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Top 10 Best TV and Movie Cops

yurmama . . . Comments

Every boy at some point in his childhood dreams of being a cop – chasing the baddies and bringing justice to the world. The desire to help others in such a manly way has led to a plethora of films and TV programs that feature the awesomest of awesome cops. This list looks at the ten best. As usual, be sure to tell us your favorites in the comments.


Eddie Valiant
Roger Rabbit

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Valiant, played by Bob Hoskins, is a toon hating policeman charged with the investigation of a murder wrapped around a love triangle. This is a cartoon that is more geared for adults but still appropriate for children. Valiant plays the standard hard drinking, cursing, fighting cop of the mid. 20th century. Acting with co-stars that aren’t real certainly poses a challenge but Hoskins manages to turn in a good performance in spite of this difficulty.


Horatio Caine
CSI Miami


David Caruso plays the all-seeing, all-knowing cop in C.S.I.’s Miami rendition of the series that made police scientists cool. Caine is one of the more cheesy characters ever to hit the screen, movie or television. He can be expected to utter the most obvious, self-serving line to fit the situation. He is at his best/worst when dealing with children as he lays his bravado on thicker than usual. What would a cop list be without the best police officer ever to live in the entire world? Horatio Caine, an unintentionally hilarious character.


Inspector Jacques Clouseau
The Pink Panther


Peter Sellers does a masterful job of playing Inspector Clouseau in the 1963 edition of The Pink Panther. Sellers is one of the most dynamic actors ever, anyone who has seen Dr. Strangelove knows the dexterity of his skills as he plays 3 characters with entirely different mannerisms, even accents. Peter Sellers is one of my favorite actors to grace the silver screen.


Inspector Frederick Abberline
From Hell

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The protagonist in the movie “From Hell” is played by Johnny Depp in this who-dun-it surrounding the Jack the Ripper killings of the mid. 19th century. Abberline is an opium addicted, yet extremely clever cop who remains a step behind Jack for the balance of the film, only to come to a surprising conclusion as to the identity of Jack the Ripper.


Captain Bezu Fache
The Da Vinci Code

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The Da Vinci Code is a controversial book that spawned a movie based on the quest for the holy grail. Captain Bezu Fache, played by Jean Reno, plays a Parisian police officer who is a loyal member of the Roman Catholic order, Opus Dei. Fache’s motives become clear throughout the film as he acts not in the interest of the law but at the direction of a powerful bishop. But, like all good cops, Fache proves an able study as he unearths the truth behind this conflict of church vs. intellectuals. Despite the fact that the film is crap, like the book upon which it is based, the acting from Reno was definitely good enough for inclusion here.


Detective Andy Sipowicz

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Sipowicz was the main character of the television series NYPD Blue which was played by Dennis Franz. Sipowicz is the stereotypical New York police officer, outspoken and not afraid to use physical force to convince suspects and witnesses to cooperate. This was an incredibly successful series spanning 12 years, Sipowicz was one of the main forces behind it’s success.


Bud White
LA Confidential

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LA Confidential is a story of mid 19th century Los Angeles, White is a cop who develops quite an affinity for prostitute Lynn Bracken, played by Kim Basinger. White and his nemesis Ed Exley, an uber ambitious policeman with a sterling law force lineage, team up to solve the murders known as the “Night Owl Killings”. Along the way they uncover a prostitution ring where women are “cut” to look like movie stars and expose an internal affairs scandal that would threaten to tear down the structure of the L.A.P.D. Bud White has immense physical strength and an uncanny ability to sense and intervene in the abuse of women. He is a fanatic protecter of the fairer sex. Bud White is played by Russell Crowe.


Sheriff Ed Tom Bell
No Country For Old Men


Played by Tommy Lee Jones, Bell is a small town Texas sheriff caught up in a feud between Mexican drug lords, their American accomplices, a contract killer, and a small town boy named Llewelyn Moss who stumbled on a heroin deal gone wrong, making off with over 2 million dollars. Bell is the moral cop who tries, albeit unsuccessfully, to bring in Moss and protect him from the wrath of the Mexican cartels and the contract killer hired by the American importers. This is one of the Coen brother’s less than humorous films, adapted from the book of the same title written by Cormac McCarthy. The film is, of course, No Country For Old Men.


Detective Lt. William Somerset


Morgan Freeman plays this cerebral cop who teams up with a young, less cerebral David Mills, played by Brad Pitt. Somerset is in the last stages of his career and has been largely marginalized by the rest of the New York police force. “Seven” is the story of a religiously fanatic serial killer who seeks to find an example of each of the seven deadly sins and murder the sinner in a symbolic way. Somerset and Mills are the detectives who nearly capture the killer, but fail, as he is able to finish his murderous spree. This movie is classified as a horror film but is just as appropriately called a suspense thriller. Kevin Spacey does a very good job playing the killer intoxicated by the Holy Ghost.


Police Chief Marge Gunderson

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In the brilliant film Fargo, Jerry hires two men to kidnap his wife so he can get his rich father in law to pay the ransom of $1 million. Once the ransom is paid the kidnappers will get $40,000 and Jerry gets the rest. That’s the plan, but what happens is something totally different. Blood is shed when a cop and two innocent people are killed. Marge Gunderson is the Chief who investigates the murders. While Marge investigates, Jerry gets involved in deeper problems, ranging from financial troubles, to threats from the kidnappers. Marge Gunderson is played by the indomitable Frances McDormand who is brilliant in every role she plays. She brings a wry wit, down-to-earth character, and humor to the character and creates the role of a cop that you can’t help but love.

Notable Omissions: Dignam from The Departed (played by Mark Wahlberg)

Contributor: yurmama

  • Redcaboose

    Great list. I really liked Eddie Valiant. So original.

  • George

    No John McClane from Die Hard?

    Interesting list, reminds me of a few movies I am yet to watch.

  • nurseamy

    ah Eddie Valiant only got in at 10, he definatly should have been closer to number one!! great list tho, x

  • Jen

    Frances McDormand + the Coen bros = love.
    “I just love biblical names…if I had another one I would name him Jacob or Caleb or Tab–OOOOHHH! He’s an angel! An angel straight from heaven! Of course you WILL be sending him to Arizona State…”

  • ChuChu353

    “Nikki and Nora” an unsold TV pilot from 2004 starring Christina Cox and Liz Vassey.

  • ChuChu353

    BTW…where is the original TV cop – Joe Friday from “Dragnet”??? Just the facts Ma’am.

  • astraya

    Every boy dreams of being Francis McDormand?
    Some editing, please – Strangelove (“Dr Stange Love” sounds like a porno movie); Sipowicz or Sipowics?

    Yes, I wanted to be a cop for about three months of my life. My role models were the team on Matlock Police (that dates me as an Aussie of the early-mid 70s, hey?). I ended up as a classical muso English teacher in Korea. I never dreamed of that.

    Second John McClane – I long to say “Yippee-ki-ay, mother-f-s” to some of my English classes.

  • Copaface

    Cool list :D
    Nice to see Marge at number one :D

    I don’t know if she counts because she was in training but Clarice Starling from Silence Of The Lambs

    Keep up the good work!

  • whoopee

    you always spell ‘led’ wrong

  • Spike

    what the!!!???? .. where’s Belker fom Hill Street Blues?

  • HellcatHoney

    Oh, Horatio. It’s impossible to look at him without laughing.

    Glasses on, glasses off.

  • gabi319

    #4 “LA Confidential is a story of mid 19th century Los Angeles…”

    Mid-20th century! although it would be funny to have Kim Basinger as civil war era prostitute, haha :-) or a hussy from the gold mine towns since the movie was based in California.

    This is still a good list, though…*pulls of glasses in H. Caine fashion* A fine list.

  • Redcaboose

    I think that #4 should be 20th, not 19th century.

  • Bowfinger

    Horatio Caine haft to be the most ridiculous cop of all time!!!

  • Writergal

    Ah, no Cagney & Lacey? LOL

  • M

    Wasn’t Eddie Valiant an ex-cop who left the force to become a PI?

    Nitpicking I know, but you gotta have it :)

  • Copaface: love Clarice Starling, but I don’t think she can be included because she is not a cop – she is an FBI agent.

  • Writergal: Cagney and Lacey may not be on the list – but rest assured, they are in our hearts :)

  • Borka

    C`mon,gimme a F break…u can put Horatio Caine and can`t Frank Pembleton or any other character from “Homicide: Life on the Street”?!

    I love the other characters,but BIG(….make it HUUUUGEEEEE) mistake with the thing mentioned above…..

