best TV characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

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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
2,013 896
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,448 717
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,259 900
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,192 751
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,132 907
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
862 820
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,110 540
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,105 689
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,135 787
Temperance

10
774 746
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
803 652
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
920 619
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

13
1,147 833
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

14
850 637
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
1,314 888
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
765 640
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,016 733
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
928 664
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,263 901
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
754 281
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
833 387
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

28 Creepy Photos Inspired by Children's Nightmares

22
745 380
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

23
823 694
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

24
649 289
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added Dr. Gregory House House, House Universe

25
770 820
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
562 624
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

27
730 368
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

28
529 555
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
602 464
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
789 633
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
642 348
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
602 347
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
625 378
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
624 347
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

35
553 570
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
625 411
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
523 445
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
434 500
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
429 163
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

40
400 362
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

41
412 541
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

42
353 280
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

The Creepiest Characters in TV History

43
302 325
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
414 202
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
512 637
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
411 505
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

47
267 252
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

48
289 511
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
330 409
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch

50
292 499
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue