Best TV Characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
118.3k votes 7.5k voters 196.4k 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
2,214 1,013
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
RafaelR. added Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,580 816
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,382 993
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,308 839
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,213 990
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
951 901
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,224 601
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,215 777
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,222 847
Temperance

10
828 812
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
863 713
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
1,235 901
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

13
984 687
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

14
901 692
Thomas Magnum is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Thomas Magnum Mangum P.I.

15
1,395 938
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
822 687
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,062 800
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
1,007 727
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,339 942
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
854 312
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
907 431
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

22
749 325
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
800 424
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

24
884 731
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

25
817 873
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
605 671
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

27
793 401
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

28
570 588
Kojak is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kojak Kojak

29
651 494
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
821 677
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
692 379
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
643 383
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
675 408
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
588 606
Michael Westen is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Michael Westen Burn Notice

35
666 380
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

36
670 436
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
562 476
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
461 533
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
442 387
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

40
473 192
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

41
432 572
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

42
392 311
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

43
331 358
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
454 230
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
541 674
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
299 279
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
431 542
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
302 550
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
313 536
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue

50
349 442
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch