Netflix has some great home-grown series, including both legacy shows and originals. But there are also lots of great options from other studios both inside and outside its country of origin, including an amazing selection of British TV series.
Ranging in genres from comedy to crime, here are some of the best British TV series on Netflix that are worth adding to your watch list.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969)
Legendary comedy group Monty Python created and starred in this sketch comedy series that premiered way back in 1969 and continued for four seasons (series, rather, as they say in the U.K.). Featuring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam, skits focused on absurd situations, observational humor, and lots of innuendo. Get some hearty belly laughs while watching the six main Pythons along with supporting cast members like Carol Cleveland and Connie Booth tackle issues around British life with an intellectual maturity that is second to none.
Not to be confused with the American HBO comedy-drama of the same name that streams via HBO Max, this British comedy-drama originally aired on Channel 4 back in 2016. Created, written by, and starring multi-Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve), it’s a six-part series about six 20-somethings living together in a disused hospital. They get cheap rent but, in exchange, they are tasked with caring for the property and keeping the building safe. Despite the familiar formula of six eclectic friends living in close quarters to one another, the unusual setting and Waller-Bridge’s signature spin on both the writing and her character make it a refreshing departure from the norm.
This four-part British drama serial is an atypical police procedural that follows the story of Kip Glaspie (Carey Mulligan), a detective inspector looking into the murder of a pizza delivery man that balloons into something much bigger. As Sir David Hare’s first original series for television, his reputation preceded him with a pair of Academy Award nominations for The Hours and The Reader as well as plenty of success as a playwright. Co-produced by Netflix and released in 2018, it has been criticized for the overcrowded script, but strong performances by the cast make it a worthy watch.
Top Boy (2011)
With three seasons to date and a renewal for a fourth set to debut later in 2020, this British crime drama is set in a fictional Summerhouse estate in London where a young and troubled man gets involved in the criminal underworld involving drugs, murder, and an intense struggle for power and money. With British rapper and songwriter Ashley Walters (Asher D) heading up the cast, Leticia Wright (Black Mirror, Black Panther) among the recurring characters, and Drake an executive producer, it unsurprisingly has a 95% score on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
This British serial crime drama, which aired on ITV from 2013 to 2017, is set in the eponymous fictional English town in Dorset, and follows the activities of police detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant). The premise from the onset centers around the death of an 11-year-old boy. Praised for its writing, cinematography, and character development, and also starring The Crown‘s Olivia Colman, you can binge all 24 episodes of the three seasons pretty quickly.
Called The Great British Bake Off in the U.K., this baking series pits aspiring bakers against one another as they bake classic dishes outlined by the hosts and judges, showing their skills on both the technical and creative sides. Starring Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and Prue Leith as judges, your mouth will be watering as you watch the contestants bake everything from basic cookies (er, biscuits) to more elaborate cakes and pastries. The oddest (and best) part about this reality show? They’re all nice to each other!
Peaky Blinders (2013)
This crime drama set in Birmingham, England, follows the story of the Shelby crime family after the First World War. The family is loosely based on the real 19th-century urban youth gang of the same name and stars Cillian Murphy as gang leader Tommy Shelby. Five seasons have aired thus far of the series, all of which are available to stream. The series has been heavily praised as riveting and fast-paced with great writing, acting, visuals, and cinematography.
Sex Education (2019)
Launched in January 2019, this British drama has been called heartfelt and surprisingly wise. It stars Asa Butterfield as a socially awkward teenager who is ambivalent about sex, largely due to her mother (Gillian Anderson) being a sex therapist. Netflix reports that the series had more than 40 million viewers after it launched on the site; the second season debuted on January 17, 2020 for a total of 16 stream-able episodes.
You’ll recognize the lead character in this series, Richard Madden, from his role as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. He plays a police sergeant and British Army war veteran named David Budd who is suffering from PTSD. He is assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague, with whom he disagrees politically, making for some tension and moral ambiguity. The series has been lauded for its commentary on government monitoring of private information as well the spotlight it sheds on PTSD. It’s also landed Madden in the conversation as the next James Bond.
This crime drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Rupert Graves, has been going strong now for four seasons. Centered around the life of detective Sherlock Holmes and based on a modern-day version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Cumberbatch plays the title character and Freeman his sidekick Dr. John Watson. While most of the series transports Holmes into the modern age, a one-off special flips back to the Victorian period. With its star-studded cast and compelling story, it’s no surprise this series has received critical acclaim.
How do you follow a wildly-successful modern reboot of Sherlock Holmes? Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat decided that their Sherlock follow-up project would center on another Victorian literary icon: Dracula. While the new Dracula takes a few pointers from Bram Stoker’s original novel, Gatiss and Moffat have refocused the narrative to make Claes Bang’s Count Dracula the hero of his own show — even as he brutally murders several people along the way. The series also takes a few creative liberties with the story, as Dracula’s conflict with the Van Helsing family plays out across generations. It’s a delicious update on the classic tale, and we’re chomping at the bit to see if Dracula will get another season to haunt modern viewers yet again.
