50 Coolest Movie Detectives

Perry van Shrike

The Detective: In a town as mad as modern Los Angeles, there's no place for the traditional 'tec, which is why flamboyant, catty 'Gay' Perry gets the gig in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

Why They're Cool: Few actors have as much fun playing a private eye as Val Kilmer does here, swapping the traditional 'tec's shabby-chic for elegant camp and sparring beautifully with co-star Robert Downey, Jr.

Quintessential Quote: Asked if he's still gay - "Me? No. I'm knee-deep in pussy. I just like the name so much, I can't get rid of it."

Ezekiel 'Easy' Rawlins

The Detective: WWII vet who freelances as a private eye in the Watts district of L.A., Rawlins is the hero of a series of novels by Walter Mosley but just the one film, 1995's Devil In A Blue Dress .

Why They're Cool: Mosley rewrote 'noir' from a 'black' perspective and, especially by casting Denzel Washington as Easy, this should have become his signature franchise.

Quintessential Quote: "A man once told me that you step out of your door in the morning, and you are already in trouble. The only question is are you on top of that trouble or not?"

Axel Foley

The Detective: Eddie Murphy's hot-headed Detroit policeman who inadvertently becomes a Beverly Hills Cop (1984) while investigating a friend's murder. As two sequels attest, he can't get enough of the place.

Why They're Cool: Axel is that rarity - a detective who really looks like he enjoys what he does. It surely helps that he has an awesome theme tune.

Quintessential Quote: "Get the fuck out of here!"

Nick and Nora Charles

The Detectives: Technically, only Nick is the detective but - given he's enjoying a boozy retirement - he tends to need the help of his heiress wife Nora (and their dog, Asta) as the family solves the case of The Thin Man (1934) and its various sequels.

Why They're Cool: Who said 1930s Hollywood movies were chaste? William Powell and Myrna Loy's drunken, flirtatious chemistry still smoulders today.

Quintessential Quote: Nick - "Hey, would you mind putting that gun away? My wife doesn't care, but I'm a very timid fellow."

William Of Baskerville

The Detective: 14th century Franciscan monk with a Scottish accent, who pieces together a gruesome conspiracy at a Benedictine abbey in The Name Of The Rose (1986).

Why They're Cool: Coming on like Sherwood Holmes in a habit, William takes a scholarly approach to clue-hunting, but still benefits from the '007' effect in the casting of Sean Connery.

Quintessential Quote: "If I knew the answers to everything, I would be teaching theology in Paris."

Will Graham

The Detective: FBI criminal profiler with one hell of a claim to fame - he's the guy who caught Hannibal Lecter. Twice: in 1986's Manhunter (played by William Petersen) and the 2002 remake, Red Dragon (played by Edward Norton).

Why They're Cool: Talk about devotion beyond the call of duty - Graham has an uncanny ability to get inside the heads of killers to see the world from their perspective. No wonder he's prone to breakdowns.

Quintessential Quote: "It's just you and me now, sport. And I'm going to find you, God damn it."

Sean Dignam

The Detective: No-nonsense Boston police officer in The Departed (2006), who is trying to get his head around the fact that, while he's running Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) as an undercover agent in Frank Costello's (Jack Nicholson) outfit, Frank has planted a mole amongst Dignam's own colleagues. No wonder he's always so angry.

Why They're Cool: Mark Wahlberg makes swearing in a Boston accent look like a great lifestyle choice.See also: Ted .

Quintessential Quote: "I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy."

Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro

The Detectives: These partners in crime investigation and in romance starred in a series of novels by Dennis Lehane, one of which - 2007's Gone Baby Gone - was brought to the screen with Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan in the central roles.

Why They're Cool: The duo represents a clever mapping of relationship drama onto crime thriller tropes, especially when Patrick and Angela choose different sides of a moral conundrum.

Quintessential Quote: Patrick - "When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children. 'You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.'"

Lisbeth Salander

The Detective: Multi-pierced, anti-social radical whose computer hacking skills come in handy when conventional detection methods fail in (either version of) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo .

Why They're Cool: Whether we're talking about Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara, this is what state-of-the-art detection looks like in the Internet era.

Quintessential Quote: "I'm mentally incompetent and can't manage daily life."

Samuel Gerard

The Detective: Deputy U.S. Marshal tasked with tracking down Richard Kimble, aka The Fugitive (1993)… and still on the hunt for escaped convicts in sequel U.S. Marshals (1998).

Why They're Cool: An irascible, no-nonsense kind of guy, so suited to Tommy Lee Jones' hangdog personality the actor won an Oscar.

Quintessential Quote: "Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don't ever argue with the big dog, because the big dog is always right."