One person's ranking of all 136 Midsomer Murders episodes from seasons 1 through 23

The below are ranked simply on my sense of their overall effectiveness as entertainment. Although like many viewers, I generally prefer the "Tom" days to the "John" days, that's not an absolute. You'll see that a few of the "John" episodes rank well, one of them cracking the top twenty; still, yes, the older stuff crowds the top half of the list.

The mass of pretty-good episodes in the middle are listed without comment for now, but the best and the worst have some notes or explanations as to why I ranked them as I did. Okay, here goes.

  1. S4.E2   Destroying Angel

    Everything is at its best here. We get a plot that's complex without being quite convoluted, a generous body count, interesting characters who interact believably, lots of dark humor, strong production values, and a satisfyingly bittersweet resolution. There's even a sort of Hitchcockian MacGuffin.

  2. S12.E3   Secrets and Spies

    One of several episodes leveraging an unusually strong cast of guest stars, most notably Anna Massey as a high ranking intelligence officer and eventual deus ex machina.

  3. S1.E3   Death of a Hollow Man

    Bernard Hepton was larger than life while playing someone trying to be larger than life. It doesn't seem like that should work nearly as well as it did. The murder method is not for the squeamish to watch.

  4. S3.E3   Judgement Day

    Solid story; another strong supporting cast; Tom hilariously reacting to the discovery of a corpse with "oh, for heaven's sake." Most people remember this one for Orlando Bloom's appearance before he was Legolas, but it's Timothy West who quietly and expertly propels the episode to its strange conclusion.

  5. S8.E6   Hidden Depths

    One of John Nettles' professed favorites because of the wine trebuchet; a plot slow to emerge but which makes perfect sense when it does; the writers making peak exploitation of the brief grudging-buddy relationship between Barnaby and Scott. Don't forget the yogurt, sir.

  6. S9.E8   Last Year's Model

    A departure from the show's usual formula, with some masterful storytelling.

  7. S12.E5   Small Mercies

    A memorable performance by Olivia Colman, and an entertainingly tawdry and adulterous side plot.

  8. S1.E2   Written in Blood

    Iconic season one production, heavy on the sexual deviancy angle.

  9. S2.E1   Death's Shadow

    A quality episode in every respect, and Richard Briers was the kind of actor who could turn goat piss to gasoline anyway.

  10. S1.E1   The Killings at Badger's Drift

    We all know this one, the pilot that introduced us to Caroline Graham's world and set the tone for the series.

  11. S12.E6   The Creeper

    Not on a lot of people's lists of favorites, but it's an exceptionally well crafted episode with a great cast and a light touch, and the chemistry between Jones and Barnaby is at its best.

  12. S13.E1   The Sword of Guillaume

    The "Two Barnabys" episode. Some of the finest dialogue in all of MM was written for it.

  13. S2.E2   Strangler's Wood

    A rather adult story that clicks. When a character can say "I miss about eight inches of Larry; I'm not referring to the diameter of his brain," and we find ourselves reacting with empathy rather than prurient eye rolling, they've done something right.

  14. S12.E2   The Black Book

    An engrossing plot with some nice twists; some auction-house intrigue; a fun moment when Jones gets transfixed by a glimpse of a nude model. Look for a couple of Pride and Prejudice veterans among the cast. And one I was surprised to remember from Never Say Never Again.

  15. S5.E3   Ring Out Your Dead

    A bell-ringing competition descending into serial murder might be the most Midsomer thing ever. It might seem like a less than convincing scenario, but we buy it mostly by virtue of Adrian Scarborough's over the top performance. This also marks the first of Clare Holman's three fine guest appearances.

  16. S6.E4   A Tale of Two Hamlets

    The prototypical old-families, old-money episode. There's drama simmering under all that surface boredom.

  17. S7.E1   The Green Man

    Memorable guest appearances include one from Hogwarts' Mister Filch and one from a future Superman.

  18. S22.E3   Happy Families

    A John Barnaby episode that reeks of Agatha Christie in all the good ways.

  19. S5.E1   Market for Murder

    A somewhat unassuming but well executed story. You know you can trust me. I'm the pool man.

  20. S4.E5   Dark Autumn

    Here is one of the show's creepier installments, carried off by a strong cast including Robert Glenister, Celia Imrie, and Alan "Voice of the One Ring" Howard.

  21. S8.E7   Sauce for the Goose

    Interesting dysfunctional family dynamics among the suspects, and we get to see a jealous Joyce too.

  22. S10.E6   Picture of Innocence

    Another unlikely premise, but it produces one of MM's best-drawn villains, and some of the funniest moments of the series.

  23. S9.E6   Country Matters

    Juliet Aubrey and Clare Holman shine in what happens to be one of the very few episodes with convincing child actors. Fact.

  24. S6.E3   Painted in Blood

    One of my favorite recurring plot devices is when our hero gets taken off a case by his superiors and keeps working on it from the outside anyway. We get some especially good Troy moments in this one.

  25. S7.E4   Sins of Commission

    An audacious plot with an unexpected and satisfying resolution. Por-TOE-vah.

  26. S11.E5   The Magician's Nephew

    The best of the cult-themed episodes, featuring a top performance by Stuart Wilson as the eponymous Magician.

  27. S9.E3   Vixen's Run

    There's a rather extravagant cast in this one, and everybody delivers.

  28. S7.E7   Ghosts of Christmas Past

    Another story worthy of Agatha Christie, one that could easily have been a Poirot vehicle.

  29. S9.E7   Death in Chorus

    Easily the best of the musical episodes. My minor complaint here is that Peter Capaldi is so unconvincing as a conductor. Remember that time Robert Redford tried to play a baseball slugger?

  30. S12.E4   The Glitch

    An engrossing episode about greed, academic freedom, bicycling, and buckets of paint. There's an inspired guest performance by David Haig, and John Nettles gets to briefly revisit his Bergerac days, playing an action hero in an exotic car.

  31. S6.E1   A Talent for Life

    The pleasure embodied in Honor Blackman's character is infectious.

  32. S13.E6   The Noble Art

    Contrast against the "Breaking the Chain" episode. This is how you do a murder mystery around a sports theme.

  33. S13.E8   Fit for Murder

    We get some rare insights into Tom's inner life as he exits the stage.

  34. S2.E3   Dead Man's Eleven

    You don't have to understand the game of cricket to appreciate this well constructed story. Oh, and there's some religion-driven erotic interaction going on between a couple of characters, which might or might not be your bag, baby.

  35. S22.E2   The Stitcher Society

    In a throwback to some of the show's early writing, the plot is tight and not littered with irrelevant herrings of whatever color, and the villain's character is among the best.

  36. S14.E4   The Oblong Murders

    Jones really shines in this story about an undercover assignment. And I'm not just talking about his exposed bottom.

  37. S10.E3   King's Crystal

    If you're going to steal a literary plot, you might as well steal from Shakespeare. Happily, Ophelia survives.

  38. S16.E5   The Killings of Copenhagen

    Sorry Nelson, she is a bit out of your league.

  39. S10.E2   The Animal Within

    A kind of parallel story to S6E1 "A Talent for Life" except this time it's a hedonistic old man driving the chaos — in a loin-instigated way.

  40. S9.E4   Down Among the Dead Men

    Julia McKenzie plays a role very unlike her now-familiar Miss Marple. And so much depends on the evidence of a rabbit.

  41. S3.E1   Death of a Stranger

    A tightly woven plot, and a source of what would become several signature Midsomer tropes. It arguably has the highest body count of any episode, depending on your criteria.

  42. S1.E4   Faithful unto Death

    You're just jealous because I've got a coconut and you haven't.

  43. S2.E4   Blood Will Out
  44. S3.E2   Blue Herrings
  45. S4.E4   Who Killed Cock Robin?
  46. S3.E4   Beyond the Grave
  47. S1.E5   Death in Disguise
  48. S7.E3   The Fisher King
  49. S7.E5   The Maid in Splendour
  50. S10.E5   Death and Dust
  51. S8.E2   Dead in the Water
  52. S11.E1   Shot at Dawn
  53. S4.E3   The Electric Vendetta
  54. S8.E5   Second Sight
  55. S11.E2   Blood Wedding
  56. S15.E6   Schooled in Murder
  57. S19.E3   Last Man Out
  58. S5.E4   Murder on St. Malley's Day
  59. S9.E1   The House in the Woods
  60. S5.E2   A Worm in the Bud
  61. S6.E5   Birds of Prey
  62. S13.E7   Not in My Back Yard
  63. S10.E8   Death in a Chocolate Box
  64. S19.E2   Crime and Punishment
  65. S10.E7   They Seek Him Here
  66. S8.E1   Things That Go Bump in the Night
  67. S11.E6   Days of Misrule
  68. S14.E3   Echoes of the Dead
  69. S14.E1   Death in the Slow Lane
  70. S4.E1   Garden of Death
  71. S20.E3   Drawing Dead
  72. S8.E3   Orchis Fatalis
  73. S16.E1   The Christmas Haunting
  74. S4.E6   Tainted Fruit
  75. S11.E4   Midsomer Life
  76. S9.E5   Four Funerals and a Wedding
  77. S10.E1   Dance with the Dead
  78. S15.E4   Death and the Divas
  79. S14.E2   Dark Secrets
  80. S17.E4   A Vintage Murder
  81. S14.E7   A Sacred Trust
  82. S9.E2   Dead Letters
  83. S11.E3   Left for Dead
  84. S7.E2   Bad Tidings
  85. S13.E4   The Silent Land
  86. S20.E2   Death of the Small Coppers
  87. S14.E5   The Sleeper Under the Hill
  88. S12.E7   The Great and the Good
  89. S11.E7   Talking to the Dead
  90. S19.E1   The Village That Rose from the Dead
  91. S18.E4   A Dying Art
  92. S10.E4   The Axeman Cometh
  93. S13.E2   The Made-to-Measure Murders
  94. S15.E2   Murder of Innocence
  95. S7.E6   The Straw Woman
  96. S18.E5   Saints and Sinners
  97. S15.E1   The Dark Rider
  98. S18.E2   The Incident at Cooper Hill
  99. S17.E3   The Ballad of Midsomer County
  100. S21.E2   The Miniature Murders
  101. S12.E1   The Dogleg Murders
  102. S14.E8   A Rare Bird
  103. S8.E8   Midsomer Rhapsody
  104. S19.E4   Red in Tooth & Claw
  105. S21.E4   With Baited Breath
  106. S16.E3   Wild Harvest
  107. S17.E1   The Dagger Club
  108. S19.E5   Death by Persuasion
  109. S13.E3   Blood on the Saddle
  110. S20.E5   Till Death Do Us Part
  111. S21.E3   The Sting of Death
  112. S16.E4   The Flying Club
  113. S8.E4   Bantling Boy
  114. S20.E6   Send in the Clowns
  115. S16.E2   Let Us Prey
  116. S18.E1   Habeas Corpus
  117. S15.E3   Written in the Stars
  118. S19.E6   The Curse of the Ninth
  119. S17.E2   Murder by Magic
  120. S23.E3   A Grain of Truth
  121. S22.E5   For Death Prepare
  122. S15.E5   The Sicilian Defence
  123. S23.E4   Dressed to Kill
  124. S20.E4   The Lions of Causton
  125. S21.E1   The Point of Balance

    It kinda almost works, but feels like they must have started out by throwing darts at a wall covered with post-it notes. "Competitive dancing, bionics, PTSD. Go!"

  126. S23.E2   The Debt of Lies

    Tom Conti is the most interesting guest star of season 23, and the one reason to watch this otherwise unremarkable episode.

  127. S18.E6   Harvest of Souls

    A pedestrian plot. An unconvincing motive. An hour and a half during which you could have been doing something useful.

  128. S13.E5   Master Class

    A must-watch for those who crave that elusive combination of extreme unpleasantness, extreme implausibility, and complete lack of humor.

  129. S20.E1   The Ghost of Causton Abbey

    If you're going to give us a slate of characters who are so unlikeable that we stop caring either whodunit or whom they dunit to, at least try to make the story funny or sexy or something.

  130. S6.E2   Death and Dreams

    I just couldn't let myself suspend disbelief while watching this one. The child actors were not able to convincingly pull off the required personas, and in the end the whole production felt — to join two words that don't normally go together — ineffectively exploitative. There's nothing here that would make me want to rewatch it.

  131. S22.E6   The Witches Of Angel's Rise

    Dumbest motive ever. Being analytical and skeptical isn't exactly a classic spur to madness and murder. Nor does making such a character cartoonishly overact at the end help to sell the idea.

  132. S14.E6   The Night of the Stag

    Maybe they looked at S7E3 "The Fisher King" and thought it would be a good idea to scare up some more ancient folklore to drive the plot. I can't fault the idea, but the story fails to generate any plausibility, and the villain is an uninteresting goon.

  133. S22.E1   The Wolf Hunter of Little Worthy

    There's only so much you can do with such an inane premise. Mark Williams, the one bright spot in this mess, puts it best in his opening soliloquy: What a load of utter cobblers. Oh, and our perp hysterically waves a gun around at the end to manufacture drama, which is about the laziest trope there is.

  134. S22.E4   Scarecrow Murders

    It might have been just watchable from a story standpoint, if it didn't suffer from such overwrought acting.

  135. S18.E3   Breaking the Chain

    Feed enough variations of "bicycle racing murder mystery" into a suitable AI agent and you'll have a fair shot at making a better script.

  136. S23.E1   The Blacktrees Prophecy

    Alas, something had to be at the bottom, and Blacktrees takes la grande framboise. The characters seem to be no more than the one-dimensional sum of their exhaustingly overpaced lines. Little thought was given to plausibility (who knew you could rig a ventilation fan to pull oxygen out of a room!). Pointless, nonsensical optical effects are smeared over the murder scenes. Annette Badland is the only cast member who can pronounce nuclear, while the pathologist she portrays, Fleur, doesn't know the difference between suffocation and asphyxiation. There's an early line from Sarah that is so stunningly stupid that we half expect John to reply (a la Hillary Flammond in Top Secret), "It all sounds like some bad movie!" — after which both of them should slowly turn for a guilty gaze into the camera.