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. 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
658 352
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 1 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

2
569 332
Law & Order: Special Victims U... 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

3
444 246
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 3 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

4
511 328
The Shield is listed (or ranked) 4 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

5
469 270
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 5 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

6
382 234
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 6 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

7
615 254
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson Criminal Minds is an American police-procedural television program that premiered September 22, 2005, on CBS. The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit based ...more

8
519 270
NCIS is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
494 175
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

10
359 221
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 10 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

11
492 222
Southland is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King Southland is an American television crime 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, ...more

12
286 211
Homicide: Life on the Street 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

13
326 218
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
374 224
Castle is listed (or ranked) 14 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

15
385 213
Hawaii Five-O is listed (or ranked) 15 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

16
391 235
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 16 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

17
388 172
Chicago P.D. is listed (or ranked) 17 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

18
225 127
The Mentalist is listed (or ranked) 18 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

19
204 199
Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 19 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

20
236 220
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 20 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

21
245 208
Third Watch is listed (or ranked) 21 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

22
242 119
Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley Magnum, P.I. is an American television series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living on Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 in first-run broadcast on the ...more

23
246 147
Cold Case is listed (or ranked) 23 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

24
284 211
Rookie Blue is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma Rookie Blue is a Canadian police drama television series starring Missy Peregrym and Gregory Smith. It was created by Morwyn Brebner, Tassie Cameron, and Ellen Vanstone. The police drama ...more

25
265 156
Person of Interest is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman Person of Interest is an American science fiction drama television series created by Jonathan Nolan that premiered on September 22, 2011, on CBS. The series revolves around John Reese, a former ...more

26
199 158
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson Kojak is an American television series starring Telly Savalas as the title character, New York City Police Department Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak. Taking the time slot of the popular Cannon ...more

27
289 204
The New Hawaii 5-0 is listed (or ranked) 27 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.

28
243 86
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 28 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

29
230 197
CSI: Miami is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez CSI: Miami is an American police procedural television series that ran from September 23, 2002, to April 8, 2012, on CBS. It is the first spin-off of the orignal series. The pilot episode was ...more

30
164 88
The Rockford Files is listed (or ranked) 30 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

31
159 144
Barney Miller is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
thewrecker added Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Steve Landesberg Barney Miller is an American situation comedy television series set in a New York City Police Department police station in Greenwich Village. The series originally was broadcast from January 23, ...more

32
236 170
Law & Order: Criminal Intent is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan This show is an American police procedural television drama series set in New York City, where it was also primarily produced. Created and produced by Dick Wolf and René Balcer, the ...more

33
217 148
Monk is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
JayceEverling added Tony Shalhoub, Jason Gray-Stanford, Ted Levine Monk is an American comedy-drama detective mystery television series created by Andy Breckman and starring Tony Shalhoub as the eponymous character, Adrian Monk. It originally ran from 2002 to ...more

34
188 154
The Streets of San Francisco is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins The Streets of San Francisco is a 1970s television police drama filmed on location in San Francisco, California, and produced by Quinn Martin Productions, with the first season produced in ...more

35
167 166
Adam-12 is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Martin Milner, Kent McCord, Shaaron Claridge Adam-12 is a television police drama that followed two police officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, Pete Malloy and Jim Reed, as they rode the streets of Los Angeles in their patrol ...more

36
226 170
Psych is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson Psych is an American detective comedy-drama television series created by Steve Franks and broadcast on USA Network with syndication reruns on ION Television. It is produced by Franks and Tagline ...more

37
244 171
Rizzoli & Isles is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Angie Harmon, Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill Rizzoli & Isles is a TNT television series starring Angie Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. The one-hour drama is based on the ...more

38
167 148
In the Heat of the Night is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Carroll O'Connor, Howard Rollins, Anne-Marie Johnson In the Heat of the Night is an American television series based on the film and the novel of the same title. It starred Carroll O'Connor as the white police chief William Gillespie, and Howard ...more

39
157 117
Ranker Video
zxray added Jack Klugman, John S. Ragin, Robert Ito Quincy, M.E. is an American television series from Universal Studios that aired from October 3, 1976, to September 5, 1983, on NBC. It stars Jack Klugman in the title role, a Los Angeles County ...more

40
158 113
Luther is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley Luther is a British drama series starring Idris Elba as the eponymous character DCI John Luther. Written by Neil Cross, the first series, comprising six one-hour long episodes, premiered on 4 ...more

41
178 157
Starsky and Hutch is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Antonio Fargas Starsky & Hutch is a 1970s American cop thriller television series, which consisted of a 70-minute pilot movie and 92 episodes of 50 minutes each. The show was created by William Blinn, ...more

42
185 151
Without a Trace is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Anthony LaPaglia, Poppy Montgomery, Marianne Jean-Baptiste Without a Trace is an American police procedural television drama series that originally aired on CBS from September 26, 2002, to May 19, 2009. The series follows the cases of a Missing Persons ...more

43
159 128
Flashpoint is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
colter-adams added Hugh Dillon, David Paetkau, Amy Jo Johnson Flashpoint is a Canadian police drama television series that debuted on 11 July 2008 on CTV in Toronto. In the United States, the series currently airs reruns on Ion Television and in the United ...more

44
187 169
CSI: NY is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Gary Sinise, Carmine Giovinazzo, Hill Harper CSI: NY is an American police procedural television series that ran on CBS from September 22, 2004 to February 22, 2013 for a total of nine seasons and 197 original episodes. The show follows ...more

45
184 170
The Closer is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons, Corey Reynolds The Closer is an American television police procedural, starring Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson, a Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and ...more

46
121 135
The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Robert Stack, Jerry Paris, Walter Winchell The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on the ABC Television Network, produced by Desilu Productions. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar ...more

47
149 150
CHiPs is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine CHiPs is an American television drama series produced by MGM Studios that originally aired on NBC from September 15, 1977, to July 17, 1983. CHiPs followed the lives of two motorcycle police ...more

48
140 63
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

49
116 129
Ranker Video
zxray added Robert Blake, Tom Ewell, Michael D. Roberts Baretta is an American detective television series which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1978. The show was a milder version of a successful 1973–74 ABC series, Toma, starring Tony Musante as ...more

50
149 172
Ranker Video
zxray added David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz Grimm is an American police procedural fantasy television drama series. It debuted in the U.S. on NBC on October 28, 2011. The show has been described as "a cop drama—with a twist... a dark ...more