10 Best Movie Detectives, Ranked


Moviegoers have always enjoyed watching detective films as a guilty pleasure since they may practice their sleuthing abilities while also experiencing the thrills together with the characters. Without the detective to guide viewers on the journey of discovering the truth and give the movie a sense of either morality or moral ambiguity, a good detective movie cannot work.

So, when it comes to movie detectives, many names pop into the minds of moviegoers. Some movie detectives are better than others, and some aren’t even traditional detectives but manage to fulfill the detective role exceptionally well. Therefore, in this article, we will assess and rank these 10 renowned on-screen detectives based on their impact on the screen, and proficiency in performing their investigative roles.

10 Jake Gittes

‘Chinatown’ (1974)

Roman Polanski’s Chinatown follows Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a private detective, who is hired to catch an adulterer, however, he ends up getting entangled in a web of lies, corruption, and murder. Chinatown is an undisputed masterpiece and is regarded as one of the finest murder mystery movies of all time with 11 Oscar nominations.

While Gittes is undoubtedly a capable investigator, Chinatown delves into the complexities of power, greed, and deception, suggesting that even the most skilled detective may find it challenging to navigate the intricate and morally ambiguous world in which he operates. Gittes is an endearingly imperfect human who makes mistakes and gets in over his head. Despite all of his shortcomings, Gittes is still a decent and caring detective who will do all it takes to get the truth.


Release Date
June 20, 1974

Roman Polanski



Watch on Paramount+

9 Rick Deckard

‘Blade Runner’ (1982)

Rick Deckard

Blade Runner takes place in a dystopian Los Angeles of 2019, where the powerful Tyrell Corporation has created replicants, or synthetic humans, to labor in space colonies. The film follows a burnt-out cop, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) grudgingly agrees to track down a fugitive crew of advanced replicants as they flee back to Earth.

Despite a decaying world and a dreadful profession along with his both cool and somewhat defeated look, Detective Deckard still manages to care, perhaps more deeply than his own kind. Instead of being a one-sided detective, Deckard is portrayed as a skilled and resourceful detective, but his emotional and moral struggles with the nature of his work add depth to the character. Also, what makes him so intriguing is the internal conflict he was experiencing over his identity and the need to complete his work.

Blade Runner

Release Date
June 25, 1982


117 minutes

Rent on Amazon

8 Harry Callahan

‘Dirty Harry’ (1971)

Harry Callahan

Dirty Harry is set in San Francisco in 1971 during the time when the “Scorpio Killer” terrorizes the city by shooting defenseless people and extorting money via notes left at the crime scene. Clint Eastwood‘s Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan is tasked with solving the case.

Because of Inspector Callahan’s fame, the obscene moniker “Dirty Harry” has come to symbolize a merciless police officer. “Dirty” Harry is motivated to defend and exact revenge for those who have been the victims of violent acts, frequently by employing force with his signature.44 Magnum six-shooter. When it comes to how well Harry does his job, it depends on one’s perspective. Callahan is highly effective in apprehending and dealing with criminals, but his methods often involve bending or breaking the rules. While he is successful in achieving results, the films raise ethical questions about the limits of police authority and the potential consequences of a “vigilante” approach to law enforcement.

Dirty Harry

Release Date
July 14, 1971

Don Siegel

Clint Eastwood , Harry Guardino , Reni Santoni , John Vernon , Andrew Robinson , John Larch



Rent on Amazon

7 Clarice Starling

‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)

Clarice Starling

The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological horror film adapted from Thomas Harris‘s 1988 novel of the same name. The film follows a young FBI trainee named Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) who is searching for a serial killer with the help of another imprisoned psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins).

Agent Starling, who isn’t a detective in the traditional sense, still succeeds in utilizing her investigative skills to not only get information from Lecter but also to recognize and follow the evidence trail that leads her to the killer. Aside from the fact that she is a woman, her courage, perseverance, and wit set her apart from her male counterparts and make her a cool detective. Moreover, Starling is portrayed as a skilled and determined investigator. Her success in solving cases is often attributed to her keen observational skills, empathy, and commitment to justice.

Watch on Max

6 David Mills and William Somerset

‘Se7en’ (1995)

David Mills and William Somerset

David Fincher’s Se7en follows a disillusioned investigator William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), who is close to retirement, and his new colleague, recently transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt), as they work to catch a serial killer before he can complete a string of killings based on the seven deadly sins.

The tension-filled pursuit of an Old Testament-inspired serial killer and the conflicted chemistry between the two detectives are what make the movie and this duo legendary. They each have different personalities, but when they work together, they become two halves of the same story that improve both the picture and each other. Somerset’s a thoughtful and reflective investigator who has seen the darker side of humanity throughout his career while Mills is passionate and eager to make a difference, often contrasting with Somerset’s more reserved demeanor. The nature of their investigation in Se7en is particularly challenging, however, with their dynamic and great teamwork, they deserve their spot on this list.


