15 Most Loved Crime Shows of the 21st Century

Why has crime become one of the most common and favored genres in a television series? It is human nature to be curious about criminal behaviors and want to know the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘where’ of criminal acts. Humans, for a long period of time, have been trying to study criminals to better understand how they think.

Many shows have given a deeper insight into what might make criminals tick and possible reasons why they’ve chosen to commit heinous acts. While some best crime series focus on the criminals themselves, others show the investigative side of crime; catching the criminals. From an extensive list of brilliant crime shows to select from, there are some that have stood out as the most loved crime shows of the 21st Century.

Updated on March 20, 2023, by Hannah Saab:

With the continued success of popular crime TV shows like Fargo (renewed for a fifth season) and Peaky Blinders (confirmed to have a feature-length film coming out in 2024), it’s clear that some series have made a huge impact on both audiences and critics alike over the past few years. There are more than a few beloved and binge-worthy crime series that fans of the genre can choose from.


15 ‘Money Heist’ (2017 – 2021)


It’s hard to imagine that one of the most popular crime shows ever made, Money Heist, almost never became an international hit. On the verge of being canceled by the Spanish network Antena 3, Netflix acquired rights for the series that goes on to become a massive hit around the world.

The series chronicles a group of well-written characters led by The Professor (Álvaro Morte) as they infiltrate and steal from financial institutions. The show became a global phenomenon, with fans everywhere singing their own versions of “Bella ciao” and wearing the Dali masks from the series. Money Heist has won numerous accolades and even inspired a South Korean adaptation (Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area) and a Netflix spin-off series (Berlin).

Watch on Netflix

14 ‘Broadchurch’ (2013 – 2017)


Although Broadchurch only ran for three seasons, they were enough to prove its worthiness as one of the best crime drama shows of the 21st Century. The story follows a murder investigation of an 11-year-old Danny Latimer (Oskar McNamara), led by D.I Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and D.S Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman).

Broadchurch was able to turn what seems like an ordinary murder-mystery plot line into something with much substance. It was able to tie in everything seamlessly; the everyday struggles of police detectives and their imperfections, the grief of losing a loved one, and the inevitability of trust and betrayal.

Watch on Prime Video

13 ‘Pushing Daisies’ (2007 – 2009)

Lee Pace as Ned and Anna Friel as Chuck in Pushing Daisies
Image via Warner Bros. Television

Aside from being a legendary comedy-drama, Pushing Daisies is also a fantastic crime series that follows Ned (Lee Pace), a pie-maker who can bring dead things to life just by touching them. Alongside the PI Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) and his colleague Olive Snook (Kristin Chenoweth), Ned begins to use his unique skill to solve murder cases.

Balancing wit, humor, and a wholly unique premise, Pushing Daisies is still a must-see show nearly two decades since it first aired. It never takes itself too seriously, but also manages to get viewers invested in its characters’ stories. It’s unfortunate that it ends on a notoriously frustrating unresolved TV cliffhanger that fans are still discussing to this day.

Watch on HBO Max

12 ‘Hannibal’ (2013 – 2015)


Despite its brief three-season run and being canceled by NBC due to low viewership, Hannibal has been dubbed one of the greatest but most underrated shows of all time. The complex dynamic between criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and psychiatrist (and cannibal) Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) makes a strong foundation for the series.

There are high expectations in reinventing classic characters such as Hannibal. But the show developer, Bryan Fuller, and the production team have successfully executed their stylized reinterpretation of Hannibal with incredible performances from the actors. Hannibal is one of the best versions of the story that has been nominated for and won awards from Emmy Awards, Saturn Awards, and Critics’ Choice Television Awards, solidifying its status as one of the best crime TV shows ever.

Watch on Hulu

11 ‘Ozark’ (2017 – 2022)

Ozark Wendy and Marty close together

Ozark quickly became part of the most renowned crime drama TV shows after its release, eventually earning a whopping total of 45 Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Directed by and starring Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde alongside Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde, the show depicts the couple’s move with their children to the Lake of the Ozarks after a violent encounter with a drug cartel.

Soon, Marty and Wendy become successful criminals, finding new and creative ways to outsmart the cartel they’re supposed to be working for. It’s a riveting series with excellent character transformations, most notably Ozark local Ruth Langmore‘s storyline, which earned Julia Garner three wins for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

Watch on Netflix

10 ‘Mindhunter’ (2017 – 2019)

Holden Ford holds a crime scene photo while bill tench observes. courtesy netflix

It is natural for anyone to be fascinated by the nature of crime and the criminals behind them. Viewers want to understand how criminals think or why they choose to commit their crimes. It is one of the reasons why Mindhunter – one of the best crime TV series of all time – is a marvel at exploring the psychology behind the minds of the world’s most notorious criminals.

Instead of the typical treatment criminals get in which they are viewed as wild and irrational, two FBI agents (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) interview them and try to understand them as humans. This lends a more intense and realistic atmosphere to the series, which also dramatizes real-life serial killers like Edmund Kemper and Charles Manson.

Watch on Netflix

9 ‘Dexter’ (2006 – 2013)


Unquestionably among the best crime drama series, Dexter is a massively popular crime-drama show centered on the titular character (played by Michael C. Hall) who is a forensic technician with a knack for bloodstain pattern analysis. He’s also a vigilante serial killer who goes after murderers he feels have evaded justice.

Its dark humor and surprisingly charming protagonist have kept audiences hooked and asking for more. Despite its lackluster follow-up in the form of the miniseries, Dexter: New Blood, the original show maintains its status as one that is beloved by its loyal fanbase.

Watch on Showtime

8 ‘Peaky Blinders’ (2013 – 2022)

The Peaky Blinders gang in Peaky Blinders

British crime drama series Peaky Blinders has been universally acclaimed due to its originality and shining a light on English history rarely explored on television. The gangster drama’s stylish cinematography and impressive costumes never fail to amuse the audience – it’s what makes the series look like every aspect has been meticulously thought out.

The series has made a huge cultural impact in the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in 2018, the name Arthur became the top ten boys’ names for the first time since the 1920s, and likewise with the name Ada, which was included in the girls’ top 100 names for the first time in a hundred years. These two names are inspired by Peaky Blinders characters, Arthur Shelby Jr. (Paul Anderson) and Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle).

Watch on Netflix

7 ‘Better Call Saul’ (2015 – 2022)

Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul

Some have argued that in many aspects, the spin-off prequel Better Call Saul, is a better-made series compared to Breaking Bad and that it is one of the best prequels ever made. Some users on Reddit, for instance, have argued that Jimmy McGill (Saul Goodman) is a more relatable “protagonist” compared to Walter White (Bryan Cranston).

The best Better Call Saul episodes are also recognized for having more distinct storylines compared to Breaking Bad, as it delves into each main character’s intriguing arc. Knowing Jimmy’s ultimate fate also stimulates a high level of curiosity among the viewers. Questions of “how did Jimmy/Saul end up there?” constantly hang above their heads.

Watch on Netflix

6 ‘Fargo’ (2014 – )

Martin Freeman in Fargo season 1

Fargo is based on the 1996 film of the same name and is set in the same fictional universe. What makes Fargo unique is its ability to perfectly blend the genres of crime and dark comedy into one seamless genre.

The series has won 51 out of 228 award nominations, including 18 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, followed by an additional 27 Creative Arts Emmy Awards (for technical or other similar achievements). Others include 10 Golden Globe Awards, 14 Critics’ Choice Television Awards, and 44 Online Film and TV Association Awards nominations.

Watch on Hulu

5 ‘True Detective’ (2014 – 2019)

Image via HBO

True Detective is an anthology crime television series that ran for three seasons between 2014 and 2019. The first season follows a murder investigation led by two homicide detectives, “Marty” Hart (Woody Harrelson) and “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey). True Detective changed things up a little in the second season by casting a woman as one of the leading detectives, Rachel McAdams. She stars alongside Colin Farrell who played Detective “Ray” Velcoro. Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff play the leading detectives of the third season.

While all seasons of True Detective have received praise, the first season, in particular, has been named the best season out of the three. The chemistry shared between detectives Harrelson and McConaughey, followed by a strong plot line and characterizations, made it an impeccable season.

Watch on HBO Max

4 ‘The Wire’ (2002 – 2008)

two men sitting on a capo

First aired in 2002, The Wire never won a Primetime Emmy nor any significant awards and was referred to as an Emmy snub. It only received average ratings but as time has progressed, the show is now commonly cited as one of the best television programs ever made. Many have praised the show’s accuracy in its rare depiction of the failure of local institutions and its subsequent domino effect on poverty in an urban population (urban inequality).

The Wire’s accuracy has inspired universities such as the University of York to study the social topics explored in the program. University of York’s Head of Sociology, Roger Burrows, said the show “makes a fantastic contribution to their understanding of contemporary urbanism.”

Watch on HBO Max

3 ‘Sherlock’ (2010 – 2017)


Often cited alongside the best detective shows of all time, Sherlock is an award-winning crime-drama TV series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes detective stories. It’s centered on the misadventures Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) experience within and around their iconic home in London, 221B Baker Street.

Aside from winning a Peabody Award in 2011, the show has also received numerous Emmy Awards and has become a global hit, even launching a mobile app called Sherlock: The Network. It remains one of the most well-known and successful depictions of the legendary detective on the small screen.

Watch on Crackle

2 ‘The Sopranos’ (1999 – 2007)

Tony and his Crew

Despite its first release in 1999, most of The Sopranos ran in the 21st Century until its conclusion in 2007. It follows the journey of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who explores his struggles of balancing family life and his role as a mafia leader during his therapy sessions with psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

There are many reasons why The Sopranos has often been described as the greatest show of all time (and one of the best crime shows ever made). Despite Tony’s role in the series as a leader of a criminal organization, he is, like everyone else, struggling with his identity and between good and evil. The Sopranos is credited with its technical excellence in different aspects such as music, cinematography, and its openness to explore difficult subjects such as gender roles, mental health, and Italian-American culture.

Watch on HBO Max

1 ‘Breaking Bad’ (2008 – 2013)

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Image via AMC

Breaking Bad has often been dubbed as the greatest television show ever made. Many shows rely on plot twists that will shock their audience to the core – but that’s not the case with Breaking Bad. The show’s writing is unique because it allows everything to happen at a slower pace, by recognizing the importance of character building and development and makes it less confusing for the audience. But the brilliant script can only be supported by incredible performances, especially from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, and the complexity of their relationship. Similar to its spin-off prequel Better Call Saul, the attention to detail in Breaking Bad is second to none.

Unlike other series which don’t know when to stop, Breaking Bad ended the series at the perfect length and at the right time. The series finale “Felina” has also been deemed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest series finale ever made. Breaking Bad is rated an incredible 9.5/10 on IMDb and 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Watch on Netflix

NEXT:The Highest-Rated TV Episodes on IMDb

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Written by Bilesha News

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