The 50 Best Crime TV Shows of All Time

Crimes have been the focus of storytelling for most of history. From Greek mythology to the Bible, people have been drawn to stories of rules broken—don't take that apple, Eve!—and punishments handed out. The same fascination continues today in scores of movies and TV shows, whether the plot focuses on dirty cops or lawyers hunting down scofflaws.

Everyone has a different reason for an obsession with shows depicting some of the darkest moments of life. Some may appreciate the clever storytelling of the best shows, which give enough clues to solve the case. Others may find digging into the dark minds of serial killers intriguing. Some of the true crime fans admit they worry that they'll be victims of crimes themselves. Others simply like seeing law enforcement bring the bad guys to justice at the end of every episode.

With all the crime shows that have come out in recent years, it can be hard to sort through them. Stacker compiled this list to give fans a hand with finding the best of the best on television. Rankings were determined by IMDb ratings, ties were broken by votes, and only English-language TV series with 5,000 votes were considered. Keep reading to discover which crime series made the list.

You may also like: 50 famous firsts from TV history

Getty Images/Francois Durand

50. 'Southland'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2009–2013

A drama about Los Angeles beat cops and detectives, Southland earned kudos for its authentic portrayal of the lives of police officers not only hunting down criminals but also dealing with drug addiction, deaths, and pregnancy. Created by writer Ann Biderman, it had one season on NBC, then moved to TNT, winning two primetime Emmy awards. Critics described Southland as direct, overlooked, and one of television's most underrated shows, but its ratings failed to keep pace. Among its stars were Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy, and Regina King.

49. 'Happy Valley'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2014–present

Another BBC cop show, Happy Valley, follows Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood, a woman who lost her daughter to suicide and is now raising her daughter's troubled son, who was the product of rape, as she investigates the man she suspects of causing her daughter's death. Now in its third season, the series has been nominated and has won a number of prestigious awards.

48. 'Boston Legal'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2004–2008

For five seasons, viewers watched the lawyers of Crane, Poole & Schmidt earn their exorbitant hourly rates in this spin-off of The Practice. James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner starred in the show from David E. Kelley, creator of Doogie Howser, M.D., Ally McBeal, and other big TV hits. Shatner won a Golden Globe for his performance as Denny Crane.

47. 'Bosch'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2014–present

Bosch is Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles detective played by Titus Welliver. The Amazon series, which also stars Madison Lintz as his daughter, Maddie, is adapted from the Michael Connelly novels and was developed for television by Eric Overmyer of Treme fame. Bosch "has above-average intelligence," Welliver told Vox of the character he plays. "But he's also a creature of habit. He is kind of out of step with things."

46. 'American Crime Story'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2016–present

This anthology series focuses on a different crime each season. The Emmy-winning first season dramatized the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, while the second season examined the Gianni Versace murder. The storyline for the third season focused on the sex scandal involving Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and the subsequent impeachment hearings.

You may also like: 15 Controversial Oscar Wins—and How They've Aged

45. 'The Americans'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–2018

Two KGB agents pose as an average American couple complete with a family in suburban Washington D.C., during the back-half of the Cold War. Their sham marriage becomes more genuine and they disclose their true identities to their teenage daughter but not their younger son. As their jobs becomes more difficult and their FBI neighbor becomes suspicious, they make plans to return to the Soviet Union. This spy thriller on FX was created by Joe Weisberg, a former CIA agent, who also was the head writer, and stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.

44. 'Banshee'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–2016

A few years back, Cinemax decided to rebrand itself as an action-packed network, and the high-octane Banshee was part of that strategy. The show is about an ex-convict who shows up in a small Pennsylvania town after assuming the identity of the new sheriff, who was murdered in a bar fight before he could even start the job. With ex-Amish mafia bosses, Native American tribal issues, and a Ukrainian crime boss named Rabbit, this is anything but a typical crime show.

43. 'Broadchurch'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–2017

U.K. audiences have long known David Tennant as Doctor Who. In Broadchurch, he plays Alec Hardy, a detective searching for a young boy's murderers in a small town, and dealing with the ensuing fallout. The show ran for three seasons on ITV and an American version, called Gracepoint, was developed for Fox. That version also starred Tennant, but only aired for one season.

42. 'Person of Interest'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2011–2016

CBS aired this high-tech artificial intelligence show for five seasons. The storyline explored a computer system that can identify crimes in progress, the man who invented the program (Michael Emerson), and the former Green Beret (Jim Caviezel) recruited to save the innocent people involved in the crimes. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan, who went on to create Westworld for HBO.

41. 'Ozark'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2017–present

This Netflix crime drama features a money-laundering family from Chicago in the Missouri Ozarks working for a Mexican drug cartel. The Emmy-winning series stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Sofia Hublitz. A CNN reviewer wrote that the show mixed "criminal ruthlessness with a family dynamic built on manipulation."

