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Best crime dramas like Under the Banner of Heaven

Crime seems to be pretty much everywhere on TV. There’s fraud, scams, trials, and plenty of murder, but it can be hard to figure out which shows are actually worth watching within that burgeoning genre. In one of the busiest TV seasons in recent memory, Under the Banner of Heaven is preparing to join the fray, telling the story of a murder in the LDS church in the 1980s.

The true story behind the case, as well as the all-star roster of talent assembled to tell the story, make Under the Banner of Heaven one of the more intriguing series of the spring. Once you’re finished with that series, though, you may be looking for others that scratch a similar itch. Here are 10 series like Under the Banner of Heaven that may fit the bill.

True Detective (2014)

True Detective
73 %
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Drama
Cast Mahershala Ali, Stephen Dorff, Carmen Ejogo
Created by Nic Pizzolatto
Although it has come to define an entire era of prestige TV, True Detective, and especially its first season, smartly tackles the way crimes ripple out and impact a community. The series takes occasional turns toward the fantastical, but is ultimately most fascinated by good and evil, and the reasons that evil persists in a world where most people try to fight against it. It’s not a true crime story per se, but its story of ritualistic murders and of a largely indifferent society feels true, even if it wasn’t ripped from the headlines.
True Detective - Season 1: Trailer - Official HBO UK

The Wire (2002)

The Wire
91 %
tv-ma 5 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama
Cast Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn
Created by David Simon
The most definitive statement on the broken nature of systems ever put to screen, The Wire takes the usual premise of a cop show and turns it on its head. Following both the cops and the drug kingpins of the city of Baltimore, the show offers a glimpse at the corruption inherent in both sides. As The Wire continued to broaden its scope, it showed how corrupt individuals can wield broken systems to create awful outcomes. Even those who have the best intentions ultimately find themselves incapable of making change because the systems they work within are totally intractable. It’s depressing, but only because it’s rings so true.
The Wire Season 1 Trailer | by JPB

Unbelievable (2019)

83 %
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Drama, Crime
Cast Kaitlyn Dever, Toni Collette, Merritt Wever
Created by Susannah Grant
Telling the true story of a young girl who was raped and then convinced to recant her statement by the police, Unbelievable is harrowing because of the way its central character is traumatized both during the assault and during every interaction she has with police. Thankfully, in this case, the truth was discovered and justice was ultimately done. Thanks to remarkable work from Merritt Weaver, Toni Collette and Kaitlyn Deaver, Unbelievable is both excruciating and extraordinary.
Unbelievable | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Girl From Plainville (2022)

The Girl From Plainville
1 Season
Genre Drama, Crime
Cast Elle Fanning, Chloë Sevigny, Colton Ryan
Created by Patrick Macmanus, Liz Hannah
There are plenty of true stories that don’t get the attention they deserve, but some, like the story of Michelle Carter’s trial over her role in Conrad Roy III’s death by suicide, had already gotten plenty of notice before an entire miniseries was dedicated to them. Even though most people knew the story, The Girl From Plainville still managed to shed plenty of light on the case and complicate the simple narratives that had dominated press coverage. Michelle’s texts did encourage Conrad to kill himself, but both Michelle and Conrad lived full lives before that day. In The Girl From Plainville, we get to learn more about the people behind the salacious headlines.
The Girl From Plainville Limited Series Trailer | Rotten Tomatoes TV

When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us
86 %
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Drama
Cast Jharrel Jerome, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez
Created by Ava DuVernay
Perhaps the most searing indictment of the criminal justice system that’s ever aired on TV, When They See Us is a look at the Exonerated Five, the young Black kids who were accused of assaulting a woman in Central Park. The miniseries takes us through their trial, conviction, imprisonment, and ultimate release, and provides a full portrait of how this false accusation rippled through their lives. To its credit, When They See Us is almost totally uninterested in solving the crime that is at its center. These young boys did not commit it, and they were railroaded by the justice system anyway.
When They See Us: Limited Series | Teaser [HD] | Netflix

Mindhunter (2017)

80 %
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Drama, Crime
Cast Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv
Created by Joe Penhall
A fictionalized show about real criminals, Mindhunter is maybe the very best seedy crime show in the game. Telling the story of the earliest days of the FBI’s behavioral studies department, the show is premised in part on a series of interviews that its two lead characters conduct with notorious serial killers. The show is about how these killers’ brains work, and about how studying that can hopefully help cops get better at catching them. It’s a fascinating show about the darkness many people choose to bury, and a great meta-commentary on our current obsession with true crime and serial killers.
MINDHUNTER | Teaser [HD] | Netflix

The Night Of (2016)

The Night Of
90 %
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp
Created by Steven Zaillian, Richard Price
The HBO miniseries that launched Riz Ahmed, The Night Of is a story about one guy who found himself in the wrong place on the wrong night. When he’s accused of murdering a girl, he finds himself transformed by his time spent in holding on Riker’s Island before he’s even been convicted of anything. The show is remarkable in part because, even as it digs into who may actually be guilty of the crime in question, it also examines the gaping flaws in our criminal justice system, and how they can transform one man’s life.
The Night Of - Trailer - Official HBO UK

Barry (2018)

85 %
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Comedy, Crime
Cast Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Henry Winkler
Created by Bill Hader, Alec Berg
Barry certainly has the most bizarre mix of tonal elements of any show on this list, but it works in part because its creative team is so assured. Starring Bill Hader as a former hitman who decides to give acting a whirl, Barry is ultimately about the impossibility of outrunning your past, even as you try desperately to become a better person. It’s not true crime, exactly, but it takes many of the best elements from those shows and spins them to its own end. Neither a comedy nor a drama, Barry is its own thing, and that seems to be exactly what it wants to be.
Barry: Season 1 - 'It's A Job' | Official Trailer | HBO

Justified (2010)

86 %
tv-ma 6 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama
Cast Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter
Created by Graham Yost
Telling the story of a U.S. Marshal who has a old testament sense of justice, Justified was a crime show designed for a different TV era. Over the course of its six season run, the series proved compelling in part because it managed to recruit a truly outstanding array of on screen talent. While it may seem like a relic of a different TV era, Justified is a great show to return to or check out for the first time if you enjoy watching cops solve cases, but are looking for something a little bit lighter than Under the Banner of Heaven. 
Justified Season 1 Promo / trailer

Better Call Saul (2015)

Better Call Saul
85 %
tv-ma 6 Seasons
Genre Comedy, Crime, Drama
Cast Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn
Created by Peter Gould, Vince Gilligan
Perhaps the best crime show currently airing new episodes, Better Call Saul is the Breaking Bad prequel that’s managed to eclipse its predecessor. The show, which tells the origin story of Breaking Bad lawyer Saul Goodman, is a nuanced exploration of a group of people addicted to the grift. Whereas Breaking Bad told a Shakespearean story of one man’s descent into hell, Better Call Saul has been much more circular and slow moving, to its great benefit. Bob Odenkirk is a remarkable lead performer, and he’s surrounded by enough great talent to make Better Call Saul sing in every moment.
BETTER CALL SAUL Season 1 | Extended TRAILER | AMC Series | HD

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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