best TV shows 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
576 292
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 The Wire is an American crime drama television series set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Created and primarily written by author and former police reporter David Simon, the ...more

2
485 267
Law & Order: Special Victims U... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit 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
442 278
The Shield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Shield 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

4
412 229
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Law & Order 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
386 221
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
NYPD Blue 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

6
521 213
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Criminal Minds 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

7
330 210
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Hill Street Blues 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

8
446 225
NCIS is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
NCIS 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 criminal ...more

9
431 186
Southland is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Southland 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

10
404 144
Blue Bloods is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
MargrietHesseling added Blue Bloods 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
313 196
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Columbo Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan Columbo is an American television series starring Peter Falk as a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The character and show, created by William Link and Richard Levinson, ...more

12
250 180
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 Homicide: Life on the Street 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 ...more

14 Celebrities Who Are Heirs

13
283 192
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 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is an American crime drama television series that premiered on CBS on October 6, 2000. The show was created by Anthony E. Zuiker and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. ...more

14
318 193
Castle is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Castle Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan Castle is an American crime 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
331 132
Chicago PD is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
emmatiede added Chicago PD Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush Chicago P.D. is an American police procedural television drama series created by Dick Wolf and Matt Olmstead as a spin-off from Chicago Fire. The series originally premiered on NBC as a ...more

16
317 184
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 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

17
180 174
Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dragnet 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

Canceled Shows We'd Most Like to See as Movies

18
209 191
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 Miami Vice is an American television crime drama series created by Anthony Yerkovich and produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson as James "Sonny" Crockett and ...more

19
214 177
Third Watch is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Third Watch Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles Third Watch is an American crime 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 ...more

20
326 206
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Dexter 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

21
175 99
The Mentalist is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Alexis Hayes added The Mentalist 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

22
202 100
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 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

The Best Serial Legal Dramas of All Time

23
244 184
Rookie Blue is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Rookie Blue 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

24
208 129
Cold Case is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Cold Case 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

25
240 169
The New Hawaii 5-0 is listed (or ranked) 25 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.

26
169 142
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Kojak 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
206 148
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 Law & Order: Criminal Intent 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 ...more

The Best Single Season Canceled Shows

28
183 123
Monk is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
JayceEverling added Monk 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

29
134 127
Barney Miller is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
thewrecker added Barney Miller 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

30
163 138
The Streets of San Francisco is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Streets of San Francisco 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

31
179 70
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
LanaYoshii added Sherlock 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

32
195 173
CSI: Miami is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CSI: Miami 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 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The pilot ...more

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33
225 131
Person of Interest is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Person of Interest Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman Person of Interest is an American science fiction crime drama television series created by Jonathan Nolan that premiered on September 22, 2011, on CBS. The series revolves around John Reese, a ...more

34
206 148
Rizzoli & Isles is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Rizzoli & Isles 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

35
141 149
Adam-12 is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Adam-12 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
155 136
Starsky and Hutch is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Starsky and Hutch 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

37
117 72
The Rockford Files is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
IanHarvey added The Rockford Files 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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38
184 146
Psych is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Psych 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

39
141 134
In the Heat of the Night is listed (or ranked) 39 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 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

40
127 103
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zxray added Quincy, M.E. 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

41
160 135
Without a Trace is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Without a Trace 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

42
120 93
Luther is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
Luther Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Dermot Crowley Luther is a British crime 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 ...more

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43
130 106
Flashpoint is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
colter-adams added Flashpoint 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
158 151
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 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
158 153
The Closer is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
The Closer 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
114 47
Ranker Video
zxray added The X-Files 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

47
101 126
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 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

48
122 135
CHiPs is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time
CHiPs 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

49
125 147
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zxray added Grimm 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

50
97 119
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zxray added Baretta 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