10 Of The Longest Running Crime Dramas On TV, Ranked By Duration


Crime dramas are full of riveting mystery cases and, oftentimes, murder. There are plenty of popular crime dramas on television and streaming platforms that have audiences glued to the small screen. But there are certain shows that are well-known for being on air the longest for many years.

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While Law & Order: SVU is often talked about for being one of the longest-running crime dramas, it’s not necessarily the top contender. There are shows that got their start much earlier on and only recently came to an end. This genre of television has the ability to keep viewers enthralled and develop a vast amount of episode subject matter.

10 Criminal Minds (2005-2020)

Matthew Gray Gubler as Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds

Fans of the acclaimed crime drama wept as the show finally came to an end in 2020. The police procedure show enticed fans as it revolved around a team of criminal profilers at the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. When they need help profiling some of the worst criminals in the hope to capture them before they strike again, the team is called in to help.

The show first premiered in 2005 and over 15 years developed and created a total of 15 seasons. The show filmed a whopping 324 episodes. Fans fell in love with its main characters and were sad to see the crime drama make its final run. But this doesn’t mean fans won’t rewatch and binge when needed.

9 NCIS (2003-Present)

Mark Harmon as Jethro Gibbs and Pauley Perrette as Abby Sciuto in NCIS

Making a calculation on how long NCIS has been on television up until the current year, it’s been a total of 17 years. Over time some main actors have left and been replaced, but there are still the dedicated few that keep the show popular. What made NCIS unique when it first premiered back in 2003, was its overall premise.

Unlike other crime procedure shows, NCIS was a spinoff of J.A.G. It has a very specific focus on crimes committed in the Navy. Hence the show and investigative teams name, NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The show was a success. So much so that it even inspired the development of spin-offs.

8 Heartbeat (1992-2010)

William Simons as Alf Ventress in Heartbeat

American crime dramas aren’t the only ones with a history of creating the longest-running shows. Fans of British series might recall the police drama, Heartbeat. The show ended in 2010 after 18 seasons. It premiered in 1992 making its run 18 years total. The show is based on a series of novels written by an ex-police officer under the pseudonym, Nicholas Rhea.

That’s exactly what made the show so intriguing and worth continuing all those years. An actual police officer with experience writing crime stories tied with love interests and the main character’s personal lives. The show revolved around the local constabulary patrol of the town of Ashfordly in Yorkshire.

7 Law & Order (1990-2010)

Jerry Orbach as Lennie Briscoe in Law & order

The beloved show Law & Order doesn’t rank as high as many would have thought. The first show created by Dick Wolf became a sensation on television and one of the most acclaimed crime dramas to date. Set in the concrete jungle that is New York City, the show revolved around detectives trying to uncover the truth and seek justice.

RELATED: Law & Order: The 10 Worst Crimes Committed In The Whole Franchise

The show started in 1990 and went on for 20 years and had dedicated fans all throughout. The show finished at 20 seasons with 456 episodes in its time on television. Fans got hooked on the show often using real-life cases as a base for their storylines.

6 Law & Order: SVU (1999-Present)

Christopher Meloni, Christopher Meloni and ICE-T in Law & Order SVU

Law & Order: SVU became Dick Wolfs’ second installment in the franchise and grew more popular than its parent series. The show has been tagged with being one of the longest-running American crime procedure shows to air along with its longest-running character, Benson, played by Mariska Hargitay.

Since its start in 1999, the show has fans hooked with every episode over the past 21 years. The show is praised not only for its main characters but for the riveting crime-filled storylines. The episodes are often referred to as having been “ripped from the headlines” as the dedicated team at the Special Victims Unit brings justice to those who need a voice.

5 Midsomer Murders (1997-Present)

John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders surpasses Law & Order: SVU by only a few short years. The British crime drama first aired in 1997 and has been going strong ever since for the past 23 years. This show is an adaptation of popular novels in the Chief Inspector Barnaby book series created by Caroline Graham.

Much like other shows in the genre, Midsomer Murders focuses on various murder cases that take place in a fictional English county called Midsomer. What sets the show apart from others is its use of dark and witty humor. Many fans also enjoy the show’s soundtrack.

4 Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989-2013)

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's Poirot

Agatha Christie’s Poirot was on air for 24 years but it only generated 70 episodes total over 13 seasons. The show was based on the sixty-six detective novels and short stories written by English writer Agatha Christie. A majority of stories revolved around the detective character, Hercule Poirot. The character was played by actor David Suchet.

The show appealed to many audiences as Poirot travels the world to solve some of the most difficult cases. He often solves murder cases with very little evidence and used his knowledge and aid of his sidekicks to find clues.

3 Silent Witness (1996-Present)

Emilia Fox as Dr. Nikki Alexander in Silent Murders

British crime dramas are taking the lead in having the longest-running series. Silent Witness premiered in 1996 and has created 23 seasons and 208 episodes and hasn’t seen an end yet. This show focuses on a team of forensic pathologists who determine the cause of death by examining the corpse.

RELATED: 10 British Crime And Mystery Shows To Watch If You Liked The Stranger

A cool fact about the show was that it was created by a former murder squad detective from Nottingham. The creator even based one of the characters on a pathologist he knew in his career. The show had a main character up until the eighth season and they continued to include an ensemble cast with some regulars.

2 Taggart (1983-2010)

Mark McManus as Detective Taggart in Taggart show

This series isn’t American or British but instead Scottish. Taggart comes in second on the list with having been on the air for 27 years starting in 1983. The show first started out as a miniseries titled “Killer.” The show was later commissioned for a full series based around a group of detectives.

The show’s storyline operated out of the John Street police station and starred actor Mark McManus as the central character of Jim Taggart. In 1994, McManus passed away while filming but the show continued under the same name and later, and episode explained the character’s absence.

1 Columbo (1989-2003)

Peter Falk as detective Columbo in Columbo show

Columbo takes the cake for being the longest-running crime drama but its reasoning isn’t what people would expect. The show is highly regarded for its main character, homicide detective Columbo (Peter Falk). Unlike the other shows in the list, Columbo only created a total of 60 episodes in 10 seasons.

The show debuted its first two pilot episodes in 1968 and 1971 before becoming a series in 1971 up until 1978. But from 1989 until 2003, Columbo wasn’t a regularly airing show. This is the reasoning behind why it’s the longest-running show despite it not having produced a vast amount of episodes. Episodes were spaced out to only air a couple of times a month or every certain month.

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Updated: November 22, 2020 — 3:00 am

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