Entertainment 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
714 387
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
560 357
The Shield is listed (or ranked) 2 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
3
480 275
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
512 299
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
617 373
Law & Order: Special Victims U... is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
422 263
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
660 283
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
567 298
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
392 244
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
536 198
Blue Bloods is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
535 243
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 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
12
308 234
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
354 244
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
425 231
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
15
407 250
Castle is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
423 255
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
427 192
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
249 149
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
222 214
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
259 239
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
261 227
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
263 137
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
268 162
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
227 174
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 24 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
25
290 172
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