Unspeakable Crimes The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
120.7k votes 7.6k voters 199.3k 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
2,231 1,030
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
RafaelR. added Sherlock

2
1,608 824
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo

3
1,397 1,005
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,325 852
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Law & Order: SVU

5
1,224 998
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
964 912
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,233 612
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added NCIS

8
1,226 790
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scooby Doo

9
1,233 861
Temperance

10
832 825
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
871 724
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Murder, She Wrote

12
1,249 912
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Mentalist

13
992 698
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Law & Order: SVU

14
912 697
Thomas Magnum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Mangum P.I.

15
836 689
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Rockford Files

16
1,405 948
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Castle

17
1,073 809
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars

18
1,011 739
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,352 949
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
871 321
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

21
917 440
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

22
758 334
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added House, House Universe

23
810 433
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS - NCIS 

24
892 742
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Bones

25
824 883
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter

26
611 681
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hawaii Five-O

27
801 412
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS

28
578 594
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kojak

29
663 498
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Law & Order

30
826 686
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
701 389
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

32
648 393
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added NCIS - NCIS

33
687 417
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

34
676 388
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

35
594 615
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Burn Notice

36
680 443
John Munch is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

37
572 483
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Rizzoli & Isles

38
469 537
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
453 391
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason

40
486 200
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Criminal Minds

41
403 319
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Law & Order: Criminal Intent

42
438 578
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

43
335 368
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
466 239
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Criminal Minds

45
545 685
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
CSI: Miami

46
303 287
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
441 548
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
305 559
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Twin Peaks

49
320 543
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
NYPD Blue

50
353 450
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch