If you’re like me and are always on the lookout for a gritty, well-written crime drama on Netflix, then I don’t need to tell you that these are boom times right now. The biggest new show on the streaming giant at the moment, for example, is Sofia Vergara’s Griselda — in which the Modern Family star gives a career-best performance as Griselda Blanco, the real-life woman from Colombia who built one of the most powerful drug cartels in history. As a fan of Netflix’s Narcos franchise, I knew I was going to be clicking play on this one as soon as it dropped. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed.
If you’re wondering whether the woman who’s mostly known for playing a sitcom trophy wife can deliver, I’m here to tell you that over the course of this Netflix release, we watch a gun-toting Vergara as Blanco blow a sicario’s brains out; smoke a crack pipe at a party before, in a paranoid fit, threatening to shoot all of her friends and loved ones with a golden machine gun; and savagely beat a man with a baseball bat.
Blanco was a key figure during the Cocaine Cowboy period in Miami during the 1970s and ’80s, when cocaine trafficking surpassed that of marijuana. Her distribution network, at one point, reportedly was bringing in $80 million per month. All of which is to say: It’s a no-brainer that hers is the kind of story that lends itself to addictive, violent, and bloody TV serialization — something Netflix, it should go without saying, excels at.
At this point, I’ve watched too many crime dramas on the streaming giant to even begin to count. The best, like Griselda, mix complicated and riveting characters with propulsive action and storytelling. Some choosiness, of course, is required on the part of the viewer; I, for one, am not talking about the paint-by-numbers kinds of stories that fill the shelves at airport bookstores. I want shock and awe. I want my mouth to be hanging open in horror by the time the credits roll. And I mostly want to be impressed by the storytellers involved.
Keeping all that in mind, here’s what I’d recommend watching on Netflix after finishing Griselda — assuming, that is, you’re looking for similarly compelling crime dramas:
Key cast: Diego Luna, Scoot McNairy, and Michael Peña
Summary: This first title is actually part of a wider, 60-episode Netflix franchise that makes perfect sense to watch after Griselda, if you haven’t yet. That’s because the latter is basically a reunion of the Narcos creative team and hails from creators Eric Newman and Andrés Baiz.
There are actually two Narcos series on Netflix to be aware of — the first, titled simply Narcos, and then the spinoff series set in Mexico (titled, appropriately enough: Narcos: Mexico). Both of those series have three seasons comprised of 10 episodes each, and it’s the second (in my opinion) that’s actually the superior watch. That’s because the first is all about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, a villain so cartoonishly and excessively evil that I felt it distracted from the rest of the series.
Narcos: Mexico, meanwhile, shifts the story from Colombia to Mexico — and to the efforts of a much more sophisticated and interesting bad guy (Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo) who sets out to create an alliance between all the warring cartels.
Key cast: Tewfik Jallab, Jeanne Goursaud, and Nicolas Duvauchelle
Summary: One of the things you’ll notice about these three Netflix crime dramas is that all of them are from outside the US. That’s because the more time I spend consuming content on Netflix, the more it feels like the best storytelling is to be found elsewhere — especially when it comes to solid crime dramas. And Blood Coast is a great example of this.
The show mixes rogue cops, violent drug dealers, and a gorgeous old European city, with the result being this six-episode cops vs. drug gangs saga in which the cops, desperate to clean up the mean streets of Marseilles, hunt down a dangerous criminal.
Key cast: Evin Ahmad, Dada Fungula Bozela, and Alexander Abdallah
Summary: How far would you go for the good life? That’s the central question in this riveting Swedish crime thriller, where everyone from the gangsters to the entrepreneurs are craving more — more money, more access, more proximity to the jet set, you name it. In fact, the driving force at the heart of this show is right there in the title, which is the Swedish phrase for “easy money.”
Mixed in with the explosive violence and Nordic noir is the story of Leya, a young mother who’s also a businesswoman dreaming of startup success. However, she gets far too close to the line separating the bad guys from everyone else. “One of the best series of all time,” Ricky Gervais tweeted after finishing Season 2. “The writing, acting, direction, casting, editing, soundtrack, design, and titles are all perfect. The Wire meets Wall Street. Stunning.”
Key cast: Michelle Yeoh, Justin Chien, and Sam Song Li
Summary: Finally, we come to one of Netflix’s best releases of 2024 so far.
Across eight episodes, this drama from creators Brad Falchuk and Byron Wu tells the story of the eldest son of a crime family who heads to Los Angeles to protect his mother Eileen (Yeoh) and his naive younger brother after the head of the family is shot by a mysterious assassin. That younger brother, by the way, has been completely sheltered from the truth about his family, until now. A transpacific gang war, deadly assassins, bad guys jockeying for power — talk about ringing in 2024 with a bang.