Top 16 TV Show Detectives

  • Did you see the first episode from True Detective, a show which promises a different approach than a long string of crime solving TV series? Dark and gritty, with plenty of philosophical and sociological references, the HBO series has already announced two of the greatest detectives to ever appear on the small screen: Rust Cohle brilliantly portrayed by Matthew McConaughey and Martin Hart brought to life by the one and only Woody Harrelson. Besides them, here are our top choices of crime-solving detectives.true detective woody

  • 16. Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland

    Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland

    Played by Dominic West and Wendell Pierce, these two detectives appeared in The Wire are not your average cops: they are heavy drinkers and they can’t seem to get rid of foul words. They do have some sort of a code, which says only this: a man must have a code.


    15. Andy Sipowicz

    Andy Sipowicz

    Dennis Franz portrays this cop in the show NIPD Blue, a cop which is also a recovering alcoholic. One of the most memorable characters in the entire TV history, Andy Sipowicz brought to the actor Golden Globes, Emmys, and Screen Actors Guild awards.


    14. Sarah Lund

    Sarah Lund

    Sofie Gråbø played the role of Sarah Lund in the hit show The Killing, where she was a smart, annoying, and very compulsive detective inspector. While the show only lasted 3 seasons, her role became an iconic one, being invited as a cameo in several other shows.


    13. David Michael Starsky and Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson

    Starsky and Hutch

    The epitomes of the 70’s police series, Starsky and Hutch were portrayed by Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul. A duo which rarely saw eye to eye, they raced across the city in a red Gran Torino, often called the Striped Tomato.


    12. Jane Tennison

  • Jane Tennison

    Jane Tennison was superbly brought to life by dame Helen Mirren, in the long lived series Prime Suspect. The Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector was not like any other female detective, being a chain-smoking and hard-drinking tough as nails policewoman. As Helen Mirren said, this show described exactly how a woman can truly become independent.

  • 11. Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey

    Cagney and Lacey

    The most famous police-woman duo was brought to life by Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless. Obviously, the two cops had completely different personalities, one being a workaholic and the other a family woman. In other words, the two characters offered a new perspective on the issue of feminism.

  • 10. Thomas Magnum

    Thomas Magnum

    Loud shirts, fast cars, and a little voice inside his head helped Thomas Magnum solve crimes in Magnum P. I. This was a very popular series in America, bringing Tom Selleck an Emmy award.

  • 9. Theodore “Theo” Kojak


    Telly Savalas brought Kojak to life in the homonymous series, a show centered on a bold New York cop, always donning a hat and sucking on a lollypop. His catchphrase? “Who loves ya, baby?” Of course, several attempt were made for bringing the sleuth on the big screen, the latest name attached being that of Vin Diesel.

  • 8. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson

    Suzanne Anderson

    Pepper was one of the first female leads in a series and was brought to life by Angie Dickinson. At that time, the show Police Woman was President Gerard Ford’s favorite TV series. This says a lot about Police Woman, even if by today’s standards doesn’t mean too much.

  • 7. Hercule Poirot

    Hercule Poirot

    Portrayed over the years by several actors, including in here the likes of Peter Ustinov and Alfred Molina, the quintessential Poirot remains the one brought to life by David Suchet.

  • 6. James “Sonny” Crockett

    James Crockett

    Don Johnson represented the 80’s cop in Miami Vice, the perfect symbol for the MTV generation: an undercover cop, dressed to kill, in a city plagued by drugs and crimes. The show also included some top notch scores, with Miles Davis and Frank Zappa occasionally guest-starring.

  • 5. Lennie Briscoe

    Lennie Briscoe

    Jerry Orbach portrayed Lennie Briscoe in Law and Order for 12 years, until his death. Besides winning an Emmy, he also had fans all over the place, most notably the writer Kurt Vonnegut, who said that from all the people in the world he would like to be Lennie Briscoe.

  • 4. Jessica Fletcher

    Jessica Fletcher

    Angela Lansbury was nominated to 10 Golden Globes and 10 Emmy Awards for her role in Murder, She Wrote, where she plays a retired teacher who becomes a mystery writer and detective. Pop-trivia: she lived in a town of 3,500, where she solved no less than 274 murders.

  • 3. John Luther

    John Luther

    Idris Elba, a kingpin in The Wire, won a Golden Globe in Luther for his role as the physical and obsessive British inspector. As it seems, they are currently working for a big screen release of a prequel.


    2. Frank Columbo

  • Frank Columbo

    Peter Falk was directed in the first Columbo episode, Murder by the Book, by Steven Spielberg – and the rest is history, with the actor building up the character with a shabby raincoat, an often unlit cigar, and plenty of idiosyncrasies.

  • 1. Sherlock and Watson

    Sherlock and Watson

    Was there any doubt? Portrayed by numerous actors until now, it was the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman collaboration which cemented this character in the mind and heart of today’s people. An adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings, Sherlock was already nominated for plenty of Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.


    There you have it – our top 16 choices for TV cops and detectives. Of course, we might have skipped some, but basically we got them all right? What do you think?


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