best TV characters The Most Brilliant TV Detectives  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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
2,130 969
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Sherlock Holmes Sherlock

2
1,527 783
Lieutenant Columbo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Scott Klingaman added Columbo Columbo

3
1,333 961
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

4
1,267 807
Olivia Benson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Olivia Benson Law & Order: SVU

5
1,177 963
Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

6
913 875
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie Universe

7
1,185 575
Leroy Jethro Gibbs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Leroy Jethro Gibbs NCIS

8
1,177 746
Scooby-Doo is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
The Scooby Gang Scooby Doo

9
1,191 818
Temperance

10
807 785
Gil Grissom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

11
842 689
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jessica Fletcher Murder, She Wrote

12
955 663
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Elliot Stabler Law & Order: SVU

13
1,197 872
Patrick Jane is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Patrick Jane The Mentalist

14
879 672
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
1,367 917
Kate Beckett is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Kate Beckett Castle

16
796 673
Jim Rockford is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Jim Rockford The Rockford Files

17
1,042 773
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Veronica Mars Veronica Mars

18
980 700
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

19
1,307 922
Richard Castle is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

20
817 294
Spencer Reid is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Spencer Reid Criminal Minds

21
882 411
Abby Sciuto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Greatest Female Villains

22
786 402
Ziva David is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Ziva David NCIS - NCIS 

23
717 304
Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
JacobMurray added Dr. Gregory House House, House Universe

24
860 712
Seeley Booth is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Seeley Booth Bones

25
800 847
Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dexter Morgan Dexter

26
772 382
Anthony DiNozzo is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Anthony DiNozzo NCIS

27
584 652
Steve McGarrett is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Steve McGarrett Hawaii Five-O

28
552 575
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
625 484
Lennie Briscoe is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
clash1977 added Lennie Briscoe Law & Order

30
808 663
Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31
671 364
Aaron
LiliaLoewenberg added Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner Criminal Minds

32
629 365
Timothy McGee is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
MadisonJeannineWallace added Timothy McGee NCIS - NCIS

33
660 392
Penelope Garcia is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Penelope Garcia Criminal Minds

34
653 362
David Rossi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added David Rossi Criminal Minds

35
574 591
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
653 425
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
542 465
Detective Jane Rizzoli is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
willyboymcoy added Detective Jane Rizzoli Rizzoli & Isles

38
444 520
Joe Friday is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Joe Friday Dragnet, Dragnet, Dragnet

39
456 177
Derek Morgan is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
ralph-engstrom added Derek Morgan Criminal Minds

40
420 376
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
joekoomen added Perry Mason Perry Mason

41
377 297
Robert Goren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Robert Goren Law & Order: Criminal Intent

42
421 559
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives

The Creepiest Characters in TV History

43
316 343
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
436 215
Emily Prentiss is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
LiliaLoewenberg added Emily Prentiss Criminal Minds

45
529 657
Horatio Caine is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Horatio Caine CSI: Miami

46
286 266
Quincy is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
looksharp added Quincy

47
422 526
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Charlie's Angels Charlie's Angels

48
301 529
Dale Cooper is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Dale Cooper Twin Peaks

49
342 425
David Starsky is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Starsky & Hutch Starsky & Hutch

50
306 519
Andy Sipowicz is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Brilliant TV Detectives
Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue