3 best British crime dramas to stream on Netflix, Apple TV+ and more

If you miss these gems, you're having a giraffe!

The Gentlemen
(Image credit: Netflix)

A long time ago, a man called Henry Hill proudly proclaimed, "As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster". Now, I grew up in Liverpool in the 80s so I just wanted to be Ian Rush and play up front for the reds, but I knew what he meant. 

For many, the lure and attraction towards being the bad guy, the crook, the rebel is enough for us to binge constantly on movies and TV shows that show us this world, but from the safety of our sofas.

And, although Hollywood leads the way when it comes to huge budget blockbusters, the crime and gangster genre is something that British filmmakers and studios have a distinct talent for.

Nobody makes a great gangster flick like the British.

Here then are three prime examples of fantastic British crime dramas on streaming services now that you can binge on over a Rosie Lee. And remember, it's been emotional.

The Gentlemen

  • Where: Netflix
  • Stars: Theo James, Ray Winstone, Daniel Ings, Kaya Scodelario, Vinnie Jones, Giancarlo Esposito
  • Created by: Guy Ritchie

Cheeky Chappies, unlicensed boxing, debauched toffs, scouse drug dealers, scheming travellers, shotguns, predatory Americans, botched heists, fearsome kingpins. With all the usual boxes ticked, Guy Ritchie is back and brings his well perfected brand of twist and turn gangster adventure to the small screen.

Set in the same universe as his 2019 movie of the same name, The Gentlemen is an eight-part singular series following the trials and misadventures of aristocrat Eddie Horniman, his chaotic brother Freddie, and the associated family.

After inheriting the family estate, Eddie discovers that not only has his brother doomed them all through debts to the decidedly wrong people, the family home and grounds are also home to a huge underground criminal empire that has no intentions of giving up what it has built.

Cue violence, comedy, curious regional accents, and a whole load of people in nice cars and sharp suits doing terrible things.

The Gentlemen is a fantastic little show. At only eight episodes it never overstays its welcome, has a fantastic cast playing some great characters, a plot that twists and turns and enough of the Guy Ritchie tropes that will delight fans of Lock Stock and Snatch.

Oh, and it also contains the single best use of a chicken costume in modern cinema.

Sexy Beast

  • Where: Paramount+
  • Stars: James McArdle, Emun Elliot, Sarah Greene, Stephen Moyer, Tamsin Greig, Paul Kaye
  • Created by: Michael Caleo

Ben Kingsley's Don Logan instantly became an icon of modern gangster cinema when the original Sexy Beast movies appeared. It is one of the most terrifying portrayals of a complete psychopath that has reached our screens. Logan is insane, obsessive, unpredictable and prone to levels of violence, ensuring the audience never feels anything but discomfort and unease.

He is without reason, without remorse and with singular purpose. 

Fast forward to 2024 and through Paramount+ we have a prequel – an origin story of Don Logan and Gal Dove's partnership, with James McArdle and Emun Elliot taking on the roles Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley made so memorable.

In this iteration we see Val and Don as young men, very much at the start of their rise within the criminal community. Young and hungry they fall in with local boss Teddy Bass and undertake work for him that will change them forever.

Well produced, fast paced, intense and with really solid performances from Elliot and McArdle, the Sexy Beast TV series is a really solid production that does the 2000 film service. 

Special mention has to go to the very brilliant and lovely Tamsin Grieg too, who turns in an absolutely horrific portrayal as Don’s sister Cecilia. She just might be even worse and more insane than Don.

Slow Horses

  • Where: Apple TV+
  • Stars: Gary Oldman, Jack Lowden, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rosalind Eleazar, Christopher Chung, Freddie Fox
  • Created by: Will Smith, Mark Denton, Mick Herron

Bruce Wayne overcame the loss of his family through training his body, donning a cape and armour, and prowling the streets protecting the innocent. Superman overcame the loss of his entire world by becoming a symbol of hope for his adopted planet and standing as its eternal guardian.

Jackson Lamb overcame semi-retirement by eating Chinese food, wearing a baggy suit that has never so much as seen a dry cleaners, and weaponising his own flatulence.

Not all heroes wear capes, this one only barely wears pants.

As he heads into the twilight of his carrer, Gary Oldman has in the last three seasons of Slow Horses shown why he is quite possibly the greatest living actor in the UK.

With the very simple premise of a government department where all the failures, disappointments and rejects of the intelligence community end up being dumped, the show is a perfect example of direction, writing and characterisation done well.

It is based on the equally superb spy novels by Mick Herron, and nobody could quite fill the hole-ridden shoes of Lamb as much as Oldman. Very much in the mould of Columbo, he is a hidden danger – masking his skill, experience and intelligence with a facade of disinterest and low personal hygiene standards. Overlook or underestimate him at your peril.

It is a simply outstanding show – possibly the best British series full stop, let alone crime drama. With three seasons available now and a fourth coming later this year, it is an absolute treat. Essential stuff.

Brian Comber

Liverpool lad, mid-life crisis survivor, writer of short fiction, screenplays, articles, reviews and opinion pieces. Brian is totally in love with cinema in all its many forms. He writes for websites, blogs and published magazines, including Screen Rant, IGN and Purple Revolver in the constant hope it will help him avoid getting a real grown-up job. In his free time, he's a gym obsessive and previously good guitarist.