Last Updated: September 13th
The best British series spark innumerable remakes here in America, while the UK seems to only want our reality television. They work well as binge-able Netflix series as long as you’re willing to focus a little bit more than usual, but with the fewer number of episodes, just look at how many series you can get through in one sitting! Thankfully, the streaming service has a wide variety to choose from, from crime thrillers to absurd comedy. So sit back with a pint and enjoy the 15 best British shows on Netflix right now.
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
The UK’s most popular new drama has made its way across the pond. The procedural thriller stars Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden as David Budd, a military vet turned police officer tasked with protecting a high-profile politician during a, particularly dicey time. There’s plenty of suspense and action to string you along, coupled with a vulnerable performance by Madden, who ditches his King of the North swagger to play a man conflicted by his past and his present duty to his country.
6 seasons, 52 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
In the early 2010s, you couldn’t have a conversation about favorite TV shows without someone in your friend group mentioning Downton Abbey. The British series about the inner workings of an aristocratic English family and their manner full of servants became the biggest thing to invade America from across the pond since The Beatles. Watching the crusty Crawley family navigate historic events like the sinking of the Titanic and the First World War while their servants dealt in gossip, intrigue, and scandal below stairs was as entertaining and juicy as any good British drama should be.
4 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
At once intimate and sweeping, The Crown presents an inside view of the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II, played by Claire Foy, and the first few years of her reign. John Lithgow is featured as the indomitable Winston Churchill, struggling with the ignominy of age at the end of his career. Churchill’s support and mentorship of Elizabeth, despite his limitations, creates an important emotional center around which various historical events turn. Elizabeth’s relationship with her husband, Prince Phillip (Matt Smith) is also wonderfully explored; his role as consort is one that he by turns delights in and rebels against. The production spared no expense in painstakingly recreating the physical environments and rigid protocols that constrained and defined the royal family. The challenges posed by modernity and the post-colonial period are filtered through the Palace’s political structure, in which despite her role, Elizabeth’s personal needs and wishes are continually subsumed to protocol and appearance. This series will appeal to anyone who enjoys costume drama, but it is also a fascinating exploration of the post-WWII period and the development of a monarch who managed to maintain and even expand the popularity and stability of the British Monarchy against significant odds.
3 seasons, 22 episodes | IMDb: 8.1/ 10
There’s a reason why not many people have seen or even heard of this show, and it’s not just because of its original name. Lovesick isn’t groundbreaking as a dramedy, but it works because of its nonlinear storytelling and its realistic portrayal of that awkward grey area that can form between love and friendship. After Dylan learns that he has an STD, he’s forced to pass along the diagnosis to his past sexual relationships. Each episode is then a snippet of Dylan’s life along with those of his two best friends, Luke and Evie (played by Antonia Thomas, a recognizable face to Misfits fans). While chronicling Dylan’s sexual past, Lovesick really depicts the ever-changing feelings between Dylan and Evie. It’s a simple rom-com depicted in a refreshing way with an even blend of comedy, heart, and chlamydia.
5 seasons, 22 episodes + 1 special | IMDb: 8.8/10
To call Black Mirror bleak is a bit of an understatement, but that’s what makes the sci-fi anthology so intriguing. In each episode, we’re given glimpses into the future or near-future where our attention- and soul-sucking technology has run amuck. Some plots may be more feasible than others, but each story is chilling in its own way and makes you want to shut your computer screen. (It may seem counter-productive for Netflix to produce episodes for a show that offers grim looks at tech, but maybe that’s why the Netflix-produced seasons have a few more happy endings.) It’s an Outer Limits for the digital generation, driven by series creator Charlie Brooker’s strong ideas — ones that could dissolve any hope you have left for the future or humanity, in the most entertaining way possible.
3 seasons, 18 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
This popular British crime series first debuted across the pond in 2013. The show, about the crime-ridden neighborhood of the Summerhouse estate, quickly put out to short series before it was dropped by Channel 4. It wasn’t until earlier this year, when Drake (yes, that Drake) expressed interest in rebooting the series with the main cast returning that Netflix decided to give it a third season, one that picks up with Dushane and Sully (two former bros and drug dealers) as they return to Summerhouse to take on a new kingpin.
The End of the F***ing World
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
The End of the F***ing World is a dark-black comedy based on the comic series by Charles S. Forsman about James (Alex Lawther), a withdrawn and disturbed 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath, and his burgeoning Bonnie & Clyde-like relationship with Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a classmate damaged by a dysfunctional family. Written by Charlie Covell and directed by Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak, the series’ is akin to a high school version of True Romance, about two deeply troubled, misanthropic teenagers who find comfort in one another and who are willing, if necessary, to perpetrate crimes to maintain their relationship. Boasting a stellar soundtrack, magnificent performances, and a binge-worthy runtime, The End of the F***ing World is a bleakly funny series, but it’s also deeply, soul-achingly romantic.
