Often a law unto themselves, these big and small screen detectives have, for various reasons (some valid, others probably not so much), elbowed their way onto our top 9. Take a look and see if you agree…
1. Mulder & Scully
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully, as the truly awful Catatonia song goes. “Spooky” Mulder and his sceptic sidekick Scully chugged through the FBI’s back catalogue of the unexplained, otherwise known as the X Files; solving bizarre cases from spontaneous human combustion to the 100 year old dude who ate livers and could squeeze through an air vent. Oh and they also uncovered a few government conspiracies involving alien invasions, cloning and a cigarette-smoking man. All in a day’s work for our favourite 90s duo.
Billed as “part man, part machine, all cop”, Robocop is all that’s left after the brutal murder of police officer Alex Murphy, who is then resurrected as some kind of violent RoboJesus by soulless megacorporation Omni Consumer Products. Literally just a brain and face in a robot body, Robocop cleans up a crime-ridden future Detroit of corruption, ne’er-do-wells and ultimately OCP itself, all while coming to terms with the existential quandary of human identity. Woah, that’s deep man.
3. Axel Foley
Eddie Murphy hit the big time in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, playing a foul-mouthed, streetwise Detroit cop who finds himself pursuing a murder investigation in snooty Beverly Hills. It’s a classic fish-out-of-water tale, with Foley’s unorthodox policing methods bagging the bad guys while his play-it-by-the-book colleagues blunder alongside. Also started the whole banana in the car exhaust thing. Wait, that isn’t a thing?
4. Sherlock Holmes
The game is afoot, dear Watson. Fiendishly calculating and analytical, maybe mildly autistic by current-day standards, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street was Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest opium-addled creation. Now to the real conundrum: Robert Downey Jr or Benedict Cumberbatch? Whichever one gets your vote as the best imitator of the greatest crime-solving genius the world has ever known, Sherlock Holmes is a top player for the title of best-ever detective. If that was an award. But it isn’t. We checked.
5. Jessica Fletcher
Ah, dear old crime-writing novelist Jessica Fletcher of the classic 80s TV show Murder, She Wrote. Beloved native of Cabot Cove and presumably a mammoth annoyance to local Sheriff Amos Tupper; wherever there was a body, amateur sleuth Jessica wasn’t far behind.
6. Mr Orange
Mr Orange (played by the uber-cool Tim Roth back in his heyday) was the undercover cop in cult smash Reservoir Dogs, which propelled director Quentin Tarantino to worldwide notoriety. The film is probably best known for the scene where Mr Blonde slices off a kidnapped policeman’s ear while getting his groove on to K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies; but Mr Orange isn’t outdone in the gore-fest stakes, dying in a particularly bloody way after getting shot in the failed bank heist. He was so ice-cold that Mr White refused to believe he was behind the setup, leading to a Mexican stand-off towards the end of the film. Maybe not one to watch with nana.
7. The Scooby Gang
And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids! Oh, that classic refrain from childhood days of yore (mine at least, probably not yours). Scooby Doo and his two-legged friends travelled the world in their hippie-styled Mystery Machine, solving hauntings, yetis on the loose and god knows what else. And who knew the ghost was the caretaker all along? The psychedelic Scooby gang solved more mysteries than any other detective, ever. TRUE FACT.
8. Miss Marple
Think of Agatha Christie and well-groomed dandy Hercule Poirot is probably the first character that comes to mind, but it’s the author’s nosy old spinster who takes a spot here. Miss Marple’s sleuthing strength lay in her ability to dupe murderous locals with her sweet, harmless old grandma act. In between knitting and eating crumpets and jam with her gossipy neighbours, Marple was a crime-fighting badass who uncovered murder, incest and deceit in every quaint English village she took the train to, and packed the perps straight off to the hangman. She would’ve sent Poirot running for the hills, fo’ sho’.
9. Inspector Gadget
Go, Gadget, go! The bumbling cartoon detective was a cross between Inspector Clouseau and Robocop, but not even his go-go-gadget arms could compensate for his sheer incompetence. If it wasn’t for his niece Penny (who had a book that was a computer – the stuff of dreams for an entire generation of kids) and his dog Brain, Gadget would’ve long been dinner for his cat-loving nemesis Doctor Claw. Yes, he was a lousy detective, but the theme tune rocked, so here he is. Da da da dada Inspector Gadget da da da dada woohoo.
So there you go. The 9 greatest detectives of all time. And before anyone puts in an official complaint, no Batman’s not on the list, and yes we know he calls himself “the world’s greatest detective”, but Ben Affleck has ruined the whole franchise, so blame him. (Although George Clooney and Val Kilmer didn’t help to be honest.)
Do you fancy becoming a real-life detective and joining the ranks of sleuthing stardom? Take a look at our Policing degree course at CU Coventry, CU London and CU Scarborough and get your crime-fighting career started.