The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

72k votes 5.2k voters 161k views 245 items tags f p @

List Criteria: TV crime solvers only. No movies or books.

This list of the best TV detectives includes some of the greatest crime-solving sleuths in television history. TV is full of amazing detectives with lots of different kinds of skills. Supernatural, intuitive, or just plain brilliant... it's like comparing apples to oranges in some ways. But you have to pick. Which one would you want following the clues that would bring your murderer to justice? Vote for your favorite detectives, psychics, cops, or scientists, and rerank your own version if you want. Feel free to add anyone who's missing!

Many of the TV detectives listed here are part of some of the best serial cop dramas and legal dramas of all time. They are fierce, intelligent, and dogged in their determination to solve some of the most complex fictional crimes on television.

Who would you want investigating your murder? Choose carefully, because obviously you'll want the TV detective with the best skill set to uncover the clues that will bring your killer to justice. And keep in mind that looks and mannerisms can be deceiving: Adrian Monk is certainly a little goofy and neurotic, but he gets the job done. Columbo can be disarmingly bumbling, but he's sharp as a tack. Sometimes, being cleverly disarming can make all the difference in solving crimes.
Collection Photo:  AMC
  • 90 ReRanks
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  1. 1
    + 1,550
    - 686

    the people's #1 & most listed
    Sherlock

    ;
  2. 2
    + 1,132
    - 481

    added by Scott Klingaman
    Columbo

    ;
  3. 3
    + 912
    - 682


    Monk

    ;
  4. 4
    + 844
    - 722


    The X-Files

    ;
  5. 5
    + 670
    - 619

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Agatha Christie Universe

    ;
  6. 6
    + 746
    - 563


    Law & Order: SVU

    ;
  7. 7
    + 725
    - 384

    added by willyboymcoy
    NCIS

    ;
  8. 8
    + 768
    - 498


    Scooby Doo

    ;
  9. 9
    + 681
    - 482


    Mangum P.I.

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  10. 10
    + 562
    - 571

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    CSI

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  11. 11
    + 605
    - 483


    Murder, She Wrote

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  12. 12
    + 632
    - 482


    The Rockford Files

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  13. 13
    + 1,058
    - 713


    Castle

    ;
  14. 14
    + 754
    - 636


    Bones

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  15. 15
    + 820
    - 568


    Veronica Mars

    ;
  16. 16
    + 882
    - 670


    The Mentalist

    ;
  17. 17
    + 653
    - 507


    Psych

    ;
  18. 18
    + 593
    - 478


    Law & Order: SVU

    ;
  19. 19
    + 1,018
    - 748


    Castle

    ;
  20. 20
    + 435
    - 414

    often listed
    Kojak

    ;
  21. 21
    + 569
    - 659


    Dexter

    ;
  22. 22
    + 396
    - 461

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Hawaii Five-O

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  23. 23
    + 458
    - 258

    ranked low on reranks & added by MadisonJeannineWallace
    NCIS NCIS 

    ;
  24. 24
    + 486
    - 274

    ranked low on reranks
    NCIS

    ;
  25. 25
    + 552
    - 568

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Bones

    ;
  26. 26
    + 606
    - 474


    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    ;
  27. 27
    + 436
    - 266

    added by MadisonJeannineWallace
    NCIS

    ;
  28. 28
    + 341
    - 190

    added by LiliaLoewenberg
    Criminal Minds

    ;
  29. 29
    + 412
    - 357

    often listed & added by clash1977
    Law & Order

    ;
  30. 30
    + 358
    - 235

    added by MadisonJeannineWallace
    NCIS NCIS

    ;
  31. 31
    + 302
    - 183

    added by JacobMurray
    House, House Universe

    ;
  32. 32
    + 399
    - 428


    Burn Notice

    ;
  33. 33
    + 350
    - 373

    often listed
    Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

    ;
  34. 34
    + 356
    - 405

    often listed
    Remington Steele

    ;
  35. 35
    + 301
    - 245

    added by joekoomen
    Perry Mason

    ;
  36. 36
    + 374
    - 318

    added by willyboymcoy
    Rizzoli & Isles

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  37. 37
    + 367
    - 251

    added by LiliaLoewenberg
    Criminal Minds

    ;
  38. 38
    + 337
    - 275

    added by LiliaLoewenberg
    Criminal Minds

    ;
  39. 39
    + 344
    - 266

    added by LiliaLoewenberg
    Criminal Minds

    ;
  40. 40
    + 190
    - 168

    added by looksharp
    Law & Order: Criminal Intent

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  41. 41
    + 385
    - 318

    added by clash1977
    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

    ;
  42. 42
    + 208
    - 209

    added by dee123
    Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: ...

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  43. 43
    + 224
    - 375

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Twin Peaks

    ;
  44. 44
    + 355
    - 498


    CSI: Miami

    ;
  45. 45
    + 265
    - 286


    Starsky & Hutch

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  46. 46
    + 321
    - 377
    Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives


    Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

  47. 47
    + 214
    - 295

    added by wiabux
    Fringe

    ;
  48. 48
    + 173
    - 148
    Quincy is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

    ranked low on reranks & added by looksharp
    Quincy

  49. 49
    + 234
    - 381

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    NYPD Blue

    ;
  50. 50
    + 218
    - 363
    Cagney & Lacey is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives


    Cagney & Lacey Cagney & Lacey

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