There are plenty of thrilling shows out there that dive into the dark underbelly of law enforcement, showcasing characters who defy the rules. FX’s The Shield, for instance, had viewers hooked for seven seasons with its morally complex detectives and raked in countless prestigious awards. It’s a prime example of how sometimes the end justifies the means.
We’ve put together an exciting list of the absolute best shows that delve into police corruption. We want to determine which TV shows featuring irresistibly twisted cops deserve the top spots. Among the standout contenders is Watchmen, starring the incredibly talented Regina King, which even landed her an Emmy. Another noteworthy series is We Own This City, an HBO gem from 2022 that has been compared to the acclaimed The Wire.
What are your thoughts on these gripping shows that explore the shadows of law enforcement? Let us know your personal favorites as we uncover the ultimate rankings.
1. The Shield
The Shield is a TV show with a fantastic ensemble cast. Michael Chiklis plays Vic Mackey, a detective in Los Angeles. He’s a bit of a moral question mark, dealing with police corruption. The story really makes you think about what’s right and wrong as the characters struggle with their own morals. It’s got some intense action scenes and the characters are developed really well. The Shield has had a big influence on audiences and future police dramas.
Actors: Michael Chiklis, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes, Glenn Close
Premiered: March 12, 2002
2. The Wire
The Wire is an incredible drama that takes place in Baltimore. It really gets into the nitty-gritty of police corruption, the drug trade, and the decay of urban areas. The performances by Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Michael K. Williams are absolutely amazing. They bring to life the complicated connections between law enforcement and the gritty underworld. It’s no exaggeration to say that The Wire is a true masterpiece in storytelling. It has definitely earned its place among the all-time greats of modern television.
Actors: Dominic West, John Doman, Frankie R. Faison, Wood Harris, Domenick Lombardozzi
Premiered: June 2, 2002
3. City on a Hill
City on a Hill takes us deep into the gritty world of police corruption in 1990s Boston. With its compelling storytelling and an amazing cast led by Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge, this series brings the dark side to life. It delves into the complex connections between law enforcement and criminals, showcasing flawed characters in all their complexity. Through the perspectives of an FBI agent and a corrupt police veteran, City on a Hill leaves no stone unturned in its exploration of corruption.
Actors: Aldis Hodge, Kevin Bacon, Jonathan Tucker, Mark O’Brien, Lauren E. Banks
Premiered: June 16, 2019
4. Shades of Blue
Shades of Blue is a show that truly captivates its audience with a gripping portrayal of Detective Harlee Santos, brilliantly brought to life by Jennifer Lopez. As the plot unfolds, we witness Harlee skillfully juggling her loyalty to her fellow officers and her unwavering commitment to doing what’s best for her daughter. This compelling narrative is filled with betrayal and moral dilemmas, leaving viewers absolutely hooked from beginning to end. And let’s not forget the dynamic chemistry between Lopez and her co-star Ray Liotta, which adds an extra layer of intrigue to this fascinating cop drama.
Actors: Jennifer Lopez, Ray Liotta, Drea de Matteo, Hampton Fluker, Warren Kole
Premiered: January 7, 2016
5. We Own This City
We Own This City” is a new HBO limited series that has been generating a lot of excitement. It delves deep into the issue of police corruption in Baltimore, drawing inspiration from true events. The show skillfully blends intense drama with the intricate details of real-life scandals, making for a captivating storyline. Created by the same brilliant minds behind The Wire, this series is set to ignite discussions about urban life and the complexities of law enforcement
Actors: Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, McKinley Belcher, Darrell Britt-Gibson
Premiered: April 25, 2022
6. Training Day
Training Day, the TV series, is based on the renowned film and takes viewers on a gritty journey into the dark world of police corruption within the LAPD. With Bill Paxton and Justin Cornwell delivering captivating performances, the show delves into the tough decisions officers face when tempted and when the line between law enforcement and criminality becomes blurry. Brace yourself for a thrilling, nail-biting experience, as Training Day offers a combination of intense action and a raw atmosphere that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Actors: Bill Paxton, Justin Cornwell, Katrina Law, Drew Van Acker, Lex Scott Davis
Premiered: February 2, 2017
7. Line of Duty
Line of Duty is a gripping British crime drama that has gained a lot of attention due to its intense exploration of police corruption in a fictional anti-corruption unit. The show really keeps you on the edge of your seat, thanks to the outstanding performances by actors such as Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, and Adrian Dunbar. It’s no surprise that Line of Duty has become a big hit in the UK and has also gained an international following. It has definitely earned its place among the top police dramas out there.
Actors: Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Kelly Macdonald, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Adrian Dunbar
Premiered: June 26, 2012
8. Between the Lines
Between the Lines” is a show that delves deep into the inner workings of a police complaints investigation team in London, shedding light on the unsettling truth of police corruption without holding back. With a talented ensemble cast, led by Neil Pearson and Tom Georgeson, the performances are both subtle and emotionally charged. The show’s clever and impactful storytelling makes it a timeless depiction of the genuine challenges confronted by law enforcement
Actors: Siobhan Redmond, Thad Luckinbill, Tom Georgeson, Neil Pearson, Sylvestra Le Touzel
Watchmen is an adaptation of the groundbreaking graphic novel that combines a dystopian alternate reality with a bone-chilling portrayal of police corruption and vigilantism. The series tackles powerful themes and features standout performances from talented actors like Regina King and Jeremy Irons. It truly sparks thought-provoking discussions on morality, power, and justice. With its innovative storytelling and distinct setting, Watchmen stands out as an exceptional addition to the police drama genre.
Actors: Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson
Premiered: October 20, 2019
10. Low Winter Sun
Low Winter Sun takes you on a wild ride through the murky waters of police corruption in Detroit. We follow two detectives who find themselves caught up in a tangled web of betrayal and crime. With talented actors like Mark Strong and Lennie James, the show comes alive with their intense performances. Brace yourself for a gritty and heart-pounding series that pulls back the curtain on the sinister underbelly of law enforcement.
Actors: Mark Strong, Lennie James, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, James Ransone, Sprague Grayden
Premiered: August 11, 2013
Hack, a gripping series set in the heart of Philadelphia, takes us on a wild ride alongside David Morse, who plays a former cop turned cab driver. This dude is determined to make things right by standing up for the underdogs. What sets this show apart is its one-of-a-kind concept that sets it apart from the rest of the genre. And let me tell you, the story is so captivating that you can’t help but get hooked on our hero’s journey to redemption. Hack sheds light on police corruption from a whole new angle, bringing something truly valuable to the table.
Actors: Andre Braugher, David Morse, Matthew Borish