Netflix’s international popularity has grown massively in the last decade, leading the streaming giant to invest in productions all over the globe. Its hope that the next Stranger Things would come from a country other than America was realized with huge international successes like South Korea’s Squid Game.
Netflix’s success has depended on its dual approach of developing international shows while picking up distribution rights for ones produced by other networks. You’ll find the result of both methods in the British series currently available on Netflix. In 2020, the network was thought to have spent $1 billion filming over 60 shows in the U.K. alone.
Netflix also has a reputation for saving series that have been axed by other networks. The platform has breathed new life into shows worldwide, and the U.K. is no exception. When Channel 4 canceled Top Boy, some star support influenced Netflix’s decision to pick it up for a third series. That British network probably feels slightly different about Black Mirror, the anthology show Netflix lured away from the broadcaster and turned into a flagship show in 2015.
The streaming giant has been traditionally vague about its viewing figures, but Netflix announced in November 2021 that we’ll soon be able to see how shows are being viewed by country. There’s a broad range of British shows to keep track of, from recent police procedurals to the classic surreal comedy of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here is the pick of British series you can stream right now on Netflix.
Top Boy follows the challenging lives of the inhabitants of a fictional estate in the East End of London and has won plaudits for its realistic portrayal of crime and mental health issues. The show’s combination of compelling drama, ensemble cast, realism, and morality have seen it compared to The Wire.
Top Boy was initially broadcast on Channel 4, but when it was dropped after its second series, well-publicized support from Drake helped persuade Netflix to revive it. The rapper was so keen on the show that he joined the production as an executive producer. That third year is branded as Top Boy on the streamer, while you can catch up on the first two series under the title Top Boy: Summerhouse.
This 2018 thriller was playwright David Hare’s first original series for television. A thought-provoking police procedural, Hare was determined to have it serve up something different to the police dramas that had been “done to death.” The complex investigation that spirals from the shooting of a London pizza delivery driver features many famous faces. Leading the cast is Carey Mulligan as Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie, partnered by Nathaniel Martello-Whit. They’re joined by Nicola Walker, John Simm, and Billie Piper.
As Requiem’s name suggests, this haunting drama mixes thriller with supernatural elements. It’s a mix that drew comparisons to classic Hammer Horror films. The Welsh countryside adds a stunning background to a talented young cellist’s journey to a Welsh village after her mother’s shocking suicide. Be warned: splashes of atmospheric horror combine with some gruesome moments over the course of its six hour-long episodes.
One of Netflix’s high-profile series, Black Mirror was snapped up as a Netflix original from Channel 4 after its second series and 2014 Christmas special. The anthology series is regarded as one of the most important shows of the past decade and picked up the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie three times over its five series. Expect to encounter a variety of genres under its speculative fiction microscope.
If you like a police show that puts its detectives through tough times, Marcella might be the series for you. Anna Friel’s former detective Marcella Backland endures marriage troubles, grief, memory blackouts, and more as she returns to the police to investigate cold cases in this compelling series. After success with the Swedish/Danish series The Bridge, writer Hans Rosenfeldt turned to contemporary London for this British twist on Nordic noir.
Criminal is an ambitious multilingual anthology series split between four countries. The final three parts of the first series and all four parts of the second series are set in the U.K. Each episode focuses on an intense interview, placing a team of police, a suspect, and a solicitor in an interrogation room. It’s a claustrophobic show, extending the tense stand-offs seen in shows like Line of Duty during interview scenes. The cast includes David Tennant, Kit Harington, Hayley Atwell, and Sophie Okonedo.
The End of the F***ing World
As you might guess from the title, this is a dark-comedy drama. The two leads are mesmerizing. Alex Lawther plays the tortured 17-year-old James, who’s convinced he’s a psychopathic murderer and thinks he’s found his first human victim in Jessica Barden’s Alyssa, a rebellious 17-year old who suggests the pair run away. Based on Charles Forsman’s mini-comics of the same name, you won’t find such a well-regarded nihilistic comedy anywhere else.
Behind Her Eyes
Filmed during London’s first 2020 lockdown, Behind Her Eyes is a six-part limited series that divided viewers when it launched in spring 2021. A psychological thriller adapted from Sarah Pinborough’s novel, it’s packed with twists that increasingly demand you suspend your disbelief. Some viewers felt it twisted itself too far to the supernatural and away from taut drama. Others thought it was an ideal distraction over the past year.
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This short-lived series was based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Baker Street Irregulars, the makeshift waifs and strays who regularly assisted the great detective in the stories of Sherlock Holmes. Released in spring 2021, it retained the Victorian setting but had this set of Irregulars working for Holmes’ loyal colleague, Dr. Watson. The teens have to try and defeat the supernatural threats gathering over London while trying to find a certain missing consulting detective.
Nick Payne loosely adapted his well-regarded stage play for this six-part co-production between Netflix and the BBC. As the writer describes it, it’s a story where everyone is sexually frustrated. Expect adult themes, many jokes, and a lot of honesty from a cast led by Toni Collette and Steven Mackintosh as the mid-forties married couple who decide they need to spice up their sex life.
This quirky sitcom reached Netflix in 2016, four years after it began on the BBC. For the first season, Andy Samberg was the hippy Cuckoo of the title. He’s the surprise American husband Rachel introduces to her parents when she returns from a gap year. For its second, third, and fourth year, Cuckoo was replaced by Taylor Lautner’s Dale, while Andie McDowell’s Ivy filled in during the final season. Despite its changing nest, the jokes remained, mainly centered on Greg Davies as put-upon dad Ken.
This four-part animated series was first broadcast on BBC One in Christmas 2018. It had a lot to live up to: an earlier cartoon of Richard Adams’ tale of a group of rabbits searching for a new home terrorized a generation of children in the 1970s. This CGI version is tamer on the horror elements but a faithful and well-regarded adaptation bolstered with an all-star cast.
A comedy-drama that needs no introduction, this Netflix original has proven to be a massive hit for the streamer and won praise for its humor, sharp script, and mature handling of essential themes. Filmed in England and Wales with a deliberately timeless style, it features star turns from its ensemble cast, including a magnetic Gillian Anderson. A fourth season is expected on the streamer in late 2022.
Harlan Coben’s The Stranger
This is an interesting British series that transferred the tense events of Coben’s novel from New Jersey to Manchester, England. Richard Armitage stars as the man whose life is turned upside down when a young stranger reveals a secret about his wife. Coben’s wish that adaptations of his work feel different from their source explains the change of location. The cast of this series is stunning and will make you wish that it wasn’t a miniseries, but rather a full-blown show with an incoming second season. Alas…
Black Earth Rising
This political thriller stars Michaela Coel and John Goodman as an investigator and her employer whose lives are changed forever during the prosecution of an African militia leader. This is a series unafraid to tackle huge themes, including mental health and adoption, alongside prosecution of international war criminals. An uncompromising but brilliant watch.
This list couldn’t miss The Crown. Even though it’s a British-American production, what could be more British than this grand sweep through the reign of Queen Elizabeth II? The Crown’s fifth season will cover the 1990s and is expected to arrive in Nov. 2022.
You can catch all of these British shows and loads of other treasures right now on Netflix.