The best female police officers in TV and film

From Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison to Frances McDorman's Madge Gunderson, the best female crime fighters on screen

ITV’s new three-part drama Black Work brings Sheridan Smith’s PC Jo Gillespie to our TV screens but she’s not the first fearless fictional female to crack down on crime.


Film and TV has given us many outstanding leading law-enforcing ladies, who’ve made a long-lasting impression on the small and silver screens.

Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison – Prime Suspect (Helen Mirren)

Mirren made her name as the Detective Chief Inspector (later Detective Superintendent) from Southampton Row who became one of the first female officers to rise up through the ranks in the fictional Greater London Metropolitan Police Service, fighting sexism and crime at the same time.

Constable Anne Lewis – RoboCop (Nancy Allen)

RoboCop’s partner in (preventing) crime is a tough as nails kinda lass who takes pride in doing her duty in the face of danger. She’ll take on the bad guys with gusto, often with little concern for her own safety.

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund – The Killing (Sofie Gråbøl)

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Lund was just one day from retirement (well, she was transferring from the Danish to the Swedish police force) when a 19-year-old’s brutal rape and murder sent her off on an iconic investigation. The jumpers alone made her a household name.

Marge Gunderson – Fargo (Frances McDormand)

Brainerd, Minnesota’s Chief of Police is seven months pregnant when she first appears in Fargo. She’s probably one of film’s most beloved police officers, not least because she’s a lovely lady who shows that pregnancy isn’t going to hinder her ability to crack the case. Frances McDormand even nabbed an Oscar for her portrayal of the character.

DI Alexandra “Alex” Drake – Ashes to Ashes (Keeley Hawes)

Police psychologist DI Alex Drake had certainly had a lot on her plate – and who wouldn’t when you’ve been shot, knocked unconscious, and ‘woken up’ from a coma in 1981? She certainly managed to hold her own against Gene Hunt though, and that’s a challenge in itself.

Cadet Laverne Hooks – Marion Ramsey (Police Academy)

Often dismissed by the men for her seemingly soft nature, Laverne showed she had the mettle to rise through the ranks and outshine her classmates. She’s become a Sergeant by the time we wave goodbye to her in the sixth film in the franchise, but her unforgettable catchphrase, “don’t move, dirtbag!” is forever in our hearts.

DS Ellie Miller – Olivia Colman (Broadchurch)

Olivia Colman was probably best known for her comedy career before DS Ellie Miller hit our TV screens but that all changed the moment the Broadchurch C.I.D officer put David Tennant’s DI Hardy in his place. Miller’s determination to crack cases while dealing with the most difficult circumstances at home – coupled with her acerbic with – won her a permanent place in TV viewers’ hearts.


Black Work airs on ITV from Sunday June 21st at 9pm