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Shows Like Peaky Blinders That Fans Of Period Crime Dramas Need To See

Debuting in 2011 to much fanfare, BBC's "Peaky Blinders" impressed audiences with a star-studded cast that included former "Batman" villains Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy. It told the fictionalized story of a real-life Irish street gang called the Peaky Blinders, a group of street thugs who operated out of Birmingham, England in the early 1920s, and went on to become one of the most notorious crime families in the United Kingdom.

Praised for its incredible visuals that stunningly recreate 1920s England, and the impressive performances from its top-tier cast, "Peaky Blinders" is entering its sixth season. However, there are plenty of other period crime dramas to catch up on, too. Whether it's a gritty drama focused on criminal masterminds, or heroic lawmen chasing down ruthless killers against historic backdrops, these are the series that fans of "Peaky Blinders" and its period setting shouldn't miss. While all the shows featured on this list are from different time periods and countries, they all strike the same chord as "Peaky Blinders," and are sure to be favorites with fans. 

Ripper Street

Perhaps the most underrated gem on this list is "Ripper Street," a gripping Victorian-era crime noir thriller set in London's East End, starring a mostly lesser-known cast of British talent. Airing on the BBC between 2012 and 2016, it was overshadowed by bigger shows with more famous stars like Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock" and indeed, Cillian Murphy's "Peaky Blinders." Despite its largely below-the-radar run, it still managed to be one of the best period crime dramas in recent memory, a story clearly told by its Rotten Tomatoes scores, with both critics and audiences agreeing. After the series concluded "The Guardian" poured praise upon "Ripper Street," saying it boasted "writing so deft and nimble it takes your breath away."

The series followed Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, the commander of East London's H Division who is still haunted by the death of his daughter, and motivated by his own growing frustration over his inability to catch the serial killer known as Jack The Ripper. A stunning mix of crime thriller and character drama, the series mostly avoided the season-long story arcs common to this kind of series, choosing instead to be a weekly procedural where Reid and his team on the H Division hunt down a number of murderers, burglars, and sexual predators, all while dealing with various problems of the era like a cholera outbreak and workers strikes. Running for five series, it concluded with what "The Guardian" called "the most shattering, emotionally raw ending imaginable."

Boardwalk Empire

Like "Peaky Blinders," the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" was a star-studded crime drama that took place in the 1920s, but moves the events from England to America, which gave it the added wrinkle of Prohibition. Set specifically along the New Jersey shore and the New York border region of Atlantic City where organized crime was flourishing, the cast was led by Steve Buscemi ("The Big Lebowski") and featured the likes of Jeffrey Wright ("Westworld"), Michael Shannon ("Man of Steel"), Michael K. Williams ("The Wire"), and Charlie Cox ("Daredevil"). Buscemi starred as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, a political leader of the era who was also a sinister crime boss that controlled the NJ coastal region. Thompson was closely connected to important and infamous figures in organized crime like Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, and the series put the spotlight on these connections, with those and other historical figures playing major roles in the series. 

As Atlantic City was mostly a haven from Prohibition, it became a destination spot for the lowest low-lifes the region had to offer, as well as powerful criminals, the wealthy elite, and influential politicians. As his influence grew, Thompson took control of the growing criminal bootleg liquor industry, putting him in the crosshairs of rivals and government agents alike. Another taut crime drama, this time focusing on the American mafias, "Boardwalk Empire" was nominated for an astonishing 57 Emmy Awards during its run, taking home 20 of them.


Skirting the edges of the crime drama genre, "Gunpowder" was a three-part television mini-series on BBC that starred Kit Harrington ("Eternals") and Mark Gatiss ("Sherlock") in a dramatization of the history's most infamous assassination attempts. The so-called "Gunpowder plot" to kill King James at the dawn of the 1600s was sparked by rebel leader Robert Catesby, who hoped to end the King's brutal treatment of Catholics and restore his people to power. Best known today as the event that made Guy Fawkes a legend, and for the rhyming motto "Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November," (popularized in recent years by the film "V For Vendetta"), the plan to blow up the House Of Lords was designed to be the start of a massive city-wide revolt.

Unique for its unusual period setting, and the fact that lead star Harrington is actually a descendant of his character Catesby, "Gunpowder" is essentially a deadly heist movie in the middle ages, with castles and swords replacing getaway cars and handguns. Harrington delivers a strong performance as a passionate leader fighting for the freedom of his people. Gritty, grounded, and intense, the series is sure to satisfy anyone looking for a dramatic story of a daring criminal mastermind in one of history's least explored eras on television.

The Alienist

Based on the series of mystery novels by Caleb Carr, "The Alienist" stars Daniel Brühl — who most audiences now know as Baron Zemo in "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" — alongside Dakota Fanning ("Ocean's Eight"), and Luke Evans ("The Hobbit" trilogy) in a crime noir drama set in 1890s New York. Full of real-life historical figures like eventual U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt — who here acts as police commissioner years before his political career — the series follows Laszlo Kreizler, a so-called alienist (a person who would today be referred to more simply as a criminal psychologist) — who offered his services to the police in hunting down the cities most vicious criminals when evidence is scant. 

