The BEST Episodes of Columbo

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Network: ABC (US)

Many criminals made the mistake of underestimating Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide investigator with a crumpled trench-coat and a beat-up car, who certainly acted as an incompetent bumbler. But he was so polite to every suspect, and he talked so much about his wife (who we never got to see on any episode, but who many believe later had her own show, starring Kate Mulgrew, later of Star Trek: Voyager fame) that he lulled even the shrewdest murderer into a false sense of security. And although the audience had witnessed the murder in the beginning of each episode, it was still a surprise to see what mistakes the killers had made during the seemingly perfect murder.

The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case

#1 - The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case

Season 6 - Episode 3

Two former college friends, now partners in an accounting firm, become enemies when one realizes the other has embezzled funds. The reason for his embezzling ways is his wife, she demands nothing but the best.

star 7.95
324 votes
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Robert Malcolm Young
A Stitch in Crime

#2 - A Stitch in Crime

Season 2 - Episode 6

Leonard Nimoy plays a heart surgeon whose talents turn to murder. Stung by jealousy, he's planning a surgical death for his brilliant but ailing associate. Will Geer plays the intended victim.

star 7.77
319 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Shirl Hendryx
Suitable for Framing

#3 - Suitable for Framing

Season 1 - Episode 6

An art critic, Dale Kingston, kills his uncle for his valuable collection of paintings. All the clues lead to the dead man's first wife. Can Columbo correct the Lieutenant's error before it is too late?

star 7.72
360 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Jackson Gillis
Double Shock

#4 - Double Shock

Season 2 - Episode 8

A wealthy man is murdered; his twin nephews stand to inherit, but which one committed the crime?

star 7.69
343 votes
Directors: Robert Butler
Writers: Jackson Gillis, Peter Allan Fields, Richard Levinson, Steven Bochco, William Link
Columbo Cries Wolf

#5 - Columbo Cries Wolf

Season 9 - Episode 2

Columbo is asked to investigate the disappearance of Diane Hunter, director of a men's magazine. Naturally, the prime suspect is her lover and co-editor Sean Brantley, who spends lots of time with the young girls he works with.

star 7.68
236 votes
Directors: Daryl Duke
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link, William Read Woodfield
Columbo Goes to College

#6 - Columbo Goes to College

Season 10 - Episode 1

Lt. Columbo is invited as guest speaker in a Criminology course and squares off against two cunning students, who are confident they have duped the lieutenant with various leads, when their professor is found murdered.

star 7.64
196 votes
Directors: E.W. Swackhamer
Writers: Jeffrey Bloom
Any Old Port in a Storm

#7 - Any Old Port in a Storm

Season 3 - Episode 2

Wine producer Adrian Carsini discovers that his younger brother Enrico plans to sell the family vineyards to pay his playboy-life debts, and sets out to murder him. He locks him in a wine vault and turns off the air and conditioning, then drags the body out to the ocean and makes it look like Enrico died during a scuba-diving accident. Columbo is suspicious of the contradictions that show up in the autopsy, and soon realizes that Adrian is the murderer. The final clue is the wine that was spoiled when the vault's air conditioning was turned off. Only Adrian could tell the difference, so Columbo secretly gets him to sample the wine and declare it unfit. Once Adrian realizes his wines were ruined, he is forced to throw them over a cliff, as Columbo looks on. In the end, Columbo takes in a relieved Adrian, confessing that Carsini is one of the few killers he was reluctant to bring in.

star 7.62
369 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Larry Cohen, Stanley Ralph Ross
Candidate for Crime

#8 - Candidate for Crime

Season 3 - Episode 3

A Senate Candidate running for office kills his campaign manager by making it look like he was the target for the killer's bullet.

star 7.62
364 votes
Directors: Boris Sagal
Writers: Alvin R. Friedman, Dean Hargrove, Irv Pearlberg, Larry Cohen, Roland Kibbee
A Friend in Deed

#9 - A Friend in Deed

Season 3 - Episode 8

A police commissioner provides an alibi to a friend who has just killed his wife. Later the commissioner kills his own wife and gets the friend to repay the favour.

star 7.61
349 votes
Directors: Ben Gazzara
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Ransom for a Dead Man

#10 - Ransom for a Dead Man

Season 1 - Episode 2

A high-flying lady lawyer kills her husband for the insurance money, and tries to makes It look like a kidnapping gone wrong.

star 7.61
556 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: Dean Hargrove, Richard Levinson, William Link
Death Lends a Hand

#11 - Death Lends a Hand

Season 1 - Episode 4

A private investigator kills his client's wife after she threatens to expose his blackmail scheme. The client then hires the detective to assist Columbo in the search for the killer.

star 7.60
469 votes
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link
Negative Reaction

