The BEST Episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Network: NBC

Based out of the New York City Police Department's 16th precinct in Manhattan, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) delves into the dark side of the NYC underworld as the detectives investigate and prosecute various sexually oriented crimes including rape, pedophilia, and domestic violence. They also investigate the abuses of children, the disabled and elderly victims of non-sexual crimes who require specialist handling, all while trying to balance the effects of the investigation on their own lives as they try not to let the dark side of these crimes affect them. Its stories also touch on the political and societal issues associated with gender identity, sexual preferences, and equality rights. The unit also works with the Manhattan District Attorney's office as they prosecute cases and seek justice for victims. The series often uses stories that are "ripped from the headlines" or based on real crimes. Such episodes take a real crime and fictionalize it by changing some details.

Her Negotiation

#1 - Her Negotiation

Season 14 - Episode 24 - Aired May 22, 2013

The detectives uncover a shocking theory as they work to learn the identity of a man Rollins arrested for exposing himself in the park; Detective Benson finds herself in mortal danger.

star 8.44
310 votes
Directors: Norberto Barba
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight

#2 - Fallacy

Season 4 - Episode 21 - Aired Apr 18, 2003

Benson and Stabler try to prove self-defense when a rape victim kills her attacker. Events take an unusual turn when they find out that the victim is a pre-operative transsexual.

star 8.30
273 votes
Writers: Barbie Kligman
Girl Dishonored

#3 - Girl Dishonored

Season 14 - Episode 20 - Aired Apr 24, 2013

As the SVU detectives investigate the alleged rape of a sorority pledge, drunken students, and conflicting accounts complicate matters.

star 8.25
344 votes
Directors: Holly Dale
Writers: Julie Martin, Robert Brooks Cohen, Warren Leight
Heartfelt Passages (2)

#4 - Heartfelt Passages (2)

Season 17 - Episode 23 - Aired May 25, 2016

When the investigation of Corrections Officer Gary Munson deepens, he and his union take drastic actions that threaten the lives of ADA Barba and the SVU squad.

star 8.16
772 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight

#5 - Guilt

Season 3 - Episode 18 - Aired Mar 29, 2002

When A.D.A. Cabot is faced with a reluctant witness in a child molestation case, she goes above and beyond the normal scope of duty in her search for evidence to convict the serial abuser. But her passion supercedes her compliance with the law as she misrepresents herself to Benson and Stabler to bring them into an illegal search of the traumatised boy's home -- jeopardising not only her case, but the careers of all involved. SVU Bureau Chief Elizabeth Donnelly is faced with the frustrating task of bringing Cabot in line to preserve the integrity of the Special Victims Unit.

star 8.14
287 votes
Directors: David Platt
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Daydream Believer (3)

#6 - Daydream Believer (3)

Season 16 - Episode 20 - Aired Apr 29, 2015

Benson and Voight lead their teams in the investigation of a rape/murder case that is frighteningly similar to a case from New York a decade ago. When forced to release their main suspect, the Chicago PD joins the SV Unit in New York in pursuit of Yates. (We Called Her Jellybean (1) aired on Chicago Fire, season 3, episode 21. The Number of Rats (2) aired on Chicago P.D., season 2, episode 20.)

star 8.14
433 votes

#7 - Gone

Season 7 - Episode 16 - Aired Feb 28, 2006

Doug Waverly and Nick Pratt are charged with rape and murder in the disappearance of Canadian student Jennifer Durning after Nick's cousin, Jason King, claims that while he had consensual sex with her that night the other two raped her. A stray pubic hair leads Novak to Keith Willis, a drunk who was paid off by the boys to get Jennifer out of the hotel and who later saw the boys kidnap her, but Willis exactly fit to be a witness as his mind has gone after years of alcohol abuse. Jason King disappears. Although they are able to find a bug in Donnelly's office, they are not able to prove that it was placed there by Pratt or Waverly. Judge Donnelly is forced to dismiss the case against the two boys since there is no case without Jason's testimony.

star 8.13
323 votes
Directors: George Pattison
Writers: Jonathan Greene
Intersecting Lives (1)

#8 - Intersecting Lives (1)

Season 17 - Episode 22 - Aired May 18, 2016

A corrections officer is arrested for sexually assaulting female inmates in and out of prison, and the union that supports him targets Barba and the SVU.

star 8.09
780 votes
Directors: Jonathan Starch
Writers: Brianna Yellen, Julie Martin, Warren Leight

#9 - Paternity

Season 9 - Episode 9 - Aired Nov 27, 2007

When the paternity of a missing young boy is placed into question, Stabler wonders if he really is the father of Kathy's child. Later, Stabler faces the possibility of losing not only his partner but also Kathy and the baby when she and Benson are in an accident.

star 8.09
323 votes
Directors: Kate Woods
Writers: Amanda Green
Townhouse Incident

#10 - Townhouse Incident

Season 17 - Episode 11 - Aired Jan 13, 2016

Benson is taken hostage when she tries to stop a home invasion.

star 8.07
632 votes
Directors: Nick Gomez
Writers: Brianna Yellen
Amaro's One-Eighty

#11 - Amaro's One-Eighty

Season 15 - Episode 11 - Aired Jan 15, 2014

When a suspect is gravely injured and the case becomes a public spectacle, Amaro's badge is on the line; Cragen surprises everyone with an announcement.

star 8.07
312 votes
Directors: Nick Gomez
Writers: Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight

#12 - Venom

Season 7 - Episode 18 - Aired Mar 28, 2006

Ken Randall calls Benson for help after he's picked up in an alley late at night. He claims that he was looking for a body after overhearing a man talk about murdering a woman and dumping her body while he was at the bar that night. Tutuola is upset that no one informed him, and determined to clear his son's name even though Ken immediately gets his own lawyer. Tutuola turns his eye on Ken's cousin, Darius Parker, who was with Ken that night and has been in and out of trouble for years, and after Ken voluntarily submits his DNA to clear his name, a shocking family connection between Darius and Ken is revealed. Darius confesses to having murdered the woman and her baby, but his confession is out because no one had contacted his lawyer.

star 8.06
264 votes
Directors: Peter Leto
Writers: Judith McCreary
Deadly Ambitions

#13 - Deadly Ambitions

Season 14 - Episode 15 - Aired Feb 20, 2013

The SVU squad tries to keep Detective Rollins' sister safe from her abusive boyfriend when she turns up beaten and pregnant; when Rollins is forced to take drastic action, an internal affairs investigation begins.

star 8.05
274 votes
Directors: Jim McKay
Writers: Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Peter Blauner, Warren Leight

#14 - Charisma

Season 6 - Episode 7 - Aired Nov 16, 2004

A career con artist, forger and thief turns to murder and serial pedophilia to populate the cult he created and to get his hands on a multi-million dollar trust fund. The detectives have trouble getting any leads because no one in the cult is saying anything, not even their names.

star 8.03
277 votes
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Above Suspicion

#15 - Above Suspicion

Season 14 - Episode 2 - Aired Sep 26, 2012

Delia continues cleaning house, leaving a wake of accusations, frame-ups, and murders for SVU to work through as they continue their search for evidence to prove Donald Crages is being framed. Tension is high; everyone is on edge and defensive, even paranoid, and wondering who's next?

star 8.03
201 votes
Directors: Michael Slovis
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight
Beast's Obsession

#16 - Beast's Obsession

Season 15 - Episode 20 - Aired Apr 9, 2014

Benson is assigned a 24/7 security detail when William Lewis escapes from prison and starts killing again; Benson must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to save a child's life.

star 8.03
414 votes
Directors: Steve Shill
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight

#17 - Parts

Season 6 - Episode 22 - Aired May 17, 2005

After a woman's head is found in a car junkyard, the detectives track it down to the black market.