    • The fact that half of the list is made up of very forgettable, very unoriginal performances and characters (Caruso's character and the Roger Rabbit junk) and Pembleton isn't on here … makes this list one of the worst. Laaaaaame.

  • Signe

    No RoboCop? :-(

  • astraya: for all your corrections and willingness to offend, you may be next in line for an admin job! Thanks for the tips – I have corrected the text.

  • whoopee: hahaha you are right – I need to do a list on top 10 spelling errors jfrater always makes! It is now corrected.

  • Arnaud

    Eddie Valiant is not a cop !!! He’s a PI !!!

  • Writergal

    JFrater – Good, so if Eddie Valiant is a PI, and you have to take him off this list, then you have space for the dames! hehehehe.

  • Duke of Omnium

    Where’s McGarrett? Book ‘im, Danno!

  • Metalwrath

    Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon and Bruce Willis in Die Hard? I mean they’re more badass then any of the cops here. Granted their personalities are surely less complex, thats perhaps why they are more badass and get straight to business.

    Also I too am pretty sure Eddie Valiant is a private detective.

  • Copaface

    jfrater: ahh :) I see. Still happy to see Marge at Number 1 though.

    PS – I got a reply
    I feel rather special right now… :D

  • Bad Hair Bear

    Pretty good list, reminds of a few films I really need to see.

    Although I was surprised not to see the Gene Genie, DCI Gene Hunt from Life on Mars.. he’s certainly one cool TV cop.

  • Nelia

    John McLaine would be a good addition…
    I nearly fell off my chair when I saw Horatio Caine, but then I read the text and it all made sense :) It is the only CSI I can’t watch due to his pure awfulness.
    I love Marge Gunderson – good number 1.

  • astraya

    jfrater: I try not to be offensive!!!! (aggrieved look) About half an hour before I read this list and made that comment I had a phone call from my Korean co-teacher to discuss the next week’s lessons, so I immediately snapped back into “teacher” mode. Anyway, it looks like I’m not the only one. It seems I missed “led”. There is a volume of a major legal work in Australia published with one instance of “lead” instead of “led” because I missed it. There is another with an index entry “statues” instead of the rather more legal word “statutes”. My worst ever was a corrigenda list with the word “corrigenda” spelled/spelt incorrectly, though my excuse is that someone else typeset that. My colleagues were always amazed that I would point my mistakes out to them. My rationale is that I am terrified of people pointing out my mistakes to me, so get in first before they can.

    Me an admin? I’m allergic to asshats.

  • Jesse

    Eddie Valiant was a private investigator, not a cop.

    Also… No Harry Callahan, Bullit, John McLane or John Hartigan? What a weak list.

  • stevek

    how about Jack Lord from Hawaii 50. “Book him Danno”

  • Nameless

    This one was a nice list, please guys don’t hate on the contributor! I understand it’s hard to compile a list like this because just when you think you’ve done a great job, people start pitching in with their own favourite characters and that’s when you realize you’ve forgotten something or left somebody out. And after all, this is the contributor’s opinion! Let’s all take it as an occasion to reminisce on our own favourite movies and TV shows. If I had to contribute with a name, I’d go with Starsky and Hutch. The original series, mind you! :-)

  • Darya

    No Lt. Columbo? For me the greatest cop ever :)

  • copaface: don’t feel too special – I am just a regular guy commenting on a regular website :)

  • Dudes

    what about Gibbs from NCIS?

  • astraya: I am shocked! Are you calling Mom424 and Cyn asshats? :) As for your obsession with your own mistakes – I suffer from the same problem – though unfortunately I am not always quick enough to catch them all :(

  • Ren

    John McClain from Die Hard should be here.

  • Copaface

    jfrater: Whayy I got two replies :D
    Now I feel EXTRA special…

    Lol just kidding
    It’s snowing here so it well cheered me up…
    Especially since this is the only good website on college computers that isn’t banned this website is my only form of entertainment from 9am-4:20pm :|

    As I said… Keep up the good work :D

  • spud

    Wheres Rebus, he’s a proper hardass

  • spik

    Cybill Bennet – Silent Hill

  • astraya

    NoNoNoNoNoNoNo….No….No….No… how could you think so?
    I was saying that administrators have to deal personally with the very small fraction of the List Universe membership who are asshats. As a private citizen I can ignore them. Apologies to Cyn and Mom424 if you also interpreted this as jf did.

  • chaosinc

    I was very shocked to find “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” in here. One of my all time favorites!
    “The DaVinci Code” movie was all right, but to say that the book wasn’t well written? Atrocity, I say!

  • Paolo

    Harry Callahan
    Rumpole of the Bailey
    Hercule Pirot

  • SweetViolet

    “Go ahead, punk…make my day!”

    I can’t believe that Dirty Harry didn’t make the cut!

  • ronsantohof

    If you’re going to have ex-cops on the list then you need to put Adrian Monk at #1. At least he still works for the police department as a paid consultant, so he is on the public payroll. He has solved over 100 murder cases as a consultant. He was going to stop at 100 (It’s a nice round number) but unfortunately he also solved murder #101 on the same case and had to keep going. Hopefully you all will stop the comments at #100.

  • skipps

    I was hoping to see the cops from Reno 911! here since this list includes TV cops. Those guys are hilarious!

  • ronsantohof

    Frank Pembleton was the best TV cop of the 90’s. Tubbs and Crocket were the best of the 80’s. Monk owns the double naughts. Probably have to go with Joe Friday for the 60’s. Not sure about the 70’s but there were a lot. If we went with private investigators (not private eyes) then #1 would be Thomas Magnum.

  • Liam

    I think the policemen most deserving to be on such a list are those in Assault on Precinct 13 and 16 Blocks.

    In both cases, putting your life on the line to fight off the government and other police just to serve justice – has to be admired!

    Pleased to see Morgan Freeman. :)

  • Mining

    Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cops

  • ionmike

    Weak List. C’mon no one from The Wire. Freamon, McNulty, Bunk??!!! It’s only the best cop show ever put on television.

  • Mom424

    Pretty good list. Missing some of the classics. Peter Falk as Columbo has already been mentioned, but my favorite is sadly missing; Dennis Weaver as McLeod. Kudos to the folks who have mentioned Frank Pembleton from Homicide. Awesome portrayal by Andre Braugher, he too should have been included.

    Love the Horatio comment – we actually do the “Horatio” when we walk into a room, whether the show is on or not. You enter, throw your head over your shoulder, puff up your chest, and remove your glasses or alternatively look pointedly over the top of them. Similar to the Dramatic Hamster viral video – but Horatio did it first.

  • Freeze

    Where is Gibbs, Bullit, Mc Nulty, don’t really agree on most of the list

  • AbstractPlain

    No dirty harry? no robo cop? but inculde the guy from that terrible da vinci code film? I have problems with these kinda lists for exactly this kinda reason, the strongest lists have always been the ones where you learn intresting facts.

  • Endiablado

    #3 small town boy???

    He is from a small town but he sure as hell is not a boy
    he is a grown ass man that almost gets away with all of it

  • Randall

    Sorry, but another awful list focusing strictly on characters from the last twenty years or so. Great film (and some great TV) existed before that, kids. In fact, a hell of a lot greater than the lame choices on this list.

  • damien_karras

    Vic Mackey from “The Shield”.
    Harvey Keitel from “Bad Lieutenant”.

    Both of em corrupt tragic badass cops.
    But good list, nonetheless.

  • bucslim

    Kinda disappointed myself here folks. There should be some sort of review process before these lists get published. Perhaps more research because there are quite a number of huge omissions. I think the writer could have stuck with either just TV or just movies. Pretty obvious they put their own personal favorites up there. I could think of about 20 better choices and I just woke up!

  • Ducky23

    Vincent D’Onofrio from Criminal Intent. Superb actor.

  • Spocker

    You mean to tell me that you compiled this list without a mention of “Dirty Harry”, yet have the nads to put up Horatio Caine instead? And I’ll take William Peterson as Gil Grissom and Will Graham (Manhunter) any day over any role played by David Caruso.

    This list is BOGUS, dude.

  • Donna

    John McClain!

    Rocks my socks!

    Slobber, slobber, slobber some more…. mmmmmmmmm ;)

  • badlist

    wow. when I first saw this lists title I was ready to rock and then I read it. definitely a letdown. sorry but its just not for me. there could have been so many better examples listed. I mean dropping in marge at number 1 gives this list zero credibility.

  • oouchan

    John McClane should be there.

