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Top 10 British TV Detectives

VO: Ashley Bowman
Written by Kimberley Payne They spot the clues, and solve the case. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 British TV Detectives. For this list we’re ranking TV detectives from the UK, as well as those whose shows are made primarily for British audiences. Today’s entries do not necessarily have to hold the title of ‘detective’, but they should be well-known for detecting crime, and catching criminals. So, grab a sidekick and get your magnifying glass. The game is on. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British TV Detectives


They spot the clues, and solve the case. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 British TV Detectives.

For this list we’re ranking TV detectives from the UK, as well as those whose shows are made primarily for British audiences. Today’s entries do not necessarily have to hold the title of ‘detective’, but they should be well-known for detecting crime, and catching criminals. So, grab a sidekick and get your magnifying glass. The game is on.

#10: Jonathan Creek
“Jonathan Creek” (1997-)

A guy with a gift for solving puzzles, Creek’s other job sees him design tricks for magicians. So, when he meets Maddy, an investigative journalist, they team up to put his talent to good use by tackling many a mystery. Jonathan starts off a shy and reclusive chap, and in many ways Maddy’s opposite. But she soon gets him out of his shell, striding through crime scenes in his signature duffle coat.

#9: Jim Taggart
“Taggart” (1985-2010)

Set in Glasgow, “Taggart” was one of Britain’s longest running crime dramas. Having worked his way through the ranks, DCI Jim Taggart was straight outta the old school. A tough, no-nonsense investigator who often clashed with younger members of his force, he always got results. Jim was played by Mark McManus until the actor’s death in 1994, while “Taggart” is still remembered for his well-rounded cries of ‘murder’; a go to line for any attempt on a Scottish accent.

#8: Miss Marple
“Miss Marple” (1984-92)

She’s one of Agatha Christie’s most famous characters, consistently adapted for film and TV since she was created in 1927. Joan Hickson played Marple for a BBC series starting in the ‘80s, and made the character her own. A sweet old lady who doubles up as a consulting detective for the St Mary Mead Police, it’s impossible not to love her. An unassuming figure who cracks cases with sheer intelligence, the cops would be lost without her.

#7: Tom Barnaby
“Midsomer Murders” (1997-)

DCI for the county of Midsomer, you might think it’d be easy for John Nettles’ Barnaby to police a rural community. But you’d be wrong. Throughout his thirteen-series run, he encountered an unprecedented murder rate, and solved them all. A TV crime classic, “Midsomer Murders” established Tom Barnaby as one of the country’s favourite detectives - if only for his knack of maintaining a sense of calm, when victims are dropping like flies around him. His cousin took the lead from series 14[1], but Tom’s a truly tough act to follow.

#6: John Luther
“Luther” (2010-)

Playing on the flawed-but-brilliant stereotype, DCI John Luther is about as badass as they come. After the breakdown of his marriage, he’s is determined to prove himself. As such, he’s devoted to his job but becomes obsessive over cases, often letting his emotions get the better of him. Played by Idris Elba, Luther’s less admirable traits are especially evident thanks to an unconventional relationship with the genius psychopath, Alice Morgan. An unorthodox operator, this is a bloke you do not want to cross.

#5: Hercule Poirot
“Agatha Christie’s Poirot”(1989-2013)

Another Agatha Christie creation, Poirot is probably one of the most famous detectives in the world. There have been many adaptations of the original novels, but David Suchet’s incarnation makes today’s top five. A prim and proper character with pristine suits, a meticulous moustache and a thick Belgian accent, he’s less hands-on than some, instead using supreme logic to solve the mystery. A brains over brawn master, and as charming as they come, nothing gets past this guy.

#4: Jack Regan
“The Sweeney” (1975-78)

A 1970s drama which focuses on the London Met Flying Squad, whose job it is to investigate violent crime and robbery, “The Sweeney” is led by Detective Inspector Jack Regan, played by John Thaw. A standard bearer for TV detective tropes, he’s a smoker, a heavy drinker, and he doesn’t play by the rules. He’ll even break the law himself to get the outcome he wants. Regan still has pretty strong morals, however. He’s a tough officer with a quick temper, but loyal to his squad all the same.

#3: Ellie Miller
“Broadchurch” (2013-17)

Playing good cop to Alec Hardy’s bad, Ellie Miller proved a stand-out character in ITV’s hugely popular “Broadchurch”. She’s local to the west-country community, where the Police typically have little to do, and she has the trust and friendship of almost everyone around her. But everything changes upon the death of her son’s best friend, Danny Latimer. Ellie tries to remain positive, but as the case unfolds, more and more of her friends fall under suspicion. Still, she’s damn good at her job.

#2: Endeavour Morse
“Inspector Morse” (1987-2000)

A series so popular it spawned two spinoffs, John Thaw again takes the lead role, only this time his character is a little older, and a little more sophisticated. A middle-class gent with a fondness for ale, Morse (with his partner, Lewis) seems to solve any crime thrown his way, no matter how impossible the task may seem. He successfully deduced his way through seven series, plus five further annual specials, continually raising the bar for British TV detectives everywhere.

Before we reveal our number one pick, here are some honourable mentions.

Jack Frost

Gene Hunt

Vera Stanhope

#1: Sherlock Holmes
“Sherlock” (2010-)

Did you guess? The embodiment of the classic British detective who has influenced so many other characters, Sherlock is an unparalleled investigator. And Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal is perfect. Casting the character into the contemporary world, BBC’s “Sherlock” sees Cumberbatch work as a consulting detective for the London Police, aided by the war vet., Watson. At times he seems a burden, and all but impossible to work with, but nothing trumps the Mind Palace. Not even Sherlock’s enigmatic rival, Moriarty. He’s very high-functioning, and he takes the win.
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