Movie Detectives Who Should Have Solved Things Way Earlier

List Rules
Vote up the detectives who are clearly bad at detecting.

Half the fun of a mystery film is watching the inspector attempt to solve a crime, but movies are filled with inept or just plain dumb detectives. And while there are plenty of great detectives in cinema who usually solve their big case before the curtain falls, many are guilty of missing the most obvious of clues.

Granted, the audience often knows what's going on before the detective does, but when you're talking about someone like Inspector Clouseau, solving the crime is more of an accident than an "on purpose" sort of thing.

These bad detective movies should be wrapped up much sooner than they are. Of course, that would shorten their runtimes considerably.


  • Inspector Clouseau From The ‘Pink Panther' Series
    Photo: The Pink Panther / United Artists

    Who Is He? Inspector Jacques Clouseau is the main character from the Pink Panther film series. Originally brought to life by Peter Sellers, the mantle was later taken up by actors Alan Arkin, Roger Moore, and Steve Martin. He's easily the most inept detective in all of fiction - essentially the opposite of Sherlock Holmes. Despite his ineptitude and clumsiness, he usually solves the case by the end of the film.

    What Case Is He Solving? In his first outing, Clouseau attempts to solve the case of the stolen Pink Panther, a beautiful pink diamond with a flaw that looks like a panther. 

    What Clues Does He Miss? The culprit in this caper is none other than "The Phantom," an international jewel thief played by David Niven. Despite being a jewel thief, The Phantom is also Sir Charles Lytton, and his alter ego is fairly obvious. What Clouseau should pick up on earlier in the film is the fact that his wife is sleeping with Lytton. Not only that, but she's also his accomplice. By the end of the film, the Inspector is framed for the case he is attempting to solve while the real villains flee with the promise to clear his name with their next caper.

  • Who Is He? Jonathan "John" Brown, otherwise known as Inspector Gadget, always wanted to become a cop, and after a tragic mishap, he is selected to be the first participant in the Gadget Program. He is outfitted with a variety of crime-fighting and investigative gadgets, given an AI-controlled car, and sent to solve the case.

    What Case Is He Solving? The case that got him blown up in the first place: stopping Dr. Claw and thwarting his evil plans.

    What Clues Does He Miss? Inspector Gadget means well, and he's definitely interested in seeing the bad guys behind bars, but he's untrained and incapable of using most of the gadgets he's been given. Most of the time, it's his niece Penny who cracks the case, though she doesn't get the credit she deserves. In the first film, Gadget misses pretty much everything while Penny saves his life and helps him out of jam after jam.

  • Who Is She? Detective Rhonda Boney is a hard-nosed detective who gets a feeling in her gut and sticks with it. She's not incapable, but she does let things go by her, where another detective may not have.

    What Case Is She Solving? The disappearance of Amy Elliott Dunne

    What Clues Does She Miss? Frankly, a lot. Amy stages her own disappearance before running away, and everything points directly at her husband Nick. A good detective should see the holes in the case and work to implicate Amy instead of Nick. Even when Amy returns and Boney approaches her about the holes in her story, she is rebuffed. Amy has no problem finishing the movie on a disturbingly high note, despite the fact she's a nut. 

  • Who Is He? FBI Agent Jack Crawford has appeared in most of the adaptations of the Hannibal Lecter franchise. He is loosely based on a real FBI agent, who didn't like his characterization all that much. In the first film, Manhunter, he is played by Denis Farina, and he's not entirely incompetent. He relies on others' help to solve his cases, but he often misses key clues that should set him on the right path earlier in his investigation.

    What Case Is He Solving? During his investigation of the "Tooth Fairy," he calls in his former protégé and expert profiler, Will Graham. Graham's expertise is needed, but he's in early retirement following a vicious encounter with Hannibal Lecter.

    What Clues Does He Miss? First, he fails to glean the true identity of the Tooth Fairy. His second and more egregious mistake is bringing Graham and Lecter into his investigation, despite their history. By failing to appreciate the dangerous relationship between the two men, he inadvertently enables Lecter to send the Tooth Fairy, Francis Dolarhyde, to Graham's address.