The Last Kingdom (2015)
Originally produced for BBC, The Last Kingdom is now fully a Netflix original series, with four seasons under its belt and a fifth season yet to come. The show is based upon Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories novels and technically falls under historical fiction. The series takes place well over 1,000 years ago, as Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon) is taken from his home by Vikings and eventually adopted as one of their own. Once Uhtred is of age, he is torn between the kingdom of his birth and his newfound family as intrigue and treachery surround him. The Last Kingdom isn’t strictly historically accurate, and changes have been made for a stronger narrative. But the result is an epic show that definitely shouldn’t be ignored by anyone.
Originally titled Scrotal Recall (really), this series started off on Channel 4 and was commissioned as a Netflix original for seasons 2 and 3. It follows a group of friends living together in a house in Glasgow, Scotland and their sexual exploits and blunders. From secret crushes to STD diagnoses, episodes are told mostly through flashbacks in the first season as the main character Dylan Witter (Johnny Flynn) attempts to contact all former sexual partners following a chlamydia diagnosis.
Black Mirror (2011)
While Black Mirror was eventually expanded as a “Netflix original,” Charlie Booker’s brilliant dystopian series first premiered on Channel 4 in the U.K. Most episodes look at dire, worst-case-scenarios regarding our relationship with technology and modern reliance on it. With five seasons to date, this isn’t the type of show you’ll be able to binge-watch quickly. But you can watch in any order and are guaranteed to see your jaw drop by the end of each episode. It’s compelling, thought-provoking television.
The End of the F***ing World (2017)
Based on the Charles Forsman mini-comics of the same name, this dark comedy-drama follows the life of 17-year-old James (Alex Lawther) who thinks he’s a psychopath. He befriends a classmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden) who latches on to him in order to escape her troubled home life. Charlie Covell, who wrote the series, has said she does not plan to produce a third season. So check out the two, eight-episode seasons that have been praised for their taut balance of misanthropy and humor.
The Inbetweeners (2008)
One of the oldest series on this list, this coming-of-age sitcom debuted in 2008 and aired three seasons for a total of 18 episodes. It’s all about the misadventures of a suburban teenager and his friends at a fictional school. They deal with typical teenage stuff, from school life to male bonding, friendship, and failed sexual encounters. Often compared to another British series, Skins, some critics have opined that this series provides a more realistic view of dull suburban life.
It’s an entire sitcom centered around the working lives of actors who work as extras and in bit parts in TV, film, and theater projects. Created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who also both star, the series debuted way back in 2005, but you can now stream both seasons. Gervais plays Andy, an aspiring actor and Merchant his sub-par agent and part-time retail employee Darren. Both stars have said that the characters are exaggerated or inverted parodies of their own public personas. Filmed in a more traditional sitcom style, it’s a break from the usual Gervais mockumentary format.
Call the Midwife (2012)
Set in the East End of London in the late ’50s and ’60s, it follows a group of nurse midwives as they deal with major historical moments, discoveries, and periods in time and how they impacted the job, from the Baby Boom of the late ’50s, to poverty, post-war immigration, the introduction of gas for pain relief, and birth defects, along with other social issues like teen pregnancy, adoption, and miscarriages. The period drama, which aired on BBC in 2012, was originally based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, who worked with a convent in London. But as it continued on for nine seasons, other topics were explored based on the sourcing of historical materials.
Derry Girls (2018)
Two seasons aired on Channel 4 in 2018 and 2019, with a third scheduled for 2020. While it’s a British sitcom, the setting is Derry, Northern Ireland, where a group of teenage friends navigates life and coming-of-age while attending their local Catholic girls’ secondary school. The first season has an impressive perfect rating from critics on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes and a 97% from audiences, with critics praising the “irreverent charms” and “canny characterizations.”
The IT Crowd (2006)
Developing a cult following, this hilarious sitcom looks deep into the inner workings of the information technology (IT) department at a fictional London company. Heavily exaggerated and stereotyped characters include the department head, who doesn’t really know anything about IT, and a goth technician who works from the dark server room. The series, of which there have been four seasons and a special, aired from 2006 to 2013 and starred Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, and Matt Berry.
Get Even (2020)
When a group of school-aged girls decides to form a group called DMG (Don’t Get Mad) to take down school bullies, they get more than they bargained for. One student is murdered, a note left in their hand that reads “DMG,” suggesting the crew was responsible for the death. The British teen thriller, which first premiered on BBC iPlayer in February, is adapted from the book series Don’t Get Mad by Gretchen McNeil.
Operation Ouch! (2012)
This education series aims to teach children all about the human body, how it works, and what is happening when things go wrong. The twin doctors, along with a third doctor who was introduced in season five, conduct various experiments so kids can learn what literally makes them tick. Kids can also follow along with experiments they can do from home. The series also showcases the doctors joining personnel and patients at a local children’s hospital as they respond to emergencies. There have been 10 seasons to date touching on everything from teeth to the human brain and joints, and topics like why bones break and why sweat is salty. As of August 1, 2020, you’ll be able to stream the first season as well as a special.
U.K. journalist Raphael Rowe takes viewers inside some of the roughest, toughest prisons from around the world, talking with both prison guards and prisoners themselves about what life is like behind bars. Rowe himself knows a thing or two about the subject and the hardships, having served 12 years in prison for a crime until finally being released and acquitted. There are four seasons thus far, the fourth having just debuted at the end of July. The British series originally aired on Channel 5 in the U.K., after which Netflix commissioned the subsequent seasons of this fascinating docuseries.