Many inspectors in television shows are portrayed as bumbling fools whose sole purpose is to make the lead detective look better, such as Inspector Lestrade from Sherlock, or Inspector Japp from Poirot. However, some inspectors are genuinely badass and have many shining moments to themselves, from hunting down criminals to extracting clues from suspects via unconventional but brilliant methods.
Some may be more outwardly badass than others and vary in personality, but these inspectors share one common trait: determination to see the case through to the end.
10 Jonathan Brown (Inspector Gadget)
Inspector Gadget is a cyborg with thousands of gadgets installed in his body, from rollerskates to rubber ducks to springs that enable him to walk over cars and buildings. He might not be the most badass inspector, or even the most intelligent, but he is loveable, caring, and loyal, qualities that a lot of television detectives do not possess.
Gadget usually saves the day (even when he doesn’t mean to) and is dedicated to his job and family. His real name, Jonathan Brown, was revealed in the live-action Inspector Gadget film starring Matthew Broderick.
9 Inspector Spacetime (Community)
Abed Nadir’s favorite show in Community, Inspector Spacetime is a parody of Doctor Who that sees the titular hero traveling the universe in his phonebooth spaceship and battling aliens such as the Blorgons, a Dalek-like enemy. Abed often dresses up as the Inspector, with Troy Barnes cosplaying the Inspector’s loyal sidekick, Constable Reggie.
Often making puns based on time and/or space, Inspector Spacetime has entire conventions dedicated to the show and is the driving force behind some of Troy and Abed’s best moments in Community, such as their argument during the Great Pillow Fight.
8 Sarah Lund (The Killing)
This Danish police drama follows Detective Inspector Sarah Lund (“Linden” in the American remake) as she and her team solve a murder case, each episode detailing 24 hours of the case. The Killing was so popular it inspired a David Lynchian American remake.
Lund has built up defense mechanisms against pain in her life and the seriousness of her job, often manifesting in abandonment issues or running away from things that affect her. However, despite her want to have a normal pain-free life, her compulsion to do what is right and solve the case is her main priority, and she will see the case through to the end.
7 Inspector Goole (An Inspector Calls)
Originally a play about an upper-class family embroiled in a young girl’s murder, An Inspector Calls has been adapted into multiple films and television series. In the story, Inspector Goole visits the family and questions them about the girl’s death, creating a list of suspects.
Goole is dutiful and determined to solve the case, though his main motivation is to interrogate the family and expose each person’s involvement in the girl’s life, showing them aspects of themselves and how they each contributed to the death of the girl. Goole has a sharp intellect and represents the family’s deep insecurity and guilt about their involvement in the murder.
6 Vera Stanhope (Vera)
This British crime series follows retired Detective Chief Inspector Stanhope as she helps a fictional police service solve crimes and murders. Stanhope is obsessive over her work and has a short temper, but appears kindly towards victims’ families and uses her high intelligence to uncover details of the case.
Stanhope nails the truth of matters through her mask of friendliness, using her personal skills to uncover secrets that suspects may be hiding.
5 Javert (Les Misérables)
The many television, theatre, and film adaptations of this French novel all have one thing in common: the steadfast and strictly moral Inspector Javert. Les Misérables sees Javert follows escaped convict Jean Valjean to bring him to justice and is deeply conflicted between following the law to the letter and sparing Valjean after he saves Javert’s life.
Javert is relentless in Les Misérables, never giving up on his need to capture Valjean, and even when his morals are compromised by seeing the good in the criminal, he is tormented over his changing worldview.
4 Steve Arnott (Line Of Duty)
After discovering that his police team is corrupt, detective Steve Arnott is determined to expose the truth and is transferred to an anti-corruption unit to work with fellow detective Kate Fleming, uncovering corruption in the police service.
There are some incredible characters in Line of Duty, but Arnott is exceptional as he doggedly hunts down leads, debating against his own colleagues to get the job done. Although his career would have been ruined, should he expose the corruption in his team, Arnott is dutiful and follows procedure to expose the truth. Arnott is promoted to Detective Inspector late in the series.
3 Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect)
Based in the fictional Southampton Row police station, Tennison is the first female Detective Chief Inspector in the Greater London Metropolitan Police Service. Portrayed by Dame Helen Mirren, Tennison is completely no-nonsense, uncompromising, and does not put up with misbehavior or sexism within the police service.
The series follows Tennison’s struggles as she solves cases and works to prove herself in a male-dominated environment. She is determined to reach the heights of her career and is unflinching when challenged.
2 Alec Hardy (Broadchurch)
In Broadchurch, Controversial Detective Inspector Hardy is assigned to investigate the murder of a young boy, teaming up with Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller to bring the killer to justice. The series has received critical acclaim, especially for the performances of David Tennant and Olivia Colman in the lead roles.
Hardy faced scandal in his career and was sent to the town of Broadchurch, where he and Miller often butt heads, but as a team, they bring out the best in each other and work together, even if they do not always see eye to eye. Hardy is sharply intelligent but lacks social skills, much like other famous detectives.
1 John Luther (Luther)
DCI Luther is a murder detective that is extremely dedicated to his work, often becoming violent in his pursuit to solve serious crimes. Luther’s intellect enables him to solve clues with detail and speed. However, his methods are unpredictable and he often goes against the rules to get the job done.
Luther hates firearms and refuses to kill suspects, but is not above illegal methods, such as breaking and entering, to serve his bottom line. In an interview with Radio Times (via Digital Spy), Luther actor Idris Elba describes Luther as “vindictive,” not following procedure but always hunting criminals with obsessive determination.
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