Law & Order is one of the longest-running legal dramas to ever grace the small screen. The original franchise entry ran for 20 seasons and 456 episodes, staying on air from 1990 to 2010. And if you didn't notice, Law & Order has more spinoff shows than many series have total seasons!
But the question remains, which franchise series is the overall best? So far, there have been seven different spinoff series in the franchise, a made-for-TV movie, and a handful of international adaptations. Do you have a favorite? If not, you may learn a thing or two when we rank every single Law & Order series to date!
Updated October 18, 2019: Correction made to actor name Fred Dalton Thompson (which appeared as Fred Dalton Hampton earlier).
8 Law & Order: Trial By Jury
Lasting just one season and 13 episodes, it's safe to say Trial by Jury lost its appeal to the masses.
Starring Bebe Neuwirth, Amy Carlson, Kirk Acevedo, Fred Dalton Thompson, and Scott Cohen, the series revolved around the tedious nuances of jury procedure. The loose connection to the original included Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) leaving to take an investigative gig in the D.A's office. One of the reasons the series failed to stick was due to the season finale airing eight months after the previous episode. Talk about a cliff hanger!
7 Law & Order: LA
Since L.A. Law proved so successful from 1986-1994, the Law & Order franchise thought they'd take their outfit to La La Land as well!
Unfortunately, the show lasted nowhere near as long. Running for just one season and 22 episodes in 2010-2011, Law & Order: LA focused on criminal offenders and the district attorneys assigned to prosecute them. The stellar ensemble cast included Cory Stoll, Rachel Ticotin, Alfred Molina, Terrence Howard, and Skeet Ulrich. The series was put on indefinite hold in January of 2011 and was ultimately canceled in May of the same year.
6 Law & Order: True Crime
Law & Order True Crime offers a new wrinkle in the legal drama franchise. Each season, the anthology series will take a famous real-life crime and dramatize it. The first season, which ran for eight episodes in 2017, explored the infamous Menendez murders. Disturbing stuff!
While no details have been given for Season 2 so far, the show is an obvious response to the hit series American Crime Story. Edie Falco, who played Sally Bell in the original Law & Order, stars in True Crime as defense attorney Leslie Abramson.
5 Law & Order: UK
In 2009, Law & Order creator Dick Wolf set up shop across the pond. Who knew the international adaptation would last eight seasons and 53 episodes?!
While the British legal system drastically differs from the one in the U.S., Law & Order: UK continued the show's trademark attention to detail. The series revolved around recovering alcoholic and senior CID investigator Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) and his underling, Joe Hawkins (Ben Bailey-Smith). While there are many links to the American version, this is the only spinoff series so far to not feature the classic Mike Post theme music.
In 2006, Law & Order: SVU alum Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) got a cool spinoff show called Conviction. Did you ever see it?
Also starring Eric Balfour, Jordan Bridges, Milena Govich, and Anson Mount, the series centered on Cabot's return as bureau chief to train a new crop of Assistant District Attorneys. According to the series creator Dick Wolf, the show was less a legal procedural and more of a "charactercedural." That is, the legal aspect of the show took a backseat to the rich character development and detailed back-stories.
3 Law & Order: Criminal Intent
With a whopping 195 episodes produced over 10 full seasons, Law & Order Criminal Intent is easily among the top three franchise series to date.
What separates the show from the rest of the franchise is the way it's told through the POV of the criminals. The show depicts the premeditation and commitment of various crimes in NYC. Kathryn Erbe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jamey Sheridan, Courtney B. Vance, Leslie Hendrix, and Eric Bogosian starred in the series, which ran from 2001-2011. The offbeat character of Detective Robert Goren (D'Onofrio), who was based on Sherlock Holmes, is the main reason why the show is so good.
2 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
This just in: SVU has been on the air longer than the original Law & Order!
With an unprecedented 21 seasons and 480 episodes and running, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has become the longest-running spinoff series to date. Series mainstay, Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Mariska Hargitay continues to play the formidable Olivia Benson, the show's lead Detective. Of course, SVU specifically focuses on victims of sexual abuse, a subject that has received more awareness in the past few years. Question is, will SVU remain on air long enough to beat The Simpsons for the longest-running show ever?
1 Law & Order
What, you honestly thought another series would take the gold medal? Stop it already!
Without the success of the original Law & Order, these other spinoff series would cease to be. The original series ran for 20 seasons and 456 episodes, remaining on air from 1990-2010. The show's iconic cast, including S. Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, Steven Hill, and Jesse L. Martin, is what makes the show so memorable. The novelty of making a crime procedural that focuses on both sides of the ledger - the police investigation and the attorneys who prosecute - had never been done before.