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
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    - 134

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

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  2. 2
    + 242
    - 127


    Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins

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  3. 3
    + 217
    - 114


    Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T

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  4. 4
    + 205
    - 111


    Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina

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  5. 5
    + 197
    - 114


    Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel

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  6. 6
    + 180
    - 108

    most listed & ranked high on reranks
    Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

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  7. 7
    + 222
    - 97


    Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette

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  8. 8
    + 238
    - 107

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

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  9. 9
    + 163
    - 100

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

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  10. 10
    + 194
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    ranked low on reranks
    Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King

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  11. 11
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto

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  12. 12
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    - 59

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

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  13. 13
    + 165
    - 89


    Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan

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  14. 14
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads

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  15. 15
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    - 91


    Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong

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  16. 16
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    - 38

    added by emmatiede
    Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush

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  17. 17
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    Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles

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  18. 18
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, Don Ross

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  19. 19
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago

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  20. 20
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    - 84


    Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma

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  21. 21
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    ranked low on reranks
    Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

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  22. 22
    + 128
    - 76
    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
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    - 44


    Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

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  24. 24
    + 84
    - 75


    Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson

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  25. 25
    + 31
    - 10

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

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  26. 26
    + 62
    - 57

    added by thewrecker
    Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Steve Landesberg

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  27. 27
    + 88
    - 67


    Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins

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  28. 28
    + 96
    - 73


    Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn

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  29. 29
    + 84
    - 66


    David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Antonio Fargas

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  30. 30
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    - 75

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

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  31. 31
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    - 50

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

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  32. 32
    + 44
    - 20

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

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  33. 33
    + 110
    - 72


    Angie Harmon, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill

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  34. 34
    + 103
    - 96


    David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez

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  35. 35
    + 66
    - 48
    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
    + 95
    - 79


    Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan

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  37. 37
    + 72
    - 71


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

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  38. 38
    + 103
    - 60

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

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  39. 39
    + 54
    - 54
    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

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  40. 40
    + 57
    - 70


    Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell

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  41. 41
    + 80
    - 76


    Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

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  42. 42
    + 86
    - 86


    Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper

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  43. 43
    + 25
    - 13

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

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  44. 44
    + 79
    - 76


    James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson

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  45. 45
    + 31
    - 24


    Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley

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  46. 46
    + 79
    - 83


    Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds

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  47. 47
    + 64
    - 82
    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
    + 61
    - 80


    Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine

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  49. 49
    + 48
    - 65
    Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 49 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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  50. 50
    + 46
    - 68


    Dennis Farina, Bill Smitrovich, Steve Ryan

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97 +

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