A good mystery always brings in an audience, especially appealing to those who like stories that make them think. While there have been countless mystery movies made since the days of silent cinema, the small screen only saw the entrance of mysteries with BBC’s Telecrime (1938-39), later known as Telecrimes (1946). It was innovative for its time, featuring the first police detective on television, and it challenged the audience into solving crimes before the police could. Nearly nine decades and still counting, “mystery” remains a hot genre in entertainment. Although mystery movies may serve the same ultimate purpose, mystery shows kick things up a notch, letting the suspense stew for weeks, months, and sometimes even years! No matter what the crime is, or even if there isn’t actually any crime at all, the idea of a criminal, how they get away with it, and their motives, is extremely stimulating, especially for the investigative minds out there. So if you are one of those inquisitive investigators, and you’re seeking a generous dose of thrill, action, conflict, and lots of suspense, peppered with some wildly crazy situations that would make you shout out “why” and “what the hell”, then you are in for a treat. We have put together our handpicked list of the best mystery shows you can catch on streaming right now to spark your inner sleuth. Are you ready to get those “little gray cells” working?
Read More About the Best Mysteries You Can Watch Now:
Only Murders in the Building — Hulu
Created by: Steve Martin & John Hoffman | Episodes: 22 (2021-present)
Cast: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez
Solving a crime can be super fun and exciting, especially if you have friends who all like to be amateur gumshoes now and then. Created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman, Only Murders in the Building is a quirky and cozy mystery series that follows an oddball trio of three neighbors-turned-friends in New York’s prestigious Arconia residence who come together to solve mysterious deaths that happen in the building. Every season sees a new victim and a whole new set of suspects and the trio’s undaunted and innovative efforts to find the killer and changed the way we see murder mysteries. Since its release in August 2021, Only Murders in the Building have set and broken several records, earning numerous accolades including two Primetime Emmy Awards. The series features a stellar ensemble cast led by Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez as the three self-proclaimed sleuths of The Arconia, with new characters and cast members introduced every season.
The all-new third season of the series is set to premiere on August 8, 2023, with a promise of a bigger and better production than ever before. This Hulu original remains one of the best mystery shows on streaming for its casting, performance, music, cinematography, and combining love, life, and friendship in a wholesome narrative.
The Afterparty — Apple TV+
Created by: Christopher Miller | Episodes: 13 (2022 – present)
Cast: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Zoe Chao, Dave Franco, Ben Schwartz
Almost on the lines of Only Murders in the Building, The Afterparty is another hit crime comedy series that brings a lot of vibrance and excitement to a grave event like murder. And with Tiffany Haddish as the detective on the case, it couldn’t get any better. Written and directed by Christopher Miller of Clone High and 21 Jump Street fame, this Apple TV+ original series is an anthology where each season sees a new victim in a new setting and the detective returns to solve the crime. The show’s narrative, where each suspect tells their version of the event, as shown through various filmmaking/art styles, is unarguably the best part of The Afterparty.
The first season follows a high school reunion where the host gets killed, while the second season is set at a wedding, where the groom is found dead. In the second season, Haddish’s Detective Danner is also joined by two of her former suspects-turned-amateur sleuths, who are helping her solve the case. Combining hardboiled and detective fiction with a host of different genres, this murder mystery comedy has garnered a huge fan following and several accolades since its premiere in January 2022. The second season of The Afterparty is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
Big Little Lies — Max
Created by: David E. Kelley | Episodes: 14 (2017 – 2019)
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz
Though not a comedy like the previous two shows, Big Little Lies is as strong as a mystery drama can get. It explores the friendships of five women who are brought together not by choice but by the sheer need to save themselves and each other from a crime. Created by David E. Kelley and based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 eponymous novel, this HBO original series follows five mothers in the peaceful beach town of Monterey, California. When a sudden murder shakes up their idyllic community, Madeline, Celeste, Jane, Bonnie, and Renata realize the only way to navigate this is to have each other’s back. From covering up a murder to rediscovering themselves, the five women experience an unlikely bond while dealing with marriage, motherhood, and careers.