In addition to its incredible cast, the city itself was its own character, with the series' high production values convincingly portraying the dank and dirty streets of old New York. While "The Alienist" is a crime drama with a remarkable historical flavor, it also impresses with a sophisticated story boasting sharp scripts filled with social and political messages. In addition to being an addictive period piece, it raises important timeless topics like police corruption, class, and privilege, in a society on the verge of social, political, and technological revolutions. 


In 2017, "Peaky Blinders" creator Steven Knight teamed up with star Tom Hardy to produce "Taboo," a gritty early 19th-century crime drama that ran for a single season. If you liked Hardy in his stint on "Peaky Blinders" as Alfie Solomon, the brutal Jewish gang leader from Camden Town, you'll love him here as James Delaney, a man who inherits his father's shipping business after returning home to London following years away in Africa. But his new life brings with it more than he bargained for as he becomes embroiled in the corruption and political machinations of the East India Company, who attempt to take control of his father's land. At the same time, he's reconnected with his half-sister Zilpha, for whom he holds an unrequited — and taboo — love. 

For "Taboo" Hardy — as co-creator and executive producer– helped bring the series to life as more than just its star player. But it's his part as the embattled Delaney that the series is remembered for. While it may not be the action-packed series you'd expect from the actor, its deliberately paced, brooding story makes the proceedings all the more dramatic as the eight-episode series weaves a complex tale of love, redemption, and power. 

The Irregulars

From "Peaky Blinders" producer Greg Brenman came a new take on the classic 19th century hero Sherlock Holmes. "The Irregulars" was a Netflix original that followed a group of misfits living in the streets of London that helped the great detective solve cases in many of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories. Instead of assisting, the ragtag group of street toughs was the ones solving the cases, while Sherlock Holmes was mostly missing. Hired by John Watson (Royce Pierreson), and with the rare assistance from Mycroft Holmes (Jonjo O'Niell) the team scurried about the back alleys of London chasing down villainous murders and scurrilous creeps, all while trying to discover the whereabouts of Sherlock himself.

With a decidedly supernatural — and even sometimes science fiction — bent, "The Irregulars" discovered schemes and plots that were more than simple murders. From chemical clones to monstrous shapeshifters, it put a new twist on the stories of Holmes, and slowly revealed that it was the Irregulars doing most of the work while Sherlock got all the press. Full of visceral imagery, the series also managed to push the boundaries of television violence, offering up just as much ghastly gore as it did mystery and intrigue.


Set during the Great Depression in Holden, Iowa, "Damnation" gives us the story of two wayward brothers who clash over a controversial labor movement. Seth Davenport (played by Killian Scott, star of Marvel's upcoming "Secret Invasion" miniseries) is a religious leader pushing the local farmers to strike and fight back against the corruption of the town's sheriff and the system he supports. Davenport's estranged brother Creeley Turner meanwhile is a dedicated Pinkerton agent sent to Holden to break up the movement at any cost, at the behest of a wealthy tycoon who stands to lose big if the strike is successful. The twist in the tale is that neither brother is quite what they seem, as Davenport is an ex-con posing as a preacher, while Turner is hiding secrets of his own.

If you're looking for a drama with a historical angle, this one's for you, as much of the premise and backstory is based on or inspired by real-life events, even if the central characters are entirely fictionalized. Violent, twisted, and populated by compelling characters, "Damnation" was praised as one of the best western crime dramas, and gives a fascinating insight into the less talked about stories of the era.

The Making of the Mob

Part mafia epic, part true crime documentary, "The Making Of The Mob" successfully pulls together two styles of storytelling in a wholly satisfying way. Interviews with historical experts and even Hollywood stars are deftly interwoven with stunning recreations so good you'd think they had spliced up a hit HBO series for their own purposes. While the narrators and historians give their thoughts on the long and complex backstory of the 20th century's greatest criminal kingpins, you'll meet everyone from Al Capone — and see his rise and fall as the leader of the mafia in Chicago — to Lucky Luciano and his rule of the Five Families in New York. 

Two seasons of the series ran in 2015-2016 on AMC, with season one centered on the criminal enterprises in the Big Apple and season two set in the Windy City. Though you won't find any known names playing the parts, the dramatic retellings are as good as any big budget TV series or cinematic crime drama, while the interviews with the experts provide context that's just as fascinating.

The ABC Murders

Based on the book by Agatha Christie, "The ABC Murders" sees Hollywood legend John Malkovich taking on the role of famed fictional detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot's adventures on the page and on the screen are numerous, and saw renewed attention the past few years thanks to actor/director Kenneth Branagh's "Murder On The Orient Express" and "Death On The Nile." But on the small screen, Malkovich and "Harry Potter" star Rupert Gint appear as Poirot and Inspector Crome respectively, hot on the trail of a sinister serial killer who is sending letters taunting the Belgian detective to predict where he'll strike next.

