The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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The best serial cop dramas of all time include long-running police television shows that managed to combine elements of mystery and suspense, captivating viewers along the way. TV fans might also enjoy best true crime TV shows and best British detective series. Top TV cop dramas have long been a major part of American television (with many ranking among the best TV shows of recent momory), and they've remained popular for decades. This list includes some of the greatest police TV dramas ever, but if you know of a particularly good one that's missing, feel free to add it. And be sure to vote for your favorites, and vote down any programs you really didn't like.

A truly great television cop drama combines interesting, unique story lines with fast-paced action and a solid script. Having an extraordinarily strong ensemble cast doesn't hurt, either. What's the best cop show ever on TV? Many fans will argue that it's the brilliant, David Simon-created HBO drama The Wire. Others might maintain that the FX drama The Shield, which starred Michael Chiklis, is the greatest of all time. And, love them or hate them, it's hard to deny that the Law & Order franchise programs are almost always solid choices, too.

Older, classic serial cop dramas are also included on this list of the best cop shows, because they paved the way for more modern police procedurals. Among them: The ABC crime drama The Untouchables (1959 to 1963) and the long-running classic Dragnet. And of course, no list of the best serial cop dramas ever would be complete without Columbo, which starred the late, great Peter Falk as homicide detective Lt. Frank Columbo.

Hopefully everyone will find at least one or two favorite cop series among these fantastic serial cop dramas, but if not, remember: You can always add your favorite cop drama, and you can rerank this list your way!

If you just can't get enough of the greatest serial cop dramas, make sure to check out the most epic police fails of all time.

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  • 18 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 367
    - 159

    the people's #1
    Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

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  2. 2
    + 284
    - 151


    Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins

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  3. 3
    + 251
    - 143


    Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T

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  4. 4
    + 236
    - 135


    Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina

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  5. 5
    + 230
    - 132


    Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel

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  6. 6
    + 212
    - 127

    most listed
    Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

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  7. 7
    + 283
    - 127

    ranked low on reranks
    Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson

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  8. 8
    + 255
    - 124


    Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette

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  9. 9
    + 250
    - 102

    ranked low on reranks
    Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King

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  10. 10
    + 190
    - 121


    Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan

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  11. 11
    + 154
    - 116


    Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto

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  12. 12
    + 204
    - 75

    ranked low on reranks & added by MargrietHesseling
    Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes

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  13. 13
    + 167
    - 125

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads

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  14. 14
    + 186
    - 110


    Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan

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  15. 15
    + 189
    - 107


    Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong

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  16. 16
    + 155
    - 51

    ranked low on reranks & added by emmatiede
    Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush

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  17. 17
    + 131
    - 107


    Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles

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  18. 18
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    - 129

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago

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  19. 19
    + 112
    - 118

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, Don Ross

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  20. 20
    + 159
    - 105


    Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma

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  21. 21
    + 199
    - 132

    ranked low on reranks
    Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

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  22. 22
    + 115
    - 50


    Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

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  23. 23
    + 152
    - 94
    The New Hawaii 5-0 is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by analise.dubner
    The New Hawaii 5-0 That girl needs to eat a sandwich.

  24. 24
    + 59
    - 24

    added by Alexis Hayes
    Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang

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  25. 25
    + 101
    - 86


    Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson

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  26. 26
    + 73
    - 68

    added by thewrecker
    Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Steve Landesberg

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  27. 27
    + 97
    - 72


    David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Antonio Fargas

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  28. 28
    + 99
    - 77


    Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins

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  29. 29
    + 111
    - 82


    Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn

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  30. 30
    + 87
    - 85


    Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Shaaron Claridge

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  31. 31
    + 63
    - 33

    added by colter-adams
    Hugh Dillon, David Paetkau, Amy Jo Johnson

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  32. 32
    + 128
    - 86


    Angie Harmon, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill

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  33. 33
    + 118
    - 108


    David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez

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  34. 34
    + 108
    - 91


    Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan

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  35. 35
    + 77
    - 59
    Quincy, M.E. is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by zxray
    Jack Klugman, John S. Ragin, Robert Ito

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  36. 36
    + 89
    - 68

    added by JayceEverling
    Tony Shalhoub, Jason Gray-Stanford, Ted Levine

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  37. 37
    + 84
    - 84


    Carroll O'Connor, Howard Rollins, Anne-Marie Johnson

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  38. 38
    + 65
    - 65
    Baretta is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by zxray
    Robert Blake, Tom Ewell, Michael D. Roberts

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  39. 39
    + 126
    - 78

    ranked low on reranks
    Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman

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  40. 40
    + 51
    - 34


    Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley

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  41. 41
    + 42
    - 23

    added by IanHarvey
    James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Joe Santos

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  42. 42
    + 95
    - 87


    Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

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  43. 43
    + 101
    - 101


    Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper

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  44. 44
    + 65
    - 83


    Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell

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  45. 45
    + 92
    - 88


    James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson

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  46. 46
    + 95
    - 101


    Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds

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  47. 47
    + 76
    - 97
    Grimm is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by zxray
    David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz

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  48. 48
    + 52
    - 18

    ranked low on reranks & added by LanaYoshii
    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

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  49. 49
    + 74
    - 91


    Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine

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  50. 50
    + 56
    - 77
    Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by zxray
    Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith

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