The CW

20 mystery shows to binge


Eddie Strait


Published Apr 29, 2020   Updated Jan 27, 2021, 3:01 pm CST


What does it mean for a show to be “binge-able”? If you’re determined and have enough free time on your hands then any show can be binge-worthy. However, there is one genre that lends itself to compulsive viewing more than any other: mysteries. Whether you’re looking for something dark and twisted or light and frothy or something in between, the streaming sites are overflowing with options. We’ve searched the streaming sites for clues for mystery shows with everything you want from the genre. Detectives with tortured souls, amateur PI buddies, everyday people thrown into a baffling situation, drama, comedy, true crime, and true crime parody, we’ve seen it all. Here are our picks for the best mystery shows to binge right now and where you can find them.

1) Nancy Drew (The CW)

Mystery Shows Nancy Drew
TV Promos/YouTube

Following in the footsteps of shows like Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Nancy Drew modernizes its classic source material with a supernatural sheen. This Nancy, played by Kennedy McMann, has given up her teen detective ways and is waitressing at a local dinner. But you know what they say about old habits. Nancy is roped back into the sleuthing game after witnessing (and being a suspect) in the death of Tiffany Hudson, the wife of a local businessman. Not only that, but the case also may or may not be linked to an infamous Horseshoe Bay cold case, the death of a girl named Lucy Sable. Coming from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (who previously brought the world The O.C. and Gossip Girl) and Noga Landau, this Nancy Drew is clever and fun. As for streaming access, the show is on The CW app which is free, doesn’t require a log-in, and is super easy to use. —Eddie Strait

2) Lost (Hulu)

Mystery Shows Lost
Trailer Blend/YouTube

The story of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 is a perfect encapsulation of everything that’s great and bad about heavily serialized shows. The constant thrills and upending of audience expectation, the performances, the lush photography, the narrative dead ends, the equally enticing and discouraging lack of answers. Lost is, and remains, a ton of fun to watch. The only downside to firing up the show on Hulu is that you’ll have a hard time stopping, but Lost is a great binge show. —ES

3) iZombie (Netflix)

Mystery Shows iZombie
TV Promos/YouTube

The CW has rebranded itself among the major networks as the outlet for fun genre fare, headlined by comic based shows Flash, Supergirl, and Arrow. Then there’s iZombie, which also has its origins in comics, but the superpower here is the ability to view a person’s final moments by eating their brain. The heroine is Olivia Moore or Liv Moore for short and clever. A party gone awry turns her into a zombie and we’re off. She works in the city morgue where she has a hearty supply of brains to sustain herself. The free sustenance comes with visions, accompanied by temporary new personalities, for Liv, who uses those to help her put away a slew of murderers. The show is run by Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down), so the weekly cases are intriguing and the dialogue is snappy.  —ES

4) Hap and Leonard (Netflix)

Mystery Shows Hap and Leonard
Rotten Tomatoes TV/YouTube

Hap and Leonard is based on the Southern-fried mysteries spun by Joe Lansdale, which follows lifelong friends Hap (James Purefoy) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams), who work as low level investigators in East Texas. The first season, now on Netflix, adapts Lansdale’s Savage Season, the first novel in the series, where the search for a long-missing car packed with cash has all manner of lowlifes (and Hap and Leonard) coming out of the woodwork. The only thing Hap and Leonard love more than knocking heads is trading one-liners, and there are plenty of both on-screen. Grab a six-pack of Dr. Pepper and some vanilla cookies and settle in. —ES

5) Veronica Mars (Hulu)

Mystery Shows Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars is one of the best mystery shows of the last 15-20 years. It’s a mystery show, a teen drama, and sharp class commentary all in one show. The CW product balanced season-long mysteries with episodic cases, sharp class commentary with soapy drama. Anchored by Kristen Bell’s dynamic lead performance and creator Rob Thomas’ vision, Veronica Mars is a show that once you watch it you’ll ask yourself what took so long. That’s just about the only mystery Veronica can’t solve. —ES

