Top Ten Fictional Female Crime-Fighters

It recently came to my attention, while trawling youtube for Det. Kate Beckett fan montages during my lunch hour, that I am addicted to any television show, movie franchise or book series that features a gun-toting badge flashing power suit-wearing female crime-fighter who hunts down baddies for a living.

Fictional female crime-fighters have become an obsession of sorts, and here are some of my favorites. I’m gonna go ahead and anticipate your protests by noting that this is a celebration of women who kick human being ass, not supernatural or extra-terrestrial ass. All you Scully and Starbuck fans should check out The 11 Hottest, Most Gun-Totingest Women of Sci-Fi or, you know, 39 pictures of Starbuck.

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Top 10 Fictional Female Crime-Fighters

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10. Detective Jane Rizzoli & Inspector Lindsay Boxer

Played by Angie Harmon in the TV series Rizzoli & Isles and The Women’s Murder Club.

Rizzoli’s talents include looking fine in tailored suits and leaping fearlessly in front of bullets to save her very special friend, Dr. Maura Isles. She enjoys sensible footwear, field hockey and putting her job before relationships with men. I’m pretty sure Rizzoli & Isles’ lesbian fan-base is the only reason this show is still on the air.

Inspector Lindsay Boxer from The Women’s Murder Club, is pretty much the same character but with different baggage and slightly better detective skills. She remained relatively kick-ass despite the fact that her show was THE WORST and didn’t live up to the novel series by James Patterson (and that bar wasn’t set overly high).

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9. DS Sam Murray

Played by Heather Peace in the TV series Lip Service.

DS Murray, one of the butchiest butches in Glasgow, didn’t exactly fight any crime during Season 1 of Lip Service. However, she does look smokin’ hot in a vest and so that’s really the reason she’s made it onto this list – detective vest hotness.

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8. Agent Ziva David

Played by Coté de Pablo in the TV series NCIS.

Ex-Mossad operative Ziva David can kill someone 18 different ways with a paperclip, which is impressive and also possibly the one thing that Olivia Benson cannot do.

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7. Officer Amelia Sachs/Donaghy

 

From the Jeffery Deaver novel The Bone Collector. Also played by Angelina Jolie in the film.

Patrol officer Amelia Sachs was my first full-blown police woman crush. I fell in love with her first when she was words on a page and then again when Angelina Jolie gave her a face for the screen. This is where I should probably write something about Sachs’ dedication to hunting down the Bone Collector but honestly all I can think about right now is how hot Angelina Jolie looks in uniform.

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6. PI Kinsey Millhone

From Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mystery series.

Of the female gumshoes that became popular in the 80s, Kinsey Millhone is by far one of the toughest. Kinsey went from pot-smoking delinquent to police force drop-out to private investigator who solves crimes and always seems to be on the run from the mob.

Kinsey’s a two time divorcee who wears jeans and turtlenecks exclusively, cuts her own hair with toe-nail scissors and is a little in love with her 81 year-old landlord, Henry. What’s not to like.

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5. Kalinda Sharma

Played by Archie Panjabi in the TV series The Good Wife.

Kalinda doesn’t carry a weapon or a badge, nor does she necessarily always work for ‘the good guys.’ However, every now and then her top notch investigative skills keep innocent people from going to jail which is admirable if you forget about the criminals she helps let off the hook.

Things Kalinda enjoys include wearing leather, kissing girls, kicking ass, taking names. What I’m saying is that she’s my ‘type’.

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4. Lieutenant Eve Dallas

From author J.D. Robb’s In Death series.

Dallas is a supreme badass homicide detective who cleans up the streets of New York City in the future, the year 2060. She’s a fighter who grew up on the mean streets and if you touch her candy stash or fuck with her friends she will cut you.

The great thing about Dallas is that her creator, J.D. Robb, churns out approx. 500 books per year and so you never have to wait too long for her to come back into your life.

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3. Lisbeth Salander

Played by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish Millennium film series.

If I could be a panther I’d want to be Lisbeth Salander, all dark and sleek and deadly. I didn’t know it was possible for me to feel intimidated by a fictional character until I saw Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth in the Swedish Millennium movies. I was in awe.

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2. Detective Kate Beckett

Played by Stana Katic in the TV series Castle.

Det. Kate Beckett solves crimes in New York City with the help of Richard Castle, a famous fictional crime novelist who is inspired by Beckett’s many talents, which include (but are not limited to) the ability to chase down bad guys and evade vicious tigers while wearing highly impractical footwear. Beckett is not only all about The Job, she’s also on a personal quest to solve her mother’s murder and it comes at the price of her personal life.

I’ve got it bad for Beckett. I enthusiastically ship her budding heteromance with Castle nonetheless because if we can’t be together, I want her to find someone who can make her happy. That’s how serious it is.

