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The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

Updated April 1, 2021 42.3k votes 5.7k voters 199.9k views97 items

List RulesVote up your favorite police dramas that unfold their complex stories episode-by-episode.

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, so 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. Another great example is the CBS drama Criminal Minds, the story of FBI agents who profile criminals. 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 and vote the best to the top!

 

 

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  • 1
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    The Wire

    Domenick Lombardozzi, Clarke Peters

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  • 2
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    Hill Street Blues

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  • 3
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    Southland

    Benjamin McKenzie, Jenny Gago

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  • 4
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  • 5
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    The Shield

    Jay Karnes, Catherine Dent

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  • 6
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    Columbo

    John Finnegan, Mike Lally

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  • 7
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    The Mentalist

    Amanda Righetti, Owain Yeoman

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  • 8
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    Law & Order

    Fred Dalton Thompson, Alana De La Garza

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  • 9
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    Rocky Carroll, Cote de Pablo

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    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

    Philip Winchester, Melissa Sagemiller

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    James MacArthur, Jack Lord

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  • 12
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    Sherlock

    Benedict Cumberbatch, Tanya Moodie

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  • 13
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    NYPD Blue

    Henry Simmons, Gail O'Grady

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  • 14
    546
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    Castle

    Seamus Dever, Stana Katic

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  • 15
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    Miami Vice

    Don Johnson, Edward James Olmos

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    Magnum, P.I.

    Gillian Dobb, Roger E. Mosley

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  • 17
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    The Closer

    Gina Ravera, Robert Gossett

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  • 18
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    Person of Interest

    Sarah Shahi, Kevin Chapman

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  • 19
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    Bosch

    Sarah Clarke, Annie Wersching

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  • 20
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    Cold Case

    Thom Barry, Tracie Thoms

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  • 21
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    Law & Order: Criminal Intent

    Eric Bogosian, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

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  • 22
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    Monk

    Jason Gray-Stanford, Tony Shalhoub

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  • 23
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    The Streets of San Francisco

    Darleen Carr, Karl Malden

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    Criminal Minds

    A.J. Cook, Rachel Nichols

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    Blue Bloods

    Marisa Ramirez, Donnie Wahlberg

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