Release Date
September 22, 1995

Brad Pitt , Morgan Freeman , gwyneth paltrow , R. Lee Ermey , Daniel Zacapa , andrew kevin walker


127 minutes

Rent on Apple TV

5 Philip Marlowe

‘The Big Sleep’ (1946)

Philip Marlowe

Based on the 1939 novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler, Howard Hawks‘s The Big Sleep follows private detective, Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) who is hired by a wealthy family to help resolve their daughter’s gambling issues. However, things aren’t easy as Marlowe has witnessed murders and extortion before he can close the case.

Underneath the sarcastic, intoxicated, and tough exterior, Marlowe is subdued, reflective, and philosophical, which makes him a very interesting character. He is not hesitant to put himself in danger, yet he does not use force to make amends. He is morally decent and not readily deceived by the typical femme fatales of the genre. Marlowe is also a skilled investigator with a keen eye for detail, a sharp intellect, and a knack for getting to the bottom of tough cases. He is also known for his unyielding sense of honor and integrity, which sometimes puts him at odds with the morally compromised world he operates in.

Rent on Apple TV

4 Loki

‘Prisoners’ (2013)


Prisoners revolves around the kidnapping of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the accompanying police search for the alleged kidnapper. Jake Gyllenhaal masterfully plays Detective Loki, the assigned police officer on the case. As Loki investigates, he arrests a suspect, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but due to a lack of evidence, Jones is released. The father of one of the daughters takes matters into his own hands as he kidnaps Alex and holds him captive.

In addition to his dusty appearance with neat black hair and a neck tattoo, Loki is an extremely compassionate, tenacious, and driven detective who emotionally participates in the investigation and the victim’s family, which makes him excellent at his profession and doesn’t give up when the case hits dead ends. Moreover, his commitment to solving the case is evident in his thorough examination of evidence, interviews with witnesses, and pursuit of leads.


Release Date
September 18, 2013

Denis Villeneuve



Watch on Netflix

3 Hercule Poirot

‘Death on the Nile’ (2021)

Hercule Poirot-1

Death on the Nile is based on Agatha Christie‘s 1937 novel of the same name that continues to follow the adventure of the Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). The film centers on a beautiful honeymoon of a picture-perfect couple which is brutally cut short after the wife was mysteriously shot dead.

Branagh is the fifth actor to play Poirot, although they all exhibit the unique qualities and skills that are associated with the character as depicted in Christie’s novels. Additionally, even though Poirot is a morally and intellectually superior man, he has a highly likable personality and great sympathy toward his subjects. He is also overly self-conscious, especially about his mustache, which frequently makes him stand out. In addition, his sharp mind allows him to solve complex cases that baffle others, making him a very kind and effective detective.

Death on the Nile

Release Date
February 9, 2022



Watch on Hulu

2 Benoit Blanc

‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ (2022)

Benoit Blanc

Daniel Craig returns to his role as detective Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion after the success of the 2019 Knives Out. Glass Onion starts when the tech billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites his friends on vacation on a private Greek island, and as soon as a body is discovered, Detective Blanc takes on his new case.

The last time fans met Det. Blanc, he appears to be a calm, self-assured, and slightly eccentric man as he conducts his interviews with the victim’s family members and searches for the truth. Also, Blanc is gentler to his subjects than most of his counterparts of this archetype, despite being cunning, aggressive, and sarcastic sometimes. He navigates the intricate web of family relationships and secrets surrounding the murder, employing a mix of traditional detective work and unconventional methods. Moreover, Blanc proves to be highly effective in his work. His ability to unravel the complex mystery and deduce the truth showcases his proficiency as a detective.

Watch on Netlfix

1 Sherlock Holmes

‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009)

Sherlock Holmes

The most well-known investigator in the field is Sherlock Holmes, who in many ways established the very definition of a detective. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes follows the titular character as he is hired by a secret society in 1890 to thwart a mysticist’s scheme to seize control of Britain via ostensibly magical powers.

There are many different depictions of Holmes on the big screen, but Robert Downey Jr.‘s is distinctive. Regardless of which version, each actor who portrays Holmes on screen captures his skills at solving crimes through reason and keen observation as well as displaying both his quirkiness and his immense ego which make him an admirable and effective detective. Holmes’ methods involve careful observation of details, logical reasoning, and an encyclopedic knowledge of various subjects that might aid in his investigations. His ability to deduce information from seemingly trivial details and his knack for solving complex cases have made him a legendary figure in detective fiction as well as making him worthy of his position on this list.

Rent on Amazon

NEXT: The Best Film Noirs of All Time


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *