French crime dramas are among the most interesting nowadays, flirting with various different genres, such as thrillers and dramas. They often contain a mystery behind their cases and investigations and trigger the audience’s imagination.
Set in many beautiful French landscapes, very often in remote villages and secluded spaces, their crime series don’t only have an intriguing case everything is revolving around, but also very well portrayed characters which the audience gets attached to easily. The psychological aspect of both criminals and detectives is one of the best parts there. This is the list of the 20 best French series of all time, the ones which include all the things mentioned.
Balthazar (2018 – )
Helene Bach is a new police commander who needs to learn how to talk with her new partner, a talented forensic pathologist Raphael, one of the best in his generation. Besides many complex murder cases, Helene must get used to Raphael’s way of working and living, always doing everything to the fullest and often not abiding by the rules.
Helene is having a hard time juggling it all together, being at the same time a busy mother and a new member of the Criminal Brigade. She will simply have to adapt and adjust her working routine to Raphael’s complex personality in order to successfully solve some of the most difficult cases she has ever encountered.
The Bureau (2015 – )
One of the most successful and best French tv series of all time, this crime drama tells the story of Malotru, the French intelligence officer who returns home after six years of undercover work in Syria. His job is not done here, since he needs to adapt to a life utterly different from the one he has led until now.
He is struggling to forget his made-up identity and has a new job, training a young recruit and starting a new investigation, one concerning the disappearance of a colleague in Algeria.
Spiral (2005 – 2020)
Another brilliant crime series which is especially interesting to its detailed analysis of criminal investigations in Paris. All the crimes are examined and brought on screen from all points of view of the ones involved in them.
Dealing with all kinds of illegal activities and crimes, this long-lasting tv-series gives a great insight into all kinds of minds and explains many things we have wanted to learn about while watching shows of this type.
The Tunnel (2013 – 2018)
This crime drama is mainly set in Calais and Folkestone where the detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann are called to investigate the murder of a prominent French politician. After a shocking discovery at the crime scene, Roebuck and Wassermann will be forced to work together.
It will be the beginning of an uneasy partnership full of mysteries and traps when they learn they are dealing with a twisted serial killer who will very soon draw them into his personal life and all the sick games he plays.
Lupin (2021 – )
One of the most intriguing and most famous French tv-series recently is this fast-paced mystery crime loosely based on the beloved stories of an intelligent gentleman thief Arsene Lupin. Played by the internationally acclaimed comedian Omar Sy who brilliantly portrays this cunning young man, Lupin is a series you will definitely enjoy watching.
Not too demanding, but always interesting and unexpected, this is the story of Assene Diop who decides to avenge his father for an injustice brought upon him by a wealthy family both of them have been connected with in their past.
The Little Murders of Agatha Christie (2009 – )
When you love crime and detective tv-series and enjoy solving mysteries, you will always think of Agatha Christie and her novels when someone asks you about the most inventive and interesting crime stories. They have been brought to screen numerous times, but the audience never gets tired of watching them.
This is a somewhat different outtake on her intriguing mysteries, where we are presented with witty and fresh twists on some of the most beloved and world famous crime stories. It is one of the most watched French crime series, going on for 13 years and always leaving us wanting more.
The Paris Murders (2009 – 2020)
Chloe Saint-Laurent is a profiler working with a police team who is solving crimes in Paris. No one would ever guess she is one of the best in her field of expertise, especially when they see her for the first time. She is always dressed in vibrant colours, with a huge yellow bag on her shoulder and a sincere smile on her mouth
. Sometimes she even resembles a young girl who will definitely not be taken seriously, especially when it comes to dealing with some of the most complex cases. But she is a skilled and very intelligent profile and slowly she will find a place in her team and become best friends with her colleagues.
Maigret (1991 – 2005)
Before Rowan Atkinson and his brilliant portrayal of Maigret in the beloved British series, the French have already had their own adaption of one of the most famous world detectives. Bruno Cremer is the pragmatic, but reserved and not very social detective Maigret who solves murders in a peculiar way, but somehow always discovers the truth.
Cremer makes a great Maigret, very similar to the one in the novels this tv-series was based on. Slow-paced, with long moments without dialogues, this show is made for the audience who enjoys watching how a detective’s mind works and slowly comes to the conclusion which helps him solve the mystery.
This excellent crime thriller deals with the psychological aspect of the main characters, together with their stubborn attempts to discover the truth important to all of them. It is the story of four Haute-de-Seine friends and police officers, Eddie, Walter, Theo and Roxanne whose lives are completely changed when their colleague Max commits suicide.
It was a decision made after a case where he was falsely accused and unfairly blamed. His colleagues will do anything to convince the court and the public of his innocence and make all necessary steps, even breaking the law if needed.
La Mante (2017)
This intriguing and atmospheric mini series follows the story of a serial killer, named “La Mante” who decides to work with the police when a string of murders occur, disturbingly similar to her style. They are all aware they are dealing with a copycat and if they want to find out something and catch him, they will have to listen to La Mante’s advice.
