her first novel.



15 Poirot (1989-2013)

Hercule in Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Agatha Christie remains to this day the best-selling novelist of all time, all thanks to her unique approach to writing characters and mysteries that even the shrewdest can’t quite comprehend at first. And one of her most famous characters is none other than Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective known for using his brain to solve previously unsolvable crimes. Many actors took on the role of Poirot, but none better than David Suchet in this television series that adapted every Christie novel featuring the detective. With 70 episodes in total, fans of British murder mysteries will revel in this show.

14 Marple (2004-2013)

Julia McKenzie as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple

Hercule Poirot might have been the most famous character created by Agatha Christie, but it wasn’t the only one, nor the only interesting and captivating detective. Miss Marple also stars in Christie’s novels as a shrewd older woman who frequently finds herself involved in murder mysteries. The show Marple features two actresses taking on the role (Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie), and both bring their own charm and uniqueness to the character. Plus, the cases Miss Marple is featured in are some of the most interesting and intricate in the history of British murder mysteries.

13 Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994)

Sherlock Holmes and Watson in the 1980s BBC series.

Someone who is in love with British murder mysteries simply can’t live without watching at least a few episodes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. While younger audiences might have had their first encounter with the famous detective in Sherlock, this 1980s adaptation shouldn’t be skipped. It places Holmes and Dr. Watson in the time period they were created in by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and follows the famous duo for 41 episodes of pure, hard, English mystery stories. The series adapted 17 short stories and two novels from Doyle in its nine seasons.

12 Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

Inspector Morse looking serious and slightly off camera.

One of the longest-running shows of the British murder mysteries genre is Inspector Morse, first airing in 1987 and not stopping until 2000, over a decade later. John Thaw’s Inspector Morse has become one of the most recognized faces in English television due to his curious take on the character. Based on the novel series by Colin Dexter, who also created the TV show, Inspector Morse is charming, suspenseful, and utterly British. This 12-season long series is as binge-worthy as it is entertaining. The show even had two spin-off series with Lewis (2006-2015) and Endeavour (2012-2013).

11 Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012-2015)

Phryne Fisher pointing a gun at someone.

The character of Miss Fisher might not be as immediately recognizable as Hercule Poirot or as well-known as Sherlock Holmes. She is, however, one of the most interesting and well-crafted female detective characters to ever be featured in a British murder mysteries series. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries takes place in the 1920s and follows Miss Fisher as she makes her way through life fighting for what is just and good, taking bad guys down along the way. Even though it only lasted three seasons and ended in 2015, fans appreciated the character enough to justify the 2020 feature film, Miss Fisher & the Crypt of Tears.

10 Ripper Street (2012-2016)

The cast of Ripper Street.

With an impressive 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes, Ripper Street and its great ending is a must-see for fans of British murder mysteries. The story is set in 1889 in the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s killing spree. In such daunting times, it seems impossible to establish a sense of law and order in this area of East London. The story’s prime protagonist is real-life Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (played by Pride & Prejudice‘s Matthew Macfadyen), who was at the helm of H Division in Whitechapel following the Ripper murders.

9 Death In Paradise (2011- )

Kris Marshall in Death in Paradise.

In 2011, Scotland Yard’s DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) started investigating a series of murders on the Caribbean island of Sainte Marie. He hates anything sand, sea, and tropical, which serves as an easy comedic backdrop for this series of British murder mysteries. Poole was killed in the third series, only to be replaced with his murder-investigating detective, Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall). Goodman also left the show and was replaced yet again in the sixth series by DI Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon), who has taken the mantle of the series ever since.

8 Sherlock (2010-2017)

Sherlock Holmes and Watson in a promo photo.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s most famous role, apart from Doctor Strange, came from his lead appearance on the show Sherlock. It’s the same British murder mysteries that always followed the fictitious Sherlock Holmes, except this time his crime-solving skills are used in modern times. The show ran from 2010 to 2017 and won numerous awards and nominations during its time. Cumberbatch is joined by other A-list actors including Martin Freeman who plays his right-hand man, Doctor John Watson, in the series.

