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50 best crime TV shows of all time

  • 50 best crime TV shows of all time

    Crime stories have been the focus of storytelling for most of history. From Greek mythology to the Bible, people have been drawn to salacious stories of rules broken—don’t take that apple, Eve!—and punishments handed out. The same fascination with crime stories continues today. True crime is everywhere, driven partially by the success of the 2014 podcast “Serial” and documentaries like Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.” There are scores of movies and TV shows focusing on just about every element of the criminal justice system. Whether it’s a show about dirty cops committing crimes on the job or lawyers hunting down scofflaws, humanity is just drawn to stories about crimes of all varieties.

    It might seem odd that people are obsessed with shows depicting some of the darkest moments in someone’s life and everyone has a different reason for their obsession. Some may appreciate the clever storytelling of the best shows, which give enough clues to solve the case without giving everything away for the big reveal, and others may find digging into the dark minds of serial killers intriguing. Some of the (mostly female) true crime fans admit their desire to hear stories about crime victims stems from worries that they’ll be victims of crimes themselves. Others simply like seeing law enforcement bring the bad guys to justice at the end of every episode.

    With all the crime shows coming out in recent years, it can be hard to sort through the noise. Stacker compiled this list to give fans a hand with finding the best of the best when it comes to crime on TV. Using rankings determined by user ratings on IMDb, crime TV shows with more than 5,000 votes were sorted by their popularity. Any ties were broken by the show with the higher number of votes. Click through to discover the TV show that inspired the “Naked Gun” movies and learn which unbelievable true-life crime story was the only unscripted docu-series to make the list.

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  • #50. Trailer Park Boys

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2001–2018

    Stars: John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, Mike Smith, John Dunsworth

    This Canadian sitcom was more interested in the lives of criminals after their release from prison than crimes themselves. Shot in mockumentary format, the show details the lives of a group of trailer park residents and the trouble they get into on a regular basis. Originally made for Canada’s Showcase Network until 2008, “Trailer Park Boys” now airs on Netflix after its 2014 revival, and is in its its 12th season.


  • #49. Boston Legal

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2004–2008

    Stars: James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, Rene Auberjonois

    For five seasons, viewers watched the lawyers of Crane, Poole & Schmidt earn their exorbitant hourly rates in this spin-off of “The Practice.” James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner starred in the show from David E. Kelley, creator of “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “Ally McBeal,” and other big TV hits. Shatner won a Golden Globe for his performance as Denny Crane.


  • #48. Veronica Mars

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2004–2007

    Stars: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra

    “Veronica Mars” is the show that introduced Kristen Bell to the world as the title character: a teenager who works as a private eye under the mentorship of her detective father. The series lasted for three seasons, but fan support was so high that creator Rob Thomas made a popular “Veronica Mars” movie in 2014 after successfully launching a Kickstarter fund.


  • #47. Broadchurch

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2013–2017

    Stars: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan

    U.K. audiences have long known David Tennant as Doctor Who. In “Broadchurch,” he plays Alec Hardy, a detective searching for a young boy’s murderers in a small town, and the ensuing fallout. The show ran for three seasons on ITV and an American version was developed for Fox called “Gracepoint,” which also starred Tennant, but only aired for one season.


  • #46. Banshee

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2013–2016

    Stars: Antony Starr, Ivana Milicevic, Ulrich Thomsen, Frankie Faison

    A few years back, Cinemax decided to rebrand itself as an action-packed network and the high-octane “Banshee” was part of that strategy. The show is about an ex-convict who shows up in a small Pennsylvania town after assuming the identity of the new sheriff, who was murdered in a bar fight before he could even start the job. With ex-Amish mafia bosses, Native American tribal issues, and a Ukrainian crime boss named Rabbit, this is anything but a typical crime show.


  • #45. Psych

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2006–2014

    Stars: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Corbin Bernsen

    James Roday stars as Shawn Spencer, a man with elevated observational skills and a photographic memory that allows him to pretend to have psychic abilities as he helps the Santa Barbara Police Department solve crimes. The show aired for eight seasons on USA, and earned a People’s Choice Award in 2014 for Favorite Cable TV Comedy.


  • #44. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2013–

    Stars: Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews

    The title of this police force comedy, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” refers to the actual precinct in the show, which follows in the footsteps of shows like “Barney Miller.” Audiences watch a group of wacky cops—and Andre Braugher’s Capt. Raymond Holt—solve crimes when they’re not cracking jokes. Andy Samberg stars as Detective Jake Peralta, but the series almost met its demise in May when Fox opted not to renew it, right before NBC swooped in and ordered another season.  


  • #43. Person of Interest

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2011–2016

    Stars: Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman, Michael Emerson

    CBS aired this high-tech artificial intelligence show for five seasons about a computer system that can identify crimes in progress, the man who invented the program (Michael Emerson), and the former Green Beret (Jim Caviezel) recruited to save the innocent people involved in the crimes. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan, who went on to create “Westworld” for HBO.


  • #42. 24

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2001–2010

    Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert

    National security is at the forefront of “24,” a show where terrorists are constantly trying to destroy the United States. Kiefer Sutherland plays Agent Jack Bauer, a member of the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit, who fights bad guys over the course of a 24-hour day—with one episode dealing with each hour. The show was a massive success, earning five Golden Globe and Emmy nominations as Best Drama Series, and winning an Emmy in 2006.


  • #41. Homeland

    IMDb rating: 8.4

    Years running: 2011–

    Stars: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis, Rupert Friend

    Based on an Israeli series, “Homeland” began as a show about a prisoner-of-war sent back to America with the revelation that he may be a secret double agent. In subsequent seasons, the show focused exclusively on Claire Danes’ character, Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with bipolar disorder, as she uncovers secret plots and tries to save the nation through covert missions. Danes, as well as the show itself, has been nominated for a large number of awards.


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