Fictional Characters

The Best Fictional Detectives  

Ranker Entertainment
390 votes 70 voters 27 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
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
2
Hercule Poirot is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
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
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
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
5
Jessica Fletcher is listed (or ranked) 5 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
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
7
Miss Marple is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
Perry Mason is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
Philip Marlowe is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
Sam Spade is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
Veronica Mars is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
Rust Cohle is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
True Detective
Rust Cohle is a fictional character from the 2014 TV series True Detective.
13
J.J. 'Jake' Gittes is listed (or ranked) 13 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.
14
Rorschach is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Watchmen, Watchmen
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
15
Ezekiel
Devil in a Blue Dress
Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is a fictional character created by mystery author Walter Mosley. Private investigator Easy is a black hard-boiled detective and World War II veteran ...more
16
DCI John Luther is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
17
Clarice Starling is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
Inspector Clouseau is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
Lisbeth Salander is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Millennium, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lisbeth Salander is a fictional character created by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. She is the main character of Larsson's award-winning Millennium series, along with Mikael ...more
20
Ed Exley is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
L.A. Confidential
Edmund J. Exley is a fictional character from the 1997 film L.A. Confidential.
21
Nero Wolfe is listed (or ranked) 21 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
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
Brenda Leigh Johnson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
MikeLeebaw added The Closer
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is a fictional character featured in TNT's The Closer. The character heads the Major Crimes Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. She is portrayed in ...more
24
Doc Sportello is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Doc Sportello Inherent Vice
25
Brendan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Fictional Detectives
Brick
Brendan is a fictional character from the 2005 film Brick.