While French films lean towards ennui and winding, existentialist plots, a recent uptick in French crime dramas shows that les français aren’t immune to the adrenaline-pumping pleasures of a good car chase or a bad drug deal. Whether you’re interested in moody thrillers in the woods, or high-octane underworld intrigue, this list has you covered for all things criminal in France.
If you like high stakes drug ring drama, Ganglands is for you. Netflix just dropped the second season of this crime show starring Sami Bouajila as Mehdi, an experienced heist man, as he gets caught up in a turf war in Belgium. As he struggles to protect his family and escape unscathed, Mehdi forms an unlikely partnership with his teenage niece’s girlfriend, Liana. Watch here.
The plot of this detective series, created by British team George Kay and Jim Field Smith, rests on interrogations of suspects in police custody, explored in four different countries (the UK, France, Germany, and Spain), with each season focusing on a different location. Various cultural issues are addressed, like the Bataclan attack, workplace accidents, homophobic assaults, and domestic abuse. The three episodes set in France are spearheaded by Frédéric Mermoud, and are available to watch on Netflix. Watch here.
3. Black Spot
The French-Belgian detective thriller Black Spot, set in the gloomy rural town of Villefranche, is a bingeable drama for those who like moody, atmospheric grime. A mysterious murder, investigated by local police chief Major Laurène Weiss, kicks off a larger intrigue in this stunningly horrible little town with a murder rate six times the national average. Seasons 1 and 2 (8 hour-long episodes each) are both on Netflix. Watch here.
With speculation brewing over a Part 3 release date, now is the perfect time to catch up on Netflix’s massive international hit, Lupin. Intouchables star Omary Sy plays a modern-day iteration of the famous “gentleman burglar” from Maurice LeBlanc’s Arsène Lupin books. Panache, high stakes capers, and glamorous Parisian views included. Each of the two parts have five one-hour episodes each. Watch here.
5. The Forest
Police investigate the disappearance of a teen girl in a forest in Ardennes which turns out to have a dark and mysterious history. When they pair up with the girl’s concerned teacher, they are confronted with a web of secrets in this six-episode police drama. Watch here.
6. Family Business
While this is less a crime show and more a show about people who do crime, Family Business has made a name as one of Netflix’s best French comedies across its three seasons. The show follows a French family who decide to open a weed coffee shop in their old family butcher shop, after learning, off the record, that cannabis is about to be legalized. Stakes are raised as the show progresses, though, as the family gets caught up in money laundering and mafia exploits. Watch here.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.