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The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time 

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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. 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, 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
The Shield is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins
The Shield is an American drama television series starring Michael Chiklis that premiered on March 12, 2002, on FX, in the United States, and concluded on November 25, 2008, after seven seasons. ...more

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#199 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #47 of 158 Shows with the Best Freakin' Series Finales of All Timefeaturing The Best Seasons of The Shield

2
Law & Order: Special... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is an American police procedural, legal, crime drama television series set in New York City, where it is also primarily produced. In the style of the ...more

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#51 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watchfeaturing 16 Big Stars Who Showed Up On 'Law and Order: SVU' Before They Were Famouslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

3
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn
The Wire is an American drama television series set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Created and primarily written by author and former police reporter David Simon, the series was ...more

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#4 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #9 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writingfeaturing The Best Things Cast Members of The Wire Have Done Since the Genius Show Ended

4
NCIS is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette
NCIS is an American police procedural drama television series, revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducts investigations ...more

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#8 of 127 The Best Current Dramatic TV Shows #54 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Timefeaturing The Best Actors On NCIS

5
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson
Criminal Minds (CBS, 2005) is an American police-procedural television program. The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit based in Quantico, Virginia. The ...more

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#10 of 127 The Best Current Dramatic TV Shows #66 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Timefeaturing How Accurate Is The Depiction of Behavioral Analysts In 'Criminal Minds?'

6
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel
NYPD Blue is an American television police drama set in New York City, exploring the internal and external struggles of the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan. Each episode typically ...more

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#74 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #72 of 158 Shows with the Best Freakin' Series Finales of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

7
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina
Law & Order is an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in ...more

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#194 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watchfeaturing All The Detectives From 'Law & Order,' Rankedlisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

8
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz
Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a single police ...more

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#362 of 579 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #35 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

9
Blue Bloods is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
MargrietHesseling added
Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes
Blue Bloods is an American police procedural drama series shown on CBS in the United States and Canada and on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom. The series is filmed on location in New York ...more

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#38 of 127 The Best Current Dramatic TV Shows #649 of 2,296 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timefeaturing The Best Seasons of Blue Bloods

10
Southland is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King
Southland is an American television drama series created by writer Ann Biderman and produced by Warner Bros. Television. It originally aired on NBC for one season from April 9 to May 21, 2009, ...more

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#531 of 2,296 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time #9 of 17 17 Shows That Were Canceled On Major Cliffhangers

11
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan
Columbo is an American television series starring Peter Falk as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The character and show, created by William Link and Richard Levinson, ...more

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#145 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #51 of 2,296 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timefeaturing The Best Seasons of Columbo

12
Homicide: Life on the St... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto
This series is an American police procedural television series chronicling the work of a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Unit. It ran for seven seasons on NBC ...more

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#401 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #171 of 579 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #130 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

13
The Mentalist is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Alexis Hayes added
Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang
The Mentalist is an American police procedural television series that ran from September 23, 2008 until February 18, 2015, broadcasting 151 episodes over seven seasons, on CBS. The show was ...more

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#90 of 579 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #57 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #65 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

14
Hawaii Five-O is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong
Hawaii Five-O is an American police procedural drama series produced by CBS Productions and Leonard Freeman. Set in Hawaii, the show originally aired for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, and ...more

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#222 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #33 of 43 The Best TV Shows That Lasted 10+ Seasonslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

15
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas
Dexter is an American television drama series. Set in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life ...more

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#12 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #23 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writingfeaturing Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Michael C. Hall And Jennifer Carpenter On 'Dexter'

16
CSI: Crime Scene Investi... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Laurence Fishburne, Marg Helgenberger, George Eads
This show is an American drama television series that premiered on CBS on October 6, 2000. The show was created by Anthony E. Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It is filmed primarily at ...more

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#70 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Timefeaturing The Greatest Guest Stars to Ever Appear on 'CSI'listed on Longest Running US Drama Shows

17
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
LanaYoshii added
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs
Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it ...more

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#5 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #1 of 394 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciatefeaturing Ranking the Best Seasons of 'Sherlock'

18
Chicago P.D. is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
emmatiede added
Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush
Chicago P.D. (NBC, 2014) is an American police procedural drama television series created by Dick Wolf and Matt Olmstead. The show follows the Chicago Police Department uniformed cops who patrol ...more

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#87 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #233 of 394 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciatefeaturing Best Seasons of Chicago P.D.

19
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago
Miami Vice is an American television drama series created by Anthony Yerkovich and produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson as James "Sonny" Crockett and Philip ...more

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#133 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #86 of 158 Shows with the Best Freakin' Series Finales of All Time #226 of 2,296 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time

20
Castle is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan
Castle is an American drama television series, which premiered on ABC on March 9, 2009. The series is produced jointly by Beacon Pictures and ABC Studios. Created by Andrew W. Marlowe, it ...more

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#91 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #188 of 579 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Timefeaturing The Best Seasons of Castle

21
Ranker Video
zxray added
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris Carter. The program originally aired from September 10, 1993 to May 19, 2002 on Fox, spanning nine ...more

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#6 of 310 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Timefeaturing Fan Theories About The X-Fileslisted on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

22
Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Jack Webb, Harry Morgan, Don Ross
Dragnet is an American radio, television and motion picture series, enacting the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners. The show takes its name ...more

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#184 of 259 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #37 of 62 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Serieslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

23
Third Watch is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles
Third Watch is an American drama series which first aired on NBC from 1999 to 2005, for a total of 132 episodes, broadcast in six seasons of 22 episodes each. The show was set and filmed in New ...more

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#160 of 579 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #877 of 2,296 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time

24
The Rockford Files is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
IanHarvey added
James Garner, Noah Beery Jr., Joe Santos
The Rockford Files is an American television drama series starring James Garner that aired on the NBC network between September 13, 1974, and January 10, 1980, and has remained in syndication to ...more

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#341 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #111 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

25
Cold Case is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino, John Finn
Cold Case is an American police procedural television series which ran on CBS from September 28, 2003 to May 2, 2010. The series revolved around a fictionalized Philadelphia Police Department ...more

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