best TV 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.

list ordered by

1
462 210
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Wire Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

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2
359 200
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
351 197
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
300 166
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
NYPD Blue Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel

5
314 177
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Law & Order Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina

6
259 160
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Hill Street Blues Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

7
384 170
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Criminal Minds Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson

8
337 167
NCIS is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
NCIS Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette

9
334 132
Southland is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Southland Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King

10
246 157
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Columbo Peter Falk^! Mike Lally^! John Finnegan

11
297 109
Blue Bloods is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
MargrietHesseling added Blue Bloods Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes

12
197 140
Homicide: Life on the Street is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Homicide: Life on the Street Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto

13
214 151
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads

14
238 83
Chicago PD is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
emmatiede added Chicago PD Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush

15
235 145
Castle is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Castle Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan

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16
244 139
Hawaii Five-O is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Hawaii Five-O Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong

17
168 135
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
164 152
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Miami Vice Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago

19
254 156
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

20
136 138
Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dragnet Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, Don Ross

21
193 135
Rookie Blue is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Rookie Blue Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma

22
151 71
Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Magnum, P.I. Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

23
190 121
The New Hawaii 5-0 is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
analise.dubner added The New Hawaii 5-0 That girl needs to eat a sandwich.

24
100 54
The Mentalist is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Alexis Hayes added The Mentalist Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang

25
156 100
Cold Case is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Cold Case Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn

26
124 109
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Kojak Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson

27
153 111
Law & Order: Criminal Intent is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Law & Order: Criminal Intent Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan

28
125 100
The Streets of San Francisco is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Streets of San Francisco Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins

29
110 105
Adam-12 is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Adam-12 Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Shaaron Claridge

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30
123 100
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
126 89
Monk is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
JayceEverling added Monk Tony Shalhoub, Jason Gray-Stanford, Ted Levine

32
158 108
Rizzoli & Isles is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Rizzoli & Isles Angie Harmon, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill

33
93 59
Flashpoint is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
colter-adams added Flashpoint Hugh Dillon, David Paetkau, Amy Jo Johnson

34
90 93
Barney Miller is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
thewrecker added Barney Miller Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Steve Landesberg

35
148 132
CSI: Miami is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CSI: Miami David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez

36
81 50
Luther is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Luther Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley

37
104 36
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
LanaYoshii added Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

38
107 102
In the Heat of the Night is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
In the Heat of the Night Carroll O'Connor, Howard Rollins, Anne-Marie Johnson

39
69 42
The Rockford Files is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
IanHarvey added The Rockford Files James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Joe Santos

40
158 100
Person of Interest is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Person of Interest Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman

41
126 104
Psych is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Psych James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson

42
94 77
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zxray added Quincy, M.E. Jack Klugman, John S. Ragin, Robert Ito

43
121 105
Without a Trace is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Without a Trace Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

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44
125 118
CSI: NY is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CSI: NY Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper

45
76 84
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zxray added Baretta Robert Blake, Tom Ewell, Michael D. Roberts

46
120 119
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
77 97
The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Untouchables Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell

48
91 111
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zxray added Grimm David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz

49
93 109
CHiPs is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CHiPs Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine

50
61 22
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zxray added The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi