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. 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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  1. 1
    + 287
    - 129

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

    ;
  2. 2
    + 229
    - 121
    The Shield is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    The Shield Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins

  3. 3
    + 207
    - 106
    Law & Order: Special Victims U... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T

  4. 4
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    - 103
    Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Law & Order Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina

  5. 5
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    - 104
    Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    most listed
    Hill Street Blues Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

  6. 6
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    - 110
    NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    NYPD Blue Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel

  7. 7
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    NCIS is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    NCIS Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette

  8. 8
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    Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  9. 9
    + 158
    - 99
    Columbo is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Columbo Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan

  10. 10
    + 129
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    Homicide: Life on the Street is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Homicide: Life on the Street Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto

  11. 11
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    - 85
    Southland is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Southland Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King

  12. 12
    + 155
    - 54
    Blue Bloods is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  13. 13
    + 159
    - 88
    Castle is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Castle Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan

  14. 14
    + 138
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    CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads

  15. 15
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    - 90
    Hawaii Five-O is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Hawaii Five-O Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong

  16. 16
    + 106
    - 34
    Chicago PD is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  17. 17
    + 106
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    Third Watch is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Third Watch Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles

  18. 18
    + 115
    - 114
    Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  19. 19
    + 94
    - 102
    Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  20. 20
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    - 81
    Rookie Blue is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Rookie Blue Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma

  21. 21
    + 169
    - 107
    Dexter is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  22. 22
    + 121
    - 74
    The New Hawaii 5-0 is listed (or ranked) 22 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.

  23. 23
    + 90
    - 44
    Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Magnum, P.I. Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

  24. 24
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    - 65
    The Streets of San Francisco is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    The Streets of San Francisco Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins

  25. 25
    + 81
    - 74
    Kojak is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Kojak Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson

  26. 26
    + 59
    - 56
    Barney Miller is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by thewrecker
    Barney Miller Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Steve Landesberg

  27. 27
    + 26
    - 8
    The Mentalist is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  28. 28
    + 74
    - 73
    Adam-12 is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Adam-12 Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Shaaron Claridge

  29. 29
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    - 71
    Cold Case is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Cold Case Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn

  30. 30
    + 80
    - 65
    Starsky and Hutch is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Starsky and Hutch David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Antonio Fargas

  31. 31
    + 41
    - 17
    Flashpoint is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  32. 32
    + 107
    - 70


    Angie Harmon, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill

    ;
  33. 33
    + 74
    - 49
    Monk is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  34. 34
    + 65
    - 45
    Quincy, M.E. is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  35. 35
    + 92
    - 76
    Law & Order: Criminal Intent is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Law & Order: Criminal Intent Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan

  36. 36
    + 98
    - 94
    CSI: Miami is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    CSI: Miami David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez

  37. 37
    + 102
    - 57
    Person of Interest is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  38. 38
    + 70
    - 70


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

    ;
  39. 39
    + 52
    - 53
    Baretta is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

    ;
  40. 40
    + 56
    - 68
    The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    The Untouchables Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell

  41. 41
    + 83
    - 84
    CSI: NY is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    CSI: NY Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper

  42. 42
    + 74
    - 74
    Without a Trace is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Without a Trace Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

  43. 43
    + 77
    - 75
    Psych is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Psych James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson

  44. 44
    + 21
    - 11
    The Rockford Files is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  45. 45
    + 64
    - 80
    Grimm is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

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

  46. 46
    + 76
    - 82
    The Closer is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    The Closer Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds

  47. 47
    + 26
    - 23
    Luther is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    Luther Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley

  48. 48
    + 60
    - 79
    CHiPs is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time


    CHiPs Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine

  49. 49
    + 46
    - 66


    Dennis Farina, Bill Smitrovich, Steve Ryan

    ;
  50. 50
    + 46
    - 63
    Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

    added by zxray
    Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith

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