10 Great TV Mystery and Crime Shows

I’m a huge fan of mystery and crime shows on TV. And today I want to share some of my favorites from over the years and ask you to share some of your favorites as well (as mystery lovers are always up for meeting a new sleuth).

Here are ten of the best television mystery and crime shows, based on personal favorites. It would be impossible for me to watch every crime show that has ever been created, so there is of course a subjective nature to this list. These are also English language shows. I highly encourage you to leave a comment below to share your favorite in your own native language. I love international films, and would love to find some good international mystery and crime series as well.

The following mystery and crime TV shows are listed in alphabetical order and include links to videos from the studios releasing them or other licensed sites when possible. Some videos linked to are available legally for free, and others require a subscription (such as Netflix). Where linking to online videos was not possible, I have attempted to find video clips for illustration purposes to give you a better idea of the series.

1. Columbo

This Peter Falk series is a classic detective show. You would think with so many arrests under his belt, criminals would stop underestimating him. But they don’t.

WATCH VIDEOS (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

2. Criminal Minds

I consider Criminal Minds to be one of the best-written crime dramas currently on TV. Why? Because it legitimately strikes fear in me when I watch it sometimes — more so than horror movies designed to do just that. It makes the risk feel much more real than other crime shows do.

3. CSI

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation isn’t a show I regularly follow anymore after several cast changes. But you have to give it credit for making a new generation interested in the forensic side of solving crimes.

WATCH VIDEOS (CBS.com – free latest episodes)

4. Dexter

Dexter is a crime show that took me a little while to warm up to. But I couldn’t get over the clever premise of a serial killer who kills other killers. It was unique and turned out to be a great show.


5. Diagnosis Murder

If you like cozy-style mysteries and you watch more modern medical mystery shows (like House), you should give Diagnosis Murder a try. It’s a nice mix of drama and humor, and you really can’t go wrong with Dick Van Dyke.

6. Law and Order

Here’s another classic crime drama, and a recently ended TV series. I’ve always loved the way L&O episodes split their focus between solving the crimes and prosecuting the cases. It’s almost like getting two shows in one.

WATCH FULL EPISODES (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

7. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

This Law and Order spinoff is often referred to as the best series in the Law and Order franchise. Dealing with special victims (such as sex crime and violence against children), this series can be a bit more emotional than most.

WATCH FULL EPISODES (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

8. Miss Marple

Any serious mystery lover knows who Agatha Christie is. And her cozies are always fun to watch, and they make for some of the best British mystery shows around. Miss Marple is one popular series based on her books.

</param ></param >

Watch Miss Marple: The Pale Horse Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

9. Monk

I loved the character of Monk more than the show. Tony Shaloub plays quirky and obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk in this series.

WATCH FULL EPISODES (Hulu+ – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

10. Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury, is my all-time favorite mystery TV series. That may be because I also earn a living as a writer like her character does (she’s a mystery novelist), and I happen to be branching into writing mystery fiction now myself. That said, it’s just a casual fun mystery series that I can watch over and over again.

WATCH Full Episodes (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

11. NCIS

I watched NCIS on the recommendation of family members even though military crime didn’t particularly interest me. And I fell in love with it. It’s a serious, but still fun, series and has a great team of actors on board that keep it interesting.

12. Poirot

The Poirot series is another British mystery series based on Agatha Christie’s novels. They’re slower than a lot of more popular current shows, but if you’re interested in a great story, these shouldn’t be missed.


13. Psych

After Murder, She Wrote, Psych is my favorite crime-related television show. I consider it the best-written modern crime series on TV right now. This one involves more comedy than most and it’s the only show around guaranteed to leave me laughing every time I watch.

WATCH OLDER EPISODES (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

*Note: When new episodes resume, you can often watch them for a limited time for free at Hulu.com.

14. Quincy, M.E.

If you like forensic-based shows like CSI, you should definitely check out Quincy, M.E. This was an early show based upon a character that is a medical examiner and without it we might not have some of the similar modern shows we love today.


15. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was a short-lived series, but earned both critical acclaim and a cult fan following. If you can’t get enough of the series, they also filmed a prequel movie (although that didn’t go over quite as well with fans).

WATCH OLDER EPISODES (Netflix – Paid subscription – Must be logged in to access)

I know there are countless other mystery and crime shows out there, and I love learning about new ones (or just “new to me” ones). If you’re a fan of the genre, I bet you do too. So why not leave a comment below and tell us about some other great mysteries and crime shows and why you love them?

Written by
Jennifer Mattern
Join the discussion

  • I love your top 10 of Tv mystery and crime shows, I even approve the order you arrange them, but I would add another epic TV series- namely X-Files. I am a passionate fan of the show since a teenager and I think the extraterestrial plot was more than breath-taking.

    • The X-files was one of the best shows ever. I was about 12 or so when it first came out and ony recently rewatched the whole series. Watching it now I noticed so many little things I didn’t notice then, the chemistry between Mulder and Scully was amazing. Really was a great show.

  • Criminal Minds and NCIS are the best crime series. I am a fan of such TV mysteries and crime shows too. Their plots are interesting and provide deep analysis of the crimes.

  • Ive watched bits and pieces of some of those shows all of psych im a big fan of mystery detective shows just finished one called Life check it out think you might like it. This list has given me a few new ones to check out so thank you and if you like comedy detective shows try out The Good Guys also a good one and a more serious but funny one White Collar.

    • White Collar is one of my newer favorites. My husband and I actually missed the last two episodes. We caught up on one last night, and can’t wait to watch the latest one tonight finally. That’s another great example from USA (they’re very good at mixing drama with comedy and finding actors with great chemistry). 🙂

  • One I’ve only found recently but was out in 2005 was The Inside. Agent Seaver from Criminal Minds is the lead in it. It’s really good and quite similar case-wise to Criminal Minds. There’s only 1 season which is such a shame as it was a really good show. I highly recommend it.

  • Breakout Kings, castle 2009, The Mentalist, Sherlock, Person.of.Interest, Numb3rs, Elementary, dexter.
    And not to forget one of the greatest versions of a serial killer ive seen Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal.

  • homeland . bones. rizzolo and isles. castle. the killing ad rouge ! as well as the previously mentioned criminal minds NCIS

  • THE MENTALIST! Oh my gosh, the best!! All time favorite.. My favorite thing about it is that the main character picks apart subtle things that happen throughout the show to show you how to murderer is the murder based on clues, the way they answer questions.. so on and so far. Like the ultimate profiler, when I read about Criminal Minds and how it is all profiling, I gave it a chance because of my love for the mentalist.

  • OMGosh I STILL watch and re-watch PERRY MASON. I own all of the seasons and I just can’t get enough! He is definitely one of a kind-so smooth, intelligent, charming, clever-Love him 🙂