The psychological thriller is a popular genre, and no one knows that better than Criminal Minds. The show follows an elite team of profilers who use their knowledge of the criminal mind to investigate especially heinous crimes. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit is called in to consult on all kinds of cases, from kidnappings to murders linking back to other cases. Still, they also follow up on their own cases when necessary.
Criminal Minds investigates psychology through its often disturbing crime scenes and criminals’ motives for their acts. It gives viewers insight into the way that law enforcement officers think about committing crimes. Through profiling techniques, it allows us into the minds of these budding psychologists as they attempt to understand the actions behind every crime committed in today’s society.
20 Shows Like Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds is one of the many series that has benefited from the recent rise in the popularity of crime dramas. The focus on psychological profiling and often disturbing crimes make this show stand out, but there are many other similar shows to watch if you love Criminal Minds. Here are some of them:
1) Dexter (2006-2013) – Showtime [3 Seasons]
We all know someone like Dexter Morgan, who seems normal enough at first glance, yet somehow no one ever questions him when he’s inevitably linked to a string of murders. Dexter, a high-functioning psychopath, works as a blood splatter analyst for the Miami police department. During the day, he hunts down criminals at his father’s behest, and by night, he kills them.
He spends his free time in pursuit of new victims with his girlfriend, who, unknown to him, is also a killer. This hit show follows Dexter through his life as a forensic analyst for the Miami police department while also moonlighting as a vigilante serial killer, satisfying his need to kill those who have escaped the justice system through cleverly planned murder sprees.
2) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015) – CBS [14 Seasons]
The first hit crime procedural, CSI, became a cultural phenomenon as audiences fell in love with the mix of cutting-edge science and fascinating cases. From murders to rapes, missing persons to art forgeries, there’s no crime too small or large for these investigators to crack open and take a closer look at.
Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015), the longest-running scripted original series in network television, has been one of CBS’s biggest moneymakers for years now. The show was created by Anthony Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer Television and Alliance Atlantis in association with CBS Productions. From 2000 through 2015, CSI garnered 63 Emmy nominations, winning 11 Emmys overall and numerous other industry awards.
3) Homeland (2011-present) – Showtime [4 Seasons]
The show is about Nicholas Brody, a U.S Marine held captive by Al-Qaeda for eight years in Afghanistan. Upon returning to the States, he tries to reintegrate into society while also working as an agent for Abu Nazir, the leader of Al-Qaeda who originally orchestrated his capture in Afghanistan. The storyline can be seen through multiple perspectives.
The U.S Government sees him as a traitor after they find out what he has been up to with Al-Qaeda, while the CIA operators on the ground still view him as their best chance at stopping Nazir’s terrorist attacks on American soil. Of course, being so easily distracted has hurt her career as well, and it’s only thanks to the capture of a presumed terrorist that she’s getting another shot at intelligence work.
4) Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present) – NBC [17 Seasons]
After 18 years on air, you’d think there wouldn’t be any more crimes left for this team to investigate. Still, SVU continues to tackle tough cases involving sexual assault through its captivating investigations. Whether the crimes are linked by DNA or predator tactics, Detective Elliot Stabler and his team will do whatever it takes to bring these criminals to justice.
The show follows a unit of investigators from the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, which investigates sexually related crimes. As the series evolves, more and more cases that deal with emotionally charged issues such as rape, child abuse, and domestic violence are investigated. The show focuses on both the criminal investigations and the personal lives of the police officers involved in them.
5) Luther (2010-present – BBC [3 Seasons]
Detective Chief Inspector John Luther works for London’s Serious Crime Unit, tackling the worst of the worst. There is one element that brings everything together: DCI John Luther, played by Idris Elba.
He may not appear in every episode, but he often appears enough for people to notice his behavior patterns. His brilliant mind and obsessive drive to solve difficult cases make him a force to be reckoned with, regularly disregarding protocol to get his man (or woman).
6) Fargo [TV Miniseries]
Fargo has been recognized as a modern masterpiece since its debut in 2014. It is one of those rare shows that can balance heart and humor and create tension out of the mundane. Like the Coen Brothers film on which it’s based, Fargo is an anthology series that follows new characters and storylines every season. Its third season premieres Wednesday, April 19, on FX.
The first two seasons both share connections but can tell their own stories without needing to rely on the events of earlier installments. They also share themes surrounding evil lurking beneath the surface of ordinary life. However, Fargo delves deeper into this idea than most crime shows by exploring how evil is cultivated.
7) Luther [TV Miniseries]
In this BBC remake of the popular show starring Idris Elba, DCI John Luther works for London’s Serious Crime Unit, tackling tough cases nobody else wants to touch. Dedicated to solving London’s grisliest crimes and dedicated to catching the culprits responsible for them too.
He doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules, though, which could be his undoing if it weren’t for Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) George Stark, who lets him loose on the city’s meanest streets so long as Luther does whatever it takes to get results. But when he gets too close to one case, it could cost him his career if it doesn’t get him killed first.
8) The Wire (2002-2008) – HBO [5 Seasons]
The Wire is an American crime drama television series. The show portrays the lives of characters from the police department and various gangs in Baltimore, Maryland. It depicts some elements of the illegal drug trade and vigilantism, as well as various economic and sociopolitical themes such as institutional racism, urban decay, political corruption, and public bureaucracy.
The pilot episode was produced with almost no budget, which continued throughout most of the series’ five seasons when grant money from the city’s mayor’s office was not forthcoming despite continually high praise from local media for its quality.
9) Law & Order (1990-2010) – NBC [20 Seasons]
It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time when this show didn’t exist, but it’s true! To say that Law & Order has impacted everything from television dramas to real court cases would be an understatement. Yet, somehow this show manages to continue retelling stories about victims of crime and law enforcement officials who are determined to see justice served.
The pilot took place in New York, with the story around an Irish mobster named Mickey Shea who died suddenly, leaving his troubled son Eddie to replace him as boss. Eddie’s first order of business would be to kill a rival named Kevin Rooney. Still, when Rooney turned out to be surprisingly hard to kill, Eddie called on Danny Reagan from “NYPD Blue” (who had previously been fired from the NYPD for insubordination) and asked if he knew anyone willing to kill Rooney. Reruns are still popular today on TNT.
10) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-present) – CBS [16 Seasons]
CSI follows a team of forensic investigators trained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as they use physical evidence to solve murders. The series crossed with another successful CBS franchise, “Without a Trace,” in 2007 when the characters Gil Grissom (William Petersen) and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) joined that show’s cast for two episodes. T
he characters Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and David Hodges (Wallace Langham), who was introduced in Season 9, also crossed over to “Without a Trace” in 2008. The team works tirelessly to solve tough cases, no matter how long it takes, always making sure that criminals are brought to justice by the book.
11) The Fall (2013-2015) – Netflix [2 Seasons] Detective
Superintendent Stella Gibson has been called in to investigate a series of murders in Belfast, but her keen eye for detail will have even more evidence piling up if she fails to find this serial killer before he can claim another victim.
The Fall is a high concept science fiction drama that follows Detective Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson (X-Files), who is investigating a string of serial killings involving young women in Belfast. The investigation uncovers the killer’s obsession with her.
Produced by Artists Studio and Nine Stories, the series was co-created by Allan Cubitt (Prime Suspect) and featured an international cast including X-Files co-star Duchovny, Valene Kane (The Fall – UK), Krister Henriksson (Wallander – Sweden/UK), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) and Michael Therriault (Reign).
12) Z Nation Zombie Apocolypse [TV Series]
While it might not be your typical crime drama, this SyFy show about the fight to save humanity from a zombie virus is still worth checking out. The CDC works tirelessly to research cures for this epidemic while also tracking down individuals who are immune to the virus in order to protect them.
13) Person of Interest (2011-2016) – CBS [5 Seasons]
Person of Interest is an American science fiction mystery-thriller television series created by Jonathan Nolan and produced by JJ Abrams. The show stars Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, and Kevin Chapman.
The series revolves around the character of John Reese (Caviezel), who is presumed dead, and teams up with reclusive billionaire Finch (Emerson) to prevent violent crimes by using their own brand of vigilante justice. The hero and his team set up a secret company which they call “Person of Interest” and use state-of-the-art technology and surveillance to fight against crime in New York City.
14) Magic City (2012-2013) – Starz [2 Seasons]
While not strictly a crime show, this dramatic Starz series about mobsters in Miami during the 1950s is definitely worth checking out.
“Magic City” is a new series that will debut on Starz in January 2012. It’s set in Miami Beach in the late 1950s, during the time when mobsters were still powerful, and Frank Sinatra was singing at The Forge. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Watchmen”) stars with Olga Kurylenko (the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace) as his wife.
The show focuses on Ike Evans (Morgan), who runs one of Miami Beach’s most glamorous hotels, the Miramar Playa. As he watches thousands flock to his newly opened hotel, Ike feels like this is his moment to finally move up in the world. But, for this Jewish boy from New York, it’s no easy task. The hotel is filled with glamorous starlets and dangerous gangsters – and it’s not long before Ike realizes that his wife, Emma (Kurylenko), maybe the only thing keeping him alive.
15) The Sopranos (1999-2007) – HBO [6 Seasons]
The Italian Mafia isn’t usually seen as the good guys, but that might change when it comes to the Soprano family. On September 10, 1999, the pilot episode of the HBO show “The Sopranos” aired. This was to be the beginning of arguably one of the greatest television shows in history. The show is about Tony Soprano, a New Jersey mob boss who also suffers from mental illness and goes to see psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi in order to help with his problems.
The show revolves around Tony’s problems within his family, namely with his Mother Livia, his son A.J., and daughter Meadow, as well as dealing with rival families that threaten him and his organization. Led by Tony Soprano, this powerful group of men are used to getting their way without question until suddenly things start to shift, and they have no choice but to deal with it.
16) The Mentalist (2008-present) – CBS [7 Seasons]
The Mentalist is a crime drama television series, which follows Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) based out of Sacramento who has remarkable skills at reading people and solving crimes. After his wife and daughter were murdered by one of Red John’s disciples, Jane decided to leave the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after spending 12 years with them, where he helped track down that serial killer.
Six months later, the show starts off with Jane folding origami figures on his desk at work while he listens to his co-workers talk about their most recent case, it is revealed here that Jane quit working as a psychic medium ten years ago because he realized how selfish it made him feel.
Years later, he is requested to join the CBI by his former supervisor, Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), after she became aware of his impressive skills. She asks him to work with her on a particularly puzzling case involving an individual known as Red John. Red John has been killing people close to Jane for over twelve years, and the FBI has not made any progress in finding him.
The show was created by Bruno Heller, who had previously worked on “Rome” and “The Mentalist” premiered on September 22nd, 2008. it has garnered much success since then, debuting in the top 10 for its first two seasons before reaching number 2 in 2010-2011 (Its most successful season yet).
17) White Collar (2009-present) – USA Network [6 Seasons]
Neal Caffrey is really good at being bad, though he’s not your typical criminal. This smooth criminal can get out of just about any situation with his charm, wit, and knack for getting into trouble. He’s also very good at what he does too, which makes him a great asset to the FBI agent Peter Burke who works hard to keep Neal out of serious trouble.
18) Monk (2002-2009) – USA Network [8 Seasons]
When you’re on the hunt for a serial killer, it helps to have someone with an eye for detail like Adrian Monk. Monk is an American comedy-drama detective mystery television series, which debuted on the USA Network on July 12, 2002. It was created by Andy Breckman and stars Tony Shalhoub as the obsessive-compulsive eponymous character, Adrian Monk. The program also stars Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger, Monk’s assistant.
“Monk” completed its seventh season on December 4, 2009. On May 2nd , 2010, USA Network confirmed that the eighth season of “Monk”, due to premiere in summer 2010. There may be some issues that prevent him from being able to stop these criminals himself, but he’s never afraid to give his close friend Sharona and the rest of the San Francisco police department all of the help he can.
19) Lie To Me (2009-2011) – Fox [2 Seasons]
Based off of Dr. Paul Ekman’s work at The University of California, CalSci this show takes a scientific approach toward investigating crime. Former CalSci professor Dr. Lightman along with psychologist Gillian Foster use their knowledge about facial expressions to figure out the truth and catch criminals in the act.
These are 20 shows like Criminal Minds that have similar premises, making them worth watching if you’re looking for something new to watch.