The BEST Episodes of Columbo

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Sep 26, 2021

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.

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

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

Season 6 - Episode 3 - Aired May 22, 1977

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 7.94
377 votes
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Robert Malcolm Young
A Stitch in Crime

#2 - A Stitch in Crime

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Feb 11, 1973

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 7.86
385 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Shirl Hendryx
Suitable for Framing

#3 - Suitable for Framing

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Nov 17, 1971

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 7.79
429 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Jackson Gillis
Columbo Cries Wolf

#4 - Columbo Cries Wolf

Season 9 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 20, 1990

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 7.79
283 votes
Directors: Daryl Duke
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link, William Read Woodfield
Any Old Port in a Storm

#5 - Any Old Port in a Storm

Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 7, 1973

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 7.77
427 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Larry Cohen, Stanley Ralph Ross
A Friend in Deed

#6 - A Friend in Deed

Season 3 - Episode 8 - Aired May 5, 1974

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 7.77
399 votes
Directors: Ben Gazzara
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Negative Reaction

#7 - Negative Reaction

Season 4 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 15, 1974

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 7.72
417 votes
Directors: Alf Kjellin
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Columbo Goes to College

#8 - Columbo Goes to College

Season 10 - Episode 1 - Aired Dec 9, 1990

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 7.72
231 votes
Directors: E.W. Swackhamer
Writers: Jeffrey Bloom
Double Shock

#9 - Double Shock

Season 2 - Episode 8 - Aired Mar 25, 1973

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

star 7.72
395 votes
Directors: Robert Butler
Writers: Jackson Gillis, Peter Allan Fields, Richard Levinson, Steven Bochco, William Link
Now You See Him

#10 - Now You See Him

Season 5 - Episode 5 - Aired Feb 29, 1976

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 7.72
337 votes
Directors: Harvey Hart
Writers: Michael Sloan
Death Lends a Hand

#11 - Death Lends a Hand

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Oct 6, 1971

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 7.71
539 votes
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link
How to Dial a Murder

#12 - How to Dial a Murder

Season 7 - Episode 4 - Aired Apr 15, 1978

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 7.69
334 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Anthony Lawrence, Tom Lazarus
Candidate for Crime

#13 - Candidate for Crime

Season 3 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 4, 1973

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 7.69
413 votes
Directors: Boris Sagal
Writers: Alvin R. Friedman, Dean Hargrove, Irv Pearlberg, Larry Cohen, Roland Kibbee
Ransom for a Dead Man

#14 - Ransom for a Dead Man

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 1, 1971

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

star 7.68
636 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: Dean Hargrove, Richard Levinson, William Link
Murder, Smoke and Shadows

#15 - Murder, Smoke and Shadows

Season 8 - Episode 2 - Aired Feb 27, 1989

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 7.65
317 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Richard Alan Simmons
Blueprint for Murder

#16 - Blueprint for Murder

Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Feb 9, 1972

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 7.65
415 votes
Directors: Peter Falk
Writers: Steven Bochco, William Kelley
Identity Crisis

#17 - Identity Crisis

Season 5 - Episode 3 - Aired Nov 2, 1975

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

star 7.65
336 votes
Writers: William Driskill
Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

#18 - Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

Season 10 - Episode 3 - Aired Apr 29, 1991

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 7.65
178 votes
Directors: Alan J. Levi
Writers: William R. Woodfield
Prescription: Murder

#19 - Prescription: Murder

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Feb 20, 1968

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 7.64
845 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: Richard Levinson, William Link
It's All in the Game

#20 - It's All in the Game

Season 10 - Episode 4 - Aired Oct 31, 1993

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 7.63
155 votes
Writers: Peter Falk
Murder by the Book

#21 - Murder by the Book

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Sep 15, 1971

One member of a mystery-writing-team decides to kill his more talented partner when the better writer decides to go solo.

star 7.57
548 votes
Writers: Steven Bochco
The Greenhouse Jungle

#22 - The Greenhouse Jungle

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 15, 1972

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 7.57
373 votes
Directors: Boris Sagal
Writers: Jonathan Latimer
Double Exposure

#23 - Double Exposure

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired Dec 16, 1973

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

star 7.56
423 votes
Directors: Richard Quine
Writers: Stephen J. Cannell
Fade in to Murder

#24 - Fade in to Murder

Season 6 - Episode 1 - Aired Oct 10, 1976

Ward Fowler, who plays debonair television detective Lieutenant Lucerne, has a reputation for being a difficult actor. His series is a hit, however, so the network and studio executives again and again capitulate to his demands. Although separated, husband and wife team Sid and Claire Daley continue to produce the Inspector Lucerne program. Claire continually advises everyone else to go along with their stars demands. Not even Sid knows that Claire is blackmailing Ward. Claire discovers Ward in Canada. She knows he deserted from the United States Army during the Korean War. If that information got out ,it would ruin Ward's career. When Claire takes a phone call in Ward's trailer, the actor overhears her saying she’ll be getting a sandwich at Tony’s Deli. Ward gets to Tony’s Deli just after Claire disguising himself with a ski mask and bulky parka he pretends to be a hold up man.

star 7.56
343 votes
Writers: Henry Garson, Lou Shaw, Peter S. Feibleman
Try and Catch Me

#25 - Try and Catch Me

Season 7 - Episode 1 - Aired Nov 21, 1977

A writer of murder mysteries wreaks revenge on her nephew-in-law by blaiming him for her niece's murder.

star 7.55
385 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Gene Thompson, Paul Tuckahoe