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1. Detective Olivia Benson

Played by Mariska Hargitay in the TV series Law & Order: SVU.

Every person I consulted with during the compilation of this Top 10 list asked, “Benson is gonna be #1, right?” as if there was ever a question. There is no question, not ever. Benson is #1 in my heart, in your hearts and in fictional law enforcement. Remember that time Benson was nearly raped in prison by a corrections officer and then she fought him off and asked “who’s the bitch now?” Yeah. Everyone else can take a seat.

(Although an honorable mention goes to Lt. Van Buren, who kicked ass in more episodes of Law & Order than a person can watch in one lifetime.)

So readers, who is your favorite fictional lady crime-fighter? Who did I miss? Maybe you should think on it while watching this video.

 


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Crystal is Autostraddle's HR Director. She resides in Sydney, Australia, where she wears black clothing almost exclusively and listens to Green Day as enthusiastically as she did at 13.

Crystal has written 297 articles for us.

185 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    thank you for finally giving a name to “that hot chick on NCIS who i always see on the TV in that one bar i go to for taco tuesday which is always playing NCIS for some reason.” related, noomi rapace goddamn

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      Trufax: Ziva is the only reason I occasionally sit down with my grandma to watch NCIS. (I am 90% sure she flirts with a lady in the pilot, not that anything came of it). My enjoyment of the show would increase tenfold if they jettisoned the entire cast (except Abby and Ducky! they’re cool!) and replaced them all with people worthy of her.

      In lieu of that, they should let DiNozzo get his epic doomed crush on Gibbs off his chest and move the fuck on. Dude, you can do so much better than a cranky old guy whose idea of a good time is moping with his basement boat!

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    Am I the only lesbian in the world not attracted to Heather Peace? It feels like it sometimes. Olivia Benson, however – helloooo!

    Okay, my girlfriend is a fan of Silent Witness and I watched it for the first time this weekend, and Dr Nikki Alexander is HOT. Emilia Fox is an actual fox. Very appropriate surname.

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      I wasn’t attracted to her on Lip Service and wasn’t a huge Cat and Sam fan…but this one time she was standing 10 ft away from me in Brighton. *swoon* She is so attractive irl.

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      Nikki Alexander is gorgeous! I’m a huge fan of Silent Witness and the Fox family in general, lead into it by Laurence Fox on Lewis, along with Jack and Freddie making appearances.

      Speaking of Lewis, Dr Laura Hobson and CSI Jean Innocent should totally make it onto the list, the ladies of Lewis are amazingly well written and epically acted despite Innocent in particular getting less screen time, but they’re both done so well and I ship them pretty hard.

      Also Laura Hobson, Nikki Alexander and Molly Hooper should be in a morgue together. I just have a massive thing for pathologists apparently, not quite sure whether to be concerned

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    I’ve crushed on Benson for years, but I love me some Alex Eames from L&O: Criminal Intent, too! CI has had quite a nice group of ladies over the years.

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    Got all the way down to #1 and said to myself I could never read Autostraddle again if Detective Olivia Benson was not at the top of the list, and lo and behold, Crystal came through.

    Seriously though, awesome list, definitely put some new stuff in the Netflix queue.

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    Speaking of Heather Peace, did you see that season 2 of Lip Service is starting on April 20th? *sigh frankie* Saw that and a teaser of the first ep on Butch in Progress. I am neither Butch or In Progress, but Megan Rapinoe was on that site once and that’s all I needed. Random… I hope some of our UK friends will post these eps on Youtube asap!

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    The Good Wife is the best show on CBS, hands down. The folks and I look forward to it every week. Kalinda is so hot. I loovveeddd her scene with Lana at the cafe/restaurant the other week. So smooth. And damn, her chemistry with Kelli Giddish was awesome. Too bad we won’t be seeing her again.

    Ziva, Ziva, Ziva. One of Israel’s best exports. I once said in class that my mum is from Israel and someone commented: like Ziva David! Yes, yes indeed ;) One thing that always comes across as unrealistic to me is that every single person on NCIS who meets Ziva knows to pronounce her Dav-eed and not Dave-id. I know there are quite a few Israelis in DC/the US, but I find it unrealistic. I mean her first name isn’t even an Israeli name like Eilat or something.

    Love Det Benson. I used to think Mariska’s surname was Hartigay when I was younger…*pun intended*…just kidding (^^) but then I learned it was Hargitay.

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    I’m obviously a huge Beckett fan … but I’ve had some problems with her portrayal recently. I feel like they’re underselling her instinct, wit, and intelligence by letting her NOT guessing what’s wrong with Castle. I feel like the emotional games and the “gosh, what could be wrong with Rick?” line is damned near misogynistic it’s so in-line with the “manipulative female” paradigm. I’m hoping for redemption, soon, though.

