Just for fun / Killers / Opinion / Poll

Vote for your favourite Columbo killer!

Columbo killers 1

Columbo owes its success as much to the cavalcade of wonderfully cast and charismatic killers as it does to the enduring greatness of Peter Falk in the title role.

And that makes sense. Each episode more about the killer than it is about the Lieutenant, after all. Over the course of an episode we usually spend more time with the killer than we do with Columbo, placing a great importance on making sure the actors and actresses draw a strong emotional connection with the audience – for good or bad.

From the endearing cheekiness of Abigail Mitchell and the downright wickedness of Barry Mayfield to the tomfooling antics of Roger Stanford and the vengeance-driven Vivian Dimitri, the collection of Columbo killers make for fascinating viewing. But which of the 71 confirmed murderers is the ultimate fan favourite? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Prescription 3

Does the suave Dr Flemming hold the #1 place in your murderous heart?

Interestingly, in the opening months of 2019 I ran a 70s’ Columbo killers knock-out competition via Instagram Stories. Over the course of 6 weeks or so I’d conservatively estimate that 25,000 votes were cast, with Adrian Carsini the overall winner, besting The Great Santini in the final, and Abigail Mitchell and Ken Franklin taking third and fourth respectively.

Brilliant fun as this was, the nature of a draw means that perhaps the results were slightly skewed. As an example, a second round clash saw Dale Kingston go head to head with Paul Hanlon – a heavyweight clash indeed – which resulted in the luckless Dale being eliminated early. A tough break when I know he’s got a strong fan base.

This poll will keep it simple. Just place your vote for your single favourite Columbo killer from the list below. And remember, choose your favourite character, not your favourite actor. So if you adore Robert Culp above all others, consider whether your vote goes to Investigator Brimmer, Paul Hanlon or Bart Keppell. Kapisch?

“From the endearing cheekiness of Abigail Mitchell to the downright wickedness of Barry Mayfield, the collection of Columbo killers make for fascinating viewing.”

Struggling to whittle it down? Then don’t get caught up in the cleverest murder method, or who Columbo likes most or least. Just consider which baddie you get the most pleasure from watching and your heart will guide you.

NB – I haven’t included Hugh Caldwell from A Friend in Deed because the murder took place off-screen before the episode began. I also haven’t included Lisa Martin from It’s All in the Game, even though she was directly involved in the set-up to kill Nick Franco. If either are your favourite, I authorise WAYNE JENNINGS to receive your vote.

So get voting gang, and let’s see who the crown of ‘Most Popular Columbo Killer of Them All‘ ends up with. The poll will stay open in perpetuity, but once there’s a clear indication of favourites in a few months I’ll piece together a sweet article. NOW VOTE!

Of course, you’re very welcome to leave a comment below, so do share your favourite and why you heart them so!

Columbo killers 2

Thanks for taking the time to read and to vote, and let’s all play again soon.

You can read up on my own top 10 favourite Columbo killers here.


wayne jennings

Wayne Jennings – certain to top the poll? Only in his imagination…

How did you like this article?

75 thoughts on “Vote for your favourite Columbo killer!

  1. Wayne Effing Jennings. LOL
    Oof, that was one shockingly dreadful performance. And Season 9 was actually pretty solid up until Malibu.

    • I agree. Him and Dick Van Dyke are certainly the most memorable ruthless killers Columbo ever faced. Seems like fans are voting for their favorite episodes rather than actual villainy.

  2. Often it’s whatever one I happen to be watching, right now that;s Mr., excuse me Dr. Bart Keppel.

    • My favorite episode (Double Exposure) Culp was excellent as the egotistical Dr. Keppel. To me that episode was such a classic and the Keppel character was brilliant. One hilarious thing about this series is the killer was never handcuffed except for a couple later years episodes…..

  3. I wasn’t sure where to post this, exactly, but this topic seemed as appropriate as any: just read the sad news that Rip Torn (Death hits the jackpot) has passed away. Of all the Columbo villains of the 90’s he was certainly one of the best. May he rest in peace.

