The best crime TV shows of 2019

best crime tv shows 2019

2018 was a pretty incredible year for crime dramas on the ol’ idiot box. So much so that this year must have felt pretty intimidated by the prospect of having to live up to it. Yet somehow these past twelve months didn’t let us down.

From Hackney to New York City – via Dublin, Atlanta, Vienna and even Swindon – TV crime dramas unloaded a full clip at us this year. The culprits? There were plenty of guilty parties including the BBC, ITV, Showtime, HBO, Netflix and Amazon Prime…

Here’s our pick of the best crime TV shows of 2019.

The best crime TV shows of 2019:

top tv dramas of 2019

Top Boy

Screenwriter Ronan Bennett’s gritty East London series first wowed viewers on Channel 4 back in 2011. It starred rappers Ashley Walters (Asher D from So Solid Crew) and Kane Robinson (solo artist Kano) in the lead roles as two drug-dealing gangsters scheming and dreaming big on their Hackney council estate.

A total of eight episodes aired on TV across 2011 and 2013. Yet while it was critically acclaimed and got decent viewing figures, no third series was commissioned. Until a somewhat unlikely figure emerged to champion the drama and convinced Netflix to come up with a brand new ten-part series… Canadian superstar Drake.

Cut to 2019 and Top Boy was back and arguably better than ever. Easily binged in a single weekend, this third run could well be the standout crime drama of the year. There’s plenty to love about it, but the best thing about Top Boy? Kano. The industry needs to give that man some awards. And lots of them.

IMDb rating: 8.3

Ray Donovan series 7

Now firmly established in the Big Apple and starting to get his life back together after the death of his wife Abby, fixer Ray and his motley crew of Donovans returned to our screens in November of this year. Lucky for fans of the series, the quality, as it never does, hasn’t slipped.

This seventh series differs from past ones in that Ray is trying to be a better man for, amongst others, his daughter Bridget. He’s still a rough, gruff and tough South Boston fella at heart, but he’s at least trying to shake off his baser, more unreconstructed nature. He still punches people out, though. It’s just that now he just apologises for it afterwards.

IMDb rating: 8.3

crime tv shows 2019

A Confession

Wiltshire might not seem like an obvious setting for one of the year’s most memorable crime dramas, but when you base something on a real-life case, you don’t get much choice on location. Not that the humble town of Swindon held A Confession back at all. This ITV six-parter was truly excellent.

A Confession tells the unfortunately all too true story of Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher – played with impressive restraint by Martin Freeman – and the controversy surrounding the confession he got out of the killer of Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards.

This mature and thought-provoking drama came from the keyboard of the acclaimed and award-winning screenwriter Jeff Pope, the man behind such other real-life dramas as Pierrepoint, See No Evil: The Moors Murders and Little Boy Blue and was something of a sleeper hit for the third channel.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 7.5

best tv of 2019

Killing Eve series 2

Anyone who watched the first series of Killing Eve – which should be all of you by now – will have had pretty high hopes for series 2. Luckily for everyone, they were not to be left disappointed.

Okay, okay, so the middle of the run sagged a little and couldn’t quite hit the set piece highs we enjoyed in the maiden outing. Yet still, series 1 writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s absence was barely felt across these latest eight episodes of murder, mayhem and mania.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 8.3

Line of Duty series 5 episode 1

Line of Duty series 5

Everyone knows what to expect from AC-12 by now, don’t they? We may be some five series into Jed Mercurio’s water-cooler series, but the anticipation, hysteria and hype shows no sign of abating just yet.

Was series 5 the best yet? No, probably not. Was it still twisting, turning fun that had everyone guessing until the last moments? Absolutely. Throw a predictably excellent special guest star appearance in from the ever-reliable Stephen Graham and – yet again – we had pure TV gold.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 8.6

best crime drama of the year

True Detective series 3

After a somewhat disappointing second series, Nic Pizzolatto’s brooding darkness of a crime thriller wisely decided to go back to its roots for the latest season. It may not have ever hit the creeping occult-tinged weirdness of 2014’s cult hit of a first series, but it sure came close.

True Detective’s third series has a plot not unlike a huge swathe of other TV dramas. We’ve seen police investigations into the seemingly ritualistic murders of children aplenty of late, but it was the performances here that set this apart. Mahershala Ali isn’t an Oscar winner for nothing, Carmen Ejogo flexes her acting muscles at will and a cameo from Michael Rooker catches the eye. But it’s Stephen Dorff who truly impresses here. This is a serious return to form.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 9.0

crime tv shows 2019

Dublin Murders

You know what we were just saying about crime dramas centred around police investigations into the seemingly ritualistic murders of children? Well, you can count Dublin Murders among the horde. Yet this adaptation of Tana French’s first two Dublin Murder Squad books is far from run of the mill.