    Also, Bones is missing. =|

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    literally the whole time i was scrolling down this article i was thinking “no olivia benson? you are FIRED crystal, you are fired from the world.” thank you for not letting me down.

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    I love that one lady on NCIS who I never had a name for until now. My favorite though has to be Olivia Dunham on Fringe. She’s my favorite Olivia because I never really got into L&O: SVU. That show always seemed a little…weird.

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    Does anyone else remember Janis from FlashForward, that show that got cancelled? Pretty badass… but yeah, the show definitely got not so great after a while.

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    Cagney and Lacey! Is one of the best shows of all time for so many reasons and features not one but two strong female detective leads. Modern television has nothing on it.

    Props for including Kinsey Millhone and Ziva. They don’t get enough love.

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    Hello? How about hot half-Russian CIA agent Gaia Moore from the book series “Fearless” by Francine Pascal??

    From Wikipedia:

    “Gaia Moore is a seventeen year old girl with extreme physical prowess, is heavily trained in various martial arts, has an intelligence that is considered slightly above genius, and a defective physiology because she can’t feel fear… She is extremely educated and has a post graduate college level understanding on all her school subjects. At night she wanders around dangerous areas of the city and spends her time fighting criminals and helping people from robbers, murderers, rapists, etc. using her amazing martial arts skills. In order to compensate for her lack of fear, nature seems to have given Gaia’s physical strength, reflexes, and stamina an enormous boost. Her lack of fear also means she has no restrictions placed on her muscles or on her endurance; she can tighten her muscles so much that her bones will break or easily lift up a car with her strength. As well as being in top physical condition, she has been trained for eight years in a variety of martial arts by her father who is part of the CIA.

    She is said to have a toned and well muscled body, has light blond hair, and deep blue eyes,is around 5’10” and is considered exceptionally beautiful by everyone who sees her.”

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    Have you seen The Mentalist? I feel that Lisbon fits your wants and needs quite well. Mmm, Lisbon.

    Also also also, there’s Lieutenant Karrin Murphy from The Dresden Files books (though not particularly the TV show). She is tiny and blonde and has uncompromisable morals and will kick anyone’s ass.

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    BEEEECKEEEEEET.

    I haven’t been watching Castle for awhile because the Will They, Won’t They was reaching critical mass levels of ridiculousness. Which is sad because I enjoy Nathan Fillion Playing Nathan Fillion as a Writer constantly nerding out as much as the next geek. But yeah. Beckett. Hmmmmmmmm. All the feelings.

    For the record Benson was by first Detective Lady Love, but I think that’s like a queer girl right of passage or something.

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      Also to add to the list. Myka Bering, H.G. Wells and Claudia Donovon from Warehouse 13. Super secrets agents. Constantly, literally, saving the world. Also there was that total lady love thing happening between Myka and H.G. that was payed really subtly but the actresses confessed was completely intentional and not at all done in editing.

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        Oh yes, H.G on Warehouse 13, my goodness, that was amaaaaaazing. The British accent, the subtle sexual tension & references to female lovers.

        Also, Claudia. And Leena! She’s got such a understated role that I wish they’d expand a bit more.

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    Jodie Foster, aka Clarice Starling, Silence of the Lambs, or really Jodie Foster in anything where she is kicking ass. Also: maybe Charlie’s Angels, original or reboot?

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    Abby Sciuto from NCIS and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds, forever and always.

    ALSO!! Phryne Fisher, from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She’s a tough-as-nails, femmy Australian detective from the 1920s and her best friend is a butch medical doctor and I love her.

    And Veronica Mars. She’s not always fighting crime, but she is my ~favorite~ girl detective, and I fucking love girl detectives.

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    In addition to “Lost Girl”, in Canada we have this thing called “Republic of Doyle”, which is incredibly whacked out and in no way gay, but which I continue to watch because it features Krystin Pellerin as an extremely hot lady cop with a Newfoundland accent who makes me swoon.

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    I was, still am, and always will be in love with Christine Cagney! I wanted to be a cop because of her.

    I would have put Angie Harmon as Rizzoli higher on the list (tie for 1st, perhaps?).

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      So relieved that i’m not the only one thinking this. How can she not be on a list like this? I’m glad i’m not the only one who missed her absence. That said i’m imagining the Danish series, i think there was an american one too…

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    This is where I admit that I’ve never seen an episode of any incarnation of Law & Order and it’s one of my goals in life to never see an episode.

    I would suggest the book version of Temperance Brennan, she travels between North Carolina and Montreal solving murders with forensic anthropology, it’s great.

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    You win all the things for including Eve Dallas on this list.