    Even though Eddie Valiant was a PI…he was still a good character. Love that movie.

    BTW…hated Fargo….sorry!

  • stunty

    John McClane! Dirty Harry! Colombo!

  • DiscHuker

    vincent d’onofrio from law and order: criminal intent would be a great choice to replace the retart, ass-hat horatio caine.

    as for another notable ommission, how about john and ponch from c.h.i.p.s?

  • Anon

    astraya, (31),

    “My rationale is that I am terrified of people pointing out my mistakes to me, so get in first before they can.”

    Good rationale. Join the club.

  • Callie


    I just threw up on your Horatio Caine including, John McClane/Elliot Stabler leaving out list.

  • Z-rex

    Good list!

    I feel compelled to nominate Ed (Holly Hunter) from “Raising Arizona”. Maybe she was simply a prison guard, but a great character nonetheless.
    Also, being a Clint fanatic, I agree that Harry Callahan should be in the top 5.

  • Chris

    No Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order?

  • Anon

    With intention to add, not put down:

    Probably no one has seen a certain long-ago series from Brit TV. If you had you’d you’d never forget, and never forget to list a certain D.I. from the Flying Squad, played by the late John Thaw. Fantabulous. With an equally memorable sidekick in the guise of Dennis Waterman. Look up ‘The Sweeny’ in Wikipedia (It’s bound to be featured there).

    The unforgettable shabby raincoat’s been mentioned. What about the lollypop-sucker?

    Dixon of Dock Green? (Just joking!)

  • josh pincus is crying

    Good list.
    As long as we are nitpicking, “Se7en” does not take place in New York City. The city is (purposely) never mentioned.

  • Carrie lynn

    Dirty Harry
    The cops from law and order.
    BTW thank you for taking the time to have these lists. I love this site!

  • bucslim

    Anon – you’re comment reminded me of Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect played by Helen Mirren.

  • Governor

    @AUTHOR: Yea really not what I expected, but can you please fix the roger rabbit entry ? He was not a cop…

    – And PLEASE, replace the entry with something a little more nonsensical, John McLane from Die Hard or Dirty Harry ??How could they have been omitted ?!?!

  • robbiedigital

    Here’s another nod to Det. Lenny Briscoe. Jerry Orbach’s character made a quality show even better with his portrayal of Lenny. I love his one-liners.

  • Gina

    How could you forget the amazing cast of Cop Rock? You know you want to make them a notable omission… :)


    And Paul Blart, Mall Cop, Beverly Hills Cop (axel FOley)

    but DIRTY HARRY fo’ sho’

  • DiscHuker

    what about willem dafoe’s character from boondock saints?

  • jx

    i really don’t like the horatio caine character. gil grissom is the best.

  • smithstar4

    Any list that leaves out Steve McQueen as “Bullitt” is bogus


    I’m sorry but Caruso blows!!

  • corinthian0430

    Where’s Sledgehammer? he’s cool!

  • Anon

    buc, (74),

    Yes indeed. Well remembered. There’s much more to our Helen than QE2!

  • smurff

    Kojak with his lollypop ?

  • Brad L. Wooldridge

    If you’re going to have Horatio Caine, then you have to have Steve McGarrett, the head of the Hawaiian State Police, from “Hawaii 5-0.”

  • Peregrine

    Great list. Number 3? Hell yeah!!

    I’ve gotta go watch No Country for Old Men again, now. Shit, I’d be happy to watch Tommy Lee Jones knit a sweater, or watch him watch paint dry.

    Maybe I’m just an oldster, but you left out Sgt. Suzanne ‘Pepper’ Anderson… Angie Dickinson in Police Woman!!

  • jiminut

    Second Belker from Hill Street.

  • JayHeel

    These lists are involving more and more opinion as this site goes on. It gets old reading these lists to have an opinionated comment such as “Despite the fact that the film is crap, like the book upon which it is based.” Well you don’t like the book or movie, congratulations, a lot of people do like them and that comment as well as other comments that are simply opinion do not need to be included in these lists.

  • “I’m not really bad, you know, I’m just drawn that way.” – Jessica Rabbit

    For what it includes, a good list, but as Randall points out, it leaves out so much! This is another list which, like the Science Fiction Movies lists, should have been broken up into decades.

  • JayHeel

    but where is carl winslow from family matters?

  • Theodore

    Don Knotts, Barney Fife, ’nuff said.

  • Logan

    What the Hell?! No Vic Mackey?!

  • Kevin5280

    My vote has to go to Det. Shane Vendrell from “The Shield.” I’d even take him over Vic. Shane was more entertaining.

  • khen913

    Surely there are enough movies and television shows featuring police officers that to break this down into two list, one for each media…

  • Cyn

    given J’s comments re: admins & astraya-
    we could always use another set of eyes on site ;) but yeah, you’d need to be immune to asshattery..least mostly. ;)
    as for complaints about the list itself. if J can put it into que in time for me to proof before it posts, i’ll catch most errors he’s missed. course errors do get past us sometimes too. it happens. :)
    as for the list content..that is the author’s domain. so quibbling over order or inclusions or exclusions…keep in mind this is the author’s choice of what to write about and how to rank etc. so if you were to submit a list, would you want yours critiqued like that? i think it’d be better instead of blasting the author’s choices to submit your own list. then you can include who/whatever in whatever order or no ranking as you see fit. otherwise, why not just suggest changes in comments instead of ripping the author a new one? :)
    granted this comment posted for anyone who actually bothers to read comments posted by an admin named Cyn. ;) heh…

  • Peregrine

    I thought we were encouraged to make suggestions for possible future lists? *shrugs*

  • Anne

    lol you should’ve put down Monk:) Or maybe he’s not the best, but he is funny.

  • minusXero

    I hate to be “that guy” but Seven didn’t take place in New York

  • Lifeschool

    Some odd choices for TV and movie cops, I expected Robocop and Harry Calahan – or what about the guys from Hot fuzz. Good effort though.

  • The Grey GOAT

    Sorry Cyn, but I don’t think people are ripping the author out of hate so much as they are trying to get them to dig a little deeper next time. The list leaves off a lot of badass cops and put a lot of questionalbe choices on here. McClain, Riggs, Dirty Harry are all cops from big movies that should be on here according to the lists title.

  • Lifeschool

    96: Cyn – well put.

  • Cyn

    *does her best impersonation of Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech* you read me. you really read me. (oh gawd does that date me or what. what year was that?)
    hey..i’m just saying. so chill. comments can be critical so long as you understand what that means and it does not mean personal attacks like calling someone an idiot for their selection or rank order. constructive critique would be tactfully stating other choices etc.
    and yeah, i’m rather hyper alert to stuff cuz i see/have seen too much of it. people working thru obvious psychological issues via a freaking comment section. geesh. ;)
    and too..
    i would’ve like to see Monk. granted he can be a bit grating on the nerves at times but overall that is one of the better shows currently on. & breaking it down by platform (TV/movie/vid..hell even literature!) and decade would be really cool for future lists. or serious drama. light comedy. etc. (thing about Monk..sometimes he’s funny. sometimes not. really more complex show than you’d expect on USA network..of all places ;) )

  • Cyn

    oooh! The Closer. altho..stopped watching. got so i just wanted to slap her silly. talk about grating on the nerves! ;)

  • Brickhouse

    I agree with adding John McClane, Gibbs, Axel Foley, Dirty Harry and Elliot Stabler to the list.

    So many Horatio-bashers! What’s up with that… Okay, I couldn’t even get through that comment without gagging a bit. He’s just plain *horrible*.

    So then I read this comments “Nelia: I nearly fell off my chair when I saw Horatio Caine, but then I read the text and it all made sense :) It is the only CSI I can’t watch due to his pure awfulness.” and re-read Horatio’s comments. So I understand the over-acting addition, but it doesn’t make it any better for me. Especially when we’re missing the awesome machismo of Bruce Willis all bloodied and still going.

    I would also like to offer Arnold Scwarzenegger’s “True Lies” character Harry Tasker. Though he’s a spy, not a cop.

    But still better than Horatio.

