best TV characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
116.3k votes 7.4k voters 192.4k 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
2,164 984
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,556 801
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,362 975
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,289 825
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,204 974
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
929 889
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,207 590
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,198 761
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,207 831
Temperance

10
819 799
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
853 701
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
971 674
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

13
1,212 887
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

14
895 679
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
1,378 929
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
809 680
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,052 788
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
993 713
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,320 934
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
838 305
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
894 423
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

28 Creepy Photos Inspired by Children's Nightmares

22
732 316
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
794 414
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

24
868 724
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

25
811 859
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
595 662
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

27
784 392
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

28
564 579
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
643 487
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
815 671
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
685 372
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
636 376
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
669 400
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
660 372
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

35
584 598
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
662 430
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
551 470
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
457 523
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
434 379
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

40
467 185
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

41
388 302
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

42
429 565
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Creepiest Characters in TV History

43
323 352
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
447 223
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
535 668
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
295 272
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
427 535
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
301 542
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
311 529
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue

50
347 434
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch