The best serial killer dramas to watch before ITV’s 'Des' hits our screens

David Tennant as real life serial killer Des in new ITV drama
David Tennant as real life serial killer Des in the new ITV drama. (Image credit: ITV)

With real life crime drama Des coming to ITV soon, here are the best serial killer dramas to watch right now:

Over a five-year period between 1978 and 1983, serial killer Dennis "Des" Nilsen went undetected in the UK. Nilsen brutally murdered at least 12 young men in North London, before disposing of their bodies by burning them or flushing them down the toilet.

The chilling crimes and eventual capture of Dennis Nilsen — one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers — is set to be told in ITV’s much-anticipated thriller, Des, starring David Tennant.

The gripping three-parter is the latest of a series of true-crime dramas on ITV, also stars Daniel Mays as lead investigator DCI Peter Jay and Jason Watkins as Nilsen’s biographer Brian Masters.

But if you can’t wait for Des to begin, here are some of the best serial killer series to watch right now:


Set in the late 1970s and based on notorious real life crimes, Mindhunter revolves around FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), who pioneer the study of how serial killers’ minds work in order to hunt them down. 

Suspects include Ed Kemper, Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam.

Manhunt: Unabomber 

The gripping true story of the FBI’s cat-and-mouse hunt for the infamous Unabomber, the deadliest serial bomber in history, is told in this eight-parter starring Paul Bettany and Chris Noth.

The story focuses on FBI agent and criminal profiler Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington), who pioneered the use of forensic linguistics to identify the Unabomber as Ted Kaczynski.


Inspired by the real events surrounding cult leader Charles Manson, Aquarius stars David Duchovny as Sam Hodiak, a fictional LAPD homicide detective, whose search for a missing teen leads him into Manson’s lair. Gethin Anthony from Game of Thrones fame plays Manson, while Grey Damon is Hodiak’s young colleague Brian Shafe, who ends up going undercover with Manson’s crew.


This three-series fictional crime drama focuses on the complicated relationship between FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and forensic psychiatrist, and secret cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).

As the two form a bond while solving a series of murders, Lecter tries manipulates Graham’s fragile mental health in order to turn him into a serial killer himself… Hannibal Lecter was revealed to be based on real life-killer Alfredo Ballí Treviño by creator, novelist Thomas Harris. 

The Alienist

Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning star as an ad hoc team of psychiatrists and investigators, who are recruited in 1896 New York to catch a serial killer preying on homeless street children. The 10-parter mixes fact with fiction, with The Hurt Locker’s Brian Geraghty playing Theodore Roosevelt, who was then the newly-appointed commissioner of the NYPD.

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.