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The Best Unconventional Detective TV Shows and Movies, Ranked
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The Best Unconventional Detective TV Shows and Movies, Ranked

Detectives have a very weird charm to them. They act like shape-shifters, putting themselves in dangerous scenarios to solve a puzzle, a puzzle of life and death. Despite the stereotypical image attached to them, some detectives do not actually wear broad rim hats and long coats; instead, they appear and act contrary to the image of a hard-boiled man, with inscrutable emotions. Some quirky detectives approach cases just as the approach life, with a degree of panache and wit. It’s these kinds of detectives that add creative fodder by laying the foundational rocks for an unconventional story, balancing the flavors of convention and peculiarity. Here are some of the most unconventional detective TV shows and movies, ranked.


11 The Wailing (2016)

20th Century Fox 

The Wailing is a dark film, seen through the eyes of a bimbo of a detective. The film’s plot walks in the middle of horror and thriller with added elements of occult practises and shamanism. The story follows a small village in South Korea, where the arrival of a mysterious stranger intertwines with a series of brutal murders. Responsible for the resolution of the case is detective Jong-Goo, a terribly ill-equipped, dim-witted, airhead of a man.

Related: 9 South Korean Movies That Will Disturb You For Days

10 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

A still from Once Upon A Time in Anatolia
Zeyno Film

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a delicate film that highlights the shared sensibility between the victim and the murdered. The film can be seen as a deep dive into the meaning of death across different walks of life. The plot unfolds slowly, when a local police commissar, a doctor and a prosecutor, search for the dead body of a victim along with a mentally challenged suspect who has confessed to the murder.

9 Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice
Warner Bros. Pictures

Riding off the success of his 2012 masterpiece, The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson collaborated with Joaquin Phoenix on Inherent Vice. The Neo-noir mystery comedy sees Phoenix play the role of Doc Sportello, a pot-smoking, dazed-out detective who’s investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend. The film intricately captures the hippie culture presiding over LA in the ’70s coating it with a nice layer of crime and mystery.

8 Cure (1997)

A scene from Cure
Daiei Film

Walking on a similar trajectory as The Wailing, Cure, is a Japanese psychological thriller film directed by the legendary Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Cure isn’t an easy film to watch or gauge, as it blurs the line between normal and supernatural. In terms of the story, the film revolves around detective Takabe, who investigates a series of murders that rock Tokyo. The only connection between the murders is an X sign carved on the victim’s neck along with the murderer being found near the victim, failing to remember anything about the crime.

7 Blade Runner (1982)

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner
Warner Bros.

Blade Runner tells the tale of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an ex-policeman, who later takes up a job of exterminating replicant robots who look identical to humans, having escaped to Earth in search of their creators.

6 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Sony Pictures Releasing

Based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, does not feature an out-and-out detective. Rather, it teams up a tainted journalist, along with a tech-savvy private investigator and presents to them a heinous crime that rocked one of Sweden’s most powerful families 40 years ago.

Related: Best Murder Mystery Movies Based on Books, Ranked

5 Mindhunter (2017)

Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter

Created by one of the greatest minds of film and television, David Fincher, Mindhunter dives deep into the psyche of crime and criminals. Rather than approaching crimes from the outside, the show, through FBI agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), explores the mind of the hunter, throwing light on their irks and itches.

4 Se7en (1995)

New Line Cinema

Another David Fincher film on the list is Se7en. The film’s plot revolves around a serial killer that murders people according to the seven deadly sins. On the case are two detectives; a young and enthusiastic David Mills (Brad Pitt), teams up with a Stoic and resilient Somerset (Morgan Freeman), causing a clash of ideology on and off the case.

Related: Se7en: A Look Back at the Quintessential ’90s Crime Thriller

3 The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Dude abides on his rug
Gramercy Pictures

The Coen brothers’ hilarious homage to noir movies and detective novels sees The Dude (Jeff Bridges) slack his way through a couple of joints and White Russians, while simultaneously being dragged into a strange series of events involving a wheelchair bound millionaire, adult film producers and a few ferrets.

2 Broadchurch (2013)

David Tennant Broadchurch
Endemol Shine UK

The murder of an 11-year-old boy on a small beach in a Dorset community shakes the local population to its core. Handling the case is out of town detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant), who is paired with local detective sergeant Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), as they unravel the heinous crime while also ensuring not to further disturb the already shaken community.

1 True Detective – Season 1 (2014)


True Detective is an anthology series that follows police investigations that unearth the personal and professional trite about all those involved with the case. The first season stars Mathew McConaughey as detective Rust Cohle and detective Woody Harrelson as Marty Hart. The plot follows a split timeline that slowly comes together over the course of the season. Beginning in 1995, Rust and Marty are brought on to solve the murder of a young woman named Dora Lange that appears to be ritualistic in nature. The series then cuts back-and-forth between the past and present, bringing to light the shockingly disturbing intricacies of the case while also showing its repercussions in the present day scenario.