Best TV Characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
119.7k votes 7.6k voters 197.8k views 211 items

List Rules TV crime solvers only. No movies or books.

This list of the best TV detectives includes some of the greatest crime-solving sleuths in television history. TV is full of amazing detectives with lots of different kinds of skills. Supernatural, intuitive, or just plain brilliant... it's like comparing apples to oranges in some ways. But you have to pick. Which one would you want following the clues that would bring your murderer to justice? Vote for your favorite detectives, psychics, cops, or scientists, and rerank your own version if you want. Feel free to add anyone who's missing!

Many of the TV detectives listed here are part of some of the best serial cop dramas and legal dramas of all time. They are fierce, intelligent, and dogged in their determination to solve some of the most complex fictional crimes on television.

Who would you want investigating your murder? Choose carefully, because obviously you'll want the TV detective with the best skill set to uncover the clues that will bring your killer to justice. And keep in mind that looks and mannerisms can be deceiving: Adrian Monk is certainly a little goofy and neurotic, but he gets the job done. Columbo can be disarmingly bumbling, but he's sharp as a tack. Sometimes, being cleverly disarming can make all the difference in solving crimes.

1
2,223 1,022
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
RafaelR. added Sherlock

2
1,590 820
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo

3
1,389 1,000
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,316 844
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Law & Order: SVU

5
1,219 993
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
957 907
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,228 608
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added NCIS

8
1,220 784
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scooby Doo

9
1,226 854
Temperance

10
829 819
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
866 719
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Murder, She Wrote

12
1,242 907
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Mentalist

13
985 694
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Law & Order: SVU

14
907 696
Thomas Magnum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Mangum P.I.

15
1,400 944
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Castle

16
829 688
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Rockford Files

17
1,065 808
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars

18
1,007 734
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,344 947
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
861 317
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

21
912 436
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

22
753 332
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added House, House Universe

23
805 430
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS - NCIS 

24
887 737
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Bones

25
818 881
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter

26
608 678
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hawaii Five-O

27
797 407
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS

28
575 591
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kojak

29
655 497
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Law & Order

30
823 684
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
697 386
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

32
646 389
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS - NCIS

33
681 414
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

34
592 611
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Burn Notice

35
670 386
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

36
674 440
John Munch is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

37
567 480
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Rizzoli & Isles

38
467 534
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
449 388
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason

40
478 198
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Criminal Minds

41
436 575
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

42
393 317
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Law & Order: Criminal Intent

43
332 365
Miss Marple is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
dee123 added Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington

44
460 236
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

45
542 680
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
CSI: Miami

46
300 284
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
438 543
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
302 556
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Twin Peaks

49
316 541
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
NYPD Blue

50
350 447
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch