All Law & Order Series, Ranked

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The Law & Order franchise has been one of the most successful and acclaimed television series in the history of television. The Legal Drama follows the life and work of the fictional police and prosecution teams in New York City and has set a gold standard when it comes to crime fiction. With five spin-offs and over 20 seasons in total, there’s plenty to love and explore in the Law & Order universe. In this article, we will be ranking all the Law & Order series from best to worst.

1. Law and Order: Criminal Intent

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (L&O:CI) is the third series in the Law & Order franchise, and it’s easily the best. This series focused on the investigations done by the Major Case Squad, and starred Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe as Detectives Robert Goran and Alexandra Eames. The show was more character-driven than the earlier series and had a much more psychological bent to its storytelling. L&O:CI also had some of the best writing and performances of any Law &Order series, with D’Onofrio especially stealing the show.

2. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

It may now be the longest-running Law & Order series on TV, but Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (L&O: SVU) was a late-comer to the franchise. Created in 1999 by Dick Wolf, L&O: SVU deals with particularly heinous crimes and some of New York’s most dangerous criminals. The series has featured annual crossovers with its other Law & Order counterparts and has had some of the most memorable episodes ever, like “Closet,” “Lungs,” and the multi-award-winning “Different But Equal.” Stars Mariska Hargitay, Chris Meloni, and Ice T can be credited with making the series a hit.

3. Law & Order

The first installment in what would become the most successful crime drama franchise ever, Law & Order pioneered the concept of “ripped from the headlines” storytelling that has been used in countless TV shows since. Set in New York City and dealing with some of the city’s toughest cases, Law & Order followed the work of various police and prosecutor teams, with a particular focus on the district attorney’s office. The series starred the likes of Steven Hill, Richard Brooks, and Jesse L. Martin and earned multiple Emmy nominations, including one for Outstanding Drama Series.

4. Law & Order: True Crime

Law & Order: True Crime is the eighth and newest installment in the franchise. This limited series was an anthology of sorts, focusing on a particular true crime case each season, something that was a nice departure from the usual serialized format of the franchise. The first season focused on The Menendez brothers and starred Edie Falco as defense attorney Leslie Abramson. The series was praised for its performances and its willingness to tackle difficult subjects like corruption and racism.

5. Law & Order: Trial by Jury

Law & Order: Trial by Jury was the fourth installment in the franchise and the first to not feature any characters from the previous series. It focused on the criminal trials in the New York justice system, with the main characters being the attorneys for both sides of the case. Jerry Orbach returned for one episode as his iconic character, Detective Briscoe but left the series afterwards and passed away soon after. While the series had a good cast and was well-received when it first aired, it ultimately failed to find an audience and was cancelled after one season.

6. Law & Order: LA

Law & Order: Los Angeles (L&O: LA) was the seventh iteration in the franchise and the first to be set outside of New York. It followed the trials and cases of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office and the LAPD Hollywood Division. The series starred Skeet Ulrich and Terrence Howard as detectives Rex Winters and Tomas “TJ” Jarus zone and Alfre Woodward as the Los Angeles District Attorney. However, the series failed to find an audience and was canceled after one season.

7. Law & Order: UK

Law & Order: UK is a British spin-off from the original Law &Order series. The series featured a who’s who of British actors and only changed slightly from the setting of the original series. The show was broadcast in the UK and the US, but failed to find the same immense success that the original version did. It ran for eight seasons before being canceled after dwindling viewership.

The Law & Order universe has provided us with some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking crime drama of the last two decades. Whether it’s the smart writing or the iconic characters, we’ve all come to love the world of Law & Order. We’ve just taken a look at the various versions of the Law & Order universe, ranking them from best to worst. What’s your favorite Law & Order series? Let us know in the comments below.

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