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Best Law & Order SVU episodes

  • Best Law & Order SVU episodes

    Now in the middle of its 21st season, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” has become one of the most well-known staples in the crime-drama genre. It’s the first of two spinoffs of the original “Law & Order” series, loosely based on a specific precinct of the New York City Police Department. “SVU” usually deals with sex crimes, child abuse, missing children, domestic violence, and crimes against the elderly. As seen in many “SVU” episodes, however, the detectives also find themselves occasionally tackling homicides, drug trafficking, hate crimes, burglaries gone awry, and even terrorists.

    Mariska Hargitay, who plays detective-turned-lieutenant Olivia Benson, is often hailed as the reason for the show’s immense popularity. The Emmy Award-winning actress has starred in every season since the show’s inception in 1999, and she’s not ready to retire her badge just yet. Another fan-favorite is rapper Ice-T—who plays Odafin “Fin” Tutuola—who joined the show in season two for four episodes. Ice-T ended up loving the role so much that he is still on the show to this day.

    With a notable cast of characters who grew and evolved with the show, viewers find themselves not only drawn to the cases that are the focus of each episode, but also the personal stories of the detectives. Due to the extremely sensitive nature of the crimes, the “SVU” writers are known for tackling current-day controversies surrounding sexual violence in a unique and thoughtful way. The show is also notable for being the longest-running primetime live-action TV series that is still on the air today, and show creator Dick Wolf has no plans of stopping the show’s epic run anytime soon.

    After nearly 500 memorable episodes, and countless cameos—think Serena Williams, Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, and James Brolin, just to name a few—Stacker is taking a trip down “SVU” memory lane by listing the 50 best episodes in the show’s history. The rankings are based on IMDb user ratings as of Dec. 20, 2019, and the number of IMDb user votes was used to break any ties. So many of the show’s episodes are highly rated, that 48 of the top 50 episodes have a user rating of 9/10 or above.

    Read on to see which legendary episodes made the list and what iconic stories they featured.

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  • #50. Season 17, Episode 11 - Townhouse Incident

    - IMDb user rating: 8.9
    - IMDb user votes: 819
    - Air date: Jan. 13, 2016

    This episode starts with Olivia Benson’s babysitter, Lucy, realizing something seems off at the townhouse where the other family she works for lives. Benson goes to investigate, only to end up as a hostage of three robbers trying to score some cash from the family. Benson must navigate a tense situation on her own, while making sure to protect the two young children in the house from being gunned down by the robbers.

  • #49. Season 15, Episode 1 - Surrender Benson

    - IMDb user rating: 8.9
    - IMDb user votes: 1,022
    - Air date: Sept. 25, 2013

    This season opener picks up exactly where the show left off at the end of last season, with Benson kidnapped, beaten, and tied to a chair at the hands of rapist William Lewis (played by Pablo Schreiber). It doesn’t take long for the other SVU detectives to realize that Benson is missing and that Lewis is responsible. As the detectives trace Lewis’ steps through stolen cars and additionals victims, Benson fights for her life.

  • #48. Season 7, Episode 6 - Raw

    - IMDb user rating: 8.9
    - IMDb user votes: 1,055
    - Air date: Nov. 1, 2005

    In this chilling episode, a sniper shooting leaves numerous kids wounded and one dead on a school playground. Though extensive witness interviews fail to give the detectives a viable lead on the shooting suspect, the sniper rifle gets traced back to a dangerous Neo-Nazi group. The sniper’s trial ends in a horrific way, a detective gets seriously injured, and shocking secrets about the shooting and one of the group’s members are revealed.

  • #47. Season 7, Episode 18 - Venom

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 625
    - Air date: March 28, 2006

    Rapper and actor Ludacris guest stars as Darius Parker, the cousin of Tutuola’s son, Ken Randall (played by Ernest Waddell), in this episode. Randall gets in trouble for digging up a lot that was later found to contain the remains of a baby’s body. At first, Randall tries to claim that Parker and he overheard someone talking about the baby’s body in a bar, but this story proves to be false. Tutuola is then torn between doing his job and protecting his estranged family, as all kinds of buried secrets are discovered and the episode ends up foreshadowing the final episode of the next season.


  • #46. Season 3, Episode 20 - Greed

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 698
    - Air date: April 26, 2002

    In this head-scratcher of an episode, a wealthy woman is the victim of a rape and a burglary, but only her watch was stolen. Numerous suspects are looked at as the detectives discover that a very similar crime occurred at a different household just two weeks before. Actor Henry Winkler, known for his iconic role as Fonzie on “Happy Days,” guest stars.

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  • #45. Season 10, Episode 21 - Liberties

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 701
    - Air date: May 19, 2009

    “Liberties” was one of 17 episodes directed by Oscar-winning director Juan Jose Campanella, a many who has no lack of experience crafting eerie plotlines. Campanella is the mastermind behind creepy crime-based mysteries such as "The Secret in Their Eyes" and "Cannibals." In this episode, Detective Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) gets a strange request from a judge to interview the convicted serial killer he just put away, and to find the judge’s long-lost son, who was kidnapped 30 years ago. These cases end up being connected in the most unsuspecting way.

  • #44. Season 10, Episode 18 - Baggage

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 707
    - Air date: April 7, 2009

    To catch a serial killer, Tutuola and Stabler must team up with Detective Victor Moran (played by Delroy Lindo), who’s been trying to solve the case for months. Moran first comes off as callous and cold, a natural lone wolf, but Stabler soon discovers the personal reason why Moran is so attached to the case. When the detectives finally have a suspect in custody, he seems to be the obvious culprit behind every rape and murder but one, and the detectives must figure out whether he’s lying, or whether they got the wrong guy.

  • #43. Season 5, Episode 11 - Escape

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 712
    - Air date: Dec. 2, 2003

    “This is Us” actor Milo Ventimiglia stars in this episode, in which two prisoners escape from a Virginia prison by overpowering a guard and taking his clothes. One of the prisoners, Michael Baxter (played by Stephen Lang), heads to New York to find his ex-girlfriend Carin Healy (Nancy Allen) and her son Lee Healy (Ventimiglia). Ten years ago, Lee testified that Baxter raped him when he was just 11 years old. Benson must work with an old flame to catch the escapees and protect Carin, Lee, and Danny—who is Carin and Baxter’s biological son.

  • #42. Season 4, Episode 11- Damaged

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 713
    - Air date: Jan. 10, 2003

    In what appears to be a robbery of a video store gone wrong, three people are shot: a little girl, a random man standing outside the store, and the gunman himself, shot by the video store clerk. Further investigation into the robbery-homicide reveals that the little girl has gonorrhea, and that’s when SVU is brought in. Benson and Stabler must now figure out who was abusing the little girl, and whether she was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, or the real target of the shooting. Meanwhile, the little girl’s parents are trying to take the girl off life support—which would hinder SVU’s investigation—so they can donate her organs to someone who needs them. It’s up to Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot (portrayed by Stephanie March frequently throughout the series) to work the legal system in order to catch the mastermind behind the crime and get justice for the little girl.

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  • #41. Season 12, Episode 2 - Bullseye

    - IMDb user rating: 9.0
    - IMDb user votes: 741
    - Air date: Sept. 22, 2010

    In this chilling 250th episode of “SVU,” Benson and Stabler are called to investigate what happened to a girl that shows up at a convenience store, dirty and beaten. The detectives eventually trace her parents to Amber (played by Melissa Rain Anderson) and Jeff Samonsky (Daniel Stewart Sherman), who seem to care more about video games than their children. Dr. George Huang (B.D. Wong), FBI agent and SVU’s psychiatrist, diagnoses Amber with Capgras delusion, a rare disorder in which a person believes that people close to them were replaced by imposters, and they don’t feel a familial connection to them. Capgras is often caused by a brain injury, such as the one Amber had after getting hit by bus. However, the investigation into the rape of the girl leads detectives to interviewing numerous sex offenders, having to work with a vigilante group, and finding the common link between this girl’s rape and another girl’s attack.