Who doesn’t love a good detective show? It seems that since their inception a few decades ago, they have remained popular despite the ever-changing tide of content, audience tastes, and technology. A great mystery is enough to capture many imaginations and the 70s and 80s are time periods that are well known for their sleuth serials.
Despite the plethora of great options from this period, it can often be difficult to watch them today. Here we will be breaking down the best 70s and 80s detective shows and where to stream them.
Related: 8 Best 80s Movies And Where To Stream Them
Release year: 1971
Perhaps one of the most iconic fictional detectives of all time, Columbo follows the titular investigator as he is called out to solve high profile murder cases. The great thing about Columbo is that it often seemed like the culprits were going to get away with the crimes, until the detective smugly pieces the crime together in a spectacular final monologue. This is where his well-known trademark phrase “just one more thing…” comes into play. Carried by a charismatic performance by Peter Falk, Columbo holds up well to this day.
You can stream 7 seasons of Columbo via FreeVee on Prime Video, 6 seasons on Now TV or 3 seasons on Sky Go.
Starsky & Hutch
Release year: 1975
Featuring an incredibly iconic red and white Ford Gran Torino, Starsky & Hutch is one of the finest detective TV shows of the 1970s. What made this show so charming was the character dynamic of the more streetwise David Starsky and his more intellectual partner Kenneth Hutchinson. Add in an eccentric police informant by the name of Huggy Bear and you have a recipe for a fantastic show. Watching the pair patrol the fictional location of Bay City in their Gran Torino is a delight even today.
This one is a little more difficult to find on streaming services but all four seasons of the original show are available to stream on Pluto TV.
Release year: 1973
Kojak starred a charismatic and cartoonish lead character by the name of Theo Kojak. As a detective in New York City, Kojak would often bend the rules to solve a case. With his distinctive bald head and fedora, he would always be sucking on a lollipop and coming out with memorable quips. Such catchphrases include “Who loves ya baby?” and “Cootchie-coo”. Telly Savalas wonderfully brings the character to life and the two share a Greek American heritage which is central to many of the show’s themes, plots, and conversations.
While there were five seasons of the original show, only three of them are available to stream via Prime Video.
The Rockford Files
Release year: 1974
Taking a slightly different approach, The Rockford Files follows a private investigator by the name of Jim Rockford, who is actually an ex-convict. He was sentenced for a crime that he did not commit and after his release, he operates his private detective service out of his mobile home. Seeing the main character struggling through his cases alongside his other ex-con friends is a breath of fresh air for the detective genre.
It is not available on the bigger streaming platforms but you can find The Rockford Files available to stream on the Roku channel.
Release year: 1984
Miami Vice is one of the most iconic detective shows of all time, following two detectives working undercover in the Florida city. With some stylish visuals, set design, costume and cutting edge music, Miami Vice blew viewers away when it first aired. Famously, it was adapted into a movie by director Michael Mann in 2006, which goes to show the influence that Miami Vice had. For a series that fully embodies the best 70s and 80s detective shows, look no further than Miami Vice.
The show is available to stream via FreeVee on Prime Video.
Release year: 1980
Even though there is a remake which is currently airing, nothing beats the original Magnum, P.I. This 80s detective show starred the legendary Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, who is a private investigator on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. In a lush setting, Magnum is a laid-back and cool detective who takes on cases when it suits him from within his luxurious life. The tagline for the show says it all when it calls Thomas Magnum a ‘wisecracking, fun-loving, freeloading, freelance private eye.’
You can stream Magnum, P.I. via FreeVee on Prime Video.
Release year: 1976
Going back to the 70s for a second, there is the iconic Charlie’s Angels. This show follows three women working as a team of private detectives in Los Angeles. The angels, played by Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith are given crimes to solve by their unseen boss ‘Charlie Townsend’. There were a few casting changes over the years, but it always remained fun to watch despite some silliness.
You can stream the first two seasons of the show, which are definitely the best ones, via Pluto TV.
Cagney & Lacey
Release year: 1981
For another female-led option, there is always Cagney & Lacey. This show centers around the two New York City detectives Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) and Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly). The two are very different, which gives them an interesting dynamic. Whereas Cagney is a single woman all about her career, Lacey is a devoted mother working to pay the bills.
Cagney & Lacey is available to stream via FreeVee on Prime Video.