7 River (2015)

Stellan Skarsgard in River on Netflix.

  • Stream now on BritBox & AMC+

Stellan Skarsgård leads the cast in the British murder mysteries series River. It originally appeared as a one time series on BBCOne in October and was released to Netflix in November 2015. Skarsgård takes on the role of Detective Inspector John River, a man haunted by a series of murder victims which calls into question his sanity despite the fact that he is an accomplished investigator. The show touches on the crime drama aspects of the murders, but most of all, personal tragedies that play into the emotions and fears of the audience.

6 Midsomer Murders (1997- )

DCI Tom Barnaby with Gavin in Midsomer Murders.

Midsomer Murders was a popular British murder mysteries series that premiered in the late 1990s. The story takes place in the modern fictitious county of Midsomer where Chief Detective Tom Barnaby and his young disciple work tirelessly to solve the local murders. Actor John Nettles took the lead role of DI Barnaby before he retired in 2011. To keep the show going, Barnaby’s cousin John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) took over the leading role as Midsomer County’s DCI. The show has seen continuous success even with this change and has aired 23 seasons to date.

5 Happy Valley (2014-2023)

Sgt Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley.

Police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) takes her role seriously as she patrols the streets of West Yorkshire. In the first season, Catherine is trying to pick up the pieces of her life after the suicide of her daughter and divorce from her husband, along with her obsession with a recently released prisoner, Tommy Lee Royce, responsible for raping her daughter. Happy Valley ended up with three seasons, as Catherine’s life and that of Royce remained intertwined, with the detective investigating human trafficking and other murders that tie back into her nemesis, just as she nears retirement age

4 Vera (2011- )

DCI Vera Stanhope wearing a hat.

DCI Vera Stanhope and her team of investigators work to solve a bevy of murders across the Northumberland landscape in Vera. The British murder mysteries drama relies heavily on Vera’s wit and peevish charm to balance the merciless plot lines of the unrelenting murderers in her jurisdiction. She has a take-no-prisoners attitude and is exceptionally clever, making actress Brenda Blethyn’s character all the more fascinating. This ongoing series features seasons consisting of mostly four episodes, although season 11 had six, making each mystery a breeze to watch.

3 Broadchurch (2013-2017)

Olivia Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch

  • Stream now on PBS Masterpiece

The British murder mysteries drama Broadchurch ran for three seasons until 2017. In the English town of Dorset, DI’s Alec Hardy and DS Ellie Miller work together to solve one murder at a time. The ensemble cast consists of Doctor Who‘s David Tennant and Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as the two principal characters, with other cast appearances made by Jodie Whittaker and Arthur Darvill. Each season consisted of eight episodes focusing on a single crime in each of the three seasons, as the series also shows how these crimes can affect the investigators on the case.

2 Luther (2010-2019)

Idris Elba in Luther on BBC America.

  • Stream now on BritBox & Hoopla

Played by Idris Elba, John Luther is a genius detective at the Serious Crime Unit in the United Kingdom. Luther’s brilliance sometimes leads him to think on par with the criminals that he is investigating, which often plays into his own violent tendencies. Luther’s character is critically obsessive so his job as a murder detective takes precedence over everything else in his life, including personal relationships. The show had incredible success after its first run in 2010, with almost 6 million people tuning in to Luther for every episode. The series ended after five seasons, although a Luther movie arrived in 2023 with Elba back once more.

1 Unforgotten (2015- )

Cassie and Sunny in Unforgotten.

  • Stream now on Prime Video

London detectives dig into the cold case files in this British murder mysteries series. Unforgotten is a three-series TV show starring Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart and Sanjeev Bhaskar as DI Sunny Khan. The two specialize in murder and disappearance cases that have been long forgotten by the public but are actively solved with their determination. Each of the seasons features a new case, with the first four also following Cassie’s personal life and struggles to balance family and her job. However, Walker left the show after the fourth season, replaced by Sinéad Keenan as DCI Jessica ‘Jessie’ James.

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