    • Very sad to hear this. Like I posted downthread he was superb as an over-the-top Leon Lamarr. Matter of fact, in everything. I thoroughly enjoy that episode as a guilty pleasure.

  4. I did vote for Dexter Paris – the cooking scene alone is one of my favourites, to say nothing of the way he tells Mrs. Peck “I love you, I love you, I love you!” I enjoy what Martin Landau does with the part. I’m surprised he hasn’t received many votes at all – less than Swanny, for heaven’s sake!

  5. Cassidy as the Great Santini was so suave, smooth and graceful with his every movement, gesture, and turn of a phrase. He really seemed like a true magician in that episode, and the detestable Jesse Jerome was a well deserved victim. Cassidy always seemed to keep that graceful persona in all his roles, which probably comes from his Broadway experience/formal training. That was his yin side. The stories told about his drinking binges were legendary (his yang).

    It’s sad to picture acting greats like he and William Holden taking their last breaths in an alcohol-fueled stupefied haze. Inhaling smoke and burning to death from a fire started by a cigarette in the case of Cassidy, and trying to crawl to a phone for help after falling and cracking his skull on a glass table, for Holden. Hollywood is full of hundreds of pitiful stories of the lives and deaths of the ‘rich and famous’, Gig Young’s tragic murder-suicide being another, among many.

    These incidents remind us that they’re mere mortals like the rest of us, and fame and stardom doesn’t always equate to true happiness.

    Fortunately, their creative and professional work lives on in marvelous movies and television shows. Supposedly Cassidy was never happy with big and small screen roles. He felt that theater was worthy of his enormous talent, and film/tv roles merely paid the bills. Thankfully he left us with some small screen gems. It’s sad and dysfunctional that he was jealous of the massive success of his son, David, who recently lost his battle with the bottle.

    I admit that I would have killed to “have a couple of jars” with The Great Santini, Rylie Greenleaf, or Ken Franklin. The twinkle in Cassidy’s eye when he mentioned alcohol and women was devilishly classic, but I probably would have wanted to depart company before he really tied one on. I also wouldn’t go out on a rowboat with the dude!

    • Ulsterfan, The Great Santini/Jack Cassidy is my favorite too, and like you, I rate all 3 Cassidy performances very high, fascinating, watchable multiple times. Jesse Jerome the detestable blackmailer was no great loss to humanity but I stop short of actual sympathy for Santini because he admitted to being an SS guard.
      Indeed, Jack was a man of tragic excesses which caused his own grisly death, especially for a handsome, vain man concerned about his appearance, whose charred corpse was rendered unrecognizable in the flames. I hope he passed out quickly from smoke inhalation first.

  6. My favourite is Patrick Mac.Goohan’s third and, final appearance; loved, “Oscar Finch.” Number two: John Cassavetes, in “Etude In Black” and, third-in deference, to the distaff side-Miss Lee Grant, in “Ransom For A Dead Man.”

  7. The majority of low or zero scorers are episodes from the new batch , they were good killers and actors but the scripts didn’t do them justice.
    My 5 least favorite from the 70s would be

    1) Ruth Litton Old fashioned murder plain dull
    2) roger short fuse annoying prick
    3) paul gerrard murder under glass boring no chemistry
    4) ward fowler fade in to murder white suited repeating everything in a posh voice
    5) the duo from dagger of the mind cant stand them or the episode

  8. Ii am a little bit surprised that the Patrick mcgoohan episodes are not a bit higher , he was great in identity crisis , and agenda for murder in particular and also Oliver Brandt is not right up there seeing as he did kill his best and life long friend and colleague even though he had been teasing and tormenting for most it , ripping off his clients to spoil his wife and then calling all his brainy friends eccentric bores . so he does not have a lot of remorse

  9. As far as the 70 s run goes Ward Fowler , and that woman from old fashioned murder ,
    were dreary and the 2 from the less popular dagger of the mind also a matter of honour mexican fella..
    Kay freestone is right up there with the best , Riley green leaf , paul dannziger from troubled waters , abigail mitchell and oliver brandt and many nmore ,
    one must remember that these were the best episodes from the 70s run

  10. Surely that was sarcasm with that picture of wayne jennings from murder in Malibu , that would be bottom of my list ,
    I wouldnt have even rememberd his name only for the blog . as we all know it was a bad egg and for me just about the worst along with Undercover and no time to die and in contrast a trace of murder and murder of a rock star are underrated.

