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The Coolest Detectives in Movies, Ranked

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Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

When it comes to the cool factor, it’s hard to beat a cynical, hardened detective with a sharp eye, a sharper tongue, and a penchant for danger. Whether it’s the striking outline of Humphrey Bogart in black-and-white, or Clint Eastwood’s lethal squint-eyed gaze, the aura of a detective with style and a cool head has prevailed through various types of movies for decades.

Not all detectives have that cool factor, though. And if this was an article about the best detectives, the quirky Belgian private eye Hercule Poirot would compete with the brilliant Sherlock Holmes for the top spot. But this list is about the coolest

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detectives, of which Hercule Poirot is decidedly not.

So with the cool factor in mind, who are the coolest detectives in movies?

It takes a remarkably cool head and strength of will to walk down the nightmare prison hallway that leads to the infamous Hannibal Lecter – and FBI Agent Clarice Starling has both in spades. Ever since the release of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, both Agent Starling (Jodie Foster) and the terrifying cannibal Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) have been an iconic and fascinating duo. Though not technically a detective, Agent Starling definitely has to use her investigate skills to not only pull information from Lecter, but to know and follow the right lead, which brings her into the den of serial killer Buffalo Bill. Trapped in pitch-black darkness and clearly terrified, she still has the cool presence of mind to use her hearing to locate and shoot the killer, and rescue the daughter of a senator. This role made Jodie Foster so iconic as a relentless investigator that she’s even starring in the upcoming True Detective Season 4.

Denzel Washington played a modern LA noir detective in the movie Devil in a Blue Dress like he was born for it. With his lazy manner of speaking and the character’s hardcore history, he fit the role of private investigator Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins effortlessly.

Rawlins starts off reluctant to pursue the mystery that falls into his lap – to find a missing woman. He follows a few leads for the sake of the money, but there is a great moment where he is questioning a person of interest, Todd Carter, and he shifts from confusion into that sharp-witted determination that we recognize in the best of detectives. Washington’s performance as the endearing Rawlins was excellent, and the character should have gotten more than one movie.

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