6) Twin Peaks (seasons 1-2 on Netflix, season 3 on Showtime Anytime)

Mystery Shows Twin Peaks
We Got This Covered/YouTube

There are mystery shows and then there are mystery shows and then there’s Twin Peaks. David Lynch’s magnum opus (or one of the multiple opuses), is ostensibly about the investigation of high school student Laura Palmer’s murder. But that’s like saying The Wire is just a cop show. Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost pack so many confounding elements into the town and townspeople of Twin Peaks that no two viewings of Twin Peaks are alike. —ES 

7) Broadchurch (Netflix)

Mystery Shows Broadchurch

If you prefer dark mysterious and gut-punch revelations, this British import is what you’re looking for. David Tennant and Olivia Coleman are an odd couple investigating a death that has shaken up an entire community. The first season is great and makes a fine stopping point if you’ve had enough. It’s not exactly feel-good television, but if you’re looking to keep the binge going, the second and third seasons will keep you hooked all the way to the end. —ES

8) Sharp Objects (HBO)

Mystery Shows Sharp Objects

For anyone who likes a shocking mystery with complex characters and a distinct setting, Sharp Objects is worth sticking with. The lead in that group of complex characters is Amy Adams’ Camille Preaker, a damaged, hard-living journalist from St. Louis. The setting is the town of Wind Gap, where Camille grew up. She returns home after being sent on assignment to cover the murder of several local girls, and, as is usually the case in these kinds of stories, uncovers a lot of other secrets in the process. —Chris Osterndorf

9) The Stranger (Netflix)

Mystery Shows The Stranger

Best-selling author Harlan Coben’s novels are the literary equivalents of a TV binge. His stories are so twisty and fast-paced that it’s impossible to put them down. Netflix has produced a few series based on Coben’s work and The Stranger is the latest and best adaptation. In this story, Adam Price’s (Richard Armitage) life is completely upended when a mysterious man tells him something about his wife. With everything crumbling around him, Adam races to put his life back together. This is one that once you hit “start” you’ll just let it roll to the end. —ES

10) American Vandal (Netflix)

Mystery Shows American Vandal

From the outside, American Vandal appeals to a very niche audience: people clamoring for a true-crime parody that can be defiantly juvenile. In the show’s two seasons, high school students Peter and Sam (Tyler Alvarez and Griffin Gluck) investigate two mysteries. First, there’s the matter of “who drew the dicks” on 27 cars in the school’s parking lot, followed up by a massive “brown out” after someone spike’s the school’s lemonade with a laxative. Both seasons revel in the silliness of the premise, but American Vandal is not a one-note joke. As the investigations progress the show gives thoughtful consideration about a myriad of topics facing high school students. You’ll laugh at first, but before you know it you’ll be dying to know whodunit and why. —ES

11) True Detective (HBO)

Mystery Shows True Detective

The track record of True Detective is spotty, with the acclaimed first season dissipating into mockery for the show’s second season before the series rebounds with its third outing. But one thing working in the show’s favor is that creator Nick Pizzolatto creates immersive mysteries for obsessive viewers who like to connect all the dots. The show is thematically (and sometimes literally) dark, but at six episodes per season, you can binge it without feeling bad about it. —ES

12) Dublin Murders (Starz)

Mystery Shows Dublin Murders

Based on the excellent series of novels by Tana French, Dublin Murders covers the first two books in the series, In the Woods and The Likeness. The Into the Woods portion revolves around the murder of a 12-year-old girl and the personal connection the crime has for one of the lead detectives, Rob Reilly (Killian Scott). The Likeness is about an undercover case for Rob’s partner Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene). Like French’s novels, Dublin Murders is a satisfying mystery that excels as a psychological examination of its characters. —ES 

14) Terriers (Hulu)

