April 27, 2015

Foreign Crime Drama Television Shows

Some of the best television is being produced outside of the United States. The internet is affording us more access to the best of world tv dramas. Foreign television companies are producing some of the most impressive shows with American producers then remaking them in English. 

Take AMC’s “The Killing” for example, a remake of “Forbrydelsen,” the hit Danish series, or “Wallander” the Kenneth Branagh PBS series versus the Swedish production with Krister Henriksson or the honor-ridden SHOWTIME production “Homeland,” a borrowing of the original Israeli series “Prisoners of War” now available on HULU. As good as the American shows are, the foreign originals are even better. Two challenges arise: one has to read subtitles and availability can be akin to a scavenger hunt. The effort is definitely worth it on both counts however. 

When choosing my favorites of the bunch, I must add “Broen/The Bridge” from Denmark, a fascinating crime show that starts with a female body being found on a bridge halfway between Denmark and Sweden and “Borgen,” the political drama about a fictitious first female prime minister of Denmark. Both shows grab you and keep you wanting more.

I can’t help but mention two more of my favorites: “Spiral”/”Engrenages” from France, a crime drama that didn’t snag my interest initially but bears patience as the plots and characters weave together in an ingenious way (now on NETFLIX streaming), and “Commissario Brunetti,” a curious yet entertaining production set in a gloriously filmed Venice but cast with German actors.

Many of the best programs are only available if you buy the DVDs from Amazon, MHz networks or another internet sales site. Beware of the DVD format as some only come in a PAL version unplayable on American DVD players. I’m told you can buy international DVD players at Indian shops on Devon Avenue in Chicago or at similar ethnic neighborhood shops if you are reading this from a different city.

One would hope that the streaming services such as NETFLIX, HULU (although they feature Spanish lanaguage telenovelas and Korean programming) and AMAZON Prime get savvy about this burgeoning interest in foreign television and provide us with more streaming content from Europe, Australia/New Zealand, South America and Asia.

I plan on making foreign crime drama television a special interest on my blog and web site, so check back from time to time as I add more reviews.

Here is an aforementioned service that sells DVDS, but also broadcasts on public television stations nation-wide:


A list of the programs noted above:

“Borgen” (Denmark), political drama. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“Broen”/”he Bridge” (Denmark), crime series. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“Commissario Brunetti” (German), crime series set in Venice. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“Forbrydelsen”/”The Killing” (Denmark), crime series. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“Prisoners of War” (Israel), psychological/political thriller. Available at HULU.

“Spiral”/”Engrenages” (France), crime drama. Available on NETFLIX streaming.

“Wallander” (Sweden), crime series with Krister Kenriksson. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

Other recommended foreign series:

“The Eagle”/”Ornen” (Denmark), engaging crime drama. Available on HULU and NETFLIX streaming.

“Epitafios” (Argentina), gruesome crime drama. Available from NETFLIX by mail.

“Inspector Salvo Montalbano” (Italy), lighter-hearted detective series. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“Irene Huss” (Sweden), female detective series. Available for purchase from AMAZON.

“MI-5” (Great Britain), absolutely riveting spy drama. Available on NETFLIX streaming.

“The Protectors” (Denmark) fast-paced crime drama. Available on HULU and NETFLIX streaming.

“Varg Veum” (Norway) crime drama. Available for purchase at AMAZON.


  1. Gene says:

    I have been “cable TV free” for 2 years now. I use You Tube as an increasingly valuable source for these great non-US crime series; in addition to NFlx streaming, of course.

  2. Larry Ray says:

    Like quite a few of the foreign murder/mystery/thriller streaming TV series on Netflix. Thanks for the reviews above. Please keep me posted of any new ones released on Netflix Streaming.

  3. Mimi says:

    Fascinated, as you are, with the fantastic European and Scandinavian productions. Too bad MHZ doesn’t play the full series. I am wondering whether Netflix might have them. I have just seen an engaging story about a Swedish crime reporter [Annika Bengtzon:Crime Reporter] and have read in another blog that the six programs, are available on Netflix. Keep the good work!

