You are looking for your next binge-watch, but you are kind of sick of the same old thing? Give American TV a rest for a while and turn your attention to some of the excellent programming coming from the other side of the pond with our list of the 15 best British shows currently on Netflix.
British shows tend to be different in quite a few ways. In particular, series are shorter and rarely go on for 10 seasons. This means that we get story arcs that are meticulously planned from start to finish, and we never see our favorite characters get tired as writers try to squeeze another season out of them, or introduce new characters that we hate.
Netflix currently has a great range of British programming, with some of the best British TV shows of all time receiving a new audience via Netflix, as well as Netflix-BBC collaborations creating some exciting new content. In fact, Netflix has recently invested $500 million in British originals.
Not sure what to expect? Have you heard of a little show called The Crown? A new season is coming in November.
Black Mirror (2011-)
Inspired by the classic series The Twilights Zone, this is an anthology series with each episode set in an alternative present or near future. Most of the episodes have a dark tone and explore social and technological developments by pushing them to the extreme.
Created by Charlie Brooker, the show has received critical acclaim. It has also been highly experimental in its storytelling producing a “choose your own adventure” interactive episode called Bandersnatch.
This six-part BBC series is a British political thriller starring Keeley Hawes as the Home Secretary and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) as an ex British Army war veteran assigned to protect her.
But the relationship is not simple, as the Secretary supports policies that Madden’s character, who is suffering from PTSD, despises. It is an interesting commentary on the limits of government authority, and the effects of PTSD.
Silver screen actress Carey Mulligan turns her talent to TV in this four-part BBC police procedural series. She stars as an investigator looking into the murder of a pizza delivery driver, who uncovers a complex web of crime.
The British approach their procedurals very differently to Americans and the result is a strong, character-driven story. Things are never black and white, and there is rarely a clear-cut “bad guy”.
The Crown (2016-)
Without a doubt the most popular British show currently on Netflix, The Crown is a spin-off from the 2006 film The Queen, which told the story of Queen Elizabeth II during the death of Princess Diana.
The series goes back in time to take a deeper look at Her Majesty’s story. The first season tells the story of her marriage and the controversies around Princess Margaret, covering 1947-1955. The subsequent seasons each cover more or less another 10 year period in the queen’s life.
One of the pleasures of the show is watching some of our favorite actors take on these iconic characters. To date, we have seen Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman take on the titular role.
Doctor Foster (2015-2017)
This BBC drama has been incredibly popular with British audiences since it came out in 2015. It follows Dr Gemma Foster, played by Suranne Jones, who suspects that her husband is having an affair. She launches her own investigation to uncover the truth, but finds herself unraveling at the same time.
The story is inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Medea, a wronged woman who ends up killing her own children and her husband’s new bride in vengeance.
A Netflix and BBC collaboration, in this show Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat reimagine Dracula. In season one, we see the backstory of the vampire, played expertly by Claes Bang, who is shown as nothing less than a beast.
An encounter with Van Helsing, played by Dolly Wells, sees him sleeping for a hundred or so years and then emerging into a modern world. We get to see our current way of life interpreted through his brutal and old-world eyes. Can’t wait for season two!
The English Game (2020)
Soccer fans of the world rejoice. Julian Fellowes, the mastermind behind Downtown Abbey, has teamed up with Netflix to produce this six-part series about the origins of the world’s most popular sport.
Set in the 1870s, the sport was developed by the wealthy for their own entertainment. But, as a working-class star of the game emerges, the game must evolve and grow. It quickly starts to look like the spectacle that we know and love today.
In a British-Japanese collaboration produced by the BBC, a Japanese detective makes his way to London in search of his brother. While his brother is presumed dead for his role in the murder of a Yakuza, our protagonist believes that he is both alive and guilty.
Dealing with the unfamiliar world of London, our Tokyo detective teams up with a British counterpart to navigate his way. The dialogue of the show is delivered in both English and Japanese.
The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
This coming of age TV sitcom was must-watch TV back in the day when it aired on British terrestrial TV channel E4. It follows the misadventures of four average suburban teenagers in London, but with smart writing that provides situations that are funny and satirical, but don’t push too far into the ridiculous.
Prepare yourself for male bonding, lad culture, adolescent sexuality, and school staff that really couldn’t care less. There is a reason the show won the Audience Award at the BAFTAs in 2010.
Peep Show (2003-2015)
In the show that made David Mitchell a household name, he stars with Robert Webb as an odd couple living together in London. Mitchell’s character is a cynical and socially awkward man looking for someone to love, while Webb plays an irresponsible juvenile slacker who plagues his friend (think Chandler and Joey).
The show is entirely filmed as point-of-view shots, with the actors providing internal monologue voiceovers to help us get inside the characters’ heads. This show is so good that it became Channel 4’s longest-running comedy show of all time.
In this six-part Welsh drama produced for the BBC and Netflix, we meet Matilda, an accomplished cellist whose life is thrown into turmoil by the suicide of her mother. This pushes her to confront questions about her identity and her past that have long been suppressed.
Matilda embarks with her best friend on an investigation to discover her connection to a 20-year-old crime that seems to have obsessed her mother.
While most people have probably heard of Shameless thanks to the American remake, the original British series is now available on Netflix. While the character archetypes may be familiar from the US show, the story feels very different as it deals with a specifically British working-class culture.
Watch self-destructive and just downright selfish dad Frank Gallagher, played by David Threlfall, and his eldest daughter Fiona, played by Anne-Marie Duff, as she tries to hold the family together.
The show that made Benedict Cumberbatch a household name, he reimagines Sherlock Holmes for the modern-day, joined by Martin Freedman as an army veteran Dr Watson who stumbles into Holmes’ acquaintance.
The storylines are witty, the acting top-notch as our consulting detective turns his deductive reasoning on present-day crimes. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who also plays Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft).
Another British show that received an American remake, but the US version just didn’t recreate the magic of the original series. It follows a group of Bristol teenagers dealing with darker issues that we often see addressed in teen dramas, such as mental illness, substance abuse, and bullying.
Each episode focuses on a different character in the core group as we see what is going on “behind closed doors”. Many excellent young British actors got their start here, including Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel, and Kaya Scodelario.
Set in London in 1945 at the close of World War II, we follow a young woman, played by Emma Appleton, who is recruited by an American agency to identify Societ spies within the British Cabinet Office.
The show focuses on the kind of personal sacrifice and cunning that is required to play the game of espionage.
Not sure where to go next once you get through all these fantastic British shows? Continue exploring the international scene. Check out our list of the best Scandinavian crime series on Netflix, as well as our list of the best Brazilian shows that you can watch right now.