    • Everything to do with Wayne Jennings comes with a healthy dose of sarcasm. In better news, the review of Forgotten Lady will be up this weekend. I’m doing the final edit and selecting images now.

      • Thank you columbophile that has cheered me up no end as i enjoy the episode reviews in particular especially the conclusion and where there ranked. it has been a while since the last review.
        I am not a massive fan of either forgotten lady or a case of immunity but then comes one of me and my dads favourites Identity crisis with Patrick mcgoohan and lets hope pace picks up with the reviews.

  11. I voted for Adrian Carsini and my wife for Abigail Mitchell but there are so many great characters from this show that it’s hard to choose. Would love to pick a Culp or Cassidy character but think Pleasence and Falk worked so well together in Any Old Port. This show was definitely on a different level than the other Police/Detective series of that time or any after.

  12. A few thoughts:
    1) I’m surprised Riley Greenleaf got so much less than the other two Cassidy killers. A ruthless double killer, he plans both murders brilliantly, with all kinds of acting shtick to cover his tracks.
    2) I’m even more surprised that none of McGoohan’s 3 murderers went very high. I thought the CIA episode was too over the top and its murder less thrilling than the rest of the episode, but Agenda for Murder was superb, and Colonel Rumford has the sympathetic factor, as well as a delicious battle of wits and all the contrasting character traits with Columbo.
    4) Good to see Vivian Dmitri get some votes. That was a great murder character, and a thoroughly enjoyable late Columbo episode, with a superb final twist that is still so much fun to see even after you know the secret.
    5) I know it’s a secret ballot, but man, I’d love to know who voted for Swanny Swanson. I sure hope he/she meant it in jest.
    6) Hard to choose the best out of so many gems, but I had to go with Abigail. Obvious mixed emotions aspect, yet she plans to murder her victim in the most painfully vengeful way. Her ability to then play the innocent old lady, yet respond to her extortionist like a cool conniving businesswoman, and then play the sympathy card again with Columbo.

  13. yes I agree Leon lemar would be one ofthe picks of the new run , he was pretty heartless to murder his own nephew in ccold blood and he play acts his grief in front of Colombo , also Oscar finch was good in agenda for murder , these are 2 of the much better New episodes.

  14. Given the question, let me throw in support for none other than Leon Lamar, played so magnificently over the top by Rip Torn. He’s such a baddy, and it was a fairly good flick for one of the latter day Columbos.

  15. Is so difficult to decide for me because you have to determine between so many killers and so many different scenarios . on one hand you have columbo killers who killed more than one person for example , dr Mayfield Ken Franklin , Riley Greenleaf (via hit man )then slays his own hit man ,Tommie Brown 2 women in one go etc .
    Then you have killers such as Abigail Mitchell , Oscar finch , Kay freestone, Alex benedict and so on but were very charismatic and funny and a great match for columbo , so in conclusion I cannot single one out its unjust so il just say Abigail Mitchell , and Kay freestone most memorable . Pat mc goohan was certainly funniest especially as Oscar finch and nelson Brenner and Paul galesko Dr Keppel , Dr Mayfield and Riley Greenleaf perhaps the most Ruthless .

    • Kay Freestone is a good pick. I despise the scummy guys that are in her orbit (except Jonathon, who she chose as a possible scapegoat) and Trish Van Devere did an absolutely great job.

      • Agree on Kay! You sense how she had to struggle in her career against these ‘scummy guys’ to get where she did. Her drive and intelligence were admirable. Her crime – you can almost sympathize (as if the murder was committed to avenge a multitude of sins.) And Trish is as charismatic as they come.

