When you want to dive deep into mind-bending mysteries, consider venturing beyond the United States.
Americans love detective dramas, and this country has released quite a few good ones, but recently Scandinavia, the UK, and Europe have been producing some truly excellent shows.
These foreign detective shows demonstrate the differences in the justice systems between countries, and how investigations are conducted worldwide.
- Wallander (2005- 2013)
- Shetland (2013- Present)
- Y Gwyll/Hinterland (2013- 2016)
- Broadchurch (2013- 2017)
- Lupin (2021- Present)
- The Break (2016)
- The Fall (2013- 2016)
- Bordertown (2016- 2019)
- Midsomer Murders (1997- Present)
- Endeavour (2013- Present)
Wallander (2005- 2013)
Director: Stephan Apelgren
Starring: Krister Henriksson, Johanna Sällström
Where To Watch: Tubi, Amazon Prime, Vudu
Based on the expertly crafted novels by Henning Menkell, Wallander follows the eponymous detective as he investigates murders in the desolate area of Ystad.
Though he drinks too much to drown out his regrets, Wallander is one of the most effective detectives on the force for his sheer stubbornness and dedication to police work.
Shetland (2013- Present)
Director: Ann Cleeves
Starring: Douglas Henshall, Mark Bonnar
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu
Detective Jimmy Perez was born and bred in the islands of Shetland, Scotland. Crime is rare here, since everyone knows each other so well.
Despite that, Perez must deal with some bizarre and brutal cases, from neighbors turning against each other, to murderous outsiders looking to take advantage of the rural community.
Y Gwyll/Hinterland (2013- 2016)
Director: Ed Talfan
Starring: Richard Harrington, Mali Harries
Language: Welsh, English
Where To Watch: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime
Depending on which version of this show you watch, you can hear the actors speak in either Welsh or English, with no dubbing involved: the show specifically hired bilingual actors to film scenes twice.
Set in the town of Aberystwyth, DCI Mathias struggles to settle into such a small police station after working in Glasgow. Despite the atmosphere, there are plenty of strange murders to investigate.
Broadchurch (2013- 2017)
Director: Chris Chibnall
Starring: David Tennant, Olivia Coleman
Where To Watch: Netflix, Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime
Unlike most detective shows, Broadchurch focuses on one case over multiple episodes. Each season follows a different crime, as well as the steps the disagreeable detectives must follow to solve them.
Everyone is constantly in each other’s business in Broadchurch, England, which then leads to some serious problems within the dirty underbelly of this outwardly nice town.
Lupin (2021- Present)
Director: Marcela Said
Starring: Omar Sy, Ludivine Sagnier
Where To Watch: Netflix
Told from the criminal’s point-of-view rather than the detectives’, Lupin gives a new spin to the genre.
The camera catches both Lupin’s elaborate ruses to steal a very valuable necklace, and the police force’s continuous efforts to head him off.
The Break (2016)
Director: Matthieu Donck
Starring: Yoann Blanc, Sophie Breyer
Where To Watch: Netflix
Detective Peeters and his daughter Camille move to Brussels following his wife’s death. He takes a new job on the Belgian police force, while the family grieves and tries desperately to move on from the tragedy.
However, when a young man’s apparent suicide begins to look more and more like murder, Peeters must leave behind his grief to match wits with corrupt politicians—who will do anything to get what they want.
The Fall (2013- 2016)
Director: Allan Cubitt
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan
Where To Watch: Tubi, Peacock, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu
Set in Northern Ireland, this show follows a female detective brought in from London to help stop a serial killer.
Interestingly, The Fall doesn’t end once the criminal is caught: the trial is just as arduous to complete as the investigation.
Bordertown (2016- 2019)
Director: Miikko Oikkonen
Starring: Ville Virtanen, Anu Sinisalo
Where To Watch: Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime
Detective Inspector Sorjonen moves his family to a small town on the border of Finland and Russia, seeking a quieter life following his wife’s battle with cancer.
However, the area’s strange crimes quickly draw him back into his obsessive ways, as he struggles to both solve the case and be there for his family.
Midsomer Murders (1997- Present)
Director: Anthony Horowitz
Starring: John Nettles, Jane Wymark
Where To Watch: Tubi, Pluto TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
Unlike many depressing or tense detective shows, Midsomer Murders manages to be a feel-good show while still solving complex murders.
The main character, Detective Barnaby, is relaxed, amiable, and of a very rare breed: detectives who actually have good relationships with their families.
Endeavour (2013- Present)
Director: Russell Leis
Starring: Shaun Evans, Roger Allam
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu
Many fans of British mysteries know about Inspector Morse, but this series follows him as a younger man, working his way up the ranks in Oxford.
Though he often clashes with his superiors over proper procedures, Morse’s brilliance and unconventional methods usually help him solve the case before anyone else.
While America has plenty to offer in terms of quality detective shows, a quick trip to foreign shores proves good sleuths exist the world over.
The next time you’re craving some mystery, intrigue, or even courtroom drama, consider one of these foreign detectives shows for a change of pace.
The perfect jumping off point is everyone’s favorite foreign detective: Sherlock Holmes. From there, armchair detectives can explore the best true crime documentaries or some of the best most underrated films of all time.