Jeanne Debber terrorised France twenty years ago but she will become more than important in this murder investigation set in present day Paris. Jeanne agrees on working with the police, but only on one condition, to work with Damien Carrot who happens to be her son who has broken ties with her a long time ago.
The Forest (2017)
In this tv mini series, we are taken to the Ardennes where we witness the disappearance of a sixteen-year-old Jennifer who simply vanished one night from her village. There is an investigation led by captain Gaspard Decker and a local cop named Virginie Musso who knew the girl.
They are helped by a local lonely and mysterious woman Eve who will shed some different light on the evidence and tracks leading to the discovery. This tv series will grab you from its very beginning and won’t let you rest until the end, constantly having you on the back of your seats.
Black Spot (2017 – )
Set in Villefranche, an isolated village on the edge of a mysterious forest is the setting for this atmospheric and eerie tv series. It deals with a rise in crime in this remote place where Police Inspector Laurene has to solve some of the most gruesome murders ever.
He was a victim of a crime once in his life as well and can easily put himself in the victim’s and criminal’s shoes which makes it easier for him to solve those crimes. But something is starting to happen here, with Laurene discovering even more fresh bodies.
Mafiosa (2006 – 2014)
Mafiosa is an intriguing crime drama that takes us to France’s biggest island, Corsica and lets us discover its not so appealing side. After the cold blooded murder of a local mobster boss Francois Paoli. The world of sex, drugs and crime is not reigned by Paoli’s intelligent niece Sandra Paoli.
It is interesting to witness a story set in a place that we are not very used to seeing on screen, with a woman as the leading character, being in one of the most dangerous, but powerful positions in the world, the one of a mafia boss.
Midnight Sun (2016)
A French tv series set in a small and remote mining community in Sweden named Kiruna where we follow the investigation of Kahina Zadi, a French Police Officer who is sent to work on a case regarding a brutal murder of a French citizen.
But this won’t be the only killing since Karina and her help there, a Swedish DA Anders Harnesk and Sami, the member of a mysterious indigenous tribe of Scandinavia are faced with new ones, all connected to the first. Kahina and Anders will find out there is so much more behind this murder investigation, a story connected to the town’s inhabitants.
The Promise (2020)
This crime drama deals with the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl a day after Christmas 1999 when the majority of Europe witnessed a horrifying storm. She vanished without a trace and there will be numerous attempts to try and find her and save her life.
Police captain Pierre Castaing is given the task of a leader of the investigation but he is having a hard time dealing with the emotions that are following his inability to find the girl. But this case will make him less available to his family and slowly he is going to be getting excluded from his community, while his family will start falling apart.
The Seven Lives of Lea (2022 – )
This crime drama flirts with fantasy in a very successful manner, bringing us the story of a woman who finds the body of Ismael, a teenager who went missing thirty years ago. This event will completely change her life, taking her back to 1991 when the accident occurred.
Lea will start waking up every morning in the body of a different person and become one of the most important persons in this mysterious disappearance case. This is an excellent tv-series, highly addictive and binge-worthy, especially for the ones who are not afraid to take a somewhat different turn in a classic crime case investigation.
Witnesses (2014 – )
This crime-drama mystery is set in a small coastal French town, bringing us a slow-paced story of numerous dark secrets. The tv-series opens up in a house put out on sale where a dead family is found. The investigation will ensue and one of the main suspects will be a now former chief-of-police, Paul Maisonneuve.
He has made many enemies in his past career and there will be many a lot of secrets and mysteries for the two detectives put on the case to solve. Sandra Winckler and Justin will find themselves on the trail of a serial killer with an interesting modus operandi.
Astrid et Raphaelle (2019 – )
One of the most inventive and intriguing French series in the last decade is this crime drama about an interesting girl Astrid, who is in the autistic spectre and has many remarkable abilities, such as incredible memory.
It will make her a great asset in her police department where the district commander will entrust her with the very important task of solving and dealing with complex investigations that have remained unsolved for many years.
The Missing (2014 – 2016)
This brilliant crime drama is a British-French coproduction set in France, bringing us the story of Tom, a man crushed by the abduction of his son Oliver during a family vacation in France. Many years have passed and he is still searching for him, but all his attempts remain in vain, bringing him nothing but personal chaos.
But there is another man who believes that the boy might still be alive. Julien is the French police detective who was in charge of the investigation when the boy went missing and even though retired now, he cannot shake this feeling that tells him that Tom might be right.
The Chalet (2017 – 2018)
Even though this series is more a thriller than a crime, it should be involved in this list since it has an interesting premise and a very intriguing plot. A group of childhood friends decides to gather for a reunion in a chalet in a remote village in the French Alps.
A meeting that should have been joyful and heartwarming turns out to be a mysterious struggle for survival after they get cut off from the rest of the world. Nothing is as it seems, especially when a dark secret from the past comes to life.