      • Yeah, Kay is one of the few Columbo murderers I find relatively sympathetic. I’m not saying it justifies murder, but her boyfriend really did treat her like crap, and I’d have wanted revenge as well in her place.

            • David you said a mouthful! I wish I had a LIKE button to pound on your post. So he has a twist with Kay on Saturday, fully knowing he’s going to ditch her on Sunday. Then Mr. Flannigan, that tower of jello who can’t decide whether to sign a star, questions Kay’s ethics about moving into Mark’s office so soon after his death while he’s on the way to a party! I can’t wait till our esteemed Columbophile tackles this one.

  16. Milo Janus was not the greatest Columbo killer.
    But he does have one distinction – He’s the only one with his own jingle!

  17. Nelson Brenner – though it’s hard to pick a favourite from so many memorable turns, I always find Patrick McGoohan tremendous value. His chemistry with Falk is superb, and though he’s undoubtedly theatrical as the villain in this, it’s just the right side of eccentric to be believable. Plus he gives his prize bear to a little girl, so he’s not entirely evil!

    • I went with Brenner. I agree the performance is a little “extra” (in the new parlance), but fits the cartoonish, almost Bond villain character.

  18. I watch colombo all the time. I have seen each one more then a dozen times. I will watch them again.

  19. Hey what about Johnny Cash, that was a good one a lot of problems he had, and she was just evil.

    • Ward Fowler was great. Stunning over dramatic acting from Shatner. I chose one of Jack Cassidy’s character, the Great Santini, I just love when Columbo goes up against a magician.

  20. For me, “favourite” (or even “favorite”) is not most despicable; just the opposite. That’s why I picked Lyle Rumford. His was likely the least selfish Columbo murder, and committed in a manner designed to cause his victim no prolonged suffering (unlike Adrian Carsini’s and Abigail Mitchell’s).

    • Exactly. I di pick dr Keppel because I always have tremendous fun watching his episode, but I was also considering Colonel Rumford and Ruth Lytton. Dr Mayfield – never ever. His episode was fantastic and scary in equal measure. He could win a “most ruthless murderer” poll though.

  21. My vote was Leslie Williams. For all of her cold blooded evil I find her witty and charming. Plus she’s really hot looking 🙂

    • I loved that episode and the conversation about the soaps. Lt. Columbo had reservations about using them. “But Lt. that’s what they’re for”…Leslie.

  22. Mark Halperin, the worst kind of killer. He uses his wife’s fortune to pay for his alleged mistress and gambling even though he’s the police commissioner, uses his power and influence to cover up his friend’s accidental killing of his wife for the purpose of using him to kill his own wife. No sympathy for this villain. It was a pleasure to watch Columbo drag him off his personal mountain.

  23. It’s so tempting to vote for either Dexter or Norman Paris, just because the option is there… But this is the hardst poll so far. I’ll have to think about this before I vote, too many greats to choose from. Though I’m quite sure I won’t pick Wayne Jennings.

  24. For me it’s impossible to pick one….and that’s a good thing. Goes to show you how many great villains there were. One thing, I only view the first 7 seasons…after that I’m out!!!

  25. Dr Barry Mayfield. Easily.
    He murdered one person to cover up that he was attempting to murder a different person.
    He then murdered a third person to implicate that victim as the killer of the 1st victim.
    Add to that the he’s the 1st of only 2 suspects to ever make Columbo lose his temper {Milo Janus} and he’s easily the best, most evil character Columbo has faced.

      • DR mayfield seems to have no remorse and respect for life even though hes a surgeon and he killed 2 and nearly killed a third

    • Dr. Mayfield…can’t argue with that. Like I probably can’t argue the numerous others….but you make a good point with Mayfield.

      • Paul galesko is up there with the best killing your own wife then an ex con who has rebuilt his life then framing him then murdering him then shooting yoursef in the leg.
        twice metaphorically
        also he has a great chemistry with columbo funny scenes Negative reaction is a top top Episode.


Leave a Reply to David Cancel reply