  4. Violeta Iguchi says:

    great suggestions! Some I’ve discovered myself on Netflix, but it’s hard to find Italian shows, for example. I find it’s healthy to take a break from the Anglo-Saxon space and look towards Europe for some inspiration and “gusto”.

  5. Liza says:

    I agree with your article. I have seen several of the series you have mentioned and was mesmerized by Spiral and MI5. I was just telling a friend that I think foreign tv series out rank American tv series at least 3 to 1. You should include Foyle’s War and Sherlock on your list. The American Sherlock Holmes series feels like it is imitating the British version. I’m sure a producer in America is trying to pitch a series like The Hour as we speak, an amazing series with excellent casting. I find it frustrating that I can’t figure out how to search foreign tv series on Netflix. I am looking for the shows on your list that I have not seen, but would love anymore recommendations you have.

    Thanks for saying what many of us, Americans who watch foreign tv shows, try to say but are ignored.

  6. Janaki Blum says:

    Thank you so much for the list. Our household has recently discovered “Nordic Noir” and is riveted. We are always on the lookout for good series to watch, so were delighted to find your review and reviews.

  7. Janaki Blum says:

    Oops, meant “so were delighted to find your review and recommendations!”.

  8. Lolly Kakumani says:

    Thank you for the list of foreign TV series. Unfortunately The Eagle is not available on Hulu or Netflix now. I do wish they pick up more foreign TV series

  9. Anna says:

    I bought a zone free DVD player online for a song and I can play all zones on it. It was super easy to install and works great. I recommend this to all. Just make sure the shows you buy are dubbed or subtitled in English if that is your primary language.

  10. charlotte says:

    I use your list and have seen almost all of the titles. What’s your newest series?

  11. Katarina says:

    Wanted to add some great Nordic Noir series to the list:

    Arne Dahl series (Swedish)
    Those in Power (Swedish)
    Sebastian Bergman (Swedish)
    Marie Wern (Swedish)
    Those Who Kill (Danish)
    Unit 1 (Danish)

    I believe all are produced by MHZ and available for purchase on Amazon. I’ve been able to get one on loan at my local library in San Mateo county in CA and one was playing at a local community college channel, wow, but mostly they’re for purchase.

    I can also recommend the following British series, which are all on Amazon Instant or Netflix last I looked:

    State of Play (NOT the US movie!)
    The Fall
    The Commander

  12. nigel says:

    As an Englishman living in England, i have to agree with you about the quality of European dramas with the exception of the British ones which, in my humble opinion, are dire in comparison!
    here’s another one to add to the list


  13. Lynn Huidekoper says:

    Sometime last year I discovered MhZ Networks International Mysteries on my PBS Channel 17(KCSM) in the SF Bay Area. The mysteries from various foreign countries are far superior to anything done in America. The British also excel with the PBS Masterpiece Mystery episodes on other PBS channels..

    I even posted on Arne Dahl’s Facebook page because I think his writing is fabulous. The complex characters, the plots,etc.outclass mysteries done in my country.

    We are fortunate to have films every night at 9P and Midnight. The International news during the day is also excellent. It is nice to see international news being reported at length on Channels devoted to those countrie’s news. It is also refreshing to see other views on American foreign policy. Corporate control of the news hasn’t determined the message as it has in the US.

    • Mimi says:

      I absolutely agree with you, the quality of European television is far superior to the kind of garbage produced in the United States. In my case, because I truly abhor the American small screen – and, at times, the big one too – I not only enjoy MHZ online on a daily basis, but for a very reasonable fee I’ve subscribed to Acorn TV and I am now again watching the best of British TV, and some Canadian too. I have also subscribed to Netflix because it offers a fantastic stock of British TV, European TV and some good American films. Once you’ve been exposed to this caliber of programming, you can never turn back to watching the pathetic, horrendous stuff that we get from the American networks, and some of the cable stations!

  14. Shelli Bond says:

    Just started Wentworth from Australia, a darker Orange is the New Black. I/m hooked

    • Elizabeth Doyle says:

      Netflix just put a few new foreign crime dramas on their streaming list, “Wentworth” included. Thanks for the recommendation. I just watched “Dicte,” a crime drama from Denmark which is also pretty good. Thanks to Netflix for making more international fare available. More please!

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