#12 - Negative Reaction

Season 4 - Episode 2

Brilliant photographer Paul Galesko plans to murder his domineering wife, Frances, and pin the crime on an ex-convict named Alvin Deschler. His plan is to make it look as if Alvin kidnapped his wife and killed her before picking up the ransom money.

star 7.59
369 votes
Directors: Alf Kjellin
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Murder, Smoke and Shadows

#13 - Murder, Smoke and Shadows

Season 8 - Episode 2

An egocentric film director resorts to his mastery of special effects to murder a vengeful friend who discovers the director's role in the movie stunt death of the friend's sister years before.

star 7.56
275 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Richard Alan Simmons
Prescription: Murder

#14 - Prescription: Murder

Season 1 - Episode 1

Columbo's first mystery pits him against a cheating doctor out to get rid of his wife in favor of his young, pretty actress girlfriend.

star 7.56
749 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link
The Greenhouse Jungle

#15 - The Greenhouse Jungle

Season 2 - Episode 2

Jarvis Goodland, along with his nephew, plan a kidnap scam to break the nephews trust fund, but after the money has been collected, Jarvis kills his partner.

star 7.54
329 votes
Directors: Boris Sagal
Writers: Jonathan Latimer
How to Dial a Murder

#16 - How to Dial a Murder

Season 7 - Episode 4

A famous psychiatrist uses an appointment with his doctor as his alibi while he calls his house, where his dead wife's lover is. The call serves as the first step in a conditioning reflex on the psychiatrist's dogs. The other part is the word Rosebud as uttered by the victim. When Columbo arrives on the scene, the psychiatrist is very understanding when police say they may have to put his dogs to death. But Columbo notices how friendly the dogs seem, and then there's the telephone that's hanging from it's hook.

star 7.54
289 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Anthony Lawrence, Tom Lazarus
Identity Crisis

#17 - Identity Crisis

Season 5 - Episode 3

A spy is killed on a lonely beach by his contact, but the killer has been photographed beforehand walking with the victim.

star 7.53
291 votes
Writers: William Driskill
Now You See Him

#18 - Now You See Him

Season 5 - Episode 5

Master magician the great Santini is amazing audiences at the Cabaret of Magic. What they don’t know is that Santini hopes to pull of the grandest illusion of his career - making club owner Jesse T. Jerome disappear. The crude Jerome is the only person who knows that Santini was a Nazi death camp guard named Stefan Mueller, He has been blackmailing the magician since learning his dark secret.

star 7.51
291 votes
Directors: Harvey Hart
Writers: Michael Sloan
It's All in the Game

#19 - It's All in the Game

Season 10 - Episode 4

Nick Franco is a violent, two-timing gigolo and his current paramour, Laura Stanton, has had enough. With the help of a young woman named Lisa, she murders her lover and sets herself up with an airtight alibi. When Columbo starts sniffing on her trail, Laura quickly works to seduce the married detective, hoping that her sex appeal will throw the usually stubborn Lieutenant off the scent.

star 7.50
119 votes
Writers: Peter Falk
Blueprint for Murder

#20 - Blueprint for Murder

Season 1 - Episode 9

An architect kills his business partner and deliberately lets Columbo suspect him, leading Columbo to think that he's hidden the body in the foundation of a building under construction. He plans to let Columbo dig up the site and find nothing, knowing that its the perfect place to hide the body since Columbo would never look in the same place twice.

star 7.50
368 votes
Directors: Peter Falk
Writers: Steven Bochco, William Kelley
A Deadly State of Mind

#21 - A Deadly State of Mind

Season 4 - Episode 6

A doctor kills the husband of the woman,he is having an affair with. but is seen leaving the house by a witness who is happens to be blind.

star 7.49
406 votes
Directors: Harvey Hart
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

#22 - Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

Season 10 - Episode 3

Lt. Columbo is pitted against an equally brilliant, nationally recognized criminal defence lawyer who murders his rock star girlfriend when he discovers she is seeing another man.

star 7.47
139 votes
Directors: Alan J. Levi
Writers: William R. Woodfield
Butterfly in Shades of Grey

#23 - Butterfly in Shades of Grey

Season 10 - Episode 5

Ego-maniac Fielding Chase, is a radio talk show host who in order to prevent his daughter from moving to New York, murders a member of his staff.

star 7.46
156 votes
Directors: Dennis Dugan
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Double Exposure

#24 - Double Exposure

Season 3 - Episode 4

A film maker kills one of his clients. in a break, during the screening of a new ad campaign

star 7.45
379 votes
Directors: Richard Quine
Writers: Stephen J. Cannell
Swan Song

#25 - Swan Song

Season 3 - Episode 7

A Country and Western singer kills his overpowering wife in a plane crash while he parachutes to safety.

star 7.44
355 votes
Writers: David Rayfiel, Stanley Ralph Ross