6.1k voters

All The Detectives From 'Law & Order,' Ranked

Updated June 2, 2020 58.6k votes 6.1k voters 84.1k views27 items

List RulesVote up the characters who you think are actually good detectives rather than the ones you like the most

In Law & Order’s 25 year run on network television, it has introduced viewers to a slew of detectives - some good, some great, and some who are kind of terrible at their job. But despite their failings, and because of their triumphs, everyone has a favorite Law & Order detective. Most of the time, viewers tend to ignore a detective’s ability to do their job in lieu of a juicy storyline or the officer’s charisma. But today, it’s finally time to rank the detectives on Law & Order in order of how they do their job. It’s going to be hard to be impartial, but anytime you find yourself feeling conflicted, just remember: it’s what ADA Casey Novak would do. 

The Law & Order cast is ever-expanding, and constantly adding members to its crew of detectives. Trying to remember who has been on Law & Order can be tough if you don’t have some handy graphics in front you of. So now that you’ve got a list of Law & Order detectives staring you down, it' time to decide who's the best at getting the job done. Will it be Detective Odafin Tutuola, who basically ignored his family for the first few years on the job in order to go undercover as a narcotics officer, or do you think Detective Zack Nichols did a better job while making time to play the piano in his downtime? 

Vote up the very best Law & Order detectives below, and be sure to let us know what your reasoning is in the comment section. Be sure to also check out our list of other shows like Law & Order.

  • Detective Briscoe has worked for the NYPD for over 30 years, and is a decorated detective and former US Corporal in the United States Army. Like many Law & Order detectives, Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) always puts the job first, even at the expense of his family. He is now a recovering alcoholic, and attends AA meetings, but unfortunately, he got clean much too late to have a real relationship with any of his family members. Briscoe's daughter OD'd, and he spends much of his time blaming himself. Lennie Briscoe passes in 2005 after retiring from the 27th precinct.

    Good detective?

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  • Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) is your classic, paranoid, misanthropic detective. He thrives off conspiracy theories, and a new ex-wife of his seems to pop up every other season. Munch is a huge advocate for the mentally ill, as several of his ex-wives and family members have suffered from mental disorders. 

    He begins his career as a detective on Homicide: Life on the Streets in the Baltimore Police Department Homicide unit. He retires, takes his pension, and moves to New York to work in the Sex Crimes unit on Law & Order: SVU. He takes the sergeant's exam on a bar bet, and passes, earning him the title of Sergeant Munch, which he serves whenever Sergeant Cragen is off duty. He eventually retires, surrounded by all of his friends at SVU. 
    Good detective?
  • Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola began his career as an undercover narcotics investigator for VICE. He used to spend more time undercover than out, causing strained relationships with his wife and son. He and his wife divorced, and his son, Ken, barely speaks to him.  

    Tutuola (Ice-T, Law & Order: SVU) grew up in Harlem during the Martin Luther King Jr. riots, and was forced to learn many hard lessons about the streets. He often butts heads with the other detectives, because he feels that criminals should be punished in a very black-and-white manner. He eventually softens up, but not until after he and Elliot Stabler get into a huge fight, and Tutuola threatens to transfer out of the department. They eventually reconcile their relationship, and Fin stays on the force.
    Good detective?
  • Detective Stabler is a no nonsense, take-no-prisoners, Irish Catholic tough guy that you can't help but love. At his core, Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni, Law & Order: SVU) is a straight-up dad, albeit one with a sick arm tattoo from the Marines and no-holds-barred interrogation tactics. If you're a pedophile, watch out; The Stabes has your number, and you're likely to be on the receiving end of his violent temper towards perps. He almost always gets the collar, but sometimes, his anger and frustration gets the better of him.  

    He retires after shooting and killing an armed suspect in the precinct; the suspect was a young girl grieving the death of her mother, and Stabler had to take her out in order to save everyone else in the squad room. 
    Good detective?