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The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

Updated January 21, 2021 41.2k votes 5.3k voters 188.9k views94 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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    Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy

    Premiered2010

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  • Columbo2
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    Columbo

    Peter Falk, Mike Lally

    Premiered1968

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

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    Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin

    Premiered1990

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama, Legal drama, Legal

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    Simon Baker, Robin Tunney

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    Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly

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    Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni

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    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama, Live action, Legal drama

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    Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

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    Jack Lord, James MacArthur

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    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Crime, Drama

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    Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp

    Premiered1993

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Crime, Drama, Live action

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  • The Shield14
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    Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent

    Premiered2002

    Genres (Tv)Crime drama, Action

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    Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas

    Premiered1984

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

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    Kathryn Morris, Danny Pino

    Premiered2003

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

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    Tom Selleck, John Hillerman

    Premiered1980

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Drama, Adventure film

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    The Closer

    Kyra Sedgwick, J.K. Simmons

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

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    Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson

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    Tony Shalhoub, Bitty Schram

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    Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan

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    Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler

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    Jack Webb, Harry Morgan

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