Fictional Characters
297 voters

The Best Fictional Detectives

Updated October 26, 2020 2.5k votes 297 voters 3.5k views39 items

List RulesFilm 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.  

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  • Sherlock Holmes1
    161
    49

    Sherlock Holmes

    Sherlock, The Hound of the Baskervilles

    Powers & AbilitiesNatural deduction, Disguise

    Sherlock Holmes is a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan... more on Wikipedia

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  • Hercule Poirot2
    113
    52

    Hercule Poirot

    Agatha Christie's Poirot, Murder on the Orient Express
    Hercule Poirot is the effete, efficient Belgian detective created by mystery writer Dame... more on Wikipedia
  • Batman3
    127
    90

    Batman

    Batman Beyond, Young Justice

    Powers & AbilitiesFlight, Martial arts, Eidetic memory

    Batman is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, as... more on Wikipedia

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  • Columbo4
    75
    52

    Columbo

    Columbo
    Columbo is an American television series starring Peter Falk as a detective with the Los... more on Wikipedia

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  • L5
    60
    40

    L

    Death Note, Death Note

    Powers & AbilitiesNatural deduction

    L Lawliet, exclusively known by the mononym L, is a fictional character in the manga series... more on Wikipedia
  • Sam Spade6
    51
    39

    Sam Spade

    The Maltese Falcon, The Maltese Falcon
    Sam Spade is a fictional private detective and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930... more on Wikipedia
  • Miss Marple7
    49
    41

    Miss Marple

    Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul
    Jane Marple, usually referred to as Miss Marple, is a fictional character appearing in 12 of... more on Wikipedia
  • Philip Marlowe8
    47
    39

    Philip Marlowe

    The Singing Detective, Philip Marlowe
    Philip Marlowe is a fictional character created by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe first appeared... more on Wikipedia

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  • Adrian Monk9
    54
    47

    Adrian Monk

    Monk, Monk Universe
    Adrian Monk is a title character and the protagonist of the USA Network television series... more on Wikipedia

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  • Rust Cohle10
    46
    42

    Rust Cohle

    True Detective
    Rust Cohle is a fictional character from the 2014 TV series True Detective.
  • Jessica Fletcher11
    44
    43

    Jessica Fletcher

    Murder, She Wrote
    Jessica Fletcher is a character and the protagonist portrayed by veteran Tony-winning actress... more on Wikipedia
  • DCI John Luther12
    40
    43
  • Nero Wolfe13
    22
    21

    Nero Wolfe

    The League of Frightened Men, Nero Wolfe
    Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, an armchair detective created in 1934 by the American... more on Wikipedia
  • Perry Mason14
    31
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    Perry Mason

    Perry Mason, Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake
    Perry Mason is a fictional character, a criminal defense lawyer who is the main character in... more on Wikipedia
  • Jim Rockford15
    8
    4

    Jim Rockford

    The Rockford Files
    Jim Rockford is a fictional character from the film The Rockford Files.

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  • Inspector Clouseau16
    27
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    Inspector Clouseau

    Trail of the Pink Panther, The Return of the Pink Panther
    Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau is a fictional character in Blake Edwards' farcical The Pink... more on Wikipedia
  • Shawn Spencer17
    12
    11

    Shawn Spencer

    Psych, Psych

    Powers & AbilitiesEidetic memory

    Shawn Spencer is a fictional character on the American television drama and comedy Psych... more on Wikipedia
  • Rorschach18
    33
    43

    Rorschach

    Watchmen, Watchmen

    Powers & AbilitiesGymnastics

    Rorschach is a fictional character and an antihero of the acclaimed 1986 graphic novel... more on Wikipedia

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  • Inspector Lestrade19
    26
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    Inspector Lestrade

    Sherlock, Meitantei Holmes
    Insp. Lestrade is a fictional character from the 2002 film Case of Evil: Case of Evil.
  • Conan Edogawa20
    12
    17

    Conan Edogawa

    Case Closed: Private Eye in the Distant Sea

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  • Clarice Starling21
    27
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    Clarice Starling

    The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal
    Clarice M. Starling is a fictional character and the protagonist of the novels The Silence of... more on Wikipedia

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  • J.J. 'Jake' Gittes22
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    J.J. 'Jake' Gittes

    The Two Jakes
    J.J. 'Jake' Gittes is a fictional character form the 1990 film The Two Jakes.
  • Martin Hart23
    11
    15

    Martin Hart

    True Detective (Season 1)
  • John Ferguson24
    20
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    John Ferguson is a fictional character from the 1958 film Vertigo.
  • John Munch25
    10
    15

    John Munch

    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Homicide: Life on the Street
    John Munch is a fictional character played by actor Richard Belzer. Munch first appeared on... more on Wikipedia