The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time TV Programs

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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Collection Photo: via hbo
  • 16 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 233
    - 105

    the people's #1
    Idris Elba, Bobby Brown, Method Man

    ;
  2. 2
    + 192
    - 97


    Glenn Close, Forest Whitaker, Alex O'Loughlin

    ;
  3. 3
    + 167
    - 83


    Angie Harmon, Jill Hennessy, Dianne Wiest

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  4. 4
    + 167
    - 91


    Amy Brenneman, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, David Caruso

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  5. 5
    + 153
    - 86

    most listed
    Alfre Woodard, Jeffrey Tambor, Dennis Franz

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  6. 6
    + 160
    - 86


    Sharon Stone, Mariska Hargitay, Ann-Margret

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  7. 7
    + 139
    - 75


    Peter Falk, Patrick McGoohan, Robert Culp

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  8. 8
    + 175
    - 86


    Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rachel Nichols, A. J. Cook

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  9. 9
    + 117
    - 79

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Elijah Wood, Alfre Woodard, Vincent D'Onofrio

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  10. 10
    + 110
    - 32

    ranked low on reranks & added by MargrietHesseling
    Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, Jennifer Esposito

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  11. 11
    + 167
    - 80


    Cote de Pablo, Pauley Perrette, Mark Harmon

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  12. 12
    + 119
    - 82


    Elisabeth Shue, Marg Helgenberger, Ted Danson

    ;
  13. 13
    + 124
    - 69


    Lucy Liu, Regina King, C. Thomas Howell

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  14. 14
    + 131
    - 74


    Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, Molly Quinn

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  15. 15
    + 118
    - 78


    William Smith, Jack Lord, Richard Denning

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  16. 16
    + 84
    - 89

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, George Fenneman

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  17. 17
    + 99
    - 99

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Helena Bonham Carter, Don Johnson, Edward James Olmos

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  18. 18
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Nia Long, Kim Raver, Bobby Cannavale

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  19. 19
    + 63
    - 20

    ranked low on reranks & added by emmatiede
    Sophia Bush, Elias Koteas, Archie Kao

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  20. 20
    + 136
    - 92

    ranked low on reranks
    Yvonne Strahovski, Julie Benz, John Lithgow

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  21. 21
    + 95
    - 68


    Missy Peregrym, Charlotte Sullivan, Gregory Smith

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  22. 22
    + 69
    - 34


    Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

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  23. 23
    + 77
    - 57


    Michael Douglas, Richard Hatch, Karl Malden

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  24. 24
    + 72
    - 63


    Telly Savalas, Zohra Lampert, Kevin Dobson

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  25. 25
    + 51
    - 47

    added by thewrecker
    Abe Vigoda, Barbara Barrie, Hal Linden

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  26. 26
    + 84
    - 63

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

  27. 27
    + 73
    - 59


    David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Antonio Fargas

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  28. 28
    + 78
    - 62


    Paul Wesley, Kathryn Morris, Paula Malcomson

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  29. 29
    + 61
    - 68


    Martin Milner, Gary Crosby, Kent McCord

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  30. 30
    + 54
    - 40
    Quincy, M.E.

    added by zxray
    Jack Klugman, Robert Ito, Garry Walberg

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  31. 31
    + 85
    - 81


    Lucy Lawless, Taylor Cole, Eva LaRue

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  32. 32
    + 47
    - 45
    Baretta

    added by zxray
    Robert Blake, Dana Elcar, Michael D. Roberts

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  33. 33
    + 76
    - 68


    Jeff Goldblum, Alicia Witt, Paul Wesley

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  34. 34
    + 79
    - 60


    Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Donnie Wahlberg

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  35. 35
    + 62
    - 63


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

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  36. 36
    + 53
    - 60


    Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell

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  37. 37
    + 18
    - 8

    added by colter-adams
    Amy Jo Johnson, Jessica Steen, David Paetkau

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  38. 38
    + 78
    - 50

    ranked low on reranks
    Sarah Shahi, Taraji P. Henson, Jim Caviezel

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  39. 39
    + 74
    - 72


    Claire Forlani, Gary Sinise, Emmanuelle Vaugier

    ;
  40. 40
    + 65
    - 65


    Roselyn Sánchez, Poppy Montgomery, Charles S. Dutton

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  41. 41
    + 66
    - 72


    Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Mary McDonnell

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  42. 42
    + 53
    - 68
    Grimm

    added by zxray
    Claire Coffee, Bitsie Tulloch, Bree Turner

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  43. 43
    + 10
    - 5

    added by IanHarvey
    James Garner, Rita Moreno, Bo Hopkins

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  44. 44
    + 61
    - 65


    Anthony Michael Hall, Maggie Lawson, Dulé Hill

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  45. 45
    + 15
    - 14


    Idris Elba, Paul McGann, Ruth Wilson

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  46. 46
    + 53
    - 70


    Erik Estrada, Heather O'Rourke, Michael Dorn

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  47. 47
    + 57
    - 38

    ranked low on reranks & added by JayceEverling
    Tony Shalhoub, Melora Hardin, Ted Levine

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  48. 48
    + 40
    - 57


    Andrew Dice Clay, Stephen Lang, Ted Levine

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  49. 49
    + 39
    - 55
    Charlie's Angels

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

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  50. 50
    + 39
    - 57


    Tyne Daly, Meg Foster, Al Waxman

    ;
82 +

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