The 10 Best TV Detectives Of All Time

As washed-up movie stunt man Ingmar (Fargo star Peter Stormare) and ever-optimistic DJ Axel (Johan Glans) continue to sleuth their way through the neon lit streets of Los Angeles in the second season of black comedy detective drama Swedish Dicks (now streaming on Stan), the sleuthing odd couple are the next in a long line of delightfully quirky yet brilliant problem solvers.

Here are our top ten television detectives.

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

The very modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic literary sleuth relocates the deerstalker wearing detective Sherlock Holmes in time, bringing the Victorian era story into modern day. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular problem solver and Martin Freeman as the ever-dependable Dr. Watson, the present-day incarnation plays with fans expectations while remaining fresh and exciting. Holmes’ brain still has a forensic ability to logically deduct the most mysterious of mysteries and his powers of observation are extraordinary. And he knows it. This new Holmes is an arrogant know-it-all which makes him even better to watch.


Pass the Shark Repellent Bat-Spray! The Sixties on-screen incarnation of the Caped Crusader is the grooviest, and arguably the best, adaptation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s troubled and doom-laden crimefighting comic book character. A million miles from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the Adam West starring television show is a garish camp delight delivering a fine rogues gallery of villainy including The Joker (Caesar Romero), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price) and Catwoman (played by Julie Newman and Eartha Kitt). Holy TV Detective list Batman!

Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald – Cracker

Robbie Coltrane will be known to most as the hulking giant Hagrid in the Harry Potter series but the British actor made his name playing the irascible criminal psychologist Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald in Jimmy McGovern’s brilliant detective yarn Cracker. Set in Manchester, the bullish alcoholic chain-smoking anti-hero with a gambling addiction ruffled feathers wherever he went; butting heads with his superiors – like all the best crimefighters – and confounded everyone with his outlandish theories that inevitably were proven to be correct.

Detective Inspector Sarah Lund – The Killing

The show that started the world’s obsession with Nordic Noir and all things Scandinavian is a breathtaking police procedural thriller with a heart-wrenching murder at it’s core and layers of family drama and political intrigue waiting to be discovered. Set in Copenhagen, Detective Inspector Sarah Lund, played by Sofie Gråbøl, is charged with discovering the shocking truth behind the murder of a young woman. With a fine array of knitwear and a grim determination to navigate the labyrinthian plot, Lund paved the way for female television detectives worldwide like Saga Norén, the police detective in the equally fine Swedish whodunnit The Bridge.

Detective Inspector Jack Regan – The Sweeney

Oi! Guvnor! Now! The Sweeney was a ‘70s cop show like no other. Tough-talking, violent and in your face; the gritty series followed the Flying Squad, a branch of the Metropolitan Police in London. Often as brutish and thuggish as the bank robbers and criminals they were after, the all boozing, all swearing “Sweeney” were led by Detective Inspector Jack Regan (John Thaw who went on to play the lead in Inspector Morse) and Detective Sergeant George Carter, (Minder star Dennis Waterman).

The partners-in-fighting-crime spent more time in the pub eyeing up the ladies and rocking a fine line in flared fashions than chasing bad guys. Shut it!

Charlie’s Angels

The glamorous side of detective work, the trio of crime-fighting women working in a private detective agency in Los Angeles originally starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Jaclyn Smith, taking orders from the unseen Charlie Townsend (voiced by John Forsythe), who directed his “Angels” over a speakerphone. The series was the quintessential blow wave Seventies show, proving to be a ratings sensation largely thanks to the presence of Farrah Fawcett-Majors who quickly became one of the poster stars of that decade. Hugely inspirational, the likes of the Angels hadn’t been seen on television before. A trio of independent, powerful woman living in a man’s world and kicking ass. What’s not to love?

Frank Drebin from Police Squad!

The precursor to the hugely successful Naked Gun films, Police Squad, created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the comedy genius behind The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!, introduced the world to the bumbling delights of Lieutenant Frank Drebin, an inept police detective who somehow always nails the case, despite the hinderance of his fellow officers played by Alan North and Peter Lupus (in the role of Officer Norberg, a part played in the subsequent movies by a certain O.J. Simpson). Lieutenant Theofilides (“Theo”)

Kojak – Kojak

Who loves ya, baby? The follically-challenged lollipop sucking Police Detective Lieutenant was an arrogant chauvinist bringing hellfire down on the criminal world of New York City. Played with righteous aplomb by Telly Savalas, then fresh from playing Bond bad guy Blofeld in On her Majesty’s Secret Service. Set in “Manhattan South” (New York City’s Thirteenth Precinct), Kojak is a well-read Greek-American who came from the “sewers” and therefore was sympathetic to the plight of the downtown junkies, whores, stoolies, and other damaged people he encounters. The aforementioned lollipop became the detective’s signature when smoking became frowned upon on television. Cootchie-coo!

Miss Phyrne Fisher – Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Set in early 1929 Melbourne and based on a popular book series by Kerry Greenwood, Essie Davies (Game Of Thrones, The Babadook) stars as Miss Phyrne Fisher, a stylish socialite fighting crime with high-fashion, her pearl-handled pistol and her rapier wit. Ever resourceful, strong and charismatic; Miss Fisher is a proto-feminist in an era when gender equality was not an option. The exquisite period detail of the luxurious jazz clubs that Fisher calls “home” only add to Miss Fisher’s intoxicating charm.

Inspector John Gadget – Inspector Gadget

Go go gadget arms! Inspector Gadget will be known by all Eighties kids as the animated trench coat wearing bionic detective with more crime-fighting gadgets than James Bond’s over-stuffed briefcase. Like all good guys he has a nemesis in the form of Doctor Claw, the leader of an evil organization, known as M.A.D. Despite his powerful gadget arms, the incompetent inspector is oblivious to the fact it is his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain, who are truly responsible for thwarting M.A.D.