British crime dramas are, as you know, often pretty classy affairs. We know how to make a good whodunit in this country – and our police procedurals are usually top drawer as well. But when it comes to dramas seen from the criminal’s perspective? Gangster fare? We usually fall down somewhat and import those kinds of shows in from the States. Think The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire…
But that all changed the evening that Steven Knight’s mean and moody Midlands-set Peaky Blinders – his tale of the exploits of the notorious Black Country gang known as the Peaky Blinders, named for their propensity for stashing face-slashing razor blades in their peaked caps – first debuted on BBC Two back in 2013 and rocked British television.
Set in the aftermath of the Great War, the action follows the shell-shocked but hugely ambitious figure of Thomas Shelby (a perma-glowering Cillian Murphy) as he fights to make his family enterprise a criminal force to be reckoned with.
Stylish and violent gangster dramas set in 1920s Birmingham are a rare thing. But that doesn’t mean that fans of Peaky Blinders can’t seek solace in relatively similar TV entertainment when their favourite crime drama isn’t on.
We scoured the streaming service Netflix for half a dozen shows we just know that Shelby family fans will love. Here are six of the best shows like Peaky Blinders.
6 top Netflix UK shows like Peaky Blinders:
Godless might well be set a good three decades before and 7,000 miles away from the Peaky Blinders action, but there are plenty of parallels between the two programmes. Both are grim, uncompromising and often quite shockingly violent. Of course, the majority of main characters in both are male but, as with Steven Knight’s series, strong women prop this western series up too.
Voted by many critics as one of the TV shows of the year, Godless stars Jack O’Connell, Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery and Scoot McNairy, with Hollywood legend Steven Soderbergh on board as producer – all but guaranteeing quality.
IMDb rating: 8.5
The Making of the Mob
While the Shelby gang’s exploits were impressive (if ever-so-slightly exaggerated in the TV series about them), their Italian-American counterparts’ ‘achievements’ were mind-blowing. This half-dramatised/half-interview-led documentary series charts the rise of the mafia, from a few Sicilian old boys to vast criminal empire.
Led by the Machiavellian figure of Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano and his gang of famous mob names including Meyer Lansky, Vito Genovese and Bugsy Siegel, we see how the mob in New York City came to be in season one. And, with the likes of Johnny Torrio and the infamous tax-dodger (and racketeer) Alphonse Gabriel Capone at the forefront, the second run charts the history of organised crime in Chicago.
The drama is well acted, but it’s the fascinating first-hand insight from former mob guys, police chiefs and politicians that really sets this series apart.
IMDb rating: 7.9
This story of a hulking antihero from Native American stock who stomps about in colonial times arguing the toss about American borders might sound more Taboo than Peaky Blinders, but bear with us here. With both of those British shows featuring a gruff n’ tough Tom Hardy and being set in the past, they’re actually not too dissimilar. Besides, we think there’s enough machismo and intrigue in this Canadian drama starring Jason Momoa to more than satisfy fans of the Brum crimer.
IMDb rating: 7.2
Historia de un Clan
Crime? Check. Crime as the family business? Check. Set in the past? Check. Based on a true story? Check.
Put simply, if you like Peaky Blinders, you should be a big fan of History of the Clan. It’s based on the real-life naughtiness of the Puccios, a family that used to kidnap for ransom back in 1980’s Argentina.
Weirdly, when this season debuted on TV in 2015, a film based on the Puccio family called The Clan was released. Both are now available on Netflix – and both are excellent.
IMDb rating: 7.8
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
On the surface, this Australian series about a glamorous private detective might not seem particularly well suited as a recommendation to a Blinderphile. But if you set aside the violence and glum faces, there’s plenty of overlap and plenty more besides to enjoy.
The first similarity? Well, it’s set in the same time period. There’s plenty of murdering afoot in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries too. The Babadook’s Essie Davis is the eponymous character, a flapper who knows a bad guy when she sees one. And how to go about catching one.
It may be a little more restrained than Peaky Blinders, but this is damn fine entertainment nonetheless.
IMDb rating: 8.4
Our final pick isn’t a drama – it’s a short documentary series that originally aired on the National Geographic Channel back in 2010. It only features three episodes, but each 45 minute-long slice of crime really goes into the nitty-gritty of how organised crime helps shape some of the UK’s biggest cities.
Unfortunately, the home city of the Shelbys doesn’t feature in the trio, but the other UK heavyweights of Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester are profiled. We learn how a tough mob of armed robbers, drug traffickers, safeblowers, pimps, hitmen and thugs thrived back in the old days. And continue to rule the streets now.
IMDb rating: Unrated
Hooked on any shows like Peaky Blinders? Let us know in the comments below…