The BEST Episodes of Columbo

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Jul 16, 2019

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 8.07
126 votes
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Robert Malcolm Young
How to Dial a Murder

#2 - 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 8.05
116 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Tom Lazarus, Anthony Lawrence
Negative Reaction

#3 - 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 8.01
146 votes
Directors: Alf Kjellin
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Ransom for a Dead Man

#4 - 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 7.98
245 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: Dean Hargrove, William Link, Richard Levinson
A Friend in Deed

#5 - 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 7.93
124 votes
Directors: Ben Gazzara
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
Any Old Port in a Storm

#6 - 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 7.93
147 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Stanley Ralph Ross, Larry Cohen
Columbo Goes to College

#7 - 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 7.91
108 votes
Directors: E.W. Swackhamer
Writers: Jeffrey Bloom
Prescription: Murder

#8 - 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 7.90
329 votes
Directors: Richard Irving
Writers: William Link, Richard Levinson
Columbo Cries Wolf

#9 - 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 7.87
90 votes
Directors: Daryl Duke
Writers: William Read Woodfield, Richard Levinson, William Link
Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star

#10 - 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 7.86
79 votes
Directors: Alan J. Levi
Writers: William R. Woodfield
By Dawn's Early Light

#11 - By Dawn's Early Light

Season 4 - Episode 3

The head of a military school kills one of the governors by sabotaging the gun which is used on Founder's Day.

star 7.85
115 votes
Directors: Harvey Hart
Writers: Howard Berk
Death Lends a Hand

#12 - 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 7.85
212 votes
Writers: William Link, Richard Levinson
Try and Catch Me

#13 - Try and Catch Me

Season 7 - Episode 1

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

star 7.84
127 votes
Directors: James Frawley
Writers: Paul Tuckahoe, Gene Thompson
A Stitch in Crime

#14 - 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 7.83
149 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Shirl Hendryx
Murder by the Book

#15 - Murder by the Book

Season 1 - Episode 3

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

star 7.82
210 votes
Writers: Steve Bocho
Candidate for Crime

#16 - 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 7.80
138 votes
Directors: Boris Sagal
Writers: Irv Pearlberg, Alvin R. Friedman, Roland Kibbee, Dean Hargrove, Larry Cohen
Grand Deceptions

#17 - Grand Deceptions

Season 8 - Episode 4

Frank Brailie runs a private military foundation for wanabe soldiers owned by the wheelchair bound General Padget. The General has become suspicious of Frank as a great deal of money seems to be going to a Special Projects Fund. The General tells a close colleague to investigate Frank and the Special Projects Fund. Instead of reporting his fraudulent findings back to the General, he decides to blackmail Frank for some of the money, Frank agrees and starts to plan his murder.

star 7.78
91 votes
Directors: Sam Wanamaker
Writers: Sy Salkowitz
Murder Under Glass

#18 - Murder Under Glass

Season 7 - Episode 2

A famous food critic is threatened by a restaurant owner, and so the critic leaves. Soon after, the cook dies. Columbo's involvement is welcomed by all the other chefs in the area, but Columbo wonders why the dead restaurant owner slammed the drawers before he died. And how could the poison that killed him enter an unopened bottle without the killer even being in the room? Could it have been suicide? But then there's the cheques to a mysterious society, and the victim's calender. Can Columbo's cooking skills really match the food critic's taste?

star 7.78
126 votes
Directors: Jonathan Demme
Writers: Robert Van Scoyk
Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo

#19 - Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo

Season 9 - Episode 4

Columbo unwittingly becomes part of a deranged woman's diabolical plot to destroy the two men she believes responsible for her husband's death in prison. After murdering one, she moves in on the other, Columbo, to kill the person closest to him, his wife.

star 7.76
92 votes
Writers: Peter S. Fischer
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 7.76
115 votes
Directors: Peter Falk
Writers: William Kelley, Steven Bochco
Now You See Him

#21 - 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 7.75
123 votes
Directors: Harvey Hart
Writers: Michael Sloan
Suitable for Framing

#22 - 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 7.75
186 votes
Directors: Hy Averback
Writers: Jackson Gillis
Troubled Waters

#23 - Troubled Waters

Season 4 - Episode 4

While holidaying on board a cruise liner, Columbo helps capture the killer of the singer with the ship's band.

star 7.72
144 votes
Directors: Ben Gazzara
Writers: Jackson Gillis, William Driskill
Double Shock

#24 - Double Shock

Season 2 - Episode 8

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

star 7.71
145 votes
Directors: Robert Butler
Writers: Steven Bochco, Jackson Gillis, Richard Levinson, William Link, Peter Allan Fields
Double Exposure

#25 - 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 7.71
127 votes
Directors: Richard Quine
Writers: Stephen J. Cannell