  • dustin

    the guys from se7en, jodie foster from silence of the lambs, leonardo in the departed? just throwing those out there

  • Writergal

    Well said Cyn! Everyone’s an armchair critic, but I would imagine its waaayyyy more difficult to put together a list. Just a (well-meant) thought for those who like to slam the efforts made here – JFrater and others who submit lists here do not HAVE to write these lists. They have day jobs that I am sure keep them waaayyyy busy enough. They do not have to spend the hours they do thinking up topics or better yet, days doing research before actually writing the piece. And for those non-writers out there, just because a sentence sounds simple, doesnt mean that it hasn’t been rewritten a couple of times to make it perfect! :-)

    No – those who work long hours on this website do it for YOU guys, so that you have something new to read everyday when you log onto this site (which you still do despite all the complaining). They write these lists for the love of it, for the entertainment value, because they WANT to, not because they HAVE to. Sure – correct where necessary, debate all you like but be constructive and be respectful. There’s no need to get aggressive or diss someone if you dont like some list! You arent gonna like or agree with every list – get over it! Move onto one you DO like! Simple.

  • Writergal

    Sorry folks. The post above was long and heated – I felt the need to vent, but probably shouldnt have done so here. Sincerea apologies if I offended anyone by my tone.

  • Randall

    But this is such a badly conceived list that it’s difficult to figure out where to even begin with “constructive criticism.”

    First of all, a list that names the top TV AND Movie cops is way too broad–films with great cops date back to the 1930s or even earlier. TV cop shows have been around since the medium began, in the late 40s/early 50s. That’s 60-80 years of history to draw from, so you’d think that a list promising to be the TOPS of this category would have to be very damn definitive in order to work. But the list, as written, utterly ignores anything prior to the late 1980s, with the exception of Inspector Clouseau. That’s just not good enough.

    Clearly the writer of the list is a kid who wasn’t born until the 80s or 90s, but I don’t find that to be an excuse. I was born in the 60s, but when I was young, in the 70s and early 80s, I was fully aware of the history of pop culture PRIOR to my birth. Granted, this isn’t always the norm, but then not everybody goes around writing online lists and opinion pieces on the “best” of this or that topic—if they are, you expect them to show a little knowledge and to have done some research. Clearly that’s not the case here. A kid intelligent enough to write such a list knows that stuff existed prior to his or her birth, and so should do the research. I’m sounding pedantic, I know, but sorry–that’s the way it is. One aspect of writing such lists is that you try to do a thorough job, and on that point, this list doesn’t get a passing grade from me, nor from many other people here, it looks like.

    A list like this, then, should have had a narrower scope, or it should have been thoroughly researched to be more definitive. Cut it down to “best TV cops” or “best film cops,” but not both. But even then you still would have been required to do some research. But the list also mixes comedy with drama–again, too broad.

    Bottom line is, given the list title as is, I would say, where the hell are the following:

    TV Cop shows ignored:
    Hill Street Blues
    Hawaii Five-O
    Miami Vice
    Life on Mars (original UK version)
    Wise Guy
    The Rookies
    Z Cars
    Streets of San Francisco

    I could go on and on.

    The cops in FILMS are too numerous to mention. There are great cops from many 30s, 40s and 50s crime dramas, such as the cops from NAKED CITY (also a TV show) or Pat O’Brien’s perennial cop, in several films. You could go on forever… the cops of HE WALKED BY NIGHT or any other of countless film noirs.

    In the 70s there was Dirty Harry and Serpico… or POPEYE DOYLE of the two “French Connection” films (leaving these three off, alone, was unforgivable). Again, there were so many others you could go on for hours.

    Popeye Doyle and Dirty Harry alone should have had top places on this list, and their omission just screams that it was written by someone who A) didn’t know better and B) didn’t WANT to know better and wasn’t interested in finding out better.

  • SuperHero3

    I am pretty sure L.A. Confidential (one of the greatest movies ever!) took place in the mid 20th Century, not 19th.

    What!? No love for Axel Foley! Joe Friday!

  • MKO

    Sgt. Lundy from A&E’s First 48. The man just oozes ass kicking.

  • bucslim

    I see your point Cyn – all I’m saying is that there should be some sort of critique of the list if it’s failing to live up to the standards we’ve come to expect.

    Anyone with a keyboard can roll out of the rack and type up “Top Ten Things I Found In My Nose Yesterday at 2:13 pm” Most of us will nod our head in agreement. But having written one list myself, and stuck with the comments to defend my choices for over 200 comments, I know the audience can be a bitch. I don’t mind the criticism, especially if someone can make a case for the ubiquitous “You forgot to mention (_______)”

    But you’ve got to admit if someone were to leave out oxygen in a list of things we need to survive, they are going to pay the price. (insert cute smiley face avatar)

    I’m not suggesting we need a Listverse Editorial Board of Review when it comes to user submissions, but someone should look at it, if not to just make sure Tiffany doesn’t show up in a list of Death Metal singers. I’m not even really singling the above list out as exhibit A, but there’s not much research going on in some of these.

    Besides, how the hell is any of us qualified to determine what cop was ‘best’ in any given show? Best what? Best asshole, best detective, best dialog, best appearance in a non crime drama?

    Don’t mind the subjective stuff on this site, I’m just sayin. . . . .

  • londonafter

    “Despite the fact that the film is crap” THANK YOU!
    great list by the way, but i think Vincent D’onofrio should be here, he’s the craziest cop on tv.

  • bucslim

    I would rather put out cigarettes on my arm than agree with anything Randall says, but pay attention yung’uns. He’s throwing pearls out there.

    Serpico and Steve McGarrett and Popeye Doyle forever!

  • bucslim

    I nominate Capt. Doby from Starsky and Hutch as best cop shouting at detectives behind a desk.

  • kofeelite

    once again “he wasn’t really a cop”, the creepy liquid silver guy in T2.
    #92 Theodore-thanks for the smile!
    so glad to see Marge at #1, Fargo is in my top 5.

  • steve d

    Let me say this up front: It gives me absolutely no pleasure to agree with Randall, but I have to agree with many of his comments. (Although I would never be as repugnantly condescending as everyone’s least favorite Listverse commentor) So many good choices didn’t make the list, and a few clunkers did. And yes, Eddie Valiant, though a great character, is a PI. Clouseau should have been higher on the list.

    Dirty Harry Callahan was the epitomy of anti-establishment cops. To leave that character off the list basically invalidates the rest of the selections. Popeye Doyle is classic. Sgt. Friday was one of TVs best cop characters. Crockett and Tubbs of Miami Vice, if only for their impact on style and fashion of the ’80s. What about Lt. Drebbin of Police Squad and the Naked Gun movies. Leslie Nielsen was hilarious in those. Axel Foley (in the first Beverly Hills Cop)or even Judge Rienhold in that. Sly Stallone in Copland. Serpico. The original Police Academy films (dumb, funny).

    Yes, Randall, it could go on and on. One big question is, if Horatio Caine on CSI Miami (a show I’m proud to say I can’t be bothered watching), is so unintentionally hilarious and bad, why would he be on this list of “best” cops? C’mon…

  • STL Mo

    Greatest Horatio Cain clip from CSI: Sunglasses of Justice as David Caruso parks his car

  • Randall

    steve d:

    “Repugnantly condescending”? “everyone’s least favorite Listverse commentator”?

    Come now, steve. I’m neither of these. Show me what was so condescending–let alone repugnantly so–in my comments. And as for the title of “least favorite” around here, I suggest we take a poll. I’d bet I’d rank high as a favorite or “most beloved” or some such crap, with as many people here, if not more, than would rank me as “most hated” or whatever.

    Don’t generalize your bias, steve. You may not like what I have to say sometimes, or the way I say it, but that doesn’t make you automatically right, nor does it give you the license to speak for everyone else who comes to this site.

  • Randall


    I think you’re onto something (despite the passive insult you tossed casually my way). But I would imagine that Jamie’s response would be that he started this site to A) post his own lists and B) to have it open to submissions from any and all “readers.”

    It’s therefore not a site like or Retrocrush, where it’s solely (I believe) the editorial board of those sites that writes the lists.

    So while I too would like to see some sort of “authentication” or editorial process, I’m not sure how you’d do such a thing and retain the idea of List Universe being a site of free and open submission, if you follow me.

    Although, on the other hand, one presumes that Jamie does have some kind of editorial process involving fact-checking–not that he or anyone else is actively “checking facts” when a list is submitted—but when a fact is shown to be in error, a change will be made. So the question is how far a leap is to to correcting factual errors to “correcting” actual text, in terms of the author’s choices, etc.?

    Jamie might find that to be too broad a leap, I don’t know.

