Best TV Characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
117.1k votes 7.4k voters 194.1k 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.

1
2,181 991
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,565 808
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,367 986
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,300 832
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,210 980
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
940 894
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,212 595
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,205 765
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,214 838
Temperance

10
822 805
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
857 707
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
979 680
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

13
1,222 894
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

14
895 685
Thomas Magnum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Thomas Magnum Mangum P.I.

The Saddest Television Deaths Ever

15
1,387 933
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
814 682
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,057 794
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
996 719
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,329 938
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
845 308
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
898 426
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

28 Creepy Photos Inspired by Children's Nightmares

22
737 320
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added Dr. Gregory House House, House Universe

23
796 419
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

24
872 728
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

25
814 865
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
599 667
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

27
787 395
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

28
565 584
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kojak Kojak

The Greatest Female TV Characters of All Time

29
646 491
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
818 674
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
688 375
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
638 379
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
671 404
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
662 375
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

35
585 602
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Michael Westen Burn Notice

16 Movie "In Jokes" You Probably Didn't Notice

36
666 433
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
556 474
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
458 528
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
437 383
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

40
469 188
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

41
390 306
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

42
429 569
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Creepiest Characters in TV History

43
327 354
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
449 226
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
537 671
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
296 275
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
427 538
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
301 545
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
311 532
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue

50
347 437
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch