Skip to main content

Best British TV shows on Netflix to stream right now

The cast of Downton Abbey.
The cast of Downton Abbey. (Image credit: ITV)

The best British TV Shows on Netflix right now include Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, and The Crown

With so many to choose from here's our handy guide to picking the best of British on the streaming service, including lavish period dramas, gritty crime series, and hilarious comedies.

What are the best British TV Shows on Netflix right now?

Downton Abbey

This lavish period drama follows the fortunes of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic staff, which call the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey home.

The grand house is led by Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his American heiress wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). The couple have three daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), plus Dame Maggie Smith plays Robert's acid-tongued mother Violet. The 'downstairs' staff are led by more acting giants including Jim Carter as butler Mr Carson and Joanna Froggatt as lady's maid Anna. 

Written and created by Julian Fellowes the first series begins in 1912 as the family discovers the Titanic has sunk along with the male heir to the estate, who was also betrothed to Lady Mary. The new heir is a distant male cousin called Matthew, played by Dan Stevens, who arrives at the castle and quickly ruffles a few well-preened feathers.

No. of seasons: 6

Episodes: 52

It's the best of British because… Set at the real country estate of Highclere Castle in Hampshire, which is currently home to the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, it's gorgeous to look at as the castle itself becomes one of the stars of the show.

Plus, if six seasons are just not enough then check out the film, which is also now available on Netflix. 

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife cast.

Midwives Cynthia, Jenny and Trixie. (Image credit: BBC)

This brilliant series follows the work and lives of a group of midwives and nuns in the East End of London, beginning in the 1950s.

Based on the memoirs of real midwife, Jennifer Worth, it's a heart-warming and comforting watch but one that never shies away from tackling tough issues, including miscarriage, illness and prejudice.

The first season begins as newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) gets to grips with caring for the women of East London, a poverty-stricken area of the capital.

The cast is outstanding with Jenny Agutter and Judy Parfitt just two of the stalwarts featuring in the series, plus it's also narrated by the soothing tones of Vanessa Redgrave, who acts as the voice of the older Jenny.

No. of seasons: 7

Episodes: 62

It's the best of British because… It just isn't Christmas unless there's a Call the Midwife special on. Since the first series launched on the BBC in 2012, every Christmas Day has aired a new special and there's usually snow, heart-warming and emotional drama, plus the pitter patter of tiny new feet – what's not to love!?

The Crown

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II.

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II. (Image credit: Netflix)

For anyone interested in the British Royal Family this is must-see viewing. The series follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from just before her coronation in 1953 up until the 1990s, so far. 

The actors playing the cast changes every two seasons, with Claire Foy taking on the role of Queen in the first two as the young princess married her prince, the dashing Philip Mountbatten (played by Matt Smith), faced the sudden death of her father, King George VI, and then took the throne herself at the age of 27.

Seasons three and four see Olivia Colman take over the regal role, while Imelda Staunton dons the crown for The Crown Season 5 (due to be released early 2022) and six. 

No. of seasons: 4 (with two more on the way)

Episodes: 40

It's the best of British because… It's just too much fun guessing how much is fact or fiction? While obviously based closely on true historical events, this is a drama and not a documentary, but still, it's fun to feel like a fly on the very expensive wallpaper of Buckingham Palace! It surely is one of the best British TV Shows on Netflix right now!

Sherlock

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Dr Watson.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Dr Watson.  (Image credit: BBC)

Benedict Cumberbatch leads the cast of this impressive updated version of the classic crime drama, based on the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle.

Set in modern day London, Cumberbatch's energetic depiction of Holmes is complimented perfectly by the calm and thoughtful Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson. Also, watch out for the brilliant Andrew Scott as Holmes's arch enemy Jim Moriarty and the late Una Stubbs as Sherlock's landlady Mrs Hudson.

The first episode, A Study in Pink, sees the pair investigate a series of deaths that are assumed to be suicides. But Holmes, of course, has another theory. We also meet Rupert Graves as Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, plus Mark Gatiss (who also co-created the series alongside Steven Moffat) as Sherlock's older brother Mycroft.

No. of seasons: 3

Episodes: 12

It's the best of British because… It's stylish and clever and London looks beautiful as Holmes and Watson race through its Victorian streets solving very modern crimes. 

Bodyguard

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes as bodyguard David Budd and government minister Julia Montague.

Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes as police sergeant David Budd and Home Secretary Julia Montague.  (Image credit: BBC)

This thrilling series follows British Army war veteran David Budd (Richard Madden) as he takes on a new role of protection officer for the ambitious Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes).

Suffering from PTSD, David is a complex and brooding character but someone who is not afraid to put himself on the line to protect others. In the first episode he fearlessly talks down a suicide bomber on a train, which ends up putting his own family at risk.

No. of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

It's the best of British because… The dynamic between Madden and Hawes is electric and completely enthralling. Also, it was written by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio so expect the unexpected!

Line of Duty

Line of Duty cast.

Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar as Kate, Steve and Ted. (Image credit: BBC)

Only season 5 of this slick and exciting crime drama is available on Netflix at the moment (all six series are available in full on BBC iPlayer in the UK), but as it's one of the best shows out there, it's still worth a mention.

In season five a police convoy is hijacked by a group of armed villains while transporting a huge amount of confiscated drugs. The rest of the series follows anti-corruption unit AC-12 as they try and discover and prove the links between an organized crime gang and senior police officers.

The cast is brilliant with a trio of fab actors leading the drama with Vicky McClure as DI Kate Flemming, Martin Compston as DI Steve Arnott and Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Ted Hastings. 

No. of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

It's the best of British because… Created by Jed Mercurio (who's also responsible for the Bodyguard, see above) it's brilliantly written with so many complex twists and turns. Also, watch out for Ted's brilliant one-liners, he's become a bit of a social media sensation!

Peaky Blinders

Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders.

Cillian Murphy as Thomas 'Tommy' Shelby. (Image credit: BBC)

Set in Birmingham in 1919, just after the end of the WWI, this dark and powerful period drama follows the exploits of the gangster Shelby family. Led by Thomas 'Tommy' Shelby (Cillian Murphy), his brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) and Aunt Polly (the late Helen McCrory), they rule the rough streets of the city with a rod of iron. 

In the first episode, we meet the crime family, new barmaid Grace (Annabelle Wallis), and also Major Chester Campbell, played by the brilliant Sam Neill, as he is sent over from Belfast to clean up the streets of Birmingham. His first task is to investigate the theft of some guns and his first target is Arthur Shelby, who certainly feels the strong arm of the law!

No. of seasons: 5

Episodes: 30

It's the best of British because… It's violent and dark but totally enthralling with an outstanding cast.

Poldark

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark.

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. (Image credit: BBC)

A historical drama set in 1783 as Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns from fighting in the American War of Independence to his home in Cornwall. 

But during the three years he spent in the army, life back in Blighty has very much changed. His father Joshua has died, leaving his estate in ruins and in debt and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth is engaged to his cousin Francis.

As he sets about rebuilding his life he meets a young woman called Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) at the market and falls in love. The rest of the series, based on the books by Winston Graham, follows Poldark's life as he and Demelza build a future together.

No. of seasons: 5

Episodes: 43

It's the best of British because… The coastal and rural county of Cornwall looks stunning as does the handsome Aidan Turner as the charismatic protagonist. Watch out for episode 3 of the first season as Poldark's shirtless scything of his crops caused quite a stir!

The Durrells

The Durrells cast led by Keeley Hawes

Louisa Durrell and her four children try to make a go of things on the island of Corfu. (Image credit: ITV)

Keeley Hawes leads the cast in this light-hearted series that sees the Durrell family, made up of mum and widower Louisa, plus her four children Gerry, Larry, Margo and Leslie, move to Corfu to escape the hardships of life in the UK.

Season 2, the only one available on Netflix, begins a year after the Durrells have moved to the island and Louisa decides it's time for a change. Fed up of always being poor she sets up a market stall to try and boost the family's income. But things don't quite go to plan as the stall isn't the roaring success she hoped it would be and her feisty new landlady takes their furniture hostage until they find the money for the rent. 

No. of seasons: 1 (only season 2 is available on Netflix)

Episodes: 6

It's the best of British because… Keeley Hawes is brilliant as the chaotic Louisa in this charming and sweet series, set in the sun of beautiful Corfu. 

After Life

Ricky Gervais and Kerry Godliman.

Kerry Godliman and Ricky Gervais as Lisa and Tony.  (Image credit: Netflix)

Ricky Gervais created and stars in this moving but hilarious series set in the fictional British town of Tambury. 

Gervais plays Tony who is trying to adapt to life after his wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman, who appears in a series of flashbacks) dies from breast cancer. He works as a reporter at the local newspaper and decides after losing Lisa he can say and do whatever he wants.

The writing is a triumph throughout, but the scenes between Gervais and Penelope Wilson, who plays fellow widower Anne, are especially beautiful. 

No. of seasons: 2 (After Life Season 3 is on the way)

Episodes: 12

It's the best of British because… It's rare for a show to make you sob with sad tears one minute and cry with happy tears of laughter the next, but this one does. 

Criminal

David Tennant as Edgar in Criminal.

David Tennant as Edgar. (Image credit: Netflix)

David Tennant features in the first episode of this intriguing series set in the interrogation room of a police station.

Each standalone episode sees the team work out the intricacies of a difficult criminal case, beginning with Tennant's character, Dr Edgar Fallon, who is accused of sexually assaulting and killing his step-daughter.

While the suspect and the crime changes each episode the team of police investigating remains the same, with Katherine Kelly, Rochenda Sandall and Lee Ingleby leading the way.

No. of seasons:

Episodes: 7

It's the best of British because… An intense series but the great cast make it throughly addictive.

Baptiste

Tcheky Karyo as Julien Baptiste

Tchéky Karyo as Julien Baptiste. (Image credit: BBC)

A brilliant cast leads this dark crime drama as detective Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) searchers for a missing sex worker in Amsterdam.

In the course of his investigations he meets a man, Edward Stratton (Tom Hollander), who claims to be the uncle of the missing girl. But Edward is hiding secrets of his own as this twisty drama continues and the pair delve into the murky world of sex trafficking across Europe. 

No. of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

It's the best of British because… crime drama at its best, as a great cast and original script keeps you coming back for more.