  • Lifeschool

    Poor yurmama. I hope you’re not suffering too much by our little comments. I’ve written a few lists. Some of them fell foul to the standards of those who comment. A list is a list… That is surely the only standard, unless some points do not make sense. I wrote a list of top 20 tricks to speed up windows XP, but didn’t submit it because I couldn’t stand the thought of ‘this is too technical and nerdy’ from folks. I was also hesitant writing a list of my favourite computer game theme tunes for the same reason; and who can ‘research’ a list like that? Seems like the fun of writing a list and having it published is sometimes, on occasion, where the fun stops.

    I know…, I’ll write a list of ‘the most annoying folks on list universe’ – and have myself at number 1!! (It annoys me when what I type comes out sounding all wrong :()

    Anyway, cops, cops, cops – lets not BE cops.

  • RandomPrecision

    simon pegg playing officer angel in Hot Fuzz

  • angelina

    dale cooper

  • katie

    I couldn’t agree more about Horatio Caine – do you think it was intended for him to be so incredibly cheesy, or is that just the awesomeness that he was able to bring to the role? Either way, I can never keep a straight face while watching the show…my mom, on the other hand, thinks he’s sooo sexy! ick…

  • Hayley

    You need Denzel Washington in man on fire

  • magz7

    Where is detective elliot stabler (law and order svu)? lasader (pysch)? these are the epitome of real men on tv. Disapointanment is all over me

  • bucslim

    Randall – I don’t know what the solution would be. But some of these lists are about as relevant as last week’s grocery list. I understand tastes and preferences, but the fact that the person who wrote this list hasn’t shown up to defend his/her choices is evidence enough that it was poorly written and can’t be defended. Or they’re out mowing the lawn.

    Granted, my list had plenty of statistics and research from respected sources. I looked at a lot of material before I ever wrote anything down to try to cut down on the subjective nature of ranking my list. And then I hung in there all day to make sure people knew where I was coming from if they had any objections.

    Frankly, I don’t see any of that going on here. This is clearly a list of something someone watched and thought they should belong. The reason I have a beef with it is I know how much time I spent with just one list – idea, research, personal ranking, fact checking, re-ordering, writing the blurbs, re-reading, submission, commenting.

    I spent sometime massaging my choices because I care enough about the site to not put something in unless I could defend it properly. My process doesn’t have to be the formula, but for crying out loud, put SOME effort into it and if everyone’s calling you out, get your ass in here and say SOMETHING.

  • Cyn

    okay – if i’m not mistaken & i could be ;) most lists are written by J. so whatever concern or dispute you have about the validity and sourcing of those lists you should email J about.
    as for other contributors’ lists-
    LV is not in a position to pay for professional writers who are obligated to be able to verify sources. this a public site for regular folks to contribute lists that are of interest to them. fact checking and citing sources is encouraged but most folks don’t have the time or resources to do that.
    this ain’t a precise science here folks, k?
    it is supposed to be FUN and a place to be entertained and hopefully engage in friendly banter and conversation.
    those of you who have submitted professional grade quality lists..i salute you. sincerely. but that is not the focus of this site…at least as i see it. J may differ on that point. he is quite capable of speaking for himself. :)
    so as much as i love this site…to cite it as a source like say, Wikipedia.. ;) ..not a good idea. its an entertainment site not educational or something to be cited in any professional way.
    and frankly, i prefer it that way. much less stuffy. pretentious. uppity. snobby. dull. boring. etc etc etc
    and it does allow for a huge range of topics. want to submit a list? please do so. be forewarned this is the internet and thick skin is required. not just at LV but anywhere online. altho i do think here we at least are able to work things out even after the shit has hit the fan. ;)
    i would appreciate you actually do more than just write ’10 Things I Like About Me’ or something equally inane. ;) and if you are quoting or using stats or whatnot…cite your sources.
    but most lists do not require that kinda detail and can be kept light and frothy. ;)
    but! if you do want to get more professional and be more precise…i for one would welcome that too.
    anyway…i’ve gone long. again. ;) but i think you get the point.

  • ae51

    Horatio Caine but no Gil Grissom??? Blasphemy… :P



  • Cyn

    130. KRISSY –
    all caps = screaming online. means u r be’n rude dude! so stop it.
    click the blue link on top of comment entry box for the FAQ for guidelines in how to write a comment. which includes NO ALL CAPS! ;)

  • Acula

    This list is abysmal…..

  • Cyn

    i give up ..fer now. ;)
    later dudes & dudettes. :)

  • anthony p

    Where is Wiggum!!!!!

  • Yondofan12

    Willem Dafoe from Boondock Saints.

  • KK

    Hehhheh, Horatio makes my day ^_^

  • gabi319

    Bustin comment chops here…

    Denzel Washington in Man on Fire = Bodyguard
    Gil Grissom = Forensic Scientist
    Monk = WAS a cop but works as a “consultant” (I’m watching Monk right now! :-))
    Gibbs from NCIS = Investigative agent for the Navy…acts like police but technically not

    112. bucslim
    …there should be some sort of critique of the list…
    There is a critique list – it’s this whole comment section :-P

    Great suggestion, whomever mentioned Barney Fife!! haha, I love it! Now his voice is going to be stuck in my head all day…

    There have been an incredible amount of colicky people lately.

  • gabi319

    oh, and Dafoe = FBI

    I’m not attacking anyone in particular…I’m just being difficult for funsies.

  • tfisch73

    Lenny Briscoe? 274 episodes of Law & Order?

  • GTT

    John McClain… “YIPPY KAI-YAI MOTHER F****RS!!!”

    Sorry, had to write it down as the phrase kept repeating in my head since I first saw the title of the list… :)

    If I say I hated Fargo, will people hate me? And what if I said I enjoyed watching the drama-queen that is Horation Caine?

    *goes to hide under desk so as to avoid injury* ;)

  • Freshies

    John McClain, Robocop, Barney Fife, Chief Wigam, Smokey, and of course Farva “powder sugar, it’s delicious”?

  • littleboots

    121. Lifeschool

    I for one would be very interested in reading a list of top 20 tricks to speed up windows XP (and i’m not a computer nerd)lol

    Cyn: For some reason I have this vision of you banging your head against a brick wall…

    This was an entertaining read…tho I don’t know much about cop shows, I can heartily agree with the horatio comments because he is the reason i can’t stand the show. But I love CSI the vegas one.

  • lightningclash

    The Shield, anyone? There’s a few guys who could make the list from that show alone.

  • jim

    where’s densel from training day?

  • jake ryder

    I was really hoping to see Fish from Barney Miller, or at least Chief Wiggum.

  • brian

    i can’t believe lennie briscoe isn’t on this list–the greatest detective on one of the longest running cop franchises on US television!

  • bigski

    You forgot Officer Barbrady from South Park. Move along folks nothing to see here !

  • Saghy

    Imho,This list is incomplete without the names of some of the most talented and memorable tv cop of all times:

    1. Vincent D; Onofrio (Det. Goren)
    2. Peter Falk (Lt. Columbo)
    3. David Suchet (Hercule Poirot)

    Thanks for the effort and concern.


  • krazz

    olivia benson, elliot stabler, fin, munch (law & order svu), gibbs (although actually an federal agent), john mccain, gil grissom. take ur pick. any of these would have been 100 times better then some of the people on this list

    i love the chief wiggum comment too. too funny

  • Cybogen

    Dirty Harry -all the way!

  • YogiBarrister

    Yurmama should be arrested for compiling that list. David F%#king Caruso! Are you kidding me? Here’s the real list forgive any repeats, I haven’t read any of the comments): Jane Tennyson(Prime Suspect), Joe Friday(Dragnet), Barney Miller, Sam Tyler(Life on Mars), Constable Benton Fraser(Due South), Dirty Harry, Frank Drebin(Naked Gun), Popeye Doyle(The French Connection), Officer Krupke(West Side Story), Mad Max,
    In fact I could give you ten more from one show alone that is better than the writer’s motley crew , at least David Caruso isn’t in it. These ten cops are going to get Yurmama to confess to murdering a genre. They don’t take kindly to cop killers: Jimmie McNulty, Bunk Moreland, Cedric Daniels, Kima Greggs, Lester Freamon, Beadie Russell, Sgt Jay Landsman, Ellis Carver, Thomas ‘Herc’ Hauk, Leander Sydnor.

  • chris

    chow yun fat in hardboiled.

  • Mullrock

    Eddie Valiant isn’t a cop…he’s a private eye!

  • infallibleangel

    This is way too broad and subjective of a category for it to be a good list.

  • ededed

    john mclain dirty harry and grisham come one

  • Cherokee Jack

    The first two people I thought of were Harry Callahan and Frank Serpico. Very disappointed at their absence.

    I’d also have liked to see Lt. Columbo, Steve McGarret, and Joe Friday somewhere. All definitely more deserving of a reference than Horatio Caine.

    In fact, the list should have just been broken up into movie cops and TV cops. Entirely different territory.

  • Cherokee Jack

    John McClane also deserved a mention, as stated above. And since Eddie Valiant is a PI, you could have thrown Jack Bauer in there since he’s closer to a cop than Eddie.

  • davo

    LA confidential was mid 20th century folks

  • astraya

    Anon: The Sweeny is before my time, but this morning I suddenly thought about Inspector Morse. Any cop who sings in a classical choir has got to be ok in my book.

  • Anon

    Yogi, (151),

    Many thanks for not including the inimitable Frank Drebin out, I can just picture his face if he had been.

  • jhoyce07

    no die hard movies?? bruce willis ??? dang..

  • MT

    Another personal opinion list. And in my opinion one of the worst ever. JF I hoped you enjoyed your day off.

  • nolod1207

    Great List though definitely missing a few big ones Axel Foley (Beverly Hills Cop), John McClane (Die Hard), Dirty Harry, Alonzo Harris or Jake Hoyt (Training Day), Javier Rodriguez (Traffic), Frank Serpico (Serpico), Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon) or for any law and order fans Detective Lennie Briscoe

  • Leo

    what about adrian monk (monk)

  • Savanti Romero

    Robert Goren From Law and Order CI is absent from this list! FOR SHAME!!!!!!!1

  • gabi319

    Woah kids… I posted #137 on particulars already regarding some of these once again mentioned for recommendation like gibbs, monk, grissom…

    lol, krazz… I know John McCain in 149 was a typo but when the presidential campaigns were first going on, I thought McCain was McClain. :-D “No Sh*tt*n me, Bruce Willis for president??!” For a while, I made them interchangeable because it was funny…

  • ClassyKoehler

    Police Chief Wiggum?

  • Wilma!

    The good thing is at this point, by initiating one list, the reader gets several lists worth in the comments. :) So, there is no need to have umpteen cop lists when all enquiries should be re: this one.

  • Lifeschool

    128: Cyn, don’t take it bad. If you like, I’ll make you the list you suggested – ‘10 Things I Like About Cyn’ ;)

  • Grissom from CSI (las vegas) doesnt count as a cop??
    he’s really good

  • Morono

    LA Confidential is set in the 20th century and not in the 19th… (ofcourse)

  • Muttley

    Jesse #32 – i’m with you on those four – should all be sitting right behind Frances McDormand as Gunderson – brilliant No.#1 HOWEVER – I also thing Martin “Lethal Weapon 1-4” Riggs should be there as well. And while we’re at it – where oh where was ex-Naval Officer Steve McGarrett (played by Jack Lord) from “Hawaii Five-O”
    Dudes #37 – Again, total agreement; BUT Mr.Frater will tell you he’s a “Federal Agent”

    BTW – jfrater – FBI and agencies such as NCIS are officially classed as ‘Police Forces’ – their operatives are classed as Federal Agents in order to allow them jurisdiction in special cases as being higher in the pecking order than local cops, State Cops etc – – – but they’re still police – thus Starling and Gibbs should qualify – longer list, maybe.

    To all those who wished for Cagney and Lacey -NO!!! Do that and you’ll have to include Starsky & Hutch, the twits from Adam 12 and those ‘male Bimbo’s’ from CHiPS!

    ERRATA: The Jack the Ripper Killings (No.7 – Frank Aberline)took place in 1888 – this places them at the END of the 19th Century (Late-19th Century) rather than the mid-19th Century as you wrote.

    No.4 – “LA Confidential is a story of mid 19th century Los Angeles” The dress of the men in the photo and the fact that they are seen framed by a car window would suggest the mid 20th Century – – – – mind-block after writing Frank Abberline’s description ???

  • ericdraven26

    very dissapointed in the lack of paul smecker(the boondock saints) he is FBI, but, still counts in my book

  • chershey

    Oh yeah? Yeah.

  • For 4…did you mean mid 20th century? That doesn’t look mid-1800s to me from the picture, but I’ve never seen the show, so, you know. Just wondering.

  • phat jon

    John McCLane!!!!!! where is he you fools!?!!?

  • Tom

    Unbelievable that Sgt. Dignam from The Departed only got an honorable mention. Definitely deserves top five

  • teapixie

    Bigski….a big YES to you. I love Officer Barbrady, and I would like to add Chief Wiggum. Something about an animated cop…..

  • timmy the dying boy

    My ol’ lady thinks Horatio is just the hottest thing ever. It’s becoming a source of friction in our relationship. As for me, I’d rather watch Barney Fife.

  • MHogan

    Come on? No Shaft, No Axel Foley, Neither one of the Chips cops, No guy from Police Academy who does the noises, No Dirty Hary, and worst of all NO JOHN McCLANE. How can you have a list of best cops and not have John McCLANE.

    You put John McClane and Horatio Caine into a locked room and tell them to go at, which one do you think is walking out on his own strength. It sure as hell isn’t going to be Horatio Caine.

  • panchizzy


    sorry for caps, but everybody on the wire is better than this list for the most part…

  • Sara

    this list really sucks just like they have been for the last week or so.

  • aaron

    what about robocop? the quintisential police officer…

  • Anon

    astraya, (159),

    Morse. And the same John Thaw, to boot! How could I have forgotten? Just shows how many cops of all types there are. Even innerlechual ones.

    To put D.I. Reagan and Morse back-to-back as the work of the same actor would show a real tour de force of extremes. Violent, instinctive and foul-mouthed vs soft-spoken, well-educated and brainy. Sub-Cockney + Oxford.

  • Anon

    Oh no, its screwed my 184 on a hen-ney or coqney technicality now. A plague on your moderation, LV.

  • SuperHero3

    Axel Foley
    Joe Friday
    Vic Mackey
    Sherlock Holmes
    T-1000 from Terminator 2

    The guy from Da Vinci Code and Johnny Depp’s character got no business being on this list. Both movies carry no weight in terms of great cop performances. Maybe this list should have been a Top 20.

  • Anon

    Gee, that was quick, Cyn, or whoever. Thanks!

  • SuperHero3

    I totally forgot about Leathal Weapon!!!

  • Maggot

    No mention yet of Virgil Tibbs? Come on.

    Plenty of glaring omissions already mentioned, Harry Callahan being the most grievous. Agree completely with Randall’s #109 – do some research, go back more than a few years, narrow down the scope, etc.

    A couple additional comments:

    Tommy Lee Jones’ role as the Marshal in The Fugitive is wayyy better than his character in No Country, and is more worthy of a place on this list. IMO.

    Serpico – while this is a fantastic film, I wouldn’t include him here because it seems the list is geared towards fictional characters. Though it does not specifically list this as being a criteria, Frank Serpico is a real person.

  • Cyn

    142. littleboots –
    “Cyn: For some reason I have this vision of you banging your head against a brick wall…”
    hell fucking no! that would take far too much energy. nah..go drown my troubles in chocolate. oh yeah baby. ;)
    i am working on not allowing any of this to ‘get to me’ and i think i’ve gotten better. believe it or not…lotta shit i simply ignore. :)
    169. Lifeschool –
    don’t you dare!
    182. Sara –
    either submit your own or better yet..go away. ;)
    oh, wait i’m working on my ‘tude.
    er…you are entitled to your opinion …no matter how idiotic. *can not stop my fingers…*
    185. Anon –
    say what?
    187. Anon –
    ah ha! fixed.
    we have to stop meeting like this Anon. people will talk. ;)

  • Paulb

    officer Wiggum!!

  • Alexis

    You’ve GOT to be kidding — this is a seriously flawed list.

    Others have already noted the omission of Steve McGarrett and Joe Friday?

    What about Jimmy — or Jimbo — Rockford?

  • BooRadley

    steve d (117)

    I will proudly stand as one who thinks that Randall is one of the best things about ListVerse. He is intelligent, clever, witty, knowledgable, and opinionated. He is not afraid to share his wisdom with us, and I have learned a lot from him, or at the very least, thought a lot about things I had never thought before. So lay off!

    You lay off too, bucslim, although you are also one of my favorite people here. Can’t we all just get along? Ha!

    Now, onto my choices:
    Special Agent Dale Cooper (FBI man, I know.)
    I’m not really into cop shows, but these stand out to me.

  • k1w1taxi

    I’m impressed 191 comments and no one has said it (though Randall and a couple have alluded to it) This List is TOO AMERICAN :)

    Whilst that might be understandable on the TV front the lack of Non US cops (with the two exceptions) is poor.

