British television is usually pretty easy to identify, as it comes with certain characteristics that make it inherently British. For one thing, the "series" are much shorter — between four and eight episodes typically — making for a much easier binge watching. The pacing is slower, the humor a little darker, and it often unfolds like a great novel.
This is why many of these great shows are brought over to Netflix and do so well with American viewers. From comedy to drama to sci-fi to crime thrillers, the British have a little bit of everything in their dynamic television. No laugh tracks here, and these television shows generally require more of your attention, especially when it comes to subtle details — again, like a great book.
We don't need to know much about British politics to enjoy these shows, and often, America attempts to remake them — to varying degrees of success. With so many options, what are the must watch British Netflix shows? Well, grab a few pints of your favorite British beer and binge these programs.
The Fall is one of the best psychological thriller's in recent memory, easily one of the must watch British Netflix shows. It stars Jamie Dornan as Paul Specter, one of the creepiest serial killers on television. Dornan's performance as Specter is captivating. Specter is a devoted husband and father, who is also a serial killer stalking the women of Belfast — all the while a British super detective played by Gillian Anderson is hot on his heels.
Anderson is terrific as Stella Gibson, a brilliant woman who gets involved in a game of cat-and-mouse with Specter. While she closes in on Specter, she has to deal with all the usual bullshit of her male dominated field — including an obsessive former lover who is also the police commissioner. This one is a ride till the very final frame.
A show about ruthless British gangsters featuring tons of great rock music from the White Stripes and Nick Cave, who wouldn't want to watch that? It takes place in Birmingham post WWI and is among the must watch British Netflix shows for a variety of reasons. It stars Cillian Murphy as a former soldier turned violent kingpin of the Shelby crime family.
Out to take his family down is a pious and cranky inspector played by Sam Neill. The show is named after how the Shelby clan sews razor blades into the bill of their caps, so when things get violent they surely turn bloody.
House of Cards
If you can't bare waiting for the next season of the American remake of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, satisfy your need for political bloodsport with the British original version. It came out in 1990, but is every bit as satisfying as the much lauded remake, definitely among the must watch British Netflix shows.
In typical English fashion, House of Cards gets dark in a hurry. As the Conservative Party whip in spiteful pursuit of the prime minister post he believes is rightfully his, Anderson minces neither words nor pleasantries, and is more ruthless than Frank Underwood ever even imagined of being. It's only one series, so it can — and should — be binged in a hurry.
Many people might not know that Hollywood A-lister Idris Elba is actually British, so it's fitting he stars in the criminally underrated Luther — one of the must watch British Netflix shows. Elba stars as a brilliant and depressed detective who tracks down serial killers in London, becoming obsessively consumed by each subsequent case.
Luther is about a man on the brink, and he is masterfully portrayed by Elba. He is a near genius level murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his own passions — it's a must watch.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes gets a modern makeover in the series that launched Benedict Cumberbatch to mainstream stardom. He is joined by his partner Watson, and the two solve bizarre crimes around 21st century London.
Sherlock doesn't stay tied to the old literature, and it very much goes its own way to often spectacular results. It's extremely fast paced, and features some of the best performances anywhere on television.
The Office stars Ricky Gervais as David Brent, a role that would later be made more famous by Steve Carrell as Michael Scott. While the original version is among the must watch British shows on Netflix, the American version is actually better — yes it is, get over it.
However, it was highly influential in its single camera, mockumentary style. The Office was very awkward, self-aware, and brutal in its petty day-to-day depictions of its hopeless workers. It's only two series, so both this and the American remake are more than worth watching.
While it used to have a pretty corny name (Scrotal Recall), Lovesick is that rare deeply satisfying rom-com. When Dylan learns he has an STD, he goes on a mission to inform all his past partners of his condition. While the show depicts Dylan's past sexual conquests, it's more about the relationship with his two friends.
One of these friends, Evie, might be turning into slightly more than a friend. It shows the uncomfortable gray area that can develop between love and friendship, a sort of will-they-won't-they thing. It's one of the must watch British Netflix shows because of the fresh take on an old and well-worn subject.
Black Mirror is a sci-fi anthology series that is darkly depressing but somehow extremely palatable. We are usually taken into the near or distant future, and given glimpses of how dire the dark side of technology can get.
Many of these episodes depict a very sad picture of humanity, and many episodes make you want to toss your phone and live completely off the grid. It's simultaneously disturbing and genius — one of the must watch British Netflix shows by a mile. Black Mirror is one of the most inventive shows on television, period.
For one of the greatest must watch British Netflix shows, Broadchurch is about the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town that brings a media frenzy, which threatens to tear the community apart at the seams. They find out that the small town is full of tons of dark secrets, in the same vain as Twin Peaks or The Killing.
The first series centers on the hunt for the boy's killer, while the second is on both the suspect’s trial and a reopened case from the past, but both are extremely heavy and poignant. Binge watchers beware, Broadchurch can be emotionally taxing, so treat each few episodes more like a few chapters of a great book — enjoy it slowly.