10 Best TV Crime Dramas Of All Time, According To Ranker

rime TV dramas have been around for as long as television itself, and many have grown fan bases so loyal that they remain relevant even years after they were canceled, often earning new fans along the way. Characters from Olivia Benson to Walter White have stolen the hearts of TV watchers worldwide,and have proven that crime TV dramas are some of the best shows to ever grace television.

With so many over the decades, there’s a debate to be had about which are the best TV crime dramas. A revival of the popular series Criminal Minds is set to arrive on Paramount+ soon, leading many fans over at Ranker to vote on the best TV crime drama of all time.



Booth and Brennan at an event.

Bones follows forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth as they seek to investigate and solve murders. Unlike many of the entries on this list, however, Bones has a lot lighter feel as it mixes comedy along with drama allowing there to be a lot less tension at times.

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Fans of the show love to watch the relationship of the two main characters as they bicker, grow, and evolve throughout the series. The show’s characters helped keep its general light-hearted nature allowing a wide array of audiences to fall in love with them and the series. Bones lasted for 12 seasons and is currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime, allowing new viewers to discover what makes this show so great.


Peter Falk as detective Columbo in Columbo show

columbo is an incredibly creative and captivating series, unlike any crime TV that came before or after. The show’s episodes were often 2 hours long and would essentially show the murder at the beginning of the episode so that the audience already knew who committed it. The viewers then spent the episode following Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) as he attempts to solve the case.

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columbo aired in 1968 and ran for 10 seasons. The magic of the show lies in the character Columbo himself because his often unkempt demeanor allows him to catch the suspects off guard and discover their true secrets. This show was revolutionary and has become a timeless classic to crime TV fans and its inclusion on this list proves that it continues to impress audiences of any generation.


NCIS is another crime TV show that has been around for a long time garnishing loyal fans for generations. The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) focuses on solving a wide array of Navy and Marine crimes. Upon the show’s release, it became a major success spawning the popular spinoffs NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Los Angeles.

NCIS dominated television for 21 seasons and captivated its audiences with stories that had never been seen on TV before. NCIS characters Abby Sciuto, forensics specialist, and team leader Gibbs pulled audiences in and captured the hearts of fans with their charisma. NCIS is currently streaming on Netflix allowing a whole for the show to leave an incredible impact on a whole new audience.

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad Walt and Jesse

Breaking Bad is hailed as one of the greatest shows ever made, so it makes sense it has landed itself on this list as well. The fans of the series were hooked from the very beginning as high school chemistry teacher Walter White slowly evolved into a powerful and ruthless drug lord. The show became a cultural phenomenon, launching the careers of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to new heights.

Not only were the visuals and cinematography stunning, but the characters and story were enthralling and fans could not get enough. Aaron Paul’s Jessie Pinkman had such good on-screen chemistry with Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and managed to evolve into one of the show’s most compelling characters. The raw emotion and suspense that Breaking Bad brought were unmatched by any other at the time, and completely changed how episodic television shows are made

Law & Order

Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy on Law and Order

Following a group of detectives and the district attorney’s office, Law & Order was the first of its kind, going beyond solving the crime to actually bringing the culprit to court and proving them guilty. Premiering in 1990, the series ran for 20 seasons during its initial run, and its success spawned various spinoffs, including the legendary Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

the Law & Order series has entertained fans for decades with its emotional and gripping stories. The show’s unique formula is one that keeps audiences enthralled to the very end, allowing it to become a binge-worthy classic. After 12 years of being canceled the show returned for its 21st season in February 2022, much to the delight of its loyal fans.

The Mentalist

Simon Baker in The Mentalist

The Mentalist is a unique take on the classic crime TV show, it follows a former “psychic” and con-man, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), that consults with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He uses his exceptional observational skills in order to assist in solving crimes. The character of Partick Jane was immediately compelling for viewers as he searched for the serial killer that killed his wife and daughter.

For many fans, this show is thrilling because of its episodic nature and how it evolved throughout the seasons. The Mentalist has become a must-watch for fans of crime dramas, and Simon Baker’s performance keeps them coming back every episode.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Ice T & in Law & Order SVU

Law & Order: SVU has been around since 1999 and is the longest-running crime TV show still airing today. The New York-based show follows the Special Victims Unit in its investigations against sexually related crimes and brings the perpetrators to justice. Despite its long run the show has continued to stay fresh and up to date on what is happening in the real world.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit introduced audiences to some of the most likable and fascinating characters to appear on television. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) has captured the hearts of fans since the very beginning and has been a powerful role model for countless women who have grown up watching her.

Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds season 15 cast

Criminal Minds follows the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit as they travel across the country solving some of the most gruesome serial killer cases of all time. Criminal Minds ran for 15 seasons and aired its final season in 2020, much to the dismay of fans, but because the show was so popular it was announced a year later that the show would be making a comeback.

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Like other entries on this list, Criminal Minds‘ unique addictiveness gives it the ability for a viewer to be able to tune in to any episode and it still pulls them in and makes total sense. It became extremely popular because the characters were so compelling and the chemistry between them was so strong.


Sherlock and Watson

The character of Sherlock Holmes has been represented by many different actors in various projects for decades, but none can compare to Benedict Cumberbatch’s brilliant performance as the super sleuth in the BBC’s Sherlock. Cumberbatch’s modern adaptation of the classic character was riveting to audiences as it reimagined Sherlock as a self-proclaimed “high functioning sociopath” yet was still able to come off as likable.

The series has been praised by critics and fans alike for its high quality of acting and writing. Originating as a series on UK television, it quickly grew in popularity and became extremely popular in America as well. The series only lasted 4 seasons, but its place on this list serves to show just how incredibly impactful this show has been on fans everywhere.


A group of men cower in fear in Hellbound

Hellbound is a relatively new series debuting on Netflix in 2021. The show is brought to life by Train to Busan director Yeon Sang-ho and follows the lives of people who have committed sins at some point in their lives and are being dragged to hell by some unearthly force. Hellbound was very well received and became instantly loved by audiences worldwide.

This show is far different than the other entries on this list because of its fantastical story and supernatural elements. At its core, however, it still shares some similarities with entries on this list because it follows a detective who seeks to solve the mystery and bring justice to those who do wrong. The popular show has left an impact on many viewers and has been rumored to be renewed by Netflix for a second season.

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