Gloomier than most adaptations of Christie's works, "The ABC Murders" may have taken some liberties with the source material, but Malkovich was captivating in the lead role, and the three-part series was met with a positive response from critics. Like "Peaky Blinders," the series soars thanks to its Hollywood star in the lead role, and if Christie purists enjoy Branagh's interpretation a bit more, this version is likely better enjoyed by fans less familiar with the original novel on which it is based. 


A British production specifically produced by and for BBC America, "Copper" was set in the 1860s in New York, in the area known as The Five Points, and focused on the same gangs seen in Martin Scorsese's "Gangs Of New York" but some ten years hence. Tom Weston-Jones stars as Kevin "Corky" Corcoran, an Irish police officer who attempts to bring his own brand of order the chaos of the crime-riddled filth of New York City and its many slums. Set in the midst of America's Civil War, Corcoran also attempts to find his missing wife as well as the circumstances surrounding the death of his daughter while he was fighting with the Union Army. 

Running for two seasons, "Copper" was essentially "Law & Order" in the 19th century, with all of the dirt and grime of the time, and far less of the discipline of the modern day. If you thought the 1860s wild west was tough, wait until you spend time with Corcoran in the big city tracking down murderers and rapists. Not for the feint of heart, if you liked "Peaky Blinders'" uncompromising look at crime in the 1920s, "Copper" is right up your alley. 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

With all due respect to Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock" on BBC, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" may very well be the best interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle's literary hero ever produced for the screen. Jeremy Brett takes on the role of the great detective in his career defining role, and perhaps the best and most faithful take ever on the character. The series debuted in 1984 and would air for ten years on ITV, ultimately adapting 42 of Conan Doyle's 60 Holmes stories. With stories ripped straight from the pages of the novels, with surprisingly little deviation, Brett's Sherlock Holmes is both riveting and delightful at the same time, delivering just the kind of on-screen adaptation fans of the character had long dreamed of.

From classics like "Hound Of The Baskervilles" and "The Red Headed League" to lesser known stories like "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," all the best mysteries and thrillers are laid out on the screen with enough drama to intrigue fans of the genre. To this day, "The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes" is the series recommended for any fan of Conan Doyle's hero detective — and period crime dramas as a whole.

Turn: Washington's Spies

One of the oldest eras to be explored on this list, "Turn: Washington's Spies" brought the crime drama back to the turn of the 19th century during the American Revolution. More of an espionage thriller than most on this list — as the title of the series suggests — the criminal masterminds at the center of the series were those bold patriots who formed the Culper Ring, a network of spies during the war in the lead-up to America's first years as a new nation. Hollywood star Jamie Bell ("Snowpiercer") starred as Abraham Woodhull, a leading figure in the ring of spies, while fictionalized versions of real life figures in the cast included George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Marquis de Lafayette, and Alexander Hamilton. 

Running for four seasons on AMC, the series chronicled the Culper Ring beginning with its initial formation when their operatives proved crucial in the war with the British in the late 1770s. The series reached its natural conclusion as its final season covering events right up until the British withdrawal from New York in 1783. An ambitious series, it should appeal to fans of "Peaky Blinders" who appreciate the show's astonishing attention to historical detail.

The Untouchables

Before Kevin Costner would star as Elliot Ness in Brian DePalma's "The Untouchables," the story of Ness and his group of crime fighting agents in Prohibition era Chicago was chronicled in a television series starring Robert Stack ("Unsolved Mysteries"). Ness and his squad were assembled to take down notorious mafia kingpin Al Capone, and became known as The Untouchables thanks to their reputation as honest lawmen who couldn't be bribed, in an era where criminals survived off the backs of cops on the take. Though the series took liberties with historical fact, it was an early attempt at a gritty crime drama, though it might be considered tame by today's standards.

Though not quite the period piece that others on this list may be — as the events of the show were just some 25 years prior to its production — "The Untouchables" excelled at telling ground tales of cops vs robbers in days gone by. A series that very much feels like a 1950s version of "Peaky Blinders," complete with a Hollywood star at its center, it should appeal to anyone with a love of classic mafia crime stories. Boasting 118 episodes across four seasons — with Stack taking home an Emmy for his performance — its widely considered to be one the era's best television crime dramas.

Perry Mason (2020)

A surprising prequel to the classic 1980's "Perry Mason" legal drama, this new version of the crime fighter brings the classic character back in time to the 1930s when he was a private investigator chasing murderers and street thugs, working as a hero for hire. More violent and gloomy than one might have expected from a prequel to the rather family-friendly primetime courtroom series, this new version of a beloved Mason is given an ironically modern update by showing his adventures as a younger man, tracking down ruthless killers and getting involved in steamy love affairs.

Some have claimed this was a series that nobody asked for, "Perry Mason" bucks against its critics and gives audiences a solid new crime noir that fits well alongside modern dramas like "Peaky Blinders." The HBO original has so far been well received, and looks like a promising start to what could be a long running franchise. Well-shot and superbly acted, with intricate detective stories that thread the needle between pulp simplicity and high concept drama, its second season has already been announced.