Best 70S And 80S Detective Shows
Credit: Kelly Sikkema via

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.

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20. Charlie’s Angels, Tubi and Prime Video (1976-1981)

Charlie'S Angels (1976) Tv Show

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. 

IMDb score – 5/10

19. Cagney & Lacey, Pluto TV and Prime Video (1981-1988)

Cagney &Amp; Lacey (1981) Tv Show

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. 

IMDb score – 6.8/10

18. McCloud, Prime Video (1970-1977)

Best 70S And 80S Detective Shows; Mccloud

In McCloud travel to another portion of the United States for some detective work. In New Mexico, a deputy marshall gets assigned to Manhattan’s 27th Precinct, and must solve all sorts of crimes in this exciting show.

IMDb score – 6.9/10

17. Simon & Simon, NBC (1981-1989)

Simon And Simon Tv Show

Running a private detective agency in San Diego Simon & Simon follows brother Rick and A.J. (Andrew Jackson) who must balance their head-butting nature and completely opposite styles to solve crimes and bust the bad guys. They may have different pasts and carry different guns, but they will come together in the pursuit of crime-fighting.

IMDb score – 7/10

16. Starsky & Hutch, Fubo TV and Prime Video (1975-1979)

Starsky &Amp; Hutch Tv Show

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. 

IMDb score – 7/10

15. Kojak, Philo and Apple TV (1973-1978)

Kojak Tv Show

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. 

IMDb score – 7.1/10

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14. Murder, She Wrote, Peacock and Prime Video (1984-1996)

Murder, Show Wrote; Best 70S And 80S Detective Shows

Follow mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote which ran for twelve seasons in the 80s and 90s. Fletcher, a down-to-earth, middle-aged widow ferrets out criminals in idyllic Cabot Cove, Maine, which in the show is the “murder capitol” of the United States. While traveling, she also uncovers quite a bit of killers, yikes.

IMDb score – 7.2/10

13. McMillan & Wife, Prime Video (1971-1977)

Mcmillan And Wife

McMillan & Wife is a fun detective show centered around Stuart “Mac” McMillan, a former criminal defense attorney-turned police commissioner, and his wife Sally. While attending fashionable parties and charity benefits, the couple solves robberies and murders as a great dynamic duo, aided by their friends the commissioner’s aide and the maid.

IMDb score – 7.2/10

12. The Streets of San Francisco, Pluto TV (1972-1977)

The Streets Of San Francisco Tv Show

Traditional veteran cop Lt. Mike Stone gets partnered with Inspector Steve Keller, a young, inexperienced go-getter in The Streets of San Francisco. They enjoy a bantering relationship in the homicide division of the San Francisco Police Department, all while they hunt down the bad guys, while Stone teaches Keller the ropes on how to be a cop.

IMDb score – 7.3/10

11. Remington Steele, Prime Video and Apple TV (1982-1987)

Remington Steele Detective Show

If you want a fun twist on the detective story, check out Remington Steele when picking out another series to stream. In the show, Laura Holt gets no respect as a private investigator, so in order to gain more business she creates a fictitious boss named Remington Steele. The only problem is when a dashing and mysterious thief who assumes the Steele identity enters Holt’s life, and he happens to be really good as a P.I.

IMDb score – 7.3/10

10. Magnum, P.I., Prime Video and Philo (1980-1988)

Magnum P.i. (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.’

IMDb score – 7.5/10

9. Miami Vice, Prime Video and Tubi (1984-1989)

Miami Vice Tv Show (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. 

IMDb score – 7.5/10

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8. Moonlighting, Hulu (1985-1989)


Another female-led detective show highlighted in the best 70s and 80s detective shows is Moonlighting. After being cleaned out by her no-good manager Maddie Hayes is about to sell one of her few remaining assets, The Blue Moon Detective Agency. That is, until snarky employee David Addison talks her out of it, saving both his job and launching a new career for the model.

IMDb score – 7.6/10

7. The Equalizer, Prime Video and NBC (1985-1989)

The Equalizer; Best 70S And 80S Detective Shows

Not to be confused with the recent Equalizer movie series, the 1985 version of The Equalizer highlights Robert McCall, who is a retired secret agent. Getting disillusioned by the system of being a secret agent, he decides to put an ad in the paper marketing to desperate people in desperate situations, looking out for the little guy. Acting as both a bodyguard and investigator, “The Equalizer” usually manages to save the day.

IMDb score – 7.8/10

6. The Professionals, Pluto TV and Tubi (1977-1983)

The Professionals

If you want to watch a British crime-fighting show, check out The Professionals next time you stream a show. In the show, explore the secure corridors of Criminal Intelligence 5, a high-level British anti-crime unit. In the unit, George Cowley hands out tough assignments to his two top agents, William Andrew Philip Bodie, and Raymond Doyle, who strive to put all of the bad guys away.

IMDb score – 8/10

5. The Sweeney, Prime Video and Roku Channel (1975-1978)

The Sweeney Tv Show

In The Sweeney, Detective Inspector Jack Regan and Detective Sergeant George Carter fight violent crime on the streets of London as members of the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad. This is a great watch for any detective show lover.

IMDb score – 8.1/10

4. The Rockford Files, Philo and Roku Channel (1974-1980)

The Rockford Files Tv Show
Credit: Fred Sabine

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. 

IMDb score – 8.2/10

3. Crime Story, Peacock and Pluto TV (1986-1988)

Crime Story Tv Show

In Crime Story, it is 1960s Chicago, and Lt. Mike Torello and the members of his Major Crime Unit carry on a near-epic battle against organized crime figures in their city, such as Ray Luca. Fast-paced and thrilling, you will binge-watch this show in no time.

IMDb score – 8.3/10

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2. Ellery Queen, Prime Video (1975-1976)

Ellery Queen Detective Show

Ellery Queen is set in post-World War II New York City, revolving around author and amateur detective Ellery Queen, a bachelor who lives with his widowed father, Inspector Richard queen. Ellery solves cases while writing his latest book, usually with a little help from his father, and Inspector Queen’s right-hand-man Sergeant Velie.

IMDb score – 8.3/10

1. Columbo, Prime Video and Peacock (1971-1978) / Best 70s and 80s Detective Shows

Columbo Tv Show

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.

IMDb score – 8.3/10

What BBC detective series is set in the 70s?

Life on Mars (2008-2009) is a show about a present-day car accident that mysteriously sends a detective back to the 1970s, and he must figure out how to get back to the present time.

What detective series is based in Scotland?

Crime, also known as Irvine Welsh’s Crime, is a Scottish crime drama television series. It is an adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name and follows a detective as they try to solve crimes in the Scotland highlands.

What was the 70s comedy detective show?

Barney Miller was a 70s comedy detective show that changed dramatically during the course of its run, but the plot, setting, and basic cast remained the same. In the show, a detective squad at a precinct house in New York City solves crimes, all while often strange people from the community walk in and out of their door.

Even though there are tons of new crime shows coming out on live TV, there is something special about those old-time crime shows. If you want to explore where the genre started, or just rewatch those favorite shows, make sure to check out this list of the best 70s and 80s detective shows on your favorite streaming site.