    As already mentioned by Randall, Reagan from The Sweeney would clean the clock of most of those on the list. Z cars was also another great show. What was the name of Stratford Johns character. Prime Suspect has also already been mentioned and should be there. Another top Scottish cop was Taggart as played by Mark McManus. Morse was brilliant. Many others including Wexford, Bergerac spring to mind. From Australia, Blue Heelers was pretty damned good. Or maybe that’s just my lust for Snr Constable Maggie Doyle :) (but please don’t mention Water Rats)

    Randall has also done a sterling job on pointing out that cop shows started prior to 1990. Nods to Pepper Anderson, Joe Friday, Jack Lord, Andy Griffith, Sledgehammer (trust me I know what I’m doing). Was Ironside actually a cop?

    Moving to the movies I must assume that not only has yurmama not done any research into cop films before he was born (NO Harry, Popeye; shakes head in disbelief) but he/she has also forgotten another genre of movie that gave us some truly great cops. How about Gary Cooper in High Noon? Marshal Reuben J Cogburn? Marshal Matt Dillon? Sheriff Pat Garrett (James Coburn)?

    John Scottie Ferguson (Vertigo)?
    Chief Martin Brody (Jaws)?
    Dick Tracy?
    Max Rockatansky (Mad Max)?


  • k1w1taxi

    Sherlock Holmes (Consulting detective)
    Poirot (EX Belgian Policeman)
    Rockford (PI)
    are not policemen at the time of their adventures.


  • shar

    What about Bunk/McNulty?

    I would definitely consider them (The two only really count as one, due to the fact that each is only half sober at any point) as one of the best cops to grace the small screen…

  • Pyderz

    American Gangsta no? Figure thats a honorable mention considering its based on real life too

  • Melody Kitn

    If we’re going for silly nutty, I throw in the whole of Police Academy and a Kindergarten Cop for good measure.

    Maybe Jackie Chan’s character from the Rush Hour films, but only because I’ve a fondness for Jackie Chan.

  • Randall


    Thanks so much for the defense, Boo. I love you too. :-)

  • SuperHero3

    Melody good call on Jackie Chan, but not for Rush Hour. I was thinking more about his classic role in the Hong Kong action classic Police Story, a great scene is featured on this site where Chan is doing some major butt-kicking. I think its in the best stunts in movie history.

  • Jenova4

    No Nicholas Angel? Or is he too british (and too spoofy) to be on this list? :(

  • slipstick

    No TJ Hooker? lmao Now for the serious

    There are a lot of cops that could make the list, and some that should be on here instead of others.

    I preferred the character of Lt. Norman Buntz from Hill Street Blues to the character of Sipowicz, but virtually the entire cast from HSB could be placed anywhere on the list.

    I would like to throw my vote in and/or nominate:
    Lt. John Mclaine (Die Hard)
    Alex Murphy (Robocop)
    Popeye Doyle (The French Connection)
    Det. Alex Foley (Beverley Hills Cop)
    James Malone (The Untouchables)
    Jack Cates (48 Hrs.)
    Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon)
    Lt. Columbo (Columbo)
    Insp. Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)
    Jet Black (Cowboy Bebop)
    Sgt. Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon (Dragnet)(TV)
    Dets. Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams (Hawaii Five-O)
    Commissioner James Gordon (Batman; The Animated Series)
    Lt. Daniel Turpin and Maggie Sawyer (Superman; The Animated Series)
    Lt. Theo Kojak (Kojak)
    Chief William O. Gillespie and Chief of Detectives Virgil Tibbs (In the Heat of the Night)(TV)

    I could go on, but those are some of the more notable omissions that I noticed. I agree with Eddie Valiant and possibly Sipowicz. The rest, I don’t think should’ve made the cut.

  • whm3

    No Lenny Brisco?

  • BeckB

    I love Marge. She’s such a super lady!

  • DeskCop

    This should have been a list of 30. And how is VIc Mackey not at #1. Best TV cop ever. Callahan at #2. Other than Horatio, great list.:)

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  • LakersRule


  • Mike

    Dirty Harry = #1.

  • Douglas Moran

    I think Deputy Marshall Sam Gerard from “The Fugitive” is a much better detective than the character Tommy Lee Jones plays in “No Country for Old Men.” Gerard is a wonderful, wonderful character.

    I know that he’s mainly from “lit-ruh-chure”, but I think Sherlock Holmes deserves to be on the list, too.


    what!!!!! no { VIC MACKEY }

  • evilk8

    This list is ok, but the comments are very amusing.
    It’s been a long time since I read/heard the term asshat!

    #132 Acula – go entertain yourself with one hand you asshat.

  • The Only Sane One

    You honestly put the loser from CSI: Miami and leave off Dirty Harry Callahan? That’s like making a list of influential rock bands and including the Jonas Brothers over Led Zeppelin. Get it together Listverse.

  • matt s.

    uhhh LA Confidential is the mid 20th century, genius.

  • bigski

    What`s wrong with Horatio Caine ? When I have something clever to say I take my sunglasses off,pause briefly and speak.Then The Who starts playing Wont Get Fooled Again.

  • slipstick

    Actually now that I think about it, I can’t even agree with Eddie Valiant (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) being on the list. He’s not a cop, nor has he ever been one. He’s a private investigator. By including him, you’d subsequently have to include Thomas Magnum (Magnum, P.I.) and James Rockford (The Rockford Files). Honestly, I can’t agree with this list at all.

  • Mike599

    Where in the name of all that’s holy is Columbo?
    You betchya, yah!

  • Lizzie

    Thank goodness you put Marge Gunderson on there! Otherwise, this list would be a bust…L.A. Confidential – good. Clouseau – classic. The Departed’s missing. Roger Rabbit? Come on!

  • Chris

    One of my all-time favorites has to Lt.Theo Kojak. “Who loves ya, baby?”

  • Miss Misery

    Where is Robert Goren? He could Horatio’s pansy butt any day of the week!

  • Andri

    The book da vinci code is great! not crap! you dropped from 9/10 to 4/10 in respect for that…

  • Kathleen_P

    I haven’t read the entire comments thread, but RE: LA Confidential comments – the movie takes place in the mid 20th century, not the 19th. The 19th would put it around 1850 or so.

    Other than that, interesting list. Horatio Caine doesn’t belong in this group, though I’m a faithful watcher of CSI Miami every week.

  • Kriz

    I’d have put Jack Vincennes from L.A. Confidential up there.

  • 220. Kathleen_P: I haven’t read the entire comments thread, but RE: LA Confidential…
    Gosh, Kathleen_P, who’d a thunk?

  • Anon


    Love ya too, baby.

    But MUST you be so LV god-like now as to take credit for everyone else’s suggestions?

    “194. k1w1taxi – February 3rd, 2009 at 2:20 am

    As already mentioned by Randall, Reagan from The Sweeney would clean the clock of most of those on the list.”


    “71. Anon – February 2nd, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Probably no one has seen a certain long-ago series from Brit TV. If you had you’d you’d never forget, and never forget to list a certain D.I. from the Flying Squad, played by the late John Thaw. Fantabulous. With an equally memorable sidekick in the guise of Dennis Waterman. Look up ‘The Sweeny’ in Wikipedia (It’s bound to be featured there).”

    “184. Anon – February 2nd, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    astraya, (159),

    Morse. And the same John Thaw, to boot! How could I have forgotten? Just shows how many cops of all types there are. Even innerlechual ones.

    To put D.I. Reagan and Morse back-to-back as the work of the same actor would show a real tour de force of extremes. Violent, instinctive and foul-mouthed vs soft-spoken, well-educated and brainy.”

  • elliebeee


  • Freca

    My favorite cop is Derrick from Germany.

  • Saghy

    John Thaw should definitly be on the list; as one of the greatest.

    Not to forget Tony Shalhoub (Monk) and Tely Savalas (KojaK)…!!

    And could one forget Peter Sellers’ brilliant performance as Inspector Clouseau…??

    It’s tough to pick the top 10 now, isn’t it…??

  • Donato Morfo


    Eddie Valiant was cool, but not having ROBOCOP in this list makes it not count!

    FUCK SIPOWICZ! Robocop would take his fat ass to OCP and make some of that baby food looking goo! And then he eats it. Cuz Robocop is the shit.

  • Anon

    Freca, (225),

    Yes. I remember Derrick too. Good stuff.

  • Geni

    What about Hunter, or (I forget his character’s name) Nick Nolte’s character in 48 Hours; and I LOVE Vic on The Shield. But, how can we forget about Olivia & Eliot on Law & Order: SVU?

  • The_Patient

    Maybe for most annoying! lol.

  • Mare

    I think my boyfriend Vincent D’Onofrio should be on this list!!! :)

  • Seanithanegan

    I think you missed one bad-ass cop.

    The guy who plays the Sherriff in all the Tarantino movies.

    Not sure he can be beat.

  • Seanithanegan

    Ah. Texas Ranger Earle McGraw is the name, played by Michael Parks.

  • imagine

    Alonzo Harris???? I can’t fathom how Denzel isn’t on this list.

  • nursey

    Dirty Harry is the best ever cop! come to Vancouver and clean it up, now!

  • Ashley R

    haha…ive only seen 1 and 2…se7en is a great movie and so is fargo…but fargo annoys me if i watch it too much haha!

  • Confused

    Does Jim Gordon deserve a mention? I know that he’s been basically a comic book/graphic novel character, but the performance Gary Oldman turned in was FANTABUWONDERLASTICUNDERFULLOUS!

  • Dave

    Blade Runner: Rick Deckard

  • Claas

    Interesting, but there are some criminal omissions (that may have been mentioned in past comments):
    Harry Callahan
    John Maclane
    Murphy (Robocop)

  • Karma’s Hand

    Your list is missing so many great fictional cops.

  • majava

    Personally I think John Maclane and Harry Callahan believe in top5.

  • Fred Jurv

    You put CSI: Miami but not Law & Order? How can you forget Lennie Briscoe? He was one of the greatest tv characters ever, let alone the greatest cop.

  • Preston

    You put Horatio Cane? He’s a douche compared to Gil Grissom. Grissom is the type of character you’d expect to see on a CSI team. And don’t forget about his awesome one liners.

  • Rod

    Pretty good list, not really right.

    Would definitely have Joe Friday; Police Commish Gordon; Bunk Moreland (The Wire); Columbo; Axel Foley (Beverly Hills Cop); Christopher Foyle (Foyle’s War); and Mr. Bookman (Seinfeld).

  • albedo

    As a German I have to insist on Detective Chief Inspector Stephan Derrick being on one of the top five places. :)

    “The series was surprisingly popular in China. Reportedly it was also actually used to teach police officers and inspectors in the tracing and solving of criminal cases.”

    And it was exported in 100 countries world wide. Quite successful.

  • FIGS

    WHERE IS John McClane!!! THIS LIST IS A LIAR!!!

  • IdesofMarch

    I can’t believe Dirty Harry wasn’t mentioned. He could kick Horatio’s butt any day!

  • doubled

    this list sucks

  • Lauren

    Um, what? Horatio Caine is on this list and Lenny Briscoe isn’t? No Mike Logan either? This list is bogus.

  • Sally


    I’m from England and wonder WHERE IS GENE HUNT??? Haha! He’s really the only (and therefore best) British cop who everyone (and i mean everyone!) knows. He’s from two programs called Life on Mars and it’s spin-off-sister-sequel-thing program Ashes to Ashes (equally as good). He is a typical dipiction of a copper in the 70s and 80s in England, particularly the north. Along with his hysterical one liners he packs a punch of the Hard Cop Don’t Mess With Me Or I’ll Whack You One politically incorrect policeman of the pre milenium. He DEFINATELY deserves a place.

    Loving the site by the way, I think I have DVT from sitting with my laptop too long! :]


    Sally! xx

  • Jay Poe

    Colombo should be here. He is the greatest. Horatio Caine? His monotone voice is annoying. Also, the guy from the Da vinci Code? You serious?

  • Madholman

    Bad list,very bad list!!!No Martin Riggs????????No Columbo?????????????No Axel Foley?????No John McClane???????
    I dont like your list!!!

  • I4gotmyMANTRA

    Yay! Marge!

  • Trekkerette


    There’s so much CSI…

  • frankgrimes

    Surely the greatest cop of all time is Frank Drebin ?!!

    Frank: It’s the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.
    Jane: Goodyear?
    Frank: No, the worst.

  • DubleDub

    How about Lenny Brisco from Law & Order, a much better show when he was still around. Vic Mackey from The Shield, complete badass. Also Jimmy Mcnaulty from The Wire, a show which is without a doubt the greatest series that spanned multiple seasons that HBO has ever put out.

  • Chris

    agree with all but one…would replace Horatio with RoboCop. really.

  • Troy McClure

    Dirty Harry
    John McLaine
    Lt.Frank Drebin (Naked Gun)
    Det.Nordberg (OJ Simpson-Naked Gun)
    Belker, Hunter, Norman Buntz, Renko etc (Hill Street Blues)
    Vic Mackey (Shield)
    Clouseau (excellent placed on the list)
    Riggs and Murtaugh
    Sony Crockett and Rico Tubbs
    Chief Wiggum

  • Troy McClure

    @Troy McClure (257): I have to add:

    Gunvald Larsson (from Swedish tv-series “Beck”)

    And what about Cagney & Lacey? …just kidding

  • Fred

    Lenny Fucking Briscoe the ultimate embodiment of a “real” washed up NYPD Detective.


  • Morticia

    @corinthian0430 (82)
    Sledgehammer – ahahahahaahahahahahaahhahahahaah. Love it!

  • seo lace

    I am having a hell of a time reading in IE 1.1, just thoiught I would let you know.

  • Damn it, I would have thought "Dirty Harry" detective Harry Callagan would have made #1… so disapointed

  • Will Trame

    Columbo, McCloud, Kojak, Barney Miller deserve mention.

    Tommy Lee Jones put on a superb performance of Marshal Sam Gerard in the 1993 flick “The Fugitive”, perhaps the one motion picture installment that was a worthy adaptation of a television programme. Which of course brings us to:

    Lt. Philip Gerard from the aforementioned show. Portrayed by Barry Morse, the character had a strong intellectual depth but all the characteristic flair of a Joe Friday…stubborn, determined but overall dry. The one trait that distinguished him from Friday was the occasional tendency for him to freak out when his pursuit of a supposed criminal wore on him and he faced unexpected drawbacks and resistance (see the third season episode “Ill Wind”).

  • As far as I'm aware a detective is nothing like a police officer…

  • Doug


    These are just a start and they are WAY better than any of the ones listed above

    DIRTY HARRY? Joe Friday? John Maclane? Chips? Samuel Gerard? Naked Gun?Cheif Wiggum? Serpico? Axel Foley? Riggs and Murtaugh? Columbo? Tango and Cash? Robo Cop?

    ….and that is just a start

  • Matthew

    Interesting list, but why "best" cops? Maybe "10 interesting cops" but I'm not sure "best" fits. What is the criteria? How is the horrible character Caruso "plays" on CSI: Miami "better" than Joe Friday? Or Columbo?

    I think "best" is pretty subjective based on this list. Interesting summaries, but I could name ten "better" cops than most of these.

  • Karpov

    no Eiddie Murphy … Beverly hills cop???????

  • mwjr

    Another vote for Frank Pembleton and his partner Tim Bayliss, from 'Homicide: Life On the Street.' Best police drama ever, and the best detective partners ever.

  • Yula

    no one from Law and Order SVU???

  • kate

    what about dirty harry callahan? any list leaving out clint eastwood is just incomplete.

  • Q-Dawg

    Pretty sure L.A. Confidential is set in the 20th century.

  • lulu

    I was happy to see Johnny Depp here for From Hell, a great movie! Benson and Stabler from Law and Order SVU should be here.

  • Miller

    Terrible list! Where’s John McClane, Riggs and Murtaugh, Marcus Burnette and Mike Lowery?

  • DiscoBerry

    What no Vic Mackey????????????????????????????

  • David

    No one was cooler than KOJAK!

  • p1t1o

    Gary Oldman/Stansfield from Leon. AwwYeah.

  • naomi

    wheres lt columbo?!

  • Spannerman

    Where’s Rick Deckard from Blade Runner?

  • Putts

    Eddie Valiant was great, but he wasn’t a cop. He was a PI. And a list without Joe Friday or Sonny Crockett cannot be taken seriously.

  • Jord

    Why isn’t Sonny Crockett on here?!

  • voicSpeecurce



    Horrible. Bruce Willis/ Die Hard…. Al Pacino/ Heat… Eddie Murphy/ Beverly Hills Cop

  • ty

    Where is Vic Mackey from the Shield on this list?

  • kalinka

    Where is ROBOCOP? He was the best cop!

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