Fictional Characters

The Best Fictional Detectives 

Ranker Entertainment
Updated June 19, 2020 1.1k votes 174 voters 2k views 38 items

List Rules Film and TV appearances only

When you need to track down a mysterious person or find the real culprit, these detectives are on the case. Sure, it may cost you a pretty penny, but sleuthing is hard work. Batman has solved all sorts of crimes around Gotham City. Sherlock Holmes, a notable inspiration for Batman, has also cleaned up the streets and put some of London's most hardened criminals behind bars. These detectives have tangoed with serial killers, cyborgs, and femme fatales - and that's all before breakfast.

This list of detective characters has some of the best gumshoes in the business. Some may drink a little harder than others, and some may prefer to stick to the shadows, but that doesn't make them any less effective. In fact, it's their unique character traits that often help them uncover hidden clues.

Vote up your favorite detectives who have appeared in films and TV shows, and vote down all the other amateurs.  

list ordered by
1
Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Sherlock, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes

Powers & Abilities: Natural deduction, Disguise

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for ...more

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Every Sherlock Holmes Story, Ranked Best to Worst #78 of 3,534 The Best Movie Characters Of All Time #9 of 461 The Best Duos of All Time

2
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Hercule Poirot Agatha Christie's Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile
Hercule Poirot is the effete, efficient Belgian detective created by mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie. With his signature moustache carfully trimmed and waxed, Poirot uses his "little ...more
3
Batman is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Batman Beyond, Young Justice, Batman

Powers & Abilities: Flight, Martial arts, Eidetic memory

Batman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, as well as its associated media. The character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, ...more

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Every Batsuit Ever Worn Onscreen, Ranked #2 of 311 The Best Comic Book Superheroes Of All Time #7 of 3,534 The Best Movie Characters Of All Time

4
Columbo is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Columbo
Columbo is an American television series starring Peter Falk as a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The character and show, created by William Link and Richard Levinson, ...more

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The Best Seasons of Columbo #232 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #9 of 125 The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

5
Miss Marple is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: 4:50 from Paddington
Jane Marple, usually referred to as Miss Marple, is a fictional character appearing in 12 of Agatha Christie's crime novels and in 20 short stories. Miss Marple is an elderly spinster who lives ...more
6
Adrian Monk is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Monk, Monk Universe
Adrian Monk is a title character and the protagonist of the USA Network television series Monk, portrayed by Tony Shalhoub. He is a renowned former homicide detective for the San Francisco ...more

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#171 of 1,428 The Greatest TV Characters of All Time #162 of 472 The Funniest TV Characters of All Time #77 of 79 The Fictional Bosses You'd Least Like to Work For

7
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Murder, She Wrote, Murder
Jessica Fletcher is a character and the protagonist portrayed by veteran Tony-winning actress Angela Lansbury on the American television series Murder, She Wrote. Fletcher is a best-selling ...more

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#62 of 1,022 The Greatest Female TV Characters of All Time #184 of 1,428 The Greatest TV Characters of All Time #12 of 146 The Greatest Female TV Role Models

8
Sam Spade is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
The Maltese Falcon, The Maltese Falcon
Sam Spade is a fictional private detective and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon. Spade also appeared in three lesser-known short stories by Hammett. The ...more
9
L is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
homelander2021 added Death Note, Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name

Powers & Abilities: Natural deduction

L Lawliet, exclusively known by the mononym L, is a fictional character in the manga series Death Note, created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. He is an eccentric genius and international ...more

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#209 of 214 The Saddest Television Deaths Ever #4 of 1,103 The Very Best Anime Characters #9 of 128 The 25+ Saddest Anime Deaths of All Time

10
Philip Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
The Singing Detective, Philip Marlowe, Philip Marlowe
Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe first appeared under that name in The Big Sleep, published in 1939. Chandler's early short stories, published in pulp ...more
11
Inspector Lestrade is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Sherlock, Meitantei Holmes, Sherlock Holmes
Insp. Lestrade is a fictional character from the 2002 film Case of Evil: Case of Evil.
12
DCI John Luther is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
13
Rust Cohle is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
True Detective
Rust Cohle is a fictional character from the 2014 TV series True Detective.
14
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Perry Mason, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake, Perry Mason: The Case of the Reckless Romeo
Perry Mason is a fictional character, a criminal defense lawyer who is the main character in works of detective fiction written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Perry Mason is featured in more than 80 ...more
15
Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Silence! The Musical
Clarice M. Starling is a fictional character and the protagonist of the novels The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal by Thomas Harris. In the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs, she was ...more

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#163 of 3,534 The Best Movie Characters Of All Time #54 of 249 The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked #11 of 392 The Greatest Female Characters in Film History

16
Nero Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
cbogus added Nero Wolfe The League of Frightened Men, Nero Wolfe
Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, an armchair detective created in 1934 by the American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe's confidential assistant Archie Goodwin narrates the cases of the ...more
17
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars is the fictional protagonist, occasional narrator, and antiheroine in UPN/The CW the television series, Veronica Mars, which aired on the UPN and CW networks from 2004 to 2007. She ...more

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#39 of 1,022 The Greatest Female TV Characters of All Time #775 of 1,428 The Greatest TV Characters of All Time #409 of 472 The Funniest TV Characters of All Time

18
Rorschach is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Watchmen, Watchmen

Powers & Abilities: Gymnastics

Rorschach is a fictional character and an antihero of the acclaimed 1986 graphic novel miniseries Watchmen, published by DC Comics. Rorschach was created by writer Alan Moore with artist Dave ...more

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#58 of 311 The Best Comic Book Superheroes Of All Time #442 of 3,534 The Best Movie Characters Of All Time #53 of 182 The 100+ Best DC Comics Heroes of All Time, According to Fans

19
Kindaichi Hajime is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Jason Patrick Annichiarico added Kindaichi Hajime Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo
Kindaichi Hajime is a fictional character from the TV program Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo.
20
Inspector Clouseau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Trail of the Pink Panther, The Return of the Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark
Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau is a fictional character in Blake Edwards' farcical The Pink Panther series. In most of the films he was played by Peter Sellers, but one film starred Alan Arkin ...more
21
Conan Edogawa is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
22
John Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Vertigo
John Ferguson is a fictional character from the 1958 film Vertigo.
23
J.J. 'Jake' Gittes is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
The Two Jakes
J.J. 'Jake' Gittes is a fictional character form the 1990 film The Two Jakes.
24
Elliot Stabler is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Ms.green added Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Elliot Stabler is a fictional character portrayed by Christopher Meloni and one of the lead characters on the NBC police procedural series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit during the first ...more

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#215 of 1,428 The Greatest TV Characters of All Time #4 of 27 All The Detectives From 'Law & Order,' Ranked #52 of 73 The Best Fictional Characters You'd Leave Your Man For

25
Shawn Spencer is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Jason Patrick Annichiarico added Psych, Psych

Powers & Abilities: Eidetic memory

Shawn Spencer is a fictional character on the American television drama and comedy Psych played by American actor James Roday. Taking advantage of his eidetic memory, he poses as a psychic and ...more