The BEST Episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Jan 19, 2022

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.

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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 8.42
325 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 8.26
290 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 8.24
359 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 8.17
793 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight
Daydream Believer (3)

#5 - 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
466 votes

#6 - 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 8.12
314 votes
Directors: David Platt
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters

#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 8.11
345 votes
Directors: George Pattison
Writers: Jonathan Greene

#8 - 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 8.10
337 votes
Directors: Kate Woods
Writers: Amanda Green
Intersecting Lives (1)

#9 - 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
800 votes
Directors: Jonathan Starch
Writers: Brianna Yellen, Julie Martin, Warren Leight
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 8.08
656 votes
Directors: Nick Gomez
Writers: Brianna Yellen
Above Suspicion

#11 - 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 8.06
216 votes
Directors: Michael Slovis
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight
Amaro's One-Eighty

#12 - 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 8.06
331 votes
Directors: Nick Gomez
Writers: Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight
Beast's Obsession

#13 - 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 8.05
437 votes
Directors: Steve Shill
Writers: Julie Martin, Warren Leight
Deadly Ambitions

#14 - 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 8.04
286 votes
Directors: Jim McKay
Writers: Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Peter Blauner, Warren Leight

#15 - 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 8.04
285 votes
Directors: Peter Leto
Writers: Judith McCreary
Manhattan Transfer (1)

#16 - 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 8.03
595 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Brendan Feeney, Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight
End Game

#17 - 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 8.03
489 votes
Directors: Alex Chapple
Writers: Julie Martin, Michael Chernuchin
Unholiest Alliance (2)

#18 - 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 8.02
629 votes
Writers: Brendan Feeney, Brianna Yellen, Julie Martin, Kevin Fox, Warren Leight

#19 - 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 8.02
305 votes
Directors: Paul McCrane
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Chicago Crossover (2)

#20 - 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
587 votes
Directors: Steve Shill
Writers: Dick Wolf, Ed Zuckerman, Warren Leight

#21 - 911

Season 7 - Episode 3 - Aired Oct 4, 2005

Benson is on her way out for the evening when a call comes in from a little girl who says she's all alone. While trying to draw the girl out, Benson is drawn deeper into the little girl's life, and although the other officers begin to suspect the whole thing may be some sick joke, Benson is convinced that the little girl is the real deal. By talking to Maria, Benson is able to ferret enough information from her so that they have a place to start, but Maria's captor has an affinity for electronics and has done everything he can to make sure that no one can find the little girl he bought and paid for.

star 8.01
363 votes
Directors: Ted Kotcheff
Writers: Patrick Harbinson

#22 - 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 8.00
293 votes
Writers: Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

#23 - Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Season 22 - Episode 16 - Aired Jun 3, 2021

While Fin and Phoebe make wedding plans, Benson and Rollins try to help a homeless single mother who's being trafficked in exchange for safe housing.

star 8.00
204 votes
Directors: Norberto Barba
Writers: Christian Tyler, Denis Hamill, Julie Martin, Kathy Dobie, Warren Leight

#24 - 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 7.99
561 votes
Directors: Donna Deitch
Writers: Speed Weed

#25 - Raw

Season 7 - Episode 6 - Aired Nov 1, 2005

After a six-year-old boy dies in a school shooting, detectives trace the gun used back to a white supremacist's gun shop. Munch and Tutuola both face hatred and prejudice from the major suspects in the case, but their investigation soon takes them from the man who pulled the trigger back to the gun shop owner, who makes no bones about his hatred of anyone who isn't white.

star 7.99
301 votes
Writers: Dawn DeNoon