21 Best British TV Shows Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
It starts off with a man failing at hanging himself from a fruit tree in a bleak-looking garden. Something this grotesque isn't usually the stuff of sitcoms. This is unsurprising because Will Sharpe's Flowers, produced for the British Channel 4, is not your usual sitcom. With a unique visual style, an extraordinary cast, and a dark, satirical script, it carves out a genre of its own. The always amazing Olivia Colman plays Deborah Flowers, the eccentric family's matriarch, and a music teacher. The man trying to hang himself is her depressed and unfaithful husband Maurice (Julian Barratt), who is a children's book author. They live in a ramshackle house with a Japanese butler, who barely speaks English, and their dysfunctional adult twins. Amidst all this glorious mess, Flowers is ultimately about mental illness and depression and is apt in pairing this disturbing reality with hilarity. Obviously, it is very dark. A bit too dark for comedy, and too mad for drama: truly original stuff.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Hedditch, Angus Wright, Anna Chancellor, Caroline McQuade, Colin Hurley, Daniel Rigby, Georgina Campbell, Harriet Walter, Julian Barratt, Leila Hoffman, Natalie Rose, Olivia Colman, Sassy Soupidis, Sophia Di Martino, Will Sharpe

Director: Mina Maniska, Will Sharpe

Rating: N/A

, 2015

This six-chapter British miniseries stars the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgård as an erratic London police detective. He starts seeing visions or “manifests” of his recently murdered colleague and tries to solve her case even though he was excluded from it. River blends reality and illusion in a thoughtful and original police thriller.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Eddie Marsan, Georgina Rich, Lesley Manville, Nicola Walker, Owen Teale, Sorcha Cusack, Stellan Skarsgård, Steve Nicolson, Turlough Convery

Rating: TV-MA

Happy Valley and Line of Duty to Luther and Sherwood, the BBC has produced some of the finest police dramas in recent TV history, and Better is a worthy addition to the roster. It’s not as refined as the mentioned shows, but it’s grounded by a riveting, morally conflicted performance by Fazard. The breakdown of her conscience, the constant negotiation between obligation and survival, the road toward redemption—Fazard embodies it all with rugged grace. It’s not often we get the point of view of a corrupt cop, and when we do, we rarely see them with this much screen time and backstory. Better is an okay crime thriller, but it’s even better as a character study of the well-meaning, desperate, and brilliant Lou. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Buchan, Carolin Stoltz, Garry Cooper, Gavin Spokes, Leila Farzad, Lucy Black, Olivia Nakintu, Samuel Edward-Cook, Zak Ford-Williams