The Last Kingdom
4 seasons, 36 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
If Vikings and epic battle and political intrigue are your thing then you’ll like this medieval series about a Saxon lord striving to reclaim his birthright as England unites against a Danish invasion. Alexander Dreymon plays Uhtred, a Saxon-born, Viking raised warrior who finds himself torn between two worlds as he fights to help an English king rule over the continent and wrestles with his true nature. There’s a colorful cast of supporting characters (some historical figures you might recognize), but what this show does well is its action, giving fans gritty, realistic warfare that feels just as exciting as any CGI showdown.
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Following in the footsteps of Nick Kroll’s Big Mouth, this British teem comedy is committed to exploring all of the cringe-worthy, taboo topic associated with sex, just not in animated form. The series follows a mother-son duo navigating their way through those uncomfortable “talks.” Of course, the mother here happens to be a sex therapist named Dr. Jean Milburn (a terrific Gillian Anderson) and her son Otis (Asa Butterfield) is the kid enduring her overbearing tendencies at home while doling out sex advice of his own in an underground sex therapy ring amongst his friends. Sex is a comedy goldmine, and although the show loves to play up ’80s high-school tropes, there’s real nuance and thought that goes into how these teens are portrayed and their interactions with sex. Plus, Anderson’s comedic timing is spot-on.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.4/10
The first creation to come from Netflix’s partnership with prolific TV show creator Shonda Rhimes is this Regency Era romance series that flouts tradition and goes all-in on sex, fashion, and instrumental covers of today’s biggest pop hits. It’s a bit campy, but the talent of its fairly unheard-of cast (especially leads Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor) and the refreshing diversity of its characters more than makes up for it. Warning: You will binge this thing in one sitting. Set aside the appropriate amount of time now.
1 season, 5 episodes | IMDb: 7.8/10
Charlie Brooker, the mastermind behind Black Mirror, was a media critic before he got into fiction, with a particular focus on the unethical behavior and cheap theatrics of reality television. Brooker presented a good cynical, misanthropic front, but as you watch Dead Set, his 2007 series, his concern with how television, especially reality TV, is too often built on dehumanizing and destroying people comes to the fore. And all of that was condensed into one five-episode series.
Dead Set’s premise is simple: the Big Brother house (and yes, it’s the real set) is crashed by a swarm of zombies and a bunch of self-centered celebrity wannabes have to try and take shelter from the undead. It was, blatantly, a stunt, right down to casting multiple real members of former Big Brother casts in small roles. Brooker even talked the network into airing all five episodes on five consecutive nights leading up to the finale broadcasting on Halloween 2008, which makes it perfect for binge-watching. What’s admirable is how dedicated Brooker is to the show’s conceit, and it shows the balance of criticism and scares he’d bring to Black Mirror just a few years later.
3 seasons, 24 episodes | IMDb: 8.4/10
A young boy is found dead in a seemingly idyllic small town, and the detectives charged with solving the case turn up twist after twist in tracking down the murderer. Despite its familiar premise (see also: Twin Peaks, The Killing), Broadchurch relies on its ensemble cast — specifically the impeccable David Tennant and Olivia Colman — to keep viewers caring after each red herring is tossed back into the ocean. The first series centers on the hunt for the killer while the second is on both the suspect’s trial and a reopened case from the past, but they both don’t let up in intrigue. A word of warning, though: This isn’t one of those TV dramas you should binge even if you want to. It gets heavy and emotionally exhausting, and unrestrained streaming kinda negates the effect of the show’s mysteries.
5 seasons, 30 episodes | IMDb: 8.8/10
Way more than the British Boardwalk Empire, this BBC series gives Cillian Murphy the principal TV role no one knew they needed as Tommy Shelby, head of the Peaky Blinders and his family clan. Taking place in a post-WWI England, Shelby leads his gang as they seize more power and evade the scrupulous C.I. Chester Campbell (Sam Neill). Murphy kills it as the boss willing to get his hands dirty on the front lines. While the first series is a great but slow foray into the world, Peaky Blinders really builds and finds its footing in series two, including the addition of the wild Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy).
The IT Crowd
5 seasons, 25 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Another classic comedy from creator Graham Lineham, The IT Crowd shined a light on those oft-neglected saviors of any office, the I.T. department, and the hapless management working above them. The series comes to life from its ridiculous yet relatable humor and its endearing tech team. The three-person team, played by Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, and Katherine Parkinson, play off each other so well that more than makes up for the multi-cam laughter. It’s a fun show, so much so that it’s best to not think about the American version that almost happened.
The Great British Baking Show
8 seasons, 85 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
The Great British Bake Off (and this slightly retitled American version) is guilty pleasure binge material for so many that it’s no wonder it shows up here. If I watch other cooking shows to travel to exotic places and vicariously experience strange foods, GBBS is kind of the opposite of that. Its strength is that it’s goofily charming. And we’ve become so accustomed to camera-hogging reality villains and performative not-here-to-make-friendsing that a show featuring charming grandmas and shy Brits is really a breath of fresh air. It almost works more like a mockumentary than a cooking show.