    My right-wing, redneck, intolerant-as-hell extended family exchanges all of the JD Robb books like the world’s most involved book exchange club, getting in fights over who gets to read the new hardback cover next. Their zeal never ceases to amaze me.

    Great literature they’re not, but somehow Nora Roberts/JD Robb got my relatives hooked on a fantasy world that includes legalized prostitution, same-sex marriage, universal healthcare, bans on guns and flying cars, so.

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      Paused my totally-legal-not-at-all-torrented marathon of Alias Season 2 to say Sydney Bristow. And now we’re in agreement, it’s back to SD-6 I go…

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    Don’t forget Brooke Nevin and Serinda Swan from Breakout Kings. Brooke’s character isn’t bad-ass, instead shes shy, traumatized and realllyyy cute.

    Serinda’s character is completely bad-ass, killed 5 dudes who killed her dad but due to lack of evidence the only thing the police could pin on her was something stupid (think it was tax or unregistered weapon) Don’t know if Serinda counts though cuz her character is a convict

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    Benson and Salander make the butterflies in my tummy dance. But really, I have this deep obsession with Detective Debra Morgan from Dexter. The way those curse words slip over her lips makes the butterflies in my tummy move south..to my pants.

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    I find Olivia Benson in L&O: SVU to be horribly self-righteous and kind of smug. She makes it hard for me to suspend my real-life feelings about power-tripping cops. Totally not hot, in my book.

    I am developing a weird crush on Sarah Linden’s from AMC’s remake of The Killing. I like how her unflappable detective demeanor incompletely covers her real emotions.

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    Beckett makes me feel all of the feelings.

    But for sheer volume of perfection it has got to be Criminal Minds. JJ and Prentiss belong together. Morgan is probably the only man on TV that I watch and think ‘damn, he’s gorgeous’. And then there is Garcia. There are no words for how I feel about Garcia.

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    Xena and Gabrielle fought crime! Usually human, though sometimes divine/mythological. Also remember when Lucy Lawless was the detective on The L Word? Yeah me neither, I blocked out all my memories of Season 6

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    Reading this and the comments … there are so many badass female crime-fighters. It warms my heart … and possibly other parts.

    Also, how is it that I just realized Rizzoli shoots left-handed? Southpaws are hot.

    And thinking of Boston detectives makes me want to add Sunny Randall (PI mystery series by Robert B Parker) to the list.

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    I just knew Benson would be on it. KNEW IT. Such a list wouldn’t even exist without her. The only question on my mind was which picture you’d choose.

    I’m a S1-5 haircut fan (before the Blondish Years) myself, but I can respect some season 6.

    Now you all know how weirdly into SVU I am and I can never post again HOORAY.

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      Oh girl, I’m right there with you. I especially liked her S4-5 hair, and that HOTTTTTTT photo of her in the credits during S5, looking off into the wilds of NY. And…when her hair started to get a lot longer and became some kind of hair=sprayed lion’s mane…that’s when I began to lose interest.

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    Thank you so much for portraying the Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and not the Swedish one.

    Tell you a little secret though. She’s even hotter in the books. I had such a crush on her! I didn’t even know I was gay back then. I should totally read it again, haven’t read it since 2006 or something like that…

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    Lisbeth Salander as portrayed by Rapace…

    total glory as a woman, bisexual, strong, smart, & self-sufficient, who calls the shots in her life & owns the consequences…

    Fucking sexy in every, single way~ and destroys the rest of the wanna-bes…

    Imho~ ;)

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    I was hoping to see Sidney Bristow (Alias) on the list! She was one of my first girl crushes. She was so bad-ass, but also had a soft side. Jennifer Garner was absolutely amazing in that role.

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    I absolutely love Heather Peace,so pretty stoked lip service is comming back

    But to name a female crimefighter who is probably not very well known : Laura Bach in the danish crime series “Those who kill”,where she plays detective Katrine Ries Jensen,who together with a profiler catches serial killers. Loved the fact that in this series the female was the tough detective and the psychologist was the male. Usually it is the other way round.
    I actually liked the stories too,it were rather dark storylines. Unfortunately the series was cancelles after season one,but the dvd box is one of my favorites

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    Listen up, I have PRO TIP for you all. There’s a super hot/cute blonde young lady bum-kicker on the new-ish show Alcatraz. The show is so-so but in addition to Hot/Cute Lady Cop it has:
    – Hurley from LOST (how can you not love him)
    – super attractive comic-book t-shirt wearing Lady Medical Examiner
    – SUBTEXTUAL CHEMISTRY between Hot/Cute Lady Cop and Lady M.E. They go to bars and shoot pool together.

    Also, Hot/Cute Lady Cop wears leather jackets.

    I encourage you all to investigate this further.

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