May 9, 2021

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.


Elizabeth Doyle is a singer, pianist, composer and writer.

For more of her articles on Foreign Crime Drama:


  1. 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. 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. 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

    • Steven adams says


      • Elizabeth Doyle says

        Quite a while ago, I wrote about MHZ.
        The site seems to be in transition with no full episodes available for free streaming. Do you know if they have recently changed their business model?

        • Hi! MHz has become a subscription service. It offers a wide variety of shows produced in Europe, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. It’s no longer free, but the cost is nominal:$7.99 per month. Happy to help!

          • MHZ has become , and it’s by subscription. Example for tonight:

            The Georges Simenon Mysteries – The Iron Staircase

            Airdate: Saturday May 23rd

            Airtime: 7:55 PM ET

            Third in a series of adaptations of classic mystery novels by Maigret author Georges Simenon. Etienne Lome, a sales rep for his wife Louise’s printing shop, gets violently ill after eating. He gradually becomes convinced that Louise is trying to poison him, and starts to entertain suspicions about the death of her first husband, Guillaume. But could Etienne, provoked by his intense and seemingly reciprocated love for Louise, be fantasizing all of this? Directed by Denis Malleval, 2013. In French with English subtitles.

            Wallander – The Betrayal

            Airdate: Saturday May 23rd

            Airtime: 9:30 PM ET

            A young woman reports her mother missing to the Ystad police. Soon after, her mother is found dead near the family home. Police suspect the father, but Kurt has other problems… Directed by Leif Magnusson, 2013. In Swedish with English subtitles.

      • Check if you like Briitish, Canadian and Australian programs. It’s the least expensive service and they offer the very best from those countries. Only $4.99 per month. I don’t like Hulu.

      • The Eagle is on

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

  11. 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. 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

    • Netflix used to have the best of British TV, but they have taken them down. For me, there is nothing like the British detective programs. Above and beyond every country in the world! Midsommer Murders compete series on, which, by te way, it’s the better offer in programming, and the least expensive. has the very best!

  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.

    • 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!

  15. Patience Drake says

    The Code from Australia very good too. Have seen many of the series mentioned but got some new suggestions from article and comments. Tx. I agree once you’ve watched these foreign series US tv networks do not cut it- waste of time! I view on MHZ, MHZChoice, CBC, Netflix and PBS. All but CBC and PBS are streaming.

    • Elizabeth Doyle says

      Thanks for your suggestions. I just watched Beck, a good Swedish detective series on Hoopla. Check out my blog post on this streaming service.

      • Elizabeth, I, like you, prefer the European detectives and I immediately subscriibed to MHzChoice (hasn’t perfected the installation yet), Netflix, and I also watch the Public Television stations. However, I am subscribed to a British website that strictly offers Canadian, Australian and British programming and it is very reasonable ($4.99 per month, it’s called Im sure you would absolutely love this website that offers “complete” series, like “Lovehoy”, “The Midsommer Murders”, and many others. Go get the free trial, I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it!
        Love to see how many nuts, like me, roam around the world!

  16. Patience Drake says

    A tad afield of the mystery genre, another recommendation is a tv series, Lillihammer, set in the Norwegian town. Would fall into the categories of comedy, parody and mystery. Gave me quite a few laughs. As for mysteries, I also thought Top of the Lake was worthwhile.

  17. Patience Drake says

    Forgot to mention Lillehammer was on Netflix.

    • You do yourselves a disservice There are some great US produced dramas, just watched Deadwood on Amazon prime, not to everybody’s taste but a worthy effort.
      Then in the same vein is Justified, some of the best dialogue ever from a tv series or film for that matter.
      Donovan is proving to be an interesting watch as is Bosch, and isn’t Lilyhammer a joint US/Norwegian production?
      Oh and if you can get past the sex, Outlander is brill!

      • Elizabeth Doyle says

        I write about foreign crime drama since none of my colleagues are writing about it. However, I have a long list of tv favorites that are U. S. or British productions: Lilyhammer, Outlander, Game of Thrones, Justified, Homeland, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Luther, The Walking Dead, Six Feet Under, True Blood, The Bridge (the FX version), MI-5, Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica and 24. Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black plus Amazon’s TransParent are also worth noting. Donovan didn’t snag my attention but I will try Bosch.

        • There are millions of Americans who enjoy American television — ask Nielsen.. Just as there are a lot, who don’t care much for it. It’s neither here, nor there. I have my own taste and no one will make me change preferences, and I’m not trying to convince anyone to watch what I like. This blog, I believe, is about people who appreciate what I appreciate and… I really don’t know why you have included yourselves in this group. And, by the way, you should know that the very lauded “House of Cards” is, originally, a British program. In fact, I enjoyed the original very much, more than 16 years ago when it aired through Public Television.

  18. I’d add Romanzo Criminale to the list as well.
    Any more spanish series?

  19. Check out there’s a promo for the top-rated Italian crime show Squadra Antimafia (Antimafia Squad)–in English. They even have the original promo in Italian for comparison–that takes courage! There’s other stuff, too.

  20. micaela rojas says

    hope you can help. trying to remember name of a european crime series i saw. one episode had the female lead protecting a young girl. they were being stalked and wound trapped and locked in some kind of deserted building ir something. … any bells?


  21. What is the theme song for the series “Wallander”?


  1. Crime Blog says:

    Annika Bengtzon Crime Reporter Episodes 7 8 Dvd

    […] e I truly abhor the American small screen – and, at times, the big one too – […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.