When The Girl On The Train pulls into theaters this weekend, it’ll return the murder mystery to the big screen after a summer of superheroics and ghosts that needed busting for the first time in three decades. But, as much fun as it might be watching Emily Blunt deal with the psychological trauma of potentially seeing something dramatically important in an ongoing murder investigation, perhaps you’d rather watch something a little more… contained.
Television and murder go together like… well, television and almost anything that doesn’t involve expensive special effects, and Netflix has amassed quite a collection of murder mysteries to stream if you want to watch the bad guys be caught from the comfort of your own couch. Here are 10 series worth tuning into, if murder is on your menu.
Columbo broke the rules of the murder mystery genre by showing, upfront, whodunnit and how. The fun of each episode — and it was fun, no matter which B-grade celebrity was playing that week’s killer — was watching the cat and mouse game between the murderer and Peter Falk’s deceptively sharp detective as the truth was slowly uncovered. Decades later, this is still one of the best murder shows TV ever produced.
MURDER SHE WROTE (1984-1996)
If Columbo broke the rules, Murder She Wrote made a point of putting them back together again with great care and precision. The series has been much maligned and made fun of over the years — occasionally with good reason, such as Angela Lansbury playing her own relatives in some episodes, with increasingly unlikely accents — but when it’s good, it’s a guilty pleasure unlike any other.
INSPECTOR MORSE (1987-2000)
In many ways, Inspector Morse re-defined quality television in the U.K., introducing a movie-length format and being unashamed to mix populism and high culture. The key to the show’s success wasn’t the weekly, increasingly grisly murders but something more basic: the relationship between the grumpy titular character and his cheerful, friendly sidekick Sgt. Lewis. Yes, the Best British Murder Show™ is really a buddy comedy. Don’t tell anyone.
TWIN PEAKS (1990-1991)
In many ways, the murder of Laura Palmer is the least interesting thing about David Lynch and Mark Frost’s iconic 1990s TV show — ask anyone with fond teenage memories of Sherilyn Fenn as evidence — but it’s the inciting incident and the throughline that holds the show together as much as anything else. If only all murder mysteries were as stylish, or willing to be as weird.
There have been countless two-hander murder shows on network television in recent years — Elementary, Castle, and so on — but Bones does the mis-matched pair who mix comedy misunderstandings and crimestopping as well as any of them, thanks in part to a gleeful joy in coming up with unlikely ways to off the victim of the week (and a mini-drama with new characters at the start of each episode before the corpse is discovered).
THE KILLING (2011-2014)
If most TV shows like to dispatch a murderer every episode, The Killing—both in its original Danish version and this U.S. remake — went the other route, really digging into each case across multiple episodes (and, in the case of the first murder, multiple seasons). That approach alienated as many viewers as it won over, but when binge-watched, it works so much better, and lets you concentrate on the important things — like how wonderful Mireille Enos is in the show.
MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES (2012-2015)
A very intentional throwback — it does take place in the 1920s, after all — Miss Fisher is a camp charm, letting a socialite and her staff solve murders with style, wit and more than a small helping of self-aware humor. Come for the lure of seeing what Melbourne looked like almost a century ago, stay because you’ve probably fallen for Essie Davis’ sassy crimefighter.
Much like The Killing, Broadchurch took a season to solve its murder, spending as much time on the grief of those left behind — and the impact the murder of a child has on the eponymous community. It’s an appropriately dark, dour series, but it hits like a gut punch when it gets things right.
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (2014-)
Finally, someone creates a guide to how to do all these killings in the first place. Okay, maybe not, but there’s a wonderfully chewy amorality on show in Shonda Rhimes’ legal potboiler, which mixes the procedural format with a slowly unwinding murder mystery where everything isn’t as it seems — but, instead, is far more gossipy and juicy. Remember what I said about guilty pleasures…? Well, this definitely fits.
Why have one murder, when you can have a serial killer who may or may not be connected with a cyber-bullying incident or even more gruesome events from decades earlier? MTV’s revival of the slasher movie parody franchise goes to places where the movies couldn’t, and is all the better for it.