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20 Greatest TV Crime Thrillers of All Time

20 Greatest TV Crime Thrillers of All Time

Everyone has their comfort TV show, right? It may be a classic sitcom from any decade of TV, or the drama that everyone likes to get back to every once in a while. In any case, there’s a very high chance that if you have to pick a show to watch, and you don’t have the energy to start a new one, you will pick your absolute favorite, the one you’ve seen countless times and can recite from memory.



Genres vary for everyone. It’s the beauty of having such a broad catalog at hand—one that keeps evolving and restocking with the great offers modern television has on a daily basis. One of those genres, and perhaps one of the most popular, is the crime thriller.

Usually based on a single crime that has taken place, these are the multilayered stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat or conquer your attention for months, in case the show is good enough. We all love our crime shows, regardless of tone, streaming platform, or even the decade in which they were released. If it’s good, we will watch it over and over.

However, this doesn’t mean all good crime thrillers are highly rewatchable. Some of them are disturbing enough to impact you for life after a single sitting. And some of them are simply great pieces of genre storytelling, finely tuned to the format of television, which, contrary to what people think, is not easy to master. In the case of the following series, someone did, and they created the 20 greatest TV crime thrillers of all time.

The following list may contain spoilers.

20 Mare of Easttown (2021)

Mare of Easttown takes viewers to a small town in Philadelphia, a place where local law enforcement is often in charge of someone everyone knows.

That someone is Mare Sheehan, once a basketball prodigy, whose now a police detective. Mare is dealing with some issues of her own: her failing marriage left her with a rebellious teenager and a very nosy mother, and one year ago a girl went missing, and she couldn’t crack the case. Now, a teenage mother has been murdered, and Mare must deal with the local scrutiny while she finds the culprit for such a horrific act.

A Perfect Small-Town Crime Drama

Led by Kate Winslet in what could possibly be her best performance ever, Mare of Easttown is a brutal adaptation of a “small-town crime” formula under HBO’s signature production value. The show created by Brag Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel is all about its performances.

From Evan Peters to Cailee Spaeny, they all add a certain level of realism to their roles that’s not often seen in the genre. Julianne Nicholson, Winslet, and Peters all won Emmys for Mare of Easttown. Trust us when we say the last two episodes will be a punch to the jaw that you won’t forget. This miniseries is the perfect pick for one-day binge sessions. Stream on Max.

19 Mindhunter (2017-2019)

In the Netflix crime thriller epic Mindhunter, FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench join forces with a psychologist by the name of Wendy Carr. They begin their operations as the Behavioral Science Unit, an experimental but groundbreaking department that helped society understand how serial killers thought and what could be done to prevent their acts. Although it’s loosely inspired by a true story, the convicts that Ford and Tench interview are based on real-life killers that “helped” law enforcement agencies when solving crimes in the late 1970s.

In the Mind of the Maniac

Created by David Fincher and Joe Penhall, the show is easily Netflix’s most important crime show to date. Although it lasted a mere two seasons, it built a fan base that’s still yet to be found with another show from the streaming platform.

It was all because of the great writing, the implied realism of the storylines (the first season shows them interviewing and drawing information from Edmund Keemper and Dennis Rader, and season two took place during the rampage by Wayne Williams in Atlanta), and how compelling the characters’ stories are. Join us as we pray for season three of Mindhunter to get produced at some point. You can stream Mindhunter on Netflix.

18 Ozark (2017-2022)

Ozark poster


Release Date
July 21, 2017


The Byrdes are a perfect family living in Chicago. Marty, the leader, knows his business partner has some shady businesses on the side, but he’s a financial advisor, and there’s nothing dangerous in finances, right?

As it turns out, the Byrdes are forced to move out of Chicago after finding out they have become the targets of a Mexican drug cartel in need of money laundering. But when they’re found in the Lake of the Ozarks, their new home, Marty is forced to continue the previous business, and local criminal organizations don’t like this very much.

Wait, Does Crime Actually Pay?

Running for four seasons, Ozark was a fascinating show that always raised its stakes with more drama and more violence. The series was based on character progression based on a moral code that never looked toward the good in humanity. No, no, no. In Ozark, everyone had the capacity to be a villain, and some went as far as betraying family for the sake of business.

Though it has already ended, viewers are still going through some pending questions that will never be answered. All we can say is that some secrets are meant to stay where they are. You can stream Ozark on Netflix.

Related: 10 Short Sci-Fi Series You Can Binge in a Day

17 Hannibal (2013-2015)

Hannival poster


Release Date
April 4, 2013



Based on the characters created by Thomas Harris and made famous by big-screen adaptations of the novels, Hannibal is the origin story of Will Graham, an FBI agent with a great ability to profile serial killers and answer the questions nobody can answer. Will is kind of unstable, so his superior requests the help of high-profile psychologist Hannibal Lecter, who will help any way he can.

The thing is that Lecter is secretly a serial killer as well, and he develops a strong fascination for Will, who sees beyond the culinary tactics of Lecter and suspects him.

The High-Profile Serial Killer Show that Still Feels Underseen

Developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC in 2013, Hannibal is the best crime show you’ve never seen. And the best one should return as soon as possible. There were simply too many stones left unturned in the drama that went on between Will and Hannibal. Though it’s mainly a crime show based on police procedural formulas, it’s also a great drama based on the relationship between Lecter and Graham.

They both push their limits, with the conclusion drawing on a climactic showdown that will leave everyone trembling. It’s the most underrated show on the list, period. Stream on Prime Video.

16 Your Honor (2020-2023)

What was sold as a legal drama is actually a tension-driven thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat during its two seasons. A New Orleans judge by the name of Michael Desiato is going through something horrific. His son, Adam, has accidentally killed the son of a local crime lord. Desiato decides to hide the facts and will soon face the wrath of a city that will demand some answers. As he tries to get rid of witnesses and the evidence, things take a very dark turn, and Desiato will face the real consequences of his acts.

Morals are Weird on This Side of New Orleans

Your Honor stars Bryan Cranston in one of his best performances. Though it often stays within the lines of a legal drama formula, it’s essentially a crime thriller, showing Desiato desperately trying to help his son. This brings him to a very deep level in his moral blueprint, which will essentially turn him into a criminal who isn’t afraid to break the law if this will save his son from being accused.

Season one ends with a cliffhanger, and season two ends with an expansion of the kingpin’s story that’s nothing short of engaging. You can stream Your Honor on Showtime.

15 True Detective (2014-Present)

True Detective is an HBO crime thriller series that tells a different story in each of its four seasons. Each season deals with a detective story that ranges from the expansion of corruption within the police department to the long-term effects of crimes that remain unsolved. The notable seasons so far, and contrary to the opinion of some fans, are season one and season four, aptly named Night Country. When it comes to thriller shows on modern television, there’s nothing better produced than True Detective.

The Best Crime Thriller Anthology Ever Made?

In 2024, we bore witness to the show’s return after many years of drought. And yes, though it was very divisive, it was still a solid revisit of the genre mastered by HBO in 2014 with the spectacular first season.

What’s curious about all the roads taken by True Detective‘s showrunners is that the show doesn’t drift away from the procedural aspect of the plots. They’re really about the crimes. Where they stand out is in their depiction of characters and how their internal demons are strong enough to mark them beyond reason. Stream on Max.

14 Fargo (2014-Present)



Release Date
April 15, 2014



In Fargo, viewers are treated to a different story each season. There aren’t any patterns in terms of location, the nature of the story, or characters. What Noah Hawley, showrunner and visionary, has worked with is complete creative control over five different situations that are all born out of random events with crimes that vary in magnitude and gravity. A plot? Sure. It usually concerns shady characters, some pretty good people, and the most bonkers conclusions you can think of.

A Natural Storyteller at His Best

Fargo is yet another anthology series that makes the list because of its sharp storytelling style, bold and visionary treatment of the genre, and spectacular characters. Inspired by the Coen Bros’ film of the same name, Fargo usually sheds off its humor content (especially after season one), and goes for a more sober story that allows for suspension of belief to make an appearance every once in a while.

Some anthology shows feel inconsistent, whereas in Fargo, the writing’s so good, you will feel in the presence of one of the most important TV writers on modern television. Stream on Hulu.

13 The Night Of (2016)

Naz is a shy young man living in Queens. His upbringing is restrained by the Pakistani traditions his family holds, and this has caused him to be somewhat of an inexperienced dude. One day, Naz decides to go all in and steals his father’s cab to attend a party. Accidentally, someone gets in the car and offers Naz a good time.

The girl is beautiful, and Naz doesn’t feel anything bad could happen. When he wakes up the next day in Andrea’s apartment, she lies in a pool of blood, stabbed to death. Unfortunately, the police make the connections, and Naz is convicted of murder. But did he really do it?

Much More Than a Crime Drama

A very obscure show that everyone should see, The Night Of is a thrilling passage through the world of the American justice system and how unbalanced everything is when themes like racism, social differences, religion, and xenophobia are part of a legal process. But what’s most compelling about Naz’s horrific journey through the system is that, no matter how strong he stays in the face of adversity, emotional violence is powerful enough to change a man from innocent to hopeless.

Not many people remember this one, but it’s a must that’s hidden in the Max catalog. You can stream The Night Of on Max.

12 Black Bird (2022)

Black Bird

Black Bird

Release Date
July 8, 2022


Apple Studios, Apple, Crime Story Media

Jimmy Keene is a former football star who decided to stay away from glory and instead went on to become a businessman in Chicago. The problem is that the business does involve illegal activities. Keene is caught, and his sentence is much more severe than he had thought. However, the FBI offers a deal. If he wants to spend less time in prison, he must help them.

Keene is transported to another prison, where he must become friends with a man who the police think may be a serial killer, but given the lack of evidence, they can’t formally accuse him. It’s only through Jimmy’s friendship that they’ll be able to get inside Larry Hall’s head.

A Brilliantly-Acted Thriller

First things first. Paul Walter Hauser’s performance as Larry Hall is the best of his career (he won a Golden Globe for this performance) and one of the best in modern television. It’s pleasant but also emotionally draining to go along with Keene as he slowly discovers Hall’s true nature and his tastes in this brilliant series that doesn’t have to extend itself to fully close the arc of Keene and his real-life exploration of human evil.

Even though it’s anything but violent, you will feel like you’ve been hit by a train upon finishing. Black Bird is one of the best shows of 2022. Stream on AppleTV+.

11 The Staircase (2022)

The Staircase is a dramatic adaptation of the bizarre case of Michael Peterson. In 2001, Peterson claims he found his wife at the bottom of the staircase in their huge mansion. While the details are widely known, Peterson goes through a trial that will change his life and those who always stood by his side, including his children. A French filmmaker decides to document the case and enters Peterson’s household, where many secrets lie. Everything will be revealed.

True Crime Taken Up a Notch

Undoubtedly one of the best miniseries on Max, The Staircase is based on the groundbreaking documentary series by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (which was in production for more than a decade) of the same name.

The HBO production works as an expansion of what is already known about the case, and while it centers on Michael’s personality and the dissection of his family through the jarring case that divided it, the series maintains its cold and unbiased stance on Peterson’s involvement. Colin Firth, who plays Peterson, has the best performance of his entire career. Stream on Max.

Related: 10 TV Shows That Are Better If You Don’t Binge Them

10 Sharp Objects (2018)

Camille Preaker is an alcoholic and troubled reporter who has been released recently from a mental institution. Unable to cope with a lack of direction, Preaker decides to take on a case that has taken place in the place where she was born. In Wind Gap, a rural area of Missouri, two girls have been killed. Camille digs around and finds that the sugarcoating in her town is just a facade, and there are my secrets that perhaps lie closer to her past and have awakened her demons.

One of Amy Adams’ Finest Performances

A psychological thriller led by a fantastic female entourage, Sharp Objects was Jean-Marc Vallée’s last production before his passing in 2021. Amy Adams leads a cast that also includes Patricia Clarkson (who won a Golden Globe for her role), Eliza Scanlen, Chris Messina, and Miguel Sandoval, among others.

The show is based on Gillian Flynn’s book of the same name and features her usual multilayered storytelling style that fits great with the crime thriller genre. In case you find yourself trying to pick your next show for binge-watching and can’t decide, this is a great option. You can stream Sharp Objects on Max.

9 Perry Mason (2020-2023)

Perry Mason took audiences back to Los Angeles during the 1930s. The time is post-Great Depression, and people seem to survive on a daily basis in a country where the American Dream was still theoretical. However, in Los Angeles, people have found a way to shine between the early Hollywood spotlight and the liberal aspects of society. Perry Mason is a defense lawyer dealing with PTSD who decides to take on a case of a child kidnapping where definitely nothing is as it seems.

A New Adaptation of the Classic Character in the Form of a Police Procedural by HBO

Unfortunately, canceled after a couple of seasons, Perry Mason is a delightful crime thriller that fell under the radar because it was based on an IP that simply not many people know of. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t a riveting, well-written series led by one of today’s most important performers.

Matthew Rhys gives life to Mason, and writers aren’t afraid to use his flaws and personal issues to make the character very interesting. His arc is dramatic and engaging, and while the crimes are important enough to drive the two seasons until the end, this was all about a great depiction of Tinseltown during a time when the social dynamics in California moved between the glamorous and the putrid. You can stream Perry Mason on Max.

8 Big Little Lies (2017-Present)

Big Little Lies takes us to Monterey, California, where poverty isn’t even a theory, and families on the beachside. Five women, each from a different background and each dealing with extremely different personal situations, are being interviewed in a police investigation for an unsolved murder.

As the series progresses, we become aware of the facts that led to a crime that wasn’t quite as accidental as some may conclude. However, season one solves this mystery. What do you think season two could be about? Nothing that the presence of a great actress can’t solve.

Small-Town Drama with a Posh Touch

Another fantastic show by Jean-Marc Vallée, and the one that put him out there as a natural storyteller of dark-natured dramas that used a very peculiar crime as a backdrop. Big Little Lies is a fascinating show that uses abuse and trauma as a dramatic force, but it blurs the line between the nature of such questionable acts and what ultimately happens. Perry’s death was so necessary, it would be celebrated. But the cathartic aspect of it will make you think, something not every crime thriller accomplishes. Stream on Max.

7 Bloodline (2015-2017)



Release Date
March 20, 2015


Danny Rayburn comes home to Islamorada, Florida, on the eve of his parents’ anniversary. His mother is happy, his father not so much, and his siblings are impressed and disturbed by Danny’s sudden arrival. Their past holds some… conflicts. And John, Kevin, and Meg decide that Danny should leave so that the past stays as it is. But Danny’s agenda is clear, and he wishes to make some revelations about his family. Will his family let him? Or is it just a mammoth-like secret that needs to be brought to light?

One of Netflix’s Best Shows Ever Made

Without question, Bloodline is one of the best psychological thrillers of all time. The show has a bold move script-wise in the pilot, and many viewers will scratch their heads wondering how such an event can be topped. Luckily, it’s all part of a bigger plan by the screenwriters, who show they understand the show’s direction and how it’s supposed to end.

Few modern thrillers feel as consistent as this one, but you probably won’t notice, as the white-knuckle experience will grab you from the beginning and won’t let you exhale for a long time. It’s hard to find a better ensemble cast on this list: Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, John Leguizamo, and Andrea Riseborough. Stream on Netflix.

6 The Killing (2011-2014)

Created by Veena Sud for American audiences, The Killing tells the story of detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder as they embark on the harrowing case that will shed light on the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen. Unfortunately, it appears that the Larsens may have a few secrets of their own. A political conspiracy is also part of the case, but it will eventually get solved, even if it represents too much for Holder and Linden.

A Very Compelling Detective Duo

The show follows police procedural tropes to the smallest detail. In that regard, it may be a comfort show for some. However, it’s the realistic depiction of the dark side of Seattle, Washington, that makes it more effective than its peers.

That and the performances by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, whose roles feel tailor-made for them. Enos’ Linden is the best character in a large catalog of female detectives. You can stream The Killing on Hulu.

5 Broadchurch (2013-2017)

The town is Broadchurch, a seaside community that gets shaken by the murder of a small boy called Danny Latimer. Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and local Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) are assigned to the case, and together they find the coastal town holds far too many secrets, and Danny’s involvement may have been the cause of the homicide.

It went on for three seasons, and it’s one of those rare cases where the crime, as small and insignificant as it may appear to be the center of an entire show, is traumatic enough to lead all the arcs through to the end.

When a Crime Gets Under Your Skin

The success of a show like Broadchurch isn’t due to a secret formula. The series is simply a great mix of good and consistent writing and great performers. It just stands out among the rest as a carefully designed crime thriller supported by pure and raw drama.

The Latimers’ journey is heartbreaking, but more impactful is Miller’s discovery that her family may be involved in the murder. This scene will break your heart. Colman performs, undoubtedly, one of her best roles. You can stream Broadchurch on The Roku Channel.