star 8.03
264 votes
Writers: David Foster
Traumatic Wound

#18 - Traumatic Wound

Season 14 - Episode 21 - Aired May 1, 2013

When a concert turns into a mob scene, a teenager is brutally assaulted; Detective Amaro ends up defending the prime suspect's reputation.

star 8.03
349 votes
Directors: Alex Zakrzewski
Writers: Gwendolyn Parker, John P. Roche
Chicago Crossover (2)

#19 - Chicago Crossover (2)

Season 16 - Episode 7 - Aired Nov 12, 2014

Sergeant Hank Voight and Detectives Erin Lindsay and Jay Halstead track a child pornography victim to his last-known whereabouts in New York City, where Sergeant Benson and the SVU squad get a new lead – evidence of a livestreamed pornography “club” that caters to its subscriber’s shocking requests. When Lindsay discovers someone from her past is involved, she hopes it will help lead them to the site’s ringleader, but tensions between Voight and Benson could threaten the case. (Nobody Touches Anything (1) aired on Chicago Fire, season 3, episode 7. They’ll Have to Go Through Me (3) aired on Chicago P.D., season 2, episode 7.)

star 8.02
554 votes
Directors: Steve Shill
Writers: Dick Wolf, Ed Zuckerman, Warren Leight
End Game

#20 - End Game

Season 20 - Episode 24 - Aired May 16, 2019

When a teenager is found dead in the Hudson River, Lt. Benson suspects Rob Miller is behind the mysterious death but can’t prove it. Despite having only circumstantial evidence, ADA Stone takes the case to court before Miller can destroy more lives.

star 8.02
459 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Julie Martin, Michael Chernuchin
Manhattan Transfer (1)

#21 - Manhattan Transfer (1)

Season 17 - Episode 17 - Aired Mar 2, 2016

A sexual exploitation case involving Catholic schoolgirls results in surprising charges against people in esteemed leadership positions, including judges, lawmakers, lawyers and cops.

star 8.01
571 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Brendan Feeney, Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight
Unholiest Alliance (2)

#22 - Unholiest Alliance (2)

Season 17 - Episode 18 - Aired Mar 23, 2016

When one of their own is implicated in a cover-up, the SVU struggles to unravel a sex trafficking operation deeply-rooted in government offices, the police department, and the Catholic Church.

star 8.01
608 votes
Writers: Brendan Feeney, Brianna Yellen, Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight

#23 - Mask

Season 12 - Episode 13 - Aired Jan 12, 2011

Debbie Shields comes home to find her partner Ann Jackson being raped by a man wearing a haunting mask. Shields contacts Ann's father to notify him of her critical condition. As detectives Benson and Stabler interrogate Ann's father, Captain Jackson, his sordid past is revealed filled with sexual and alcohol addiction. Jackson's new role as a sex therapist is hindering the detectives from getting the information they need to solve the case and if Jackson won't comply, the detectives are going to have to get creative.

star 8.00
547 votes
Directors: Donna Deitch
Writers: Speed Weed

#24 - Fault

Season 7 - Episode 19 - Aired Apr 4, 2006

A manhunt ensues when Victor Paul Gitano, a recently released sex offender, kidnaps two children after killing the rest of their family. Benson and Stabler pursue Gitano only to find their own relationship challenged as both experience opportunities where they put their personal relationship ahead of their job. After having her throat slashed, Benson requests for a new partner when she hears what Stabler has to say about their relationship and their job.

star 8.00
283 votes
Directors: Paul McCrane
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters

#25 - Escape

Season 5 - Episode 11 - Aired Dec 2, 2003

When a convicted pedophile, desperate to prove his innocence before his terminally ill mother dies, escapes from prison and kidnaps his accuser to force him to recant his story, Benson finds herself in the middle of a hostage situation beginning to believe his story. After he is disarmed, Benson reviews his case, uncovers the web of corruption and deceit which caused his wrongful conviction, and reunites him with his mother and his son

star 8.00
281 votes
Writers: Barbie Kligman