Fictional Characters
352 voters

The Best Fictional Detectives

Updated October 26, 2020 2.7k votes 352 voters 4.1k 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
    187
    55

    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

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  • Hercule Poirot2
    129
    65

    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
  • Batman3
    147
    110

    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

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  • Columbo4
    84
    58

    Columbo

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

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  • L5
    75
    50

    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

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  • Miss Marple6
    53
    42

    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
  • Adrian Monk7
    60
    49

    Adrian Monk

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

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  • Sam Spade8
    51
    42

    Sam Spade

    The Maltese Falcon, The Maltese Falcon
    Sam Spade is a fictional private detective and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930...  more
  • Rust Cohle9
    48
    44

    Rust Cohle

    True Detective
    Rust Cohle is a fictional character from the 2014 TV series True Detective....  more
  • Jessica Fletcher10
    46
    43

    Jessica Fletcher

    Murder, She Wrote
    Jessica Fletcher is a character and the protagonist portrayed by veteran Tony-winning actress...  more
  • Philip Marlowe11
    46
    44

    Philip Marlowe

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

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  • Inspector Clouseau12
    34
    30

    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
  • Nero Wolfe13
    25
    22

    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
  • DCI John Luther14
    41
    44
  • Shawn Spencer15
    17
    12

    Shawn Spencer

    Psych, Psych

    Powers & AbilitiesEidetic memory

    Shawn Spencer is a fictional character on the American television drama and comedy Psych...  more
  • Jim Rockford16
    10
    5

    Jim Rockford

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

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  • Perry Mason17
    31
    36

    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
  • Rorschach18
    33
    45

    Rorschach

    Watchmen, Watchmen

    Powers & AbilitiesGymnastics

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

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  • Clarice Starling19
    28
    40

    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

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  • Inspector Lestrade20
    29
    41

    Inspector Lestrade

    Sherlock, Meitantei Holmes
    Insp. Lestrade is a fictional character from the 2002 film Case of Evil: Case of Evil....  more
  • Veronica Mars21
    27
    38

    Veronica Mars

    Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars
    Veronica Mars is the fictional protagonist, occasional narrator, and antiheroine in UPN/The CW...  more

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  • Conan Edogawa22
    12
    18

    Conan Edogawa

    Case Closed: Private Eye in the Distant Sea

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  • Olivia Benson23
    12
    18

    Olivia Benson

    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    Olivia Benson is a fictional character on the NBC police procedural drama Law & Order: Special...  more

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  • J.J. 'Jake' Gittes24
    26
    39

    J.J. 'Jake' Gittes

    The Two Jakes
    J.J. 'Jake' Gittes is a fictional character form the 1990 film The Two Jakes....  more
  • Elliot Stabler25
    15
    22

    Elliot Stabler

    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    Elliot Stabler is a fictional character portrayed by Christopher Meloni and one of the lead...  more

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