Brooklyn Nine Nine
Harmony Gerber/WireImage/Getty Images

40. 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–present

The title of this police force comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, refers to the actual precinct in the show, which follows in the footsteps of shows like Barney Miller. Audiences watch a group of wacky cops—and Andre Braugher's Capt. Raymond Holt—solve crimes when they're not cracking jokes. Andy Samberg stars as Detective Jake Peralta, but the series almost met its demise when Fox opted not to renew it, before NBC swooped in and ordered another season.

39. 'Love/Hate'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–2014

Love/Hate reveals the criminal underworld of Dublin through the character of Darren Treacy. He is returning to Ireland after being in exile in Spain, where he was wanted for gun possession and was in hiding from the police. He tries to stay out of trouble but fails. Love/Hate stars Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Killian Scott and Aoibhinn McGinnity and ran on Ireland's RTE Television.

38. 'Harley Quinn'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2019–present

Here is an animated superhero show for adults. The Joker's former sidekick and lover, Harley Quinn, dumps him and heads off to join the legion of top criminals in Gotham City. Voiced by Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory, the murderous character first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, and then in the movies The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey. The show, which began on DC Universe and now can be streamed on HBO Max, also features other DC characters such Harley Quinn's best friend, Poison Ivy, and Clayface.

37. 'The New Batman Adventures'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 1997–1999

A follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series, this darker, grittier take on the Batman franchise shines a spotlight on the supporting characters of the Caped Crusader's world, including Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing (the artist formerly known as Robin). The series aired for 24 episodes and was paired with Superman: The Animated Series. The combination of the two, known as The New Batman/Superman Adventures, ran as an hour-long series and won the 1998 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.

36. 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 1955–1962

Hosted and produced by the famed mystery and horror director, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was a suspenseful anthology series that offered a new story with new characters and twists in every episode, true to Hitchcock's style. The show made Time's All-Time 100 TV Shows list and was so successful with audiences that it ran for 268 episodes over 10 seasons.

You may also like: 50 Best American War Movies

35. 'Trailer Park Boys'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2001–2018

This Canadian sitcom was more interested in the lives of criminals after their release from prison than crimes themselves. Shot in mockumentary format, the show details the lives of a group of trailer park residents and the trouble they get into on a regular basis. Originally made for Canada's Showcase Network until 2008, Trailer Park Boys started airing on Netflix after its 2014 revival.

34. 'Luther'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–2019

British actor Idris Elba stars as the titular Luther, a detective chief inspector in England working on very serious crimes. Luther's greatest strength is his complete devotion to the job, which is also his greatest weakness, as the work often consumes him to the detriment of his health and sanity. Elba has been nominated four times each for both Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys, and took home the Globe once.

33. 'Big Little Lies'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017–2019

An all-star cast helped catapult Big Little Lies into stardom with its tale of domestic abuse and upper-class happiness in the tony town of Monterey, California. The limited series was adapted from Liane Moriarty's novel of the same name and was only intended to last for six episodes, but its popularity led series creator David E. Kelley to continue the story into a second season.

32. 'Boardwalk Empire'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–2014

Martin Scorsese produced and directed this HBO prestige drama about organized crime in the days of Prohibition in Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi plays real-life Irish politician and gangster Nucky Thompson, and both he and the show won Golden Globes for the work.

31. 'The Punisher'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017–2019

Jon Bernthal plays The Punisher, a Marine veteran-turned-vigilante who's dead set on avenging the murder of his family. The show airs on Netflix and exists in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, where The Punisher regularly crosses over with Daredevil, another Netflix show.

Andrew Toth/Getty Images

30. 'Hannibal'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2013–2015

The character Hannibal Lecter had already appeared in books, films, and TV shows before this 2013 adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel was brought to NBC by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, American Gods). In this version of Hannibal, the cannibal forensic psychiatrist befriends a young FBI profiler who has the rare ability to empathize with the murderous monsters he's hunting. Noted celebrity chef Jose Andres was brought on board to consult on the unique culinary aspects of the show.

29. 'Sons of Anarchy'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2008–2014

Charlie Hunnam turned into a big star in this sprawling epic series about a dangerous biker gang full of outlaws in California's Central Valley. Before the show's success, Katey Sagal was best known for her role as Peg Bundy in Married … with Children, but resurrected her career as the matriarch of the gang and won a Golden Globe in 2011 for her role.

28. 'Mr. Robot'

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2015–2019

Hackers form the main cast of this USA Network drama about a global banking crisis created by a strange young man with multiple personality disorder. Christian Slater and Rami Malek have earned multiple nominations for their roles in the show, which lasted four seasons.

27. 'Homicide: Life on the Street'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1993–1999

Former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon turned his book about the detectives of Baltimore's homicide division into this NBC drama series from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson. The show made it through 122 episodes over seven seasons before calling it quits. Time magazine included it in their list of their All-Time 100 TV Shows.

26. 'Wentworth'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2013–2021

An Australian series inside a women's prison, Wentworth has been described as dark and gritty and praised for its strong writing. The protagonist, Bea Smith, is played by Danielle Cormack and at the show's start, she is imprisoned for the attempted murder of her husband. The show encompasses power struggles among the inmates and staff, as well as sex and violence. It won numerous Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards among others.

You may also like: Every Golden Globes Best Drama Winner Since 1952

25. 'Endeavour'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2012–present

Set in Oxford, this British crime drama serves as the prequel to the hit show Inspector Morse, with Shaun Evans playing the role of a young Inspector Endeavour Morse just starting his career in the mid-'60s. The show initially aired in 2012, and continues to this day.

24. 'Young Justice'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2010–present

Created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, Young Justice is an animated television series about teenage superheroes known as "the team." The teenagers, among them Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, and Miss Martian, are good enough to join the Justice League. The show, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, is based on characters from DC Comics.

23. 'Poirot'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1989–2013

This British mystery drama features Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who appears in more than 30 Agatha Christie novels. On television, Poirot was played by David Suchet for 25 years. The series ends with "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case," in which he and Captain Hastings reunite at Styles, the country house where they solved their first case.

22. 'Justified'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2010–2015

Justified is a modern Western about a U.S. marshal who's reassigned to his hometown in rural Kentucky and dispenses his own brand of justice. Timothy Olyphant stars in this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story Fire in the Holethat was nominated for eight Emmys and won two.

21. 'Deadwood'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2004–2006

Deadwood is one of the most foul-mouthed shows to ever grace American airwaves. The series tracks the development of Deadwood, South Dakota, a mining town in the 1870s that was home to gunslingers, prostitutes, outlaws, and lawmen. Creator David Milch worked on hit shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue before creating this masterpiece, regularly called one of the greatest dramas of all time.

X Files
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

20. 'The X-Files'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1993–2018

Two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigate X-Files—unsolved cases that hinge on the paranormal—in this Emmy- and Golden Globes-winning series. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in the science fiction drama, seeking the existence of extraterrestrial life. Chris Carter created the show.

19. 'Mindhunter'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2017–2019

Netflix invested heavily in the true-crime genre. Mindhunter straddles the line between their scripted and unscripted fare as a based-on-a-true-story version of the creation of the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit that profiles and tracks serial killers. Executive-produced and partially directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Gone Girl), this dark hour-long drama set in the late '70s was originally a book called Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit.

18. 'Daredevil'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2015–2018

The Daredevil of the title is a blind lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Another dark and moody Netflix/Marvel project (The Punisher was a spin-off), the series had three seasons, with Charlie Cox (Boardwalk Empire) playing the lead role.

17. 'Dexter'

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2006–2021

Michael C. Hall first made his mark on HBO's Six Feet Under, but he switched to competitor Showtime for this Miami-set series about a serial killer who controls his murderous urges by hunting other serial killers. Regularly nominated by both the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes, Dexter had an extremely long run for a premium cable show, with 96 episodes produced over eight seasons.

16. 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1986–1988

The follow-up to ITV's successful British TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective series Sherlock Holmes, this limited series consisted of 13 episodes culminating in the legendary story The Hounds of the Baskervilles. Jeremy Brett plays the finicky Sherlock Holmes, while Edward Hardwicke is his comrade-in-arms, Dr. Watson.

You may also like: How Your Favorite Sci-Fi Characters Got Their Names

15. 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1984–1985

Jeremy Brett's first turn as Sherlock Holmes tied him to the character for life, as he would go on to play the role for more than two decades in various productions. This series offered a number of well-known Holmes stories with David Burke as his sidekick, Watson.

14. 'Line of Duty'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2012–present

Line of Duty premiered on BBC Two in the U.K. in 2012. The premise revolves around an anti-corruption unit in the Central Police, where the officers investigate crimes within the police itself. The show streams on Hulu in the United States.

13. 'The Shield'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2002–2008

Michael Chiklis first played a police officer in the heartwarming early '90s family drama The Commish. A decade later, he left the sweetness behind to become dirty cop Vic Mackey, the leader of an experimental "Strike Team" that keeps the streets clean by any means necessary. The Shield has long been regarded as one of the greatest crime shows ever made, earning Golden Globes, a spot on TV Guide magazine's Best Series of All Time list, and the honor of being named one of AFI's Best Television Programs of the Year in 2008.

12. 'Oz'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1997–2003

Not to be confused with anything related to magical lands or tin men, Oz was HBO's first hour-long drama. It's about an idealistic prison reformer who creates an experimental prison wing where criminals are forced to interact with one another, and contains all of the violence, sex, and drugs one might expect from a maximum security prison.

11. 'The Boys'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2019–present

Based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the show features superheroes and the vigilantes out to destroy them. But in this version, the superheroes or "supes" are corrupt and abuse their powers, the Boys are working to expose them, and the episodes delve into the issues of authoritarianism and celebrity. The action series, an Amazon original, was developed for television by Eric Kripke, and stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, and Antony Starr.

Better Call Saul
Amanda Edwards/WireImage/Getty Images

10. 'Better Call Saul'

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2015–2021

Better Call Saul began as a spin-off that was also a prequel to beloved AMC series Breaking Bad. In the show, Bob Odenkirk plays Jimmy McGill, a good-natured lawyer and former con man who slowly slips into lawlessness as he goes to war with his lawyer brother, and gets involved with a former police officer-turned-hitman. When the show premiered, it set the record for best-ever basic cable ratings for a show's debut episode.

9. 'Twin Peaks'

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1990–2017

Kyle MacLachlan stars as FBI agent Dale Cooper, a cheerful visitor to the strange town of Twin Peaks. Together with the local sheriff and oddball locals, he tries to solve the case of the murder of Laura Palmer, uncovering secrets and mysteries that never really get solved—it is a David Lynch show, after all. It picked back up in 2017 with all creepiness of the original, metaphysical lodges and all.

8. 'Narcos'

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2015–2017

Narcos tells the mostly true story of Drug Enforcement Administration agents hunting drug kingpin Pablo Escobar as he ascended to the top of the world's drug trade in Colombia in the 1980s and early '90s. There has been some serious trouble during production in drug-ravaged areas of Mexico.

7. 'Peaky Blinders'

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2013–present

Peaky Blinders is a U.K. drama about a gangster family in post-World War I England. The series stars Cillian Murphy, as leader of the Peaky Blinders gang, known for the razor blades they carry in their caps, and Paul Anderson as his brother, who suffers from PTSD after a stint in the Great War. The show has earned several prestigious BAFTA TV awards.

6. 'Fargo'

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2014–present

This loose television adaptation of the hit Coen brothers' movie explores different crimes in various eras, all taking place in upper-Midwest states and leading back to Fargo, North Dakota. As a pseudo-anthology series, the show has attracted major stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, and Ewan McGregor to play various roles with spot-on accents. The show has been a major critical success, with a huge haul of awards from the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes.

You may also like: 50 Movies We All Love to Hate

5. 'True Detective'

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2014–2019

Matthew McConaughey, Vince Vaughn, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, and Colin Farrell are huge movie stars in their own rights, but they all joined True Detective for a season each to explore crime stories that expose the anguish detectives go through in pursuit of solving a case. Nominated for Best Drama Series in its first season, the show entered its third and final season with a new setting, and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as the new lead character.

4. 'Sherlock'

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Years on the air: 2010–2017

The century-old tales of Sherlock Holmes got a modern update in this BBC show starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a cold, meticulous, drug-addict version of the great detective and Martin Freeman playing Dr. Watson as an Afghanistan War veteran. The two solve crimes and track the mysterious worldwide criminal Moriarty. Each episode spans roughly an hour and a half, making them closer to movies than television episodes.

3. 'The Sopranos'

- IMDb user rating: 9.2
- Years on the air: 1999–2007

The Sopranos starred the late James Gandolfini as an Italian mob boss Tony Soprano, the head of a New Jersey crime family who has to deal with typical mafia issues. At the same time, he tries to be the head of his own household and understand the psychological issues plaguing him. With an impressive 112 Emmy nominations and 21 wins, this HBO drama ushered in the Golden Age of Television.

2. 'The Wire'

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years on the air: 2002–2008

Creator David Simon spent years as a journalist in Baltimore and made each season of The Wire reflect a different systemic ill that he saw in the city's fabric, from drugs, to politics, to a failing school system, to the disassembly of city newspapers and the shipping industry. A groundbreaking show for its breadth and realism, "The Wire" didn't earn many awards when it aired, but it is widely considered one of the greatest television shows in history.

Breaking Bad
Chelsea Lauren/WireImage/Getty Images

1. 'Breaking Bad'

- IMDb user rating: 9.5
- Years on the air: 2008–2013

When a cash-strapped high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer, he teams up with a former student to manufacture and distribute crystal meth in New Mexico. That's the underlying plot of Breaking Bad, although the show is much more than that. Bryan Cranston delivers the performance of a lifetime as lead character Walter White, and the show won universal acclaim, including two consecutive Outstanding Drama statues at the Primetime Emmys.