If you’re looking for a (relatively) lighter mystery, this story of two friends running their own PI business fits the bill. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James star as Hank and Britt, and the camaraderie between the actors and characters is about as perfect as you’ll see in any show. Whether their trading banter or running down clues, the joy of Terriers is getting to hang with Hank and Britt for a while. On top of that, the writing crackles and the mysteries are cleverly plotted (series creator Ted Griffin also wrote the Ocean’s 11 remake). Terriers is definitely the best show you haven’t watched so it’s time to fix that. —ES

15) Rectify (Netflix)

Mystery Shows Rectify

This is another one for those willing to take a leap of faith. Rectify is meditative, glacially paced, and deals with spirituality in a way not often seen on TV. Daniel Holden is working his way back into a society that doesn’t want him after spending 19 years on death row for murder. Despite his conviction being overturned, the question of Daniel’s innocence or guilt looms large over the show but isn’t the biggest question on this show’s mind. What the show lacks in narrative flash it makes up for with a strong ensemble and outstanding writing. Few shows are as focused on the reverberations of daily minutiae as Rectify, and that’s where many of the highlights come from. Rectify is a slow-burn mystery that benefits from the immersion that comes with binge-watching. —ES

16) Big Little Lies (HBO)

Mystery Shows Big Little Lies
TV Promos/YouTube

Set in an ultra-posh community in Monterrey, California, the series revolves around a murder that shocks the community. As the layers of the community are peeled back, it exposes the bitter rivalries, social warfare, and emotional ugliness lurking just under the surface of a town marked by its wealth and beauty. Coming from TV legend David E. Kelley and starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley, and adding Meryl Streep in season 2, Big Little Lies is the kind of star studded material people love to watch and expect from HBO. —ES

17) Psych (Amazon Prime)

Mystery Shows Psych
ONE Media/YouTube

Psych is all about delivering a good time to viewers, and it does that well. The premise is simple: Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is an easygoing guy who’s kind of aimless. His best trait is his photographic memory, which he puts to use solving crimes and billing himself as a psychic detective alongside his best friend Gus (Dule Hill). At its heart, Psych is a hangout show. The cast is tremendous, but it’s the interplay between Shawn and Gus that will have you coming back for more. —ES

18) The Keepers (Netflix)

Mystery Shows The Keepers

The murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik has been unsolved for nearly 50 years. This Netflix docuseries follows a pair of Sister Cathy’s former students who set out to find their teacher’s killer. The more we learn about Sister Cathy, the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, and the Catholic Church, the more clear it becomes that Sister Cathy’s death was not an isolated incident, but something much larger and sinister. The Keepers is more than a cold-case mystery. Rather, it’s a tale of corruption and conspiracy, but more than anything, it’s a tragedy. —ES 

19) The Returned (Amazon Prime)

Mystery Shows The Returned

France’s The Returned (not to be confused with its American adaptation, also called The Returned) is the most peculiar show or movie in the zombie renaissance. It’s set in a world where people have mysteriously come back from the dead. For all intents and purposes the people return as the same age/size they were when they died. But the show isn’t really about how these people came back as much as it’s about how they reintegrate into society. The show functions best as a meditative mood piece with outstanding music by Mogwai. The Returned will test the patience of attention-strapped viewers, but if you’re able to get on the show’s wavelength, you won’t want to get off it. —ES

20) The Jinx (HBO)

Mystery Shows The Jinx
HBO UK/YouTube

The story of Robert Durst and the murders he’s allegedly committed is lurid and convoluted in the most fascinating ways. But the fact that the show played a pivotal role in getting Durst arrested just makes it irresistible. Durst is as compelling as any of HBO’s fictional characters and his story will baffle, enrage, and thrill you. The Jinx is only six episodes long, but it’ll be the fastest six episodes you’ve ever watched. —ES

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*First Published: Apr 29, 2020, 4:45 pm CDT