While it’s not your typical whodunnit or howcatchem mystery, the drama series focuses more on the motive/s and aftermath of the crime on everyone involved. Ever since it premiered in February 2017, Big Little Lies has become one of HBO’s best shows. It has been critically acclaimed with sky-high ratings, earning eight Primetime Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes for its story, direction, and stellar performances.
Cruel Summer — Hulu
Created by: Bert V. Royal | Episodes: 20 (2021 – present)
Cast: Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Brooklyn Sudano
Another murder mystery anthology series, this teen drama is almost like Pretty Little Liars meets 13 Reasons Why, but with possibly even more depth in characters and their narratives. Produced by Jessica Biel and Bert V. Royal, Cruel Summer explores two different stories set in different timelines. The first season, set in the mid-90s, tells the story of two very opposite teenagers, the popular and wealthy Kate Wallis, and the shy and nerdy Jeanette Turner. When Kate goes missing and Jeanette suddenly assumes Kate’s place on the social ladder, chaos ensues leading to disrupted families, friendships, and life.
The second season of Cruel Summer, set between 1999 and 2000, follows a trio of teenagers, where one is killed. When the investigation proceeds, it unravels dirty secrets about the victim and their friends, sending the police on a chase to find out the truth in a town where everyone has something to hide. The series received critical acclaim and massive viewership since its premiere on Freeform in April 2021 and has been awarded the Best Cable Series, Drama at the Hollywood Critics Association TV Awards.
The Watcher — Netflix
Created by: Ryan Murphy & Ian Brennan | Episodes: 7 (2022 – present)
Cast: Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Coolidge, Richard Kind, Mia Farrow
Amid the rising trend of true crime fiction, The Watcher can be easily checked off as one of the best adaptations of real-life crimes that we see on streaming. The Netflix original series is loosely taken from a 2018 article published in The Cut by Reeves Wiedeman, which is based on real incidents that happened in 2014. Created by Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story fame and Ian Brennan of Scream Queens fame, The Watcher follows a married couple who move to their dream home in a fictionalized version of Westfield, New Jersey. No sooner have they moved in, they face subtle hostilities from their neighbors while also being stalked and harassed by creepy letters from a mysterious person named “The Watcher.”
Initially conceived as a limited series, the true crime drama was renewed for a second season in November 2022. Despite mixed reviews, The Watcher is worth watching for the suspenseful and gripping narrative, which holds on till the end, as well as the performance of the ensemble cast featuring the likes of Jennifer Coolidge, Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Noma Dumezweni, and Mia Farrow among others.
The Sinner — Netflix
Created by: Derek Simonds | Episodes: 32 (2017 – 2021)
Cast: Bill Pullman, Jessica Biel, Jessica Hecht, Carrie Coon, Matt Bomer
Another thriller series produced by Jessica Biel, The Sinner is developed and co-produced by Derek Simonds and based on the eponymous 1999 novel by Petra Hammesfahr. The crime procedural anthology series stars Bill Pullman as Detective Harry Ambrose who investigates a series of crimes where he believes the alleged to be the least likely culprit, despite evidence saying otherwise. He excels at analyzing their behaviors to understand their motives behind the crimes. Thus, he often ends up taking a lateral path in solving the same, while also navigating his personal issues, even if it means putting himself in danger. Each season explores a new incident where an unlikely person has been charged with a crime and Ambrose returns to solve them in this unconventional way.
The Sinner marks Pullman’s return to television since 1600 Penn (2012 – 2013). Biel also stars as the protagonist in the first season. The series was widely acclaimed and well-received by fans, with the first season garnering the highest viewership while the second season had the highest approval ratings.
The White Lotus — Max
Created by: Mike White | Episodes: 13 (2021 – present)
Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Murray Bartlett, Sydney Sweeney, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Zahn
The White Lotus is like a virtual vacation, and what’s a vacation without a lot of drama and some suspense? If its lavish settings and gorgeous cinematography don’t satisfy your wanderlust, then its whacky characters and twisted plotlines are enough to feed the mystery seeker in you. Created by Mike White, The White Lotus follows guests and staff at the titular luxury resort chain and how their psycho-social dysfunction impacts each other, usually leading to death. Since its premiere in July 2021, this HBO original series has become something of a unicorn that defies genres and bends the rules of mystery but leaves you wanting more. Originally billed as a limited series, the black comedy anthology series has now run for two massively successful seasons, with the third one currently in development.