4 Twin Peaks (1990-1991, 2017)

twin peaks

Twin Peaks


Release Date
April 8, 1990


Twin Peaks, Washington. Homecoming queen Laura Palmer has been missing, and everyone in town is paranoid. Her parents weirdly behave about it, but when her body appears on the shore, the screams of agony are heard from afar. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives to investigate, and his jolly attitude doesn’t exactly comply with the mysterious aura of the town. This is the beginning of his relationship with a mystical place and a vicious murder that will change the lives of everyone in town.

A Brutal Descent Down the Rabbit Hole, Designed by David Lynch

Created by surrealism mastermind David Lynch, Twin Peaks is a crime thriller designed to be disorienting, distressing, and discomforting. What starts as a regular whodunit mystery becomes an exploration of parallel dimensions, altered states of mind, and the most bizarre social dynamics you’ll ever witness in drama television.

From the various offshoots to the peculiar characters, everything about Twin Peaks screams iconic, and it’s very interesting to go back to it every once in a while to take a dive in a world where logic is far from a suggestion. Stream on Paramount+.

Related: 10 Stephen King Movies That Would be Better as a Modern Miniseries

3 The Act (2019)

The Act

The Act

Release Date
March 20, 2019


Hulu’s true crime miniseries The Act is a fascinating and extremely well-acted fictionalized version of the events first explored in the documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest. The story is that of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and Dee Dee Blanchard, daughter and mother, in a plot that will make you scream out loud, “Reality is stranger than fiction.” Gypsy Rose, when she became a teen, decided to emancipate from her mother’s grasp, and the Munchausen syndrome by proxy she suffered, and alongside her boyfriend, she planned her mother’s murder.

When True Crime Gets a Little Bit Too Truthful and Disturbing

The Act is one of Hulu’s signature miniseries, and there’s probably no better offer in their originals catalog. The crime thriller isn’t just a well-adapted reenactment of what we know took place. It actually goes very dark in nature in its second half when Gypsy Rose plans the murder, although many will question the veracity of the events (especially now that the real Gypsy Rose has been released from prison).

Nevertheless, it’s a disturbing take on a real-life condition that will allow you to recognize current themes of “sharenting” and the heavy use of social media by parents. Stream on Hulu.

2 Luther (2010-2019)



Release Date
May 4, 2010


In the crime thriller Luther, Idris Elba plays DCI John Luther, a detective whose methods are nothing but effective. However, Luther will go far in trying to discover the truth and catch the bad guys, and this often requires the use of the stronger arm of the law.

After a violent murder puts him in front of a cold-blooded serial killer by the name of Alice Morgan, Luther continues to catch the bad guys, but eventually, Alice escapes, and she will start to help him. Perhaps it feels like a difficult premise, but trust us when we say there’s nothing better in modern British television.

Probably the Best Character in British TV History

The beauty about Luther is that he’s increasingly uncontrollable, violent, and, most of all, human. He will help restore good in the world, but sometimes he goes too far in trying to accomplish this.

Though it ran for five seasons, they only add up to 20 episodes of the best writing TV has seen in modern times in the crime genre. It’s one of the highest-rated shows on Rotten Tomatoes when compared to the others on this list, and while sometimes it feels like a drag to connect with new characters, with John Luther, it’s actually worth it.

1 The Americans (2013-2018)

The Americans takes viewers to America during the peak of the Cold War. The Jennings, Philip and Elizabeth, are a happily married couple living close to Washington, D.C. But their ideal lives are a cover for something much more sinister. Beneath the laughs and the “how was your day?” dinners, there are a couple of KGB spies trying to collect information for the Soviets. Eventually, their cover is threatened by a neighbor who works for the FBI. This is the best drama to emerge from FX in the last ten years.

A Riveting Historical Thriller

Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, The Americans is an exciting crime thriller with a heavy dose of spy drama incorporated into its dynamics for all six seasons. What’s important about it is that, while morals are hard-coded into the ambiguity of both central characters, the very satisfying series finale does a great job of giving closure to the dramatic arcs.

The Jennings are spies, and we’re not supposed to root for them, but as it usually happens with shows based on well-written characters, connecting with them is inevitable. Stream on Hulu.

If you’re into the thriller genre, here’s a video with an awesome selection of the best thriller films of the 2020s, so far:

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