As much a whodunit murder mystery as an exploration of identity, trauma and the idea of facing up to the past, the two central performances from Sarah Greene and Killian Scott here elevate Dublin Murders from excellent to unmissable. So, that said… make sure you don’t miss it. It’s still on iPlayer for a limited time and is available on DVD. Expect it to appear on a streaming service soon enough.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 7.1

best tv drama of the year

Big Little Lies series 2

Instead of veering off into new territory, this worthy follow-up to the first series, based on the book by Liane Moriarty acts as more of a continuation and resolution (of sorts) of the original storyline.

The talent on show here is nothing short of incredible. Joining Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Adam Scott and Zoë Kravitz here is none other than the Queen of Hollywood herself, Meryl Streep.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 8.5

best crime drama of 2019

Criminal

Criminal is a police procedural that consists of four unique three-part series. You can choose from a British, German, French or Spanish version, or watch all twelve parts in their different languages.

All Criminal instalments are set in a police interview room, giving the piece an almost play-like feel. We’re treated to flashbacks and shots outside on occasion, though.

The UK version stars David Tennant and is more than decent, but isn’t quite the best of the bunch. If you only watch one of the quartet, make it Frédéric Mermoud’s Criminal: France.

IMDb rating: 7.5 (UK version)

Mindhunter series 2

While it never quite hits the heady heights of the previous season, these latest nine episodes of Netflix’s crime thriller, based on the excellent book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E Douglas and Mark Olshaker, is still top drawer television.

This series’ ultimate destination is the profiling and arrest of the man behind the shocking real-life case of the Atlanta Child Murders, Wayne Williams. Along the way, it stops in to pay visits to, amongst others, Charles Manson and David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz.

As ever, the pacing and tone of Mindhunter means that casual viewers could see it as veering close to staid or even a little dull. But invest in the thing, read up on the murderers they deal with and it’s a fascinating insight into the psychopathic mind.

IMDb rating: 8.6

crime tv shows 2019

Vienna Blood

It’s about as subtle as an apple strudel in the face, but this Austro-British BBC production, an adaptation of Frank Tallis’ first three Max Liebermann novels, is still quite brilliantly fun to experience.

Sumptuous, lively, funny and full of twists, the action takes places in 1900’s Vienna and sees a brusque inspector teamed up with a whip-smart young doctor who’s trying to get forensic psychology and Freudian thinking into police handbooks.

It’s a buddy cop series at heart, despite its lush costumes and whodunitry. Think Mindhunter meets Sherlock, by way of Tango & Cash. Always dangerously close to silly territory, Vienna Blood somehow manages to constantly avoid it, just leaving the viewer firmly in Entertainmentland.

There are only three episodes, but each is feature length. Seek them out on iPlayer now if you’re yet to catch one.

IMDb rating: 7.3

crime tv shows 2019

The Bay

So it’s basically just Broadchurch set in Morecambe… That doesn’t mean it’s not tightly plotted, brilliantly performed and gripping stuff.

Morven Christie’s DS Lisa Armstrong might not be the most likeable character you’ll watch on the telly, but it’s that side of her that makes her a realistic lead. We’ll be seeing more of her too when The Bay returns to ITV for a second series soon.

Read our reviews of the series here.

IMDb rating: 6.8

Too Old to Die Young

To some, this Nicolas Winding Refn project is one of the most incredible television spectacles ever seen. To others, it’s nonsensical, self indulgent, arthouse guff. This ten-part study in surrealism breaks all the rules of television and in unashamedly brazen style. Love it or hate it, you have to admire how this neon nightmare somehow manages to evoke nostalgia while feeling simultaneously modern and yet futuristic at the same time.

If you like the idea of Drive spliced with Twin Peaks and Sicario, directed by a mescalin-pumped Michael Mann and edited into a moving, blood-splattered Edward Hopper painting, Too Old to Die Young is for you. If you don’t? Probably give this a swerve.

IMDb rating: 7.4

What a year for crime drama fans. Can next year somehow manage to top 2019? It’s a tough ask, but we wouldn’t bet against it.

Have we missed any of the best TV crime shows of 2019? What would make your list? Let us know in the comments below…

Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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1 Comment

  1. Nicole says

    Seen them all! TOTDY took me a while to get into despite how stylish it is, but it was worth it!