On its release, The White Lotus was highly acclaimed and garnered high approval ratings. It also earned 23 nominations at the Primetime Emmy Awards and earned 10, including one for Jennifer Coolidge and Murray Bartlett for the first season, and a Golden Globe for Coolidge for the second season. After exploring the stunning landscapes of Hawaii and then Sicily, the upcoming third season is set to explore the exotic tropics of Thailand.
Search Party — Max
Created by: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter | Episodes: 50 (2016 – 2022)
Cast: Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, John Early, Meredith Hagner
While this might not seem like your standard mystery series, there are enough genre elements to qualify this TBS-turned-Max show for this list. There’s a missing person, a murder, and a clinical conspiracy surrounding a bunch of self-absorbed millennials, all of which round up to make Search Party a dark and twisted mystery comedy. The black comedy series follows four 20-something friends in New York City who get entangled in the mysterious disappearance of one of their friends, focusing on Dory, the protagonist, played by Alia Shawkat. Search Party also marks one of Shawkat’s best major television roles after Arrested Development. From the second season, the story moves on to the death of a detective, then a trial, and finally culminates into the rise of a cult backed by a questionable pharmaceutical drug.
Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter of the Wet Hot American Summer franchise, Search Party opened with rave reviews and high approval ratings. During its five-season run from 2016 to 2021, Search Party earned positive reception among fans and critics alike, with Seasons 1 and 5 garnering the most views and ratings.
Why Women Kill — Paramount+
Created by: Marc Cherry | Episodes: 20 (2019 – 2021)
Cast: Lucy Liu, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Alexandra Daddario, Sam Jaeger
From the creator of Desperate Housewives comes another thrilling story featuring female protagonists, but vastly different in style, narrative, and outcomes. Developed by Marc Cherry, Why Women Kill is also a dark comedy anthology series like The White Lotus where the story focuses more on the events leading to the death, and not the death itself. The show’s first season is an anthology within an anthology that follows the stories of three women across three different decades, with their home and their marital problems as the unifying theme, but all leading to unexpected deaths, including murders. The second season however follows a single story, set in 40s suburban LA and following an awkward housewife who yearns to be noticed and become a part of the exclusive garden club of the rich and famous, whatever it takes. Despite mixed reviews and critical reception in the first season, the second season earned higher approval ratings for the second season, for its themes and artistic representation of the same.
While the narrative might seem a little soapy, the dark comedy undertones bolstered by the solid cast and smart editing make Why Women Kill a hidden gem on streaming that is totally worth watching.
The Flight Attendant — Max
Created by: Steve Yockey | Episodes: 16 (2020 – 2022)
Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Zosia Mamet, T.R. Knight, Rosie Perez, Michelle Gomez
If you thought Kaley Cuoco is great with comedies, then The Flight Attendant is sure to make you realize that the Big Bang Theory star is equally excellent with mysteries. This dark comedy mystery thriller is based on Chris Bohjalian’s 2018’s novel of the same name and developed for Max by Steve Yockey of Supernatural fame. The plot follows Cuoco as the titular flight attendant, Cassie Bowden, a reckless alcoholic who drinks on her job and has sex with strangers including some of her passengers. But when one such wild night with a wealthy passenger ends up with her finding his dead body in the hotel room, Cassie uses all her skills to piece together hallucinations and faint bits of memory to find his killer.
In the second season, Cassie, now a recovering alcoholic, becomes a CIA asset and is sent on an assignment in Berlin, where she finds her target murdered by someone pretending to be her. Premiered in November 2020, The Flight Attendant is a fine blend of high-stakes mystery, emotional introspection, and hardboiled fiction, with some pulp elements thrown in for good measure, making it an interesting and intriguing mystery thriller. The series was Max’s biggest debut of all time at one point and ranked as the streamer’s number-one series during its run.