best TV characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

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Originally by Ranker Community
114k votes 7.2k voters 190k views 209 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.
list ordered by

1
2,133 971
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,531 785
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,336 964
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,271 809
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,180 965
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
916 877
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,189 578
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,178 750
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,194 821
Temperance

10
809 788
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
844 691
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
958 664
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

13
1,200 875
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

14
881 673
Thomas Magnum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Thomas Magnum Mangum P.I.

Celebrities Whose Children Committed Suicide

15
1,368 920
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
797 675
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,043 776
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
980 702
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,308 925
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
821 295
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
884 413
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Funniest TV Characters of All Time

22
789 404
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

23
719 306
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added Dr. Gregory House House, House Universe

24
862 715
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

25
801 849
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
774 384
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

27
585 654
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

28
554 576
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kojak Kojak

The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

29
628 485
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
810 664
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
674 366
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
631 368
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
661 394
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
653 365
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

35
574 593
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Michael Westen Burn Notice

The Best Fantasy Worlds

36
655 426
John Munch is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added John Munch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

37
543 467
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
446 521
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
458 178
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

40
422 378
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

41
379 298
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

42
423 560
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Mysterious Death Of Richard Lancelyn Green, The Most Famous Sherlock Holmes Scholar In The ...

43
317 345
Miss Marple is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
dee123 added Miss Marple Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington

44
437 218
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
531 659
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
287 268
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
424 527
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
301 532
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
344 426
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch

50
307 521
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue