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10 of Peter Falk’s sexiest Columbo moments

Oh, you really DID wake up that way…

This is another of those rare occasions when I hand over Columbo duties to a guest writer and this time it’s someone who sees the show from an entirely different perspective.

Outrageous as it sounds, writer Kat Johnson had never seen a single episode of Columbo until the Covid lockdown of 2020. Yet she swiftly became an ardent fan, not only of the series, but of the charms of its leading man. And while I’m no stranger to extolling the virtues of Peter Falk’s earthy brand of rugged handsomeness, one thing I’ll never be is a red-blooded woman able to identify why particular Columbo scenes are hotter than others.

That’s why it’s my pleasure to hand things over to Kat to share her very hot takes on Peter Falk’s sexiest Columbo moments…

If there were a pie chart on how I’ve spent the pandemic, a truly embarrassing section would be devoted to Columbo. Discovering Columbo in quarantine was a balm, then a white-hot obsession. It actually became a little unsettling, like being possessed by the ghost of Mrs Columbo. Except Mrs C is definitely way too cool to spend any time making a list like this, and besides, there would be 80 other guys tied for first.

“Discovering Columbo in quarantine was a balm, then a white-hot obsession.”

Though I’m a married woman myself, let me state that my love for Columbo is not platonic. With my humble thanks to Columbophile, and advance apologies to my husband, I am honored to offer this utterly subjective list of 10 times the Lieutenant was at his most drop-dead gorgeous and charming. Ready? Let’s go!

NB – Please note, this list is in no particular order.

1. Troubled Waters

Big hair, don’t care!

I’m firmly of the opinion that the raincoat and suit are an impeccable ensemble, but as you’ll see on this list a few times, when Falk sheds layers, it’s never a bad thing.

He had great hair, which doesn’t get talked about enough, and when crazily wind-tossed on the deck of this ship (errr, boat?) it just proves the point: he is TOUSLED AF, all languid and asquint, and his gold watch, cigar, and off-duty button-down look as timeless in 2020 as they did in 1975. Bonus points for, elsewhere in this episode, wielding a microscope and testing for fingerprints in the most handsome way those two things have ever been done anywhere by anyone.

2. Forgotten Lady

In this episode, not only do we get Falk in a tux, but he makes his entrance in it in the humblest, and thus coolest and most Columbo-like, way possible.

I read that in life, Peter Falk was a lot more cultured than Columbo, which makes a ton of sense. Sometimes I think (stay with me here; I was reading a book about mushrooms when I first fell down the Columbo rabbit hole) of Falk and Columbo as a lichen: a perfectly entangled organism whose symbiotic relationship is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure which one’s the algae and which one’s the fungi, but here I feel we are seeing a little more Falk come through in the structure, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

3. By Dawn’s Early Light

When I went looking for a still from By Dawn’s Early Light, I knew exactly which scene I wanted, but this episode served up a lot more competition than I remembered. In the dining hall (right before he pockets the roll), Columbo’s hair and bemused expression are shockingly good, and of course he’s the original “I woke up like this” nonchalantly gorgeous person.

This episode presents, to my mind, the platonic ideal Columbo. His scruffiness is exquisitely offset by the strict military setting. But what we have to talk about are the undershirt scenes. Columbo looks fit! But not too fit, and with an au naturel ’70s sheen of sweat and stubble. When he reminisces with the cadet about his high school girlfriend, who he found out hung onto his identification bracelet years later, and he smiles proudly and kind of waits (in vain!!) to be affirmed, it’s actually the purest thing in the entire world, and exactly the sort of thing we need more of in 2020.

4. Murder by the Book

You know that scene in The Bye Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case where Columbo tells a 14-year-old girl that she’s as pretty as she is smart? It’s such a cringe moment that it nearly ruins the entire episode for me. I also have to skip the part in Identity Crisis where he watches the belly dancer for way too long in the bar.

Thank goodness there are scenes like this one, in Murder by the Book, when the Lieutenant gently takes the victim’s widow by the arm and says: “I think you had a terrible experience in there, and I think I ought to drive you home. Let’s call it a night.” Then he takes her back to her place and makes her eggs. Are you kidding me? You can inject this entire sequence directly into my veins because it is basically the Columbo equivalent of a Klonopin, and also extremely hot.

5. Prescription: Murder

In his debut outing as the Lieutenant in 1968, Falk is almost too polished and pretty, too conventionally attractive to rank among later, more adult and complex iterations of the character. But combined with his voice, which is the velvetiest and earthiest thing I’ve ever heard outside a Lord of the Rings film, the effect is spellbinding. Perhaps it’s a bit on the nose when the doctor calls him a sly little elf, but it’s also one of the best lines in the whole series so I have to let it slide.

6. A Deadly State of Mind

You know the meme, “If you don’t love me at my ____ then you don’t deserve me at my ____.” That’s Columbo here vs. in Prescription: Murder. Except with Columbo, bedraggled = best, so fortunately some men do want to look like an unmade bed.

In A Deadly State of Mind he ably holds his own against two of the show’s most ravishing suspects, but this particular scene is the connoisseur’s choice. He hasn’t slept, so he’s extra grumpy and dishevelled, which makes it all the more thrilling when he opens one of his crumpled brown bags to reveal not a hardboiled egg but a pristine Gucci pump, followed by a rare sighting of him losing his patience and saying “I’m asking YOU about a murder” so authoritatively I could faint. Then he starts shaving right on the docks and confronts George Hamilton with zero of the usual niceties.

11/10 would watch again… and again… and again.

7. A Woman Under the Influence

Part of me understands that this is not a Columbo episode. It is a ground-breaking independent film by John Cassavetes and I refuse to leave it off this list.

Peter Falk not only starred in it (opposite the earth-shattering Gena Rowlands, also divine in Playback), he used half a million dollars of his own Columbo money to fund it because the studios claimed no one wanted to see a movie about a “crazy, middle-aged dame.” Well then, I proudly identify as such, because I have never felt as seen by any movie as I have by this one. If Mabel is “crazy,” it’s a sane reaction to the impossible and paradoxical demands of being a wife, mother and woman in a patriarchal society.

Setting aside the character’s desperate fear and violence, Falk looks as good here in a grubby blue bathrobe as he does in Troubled Waters, and my greatest wish for us crazy middle-aged dames is to have a partner who looks at us the way Nick looks at Mabel, who says “just be yourself, be yourself” and means it. Although we’d probably be too tired to notice, unless, of course, that partner was Peter Falk.

8. Dead Weight

Falk is clearly in his aesthetic prime in this episode, but the cherry on top is the brotherly relationship he forges with Suzanne Pleshette’s easily swayed murder witness.

Long before phrases like “believe women” and “gaslighting” entered the popular lexicon, Columbo displayed a powerful understanding of these concepts when he trusted Helen’s convincing account over the sketchy story of a powerful man and, later, gave her a pep talk for the ages by saying: “You know what strikes me? You’re the one that downgrades yourself. One dinner with General Hollister and you begin to doubt your senses.”

Solving crimes and exposing toxic behavior, all while looking excruciatingly handsome doing it. Well played, Columbo, well played.

9. Candidate for Crime

Get your hands off my man, She-Devil!

I am so jealous of the chemistry between Columbo and Vicki Hayward in this scene I can hardly stand it, that’s how good it is.

First there’s a flurry of fervent whispering about menswear—Columbo knows his stuff, as befits someone who understands the iconic power and good sartorial sense of a uniform as well as he does—and then they sneak off together under an umbrella, where he whacks a watch against a pole and she seizes the opportunity to grab him and hang on for dear life.

Meanwhile, Nelson Hayward keeps stealing glances at them, and it’s definitely not just clues he’s worried about her revealing. It’s nice to see him getting a taste of his own medicine, even if it has to come at the price of my forever envy.

10. Columbo Likes the Nightlife

75-year-old Peter redefining the term ‘Silver Fox’

Falk remained as gorgeous as ever as he aged, but I feel like this is a safe space to acknowledge that Columbo himself went through a bit of a weird phase. The title of this final episode threatens perhaps an overly spicy appearance from the Lieutenant—and it does feature him in a feather boa—but Falk saves the day from the minute he appears on screen with his totally natural performance and hair color.

In the club scenes, he is a beautiful, crumpled (koi) fish out of water, and as someone who might have been somewhere near this scene back in this era, I should have been so lucky as to run into this handsome daddy and offer him my glowsticks for evidence. In all seriousness, the man is 75 in this episode. He looks fantastic. He sounds fantastic. You can 100% tell he smells fantastic. RIP, King. At least we know you make a beautiful angel.

Kat Johnson is a writer with a background in publishing, fashion and travel, and an interest in all things nostalgic and cozily macabre. She is an editor by day, Columbo obsessive by night and crazy middle-aged dame at all times. You can find her super sporadically tweeting things at @katbhandari.

If you’re still reading and haven’t swooned away by now, do join this red-hot debate by sharing your own favourite moment of Peter Falk hotness. All are welcome to share opinions, and shouldn’t be shy in doing so because Peter was a gorgeous chap by anyone’s reckoning who deserves to be appreciated and celebrated as such.

Speaking of hot… *combusts instantly*

I’ll be back on writing duties very soon, likely next weekend when I’ll bring you the review of Season 9’s fifth outing Uneasy Lies the Crown. Until then, don’t do anything Mrs Columbo wouldn’t do!

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Even Grandpa Columbo was still remarkably down with the kids
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50 thoughts on “10 of Peter Falk’s sexiest Columbo moments

  1. While determining what is “sexy” or not is a matter of judgment, I believe that exhibiting bravery, intelligence, modesty, and graciousness qualify as sexy. Columbo demonstrates all of those characteristics in the following clip. Plus, during his rapid descent down the hill, Columbo manages to hold onto his cigar throughout his entire trip down. How cool is that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIWaEyXEmYQ.

  2. Thanks Kat, that was a fun read. Is bashfulness sexy? If so, then by inference the scene in “Identity Crisis” when Columbo realizes his home has been bugged reveals our favourite Lieutenant to be scorchingly hot.

  3. What a great article for men to read.
    Women can see attractiveness based on things other than Bradley Cooper prettiness.

    • Yes, and a nice counterpoint to the salivating you guys do over the gorgeous females in the series!

  4. I misread the headline and expected to see pics of Gretchen Corbett and that blond from Nightlife. But, I when I realized what it was, I started to think objectively and would have to say that moments 9 and 10 were the ones came immediately to mind.

  5. I’m a dude, but…I’m not seeing it. Hard to see the unkempt short guy with the divergent eyes as being sexy.

    Found it more interesting that “A Woman Under The Influence” is on this list. Peter Falk’s character in that movie is a bad guy, a mean guy whose voice seems to be stuck in permanent “angry shout” mode. He’s verbally abusive to Gena Rowlands’s character, he’s probably responsible for her breakdown, and he’s *definitely* responsible for her relapse after she is released from the mental institution. Honestly, he delivers the line “I’ll kill you, and I’ll kill those sons-a-bitchin’ kids!” Falk is terrific in the part, surely his best film role, but sexy he is not.

    • I’m not sure but I don’t think abusive villains are meant to be sexy. At least from a woman’s perspective. In fact I think what the women observers here are picking up on is a gentleness about Columbo. (Don’t mistake it for weakness, he’s too clever for that). Just that he doesn’t need to throw his weight around to make a point. He will instead, side-swipe you, with his charm!


    • Such a great comment (the second part!) and yes, I absolutely agree with you that Nick is a terrible guy in a lot of ways in that movie. Abuse and violence and shouting aren’t sexy at all.. what I do think is sexy (and I cheated a little bc I love this movie so much) is that Peter Falk believed in this film, put his money and a lot of courage and hard work into something that is as messy and hard as real life, that explores so much vulnerability and emotion, and really says something about the effects of this toxicity & the impossible demands on Mabel. And he looks great doing it 🙂

  6. I really appreciate this article for validating my quarantine feelings towards columbo ❤️

  7. I’ve always been a fan of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” , and whether it was meant to or not, it was a fitting finale to a great career. He’s not Peter Falk hamming it up as Columbo, he’s stepped right back into the raincoat and IS Columbo. He’s comfortable with himself even in that unusual setting, and the final walkout is a fitting end.

  8. For me, it’s all about the hair. Peter Falk had the most beautiful head of hair. Waves and cascades that went on for miles, regardless of color.
    I enjoyed the extended tux appearance in No Time To Die and the chef’s hat addition in the final scene of Murder Under Glass. I’ve only seen The Brink’s Job once but Falk was great in it. I still think of it when I see a Brink’s truck or Brink’s driver. Nice article Kat. FALK=SEXY2ME

    I just saw a movie at the theatre called The Last Shift 2 weeks ago. Some money is stolen from a restaurant and the manager says. ” You don’t have to be Columbo to figure it out”.

  9. The ‘cringe moment’ in TBBSHIQMC shows us how manners, norms and values have changed in more than 40 years. In times when women and girls were regarded as being pretty OR smart, but never both, this may have been considered as a sincere compliment.
    Days will come, and sooner than we think, that people will be shocked when an old man is called ‘daddy’ by a non-relative.

    • “Days will come, and sooner than we think, that people will be shocked when an old man is called ‘daddy’ by a non-relative.”

      That day already came long ago. The only people who use the word “daddy” are 1) children, and 2) younger lovers talking to older male lovers.

  10. I appreciate Kat’s guest spot. She makes a brief comment about Columbo’s compliment to teenaged Caroline in Bye Bye IQ & her unease with it. From a 2020 perspective, I can understand how Columbo’s remark could be interpreted in a nefarious manner. But I think Columbo perceived Caroline had low self-esteem with regard to her personal appearance & paid her a compliment to boost her confidence. I don’t think Columbo was expressing any inappropriate interest.

    • I honestly agree, but I still cringe reflexively whenever I hear that line (and I grew up in the 90s). Same with the episodes where he tells pre-teen girls how pretty they are.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I totally agree that he wasn’t expressing an inappropriate interest, and that the comment was meant to endear Columbo/show his sensitivity in intuiting the thing that this particular girl wanted to hear. But, as someone who was more smart than pretty at that age too, I think the cringe I’m feeling is because the comment subtly validates what the world values in girls, and confirms her own suspicion of what is “really” important. I think it’s one part joke about women’s lib at the time (look how far we’ve come, that we can flip a comment about being valued for our bodies as well as our minds!) and one part proof of Columbo’s sensitive character, but honestly it just makes me sad.

    • I agree with you on this. If the concern is objectification, then this post is just as “guilty” of objectification as Columbo was in the 70s.

  11. There are lots of positive adjectives I’d use to describe the character of Columbo, but ‘sexy’ is not one of them. Still, each to her own, I guess…

    • So you don’t think natural manliness, an unselfconscious confidence, including intelligence, smooth manners, career brilliance (minus the raincoat of course in the Troubled Waters image!) and a penchant for justice … is sexy?

      Uhhh okay.

    • I think all those things in themselves can definitely be sexy, but for me they are cancelled out by Columbo’s general scruffiness, slobbishness and eccentricity (which can be quite sweet but can also get very annoying at times). I love the guy, but I wouldn’t personally call him sexy.

  12. When I was in NYC, going to College, I was a Chef at the American Stanhope Hotel at 81st and 5th across from the Metropolitan Museum. The Stanhope was an established, old money, old Hollywood Hotel, and many “celebrities” maintained residences there on the upper floors.

    One evening the Bartender came to the kitchen and said a guest wanted to see me in the Club Bar. It was a very ‘80’s male decor, dark, lots of leather upholstery, smokey etc.

    I entered and coming from the brightly lit kitchen, I was momentarily blinded by the darkness. The bartender pointed out the guest and I approached his table. Eyes BARELY adjusted to the darkness. I greeted the man, and asked how I could be of service…he said , in an instantly recognizable voice, that he just wanted to thank me for a truly superior meal, perhaps in the top five he’s ever enjoyed.

    I mentally conjured what table number we were at to determine the meal I’d made him, I said, “then you did enjoy your lamb chops Mr. Falk, I wasn’t certain of the sauce…”he said it was the combination (a pomegranate and sour cherry drizzle) that made it so memorable. I thanked him again and as I turned to walk away, my eyes fully adjusted, I saw it and froze…. my head was screaming “DON’T you DARE ask!!!” But my mouth just blurted, Mr. Falk… “is that it?? The raincoat…the actual raincoat??? He laughed out loud and said yes…the actual coat, still chuckling, he said “I should get as much attention as my coat has”.

    He was in Manhattan for 8 months performing off Broadway, and he stayed w/us the whole time. He was warm and funny and an absolute gentleman. He took me to my first Broadway play and had dinner w/my parents when they were in town…my Mum had a BIG crush🤣😂🤣

    his dementia at the end broke my heart for such an engaged, insightful caring man, but I still, nearly 40 yrs later think of him fondly, and YES he was very sexy, in a completely authentic, never forced way, and very funny. I love watching him as Columbo, and many other performances.

    TBC, I was barely 20 at the time and there was NOTHING CREEPY going on, he and my Dad became golfing buddies whenever they happened to be in the same town. He was just a lovely man that enjoyed my lamb chops and conversation.😏

  13. This is the article we needed!

    Also, Columbo is more athletic than he pretends to be. He walks long distances with any villain, and runs in “Exercise in Futility.”

  14. Well-written and insightful. But as I read along the mystery of Kat’s husband became one of Columbo-level intrigue. I’m envisioning Marge Gunderson’s husband and a corresponding bond.

  15. I’ve been a huge Columbo fan from the very beginning …. Though I was barely 5 (luckily my mom enjoyed Columbo too) when the first Columbo movie came out. I have every episode, at least twice and I’ve watched every episode dozens of times! I enjoy reminscing & reading your articles. I just had to add one more episode to the sexiest moments article. ” All in the Game “with Faye Dunaway. The first time I ever watched this episode I was a little startled that Columbo seemed to be “straying”.Part of what makes Columbo so attractive is his love & faithfulness to his wife! So later in the episode I wasn’t disappointed…. That whole show had many “steamy” moments!! Not the least being when he Opened a gift from Faye Dunaway that “could not have been a better present”( and was for his dog). This is just another one of those wonderful memorable moments that make Columbo a remarkable & special series!

  16. An enjoyable posting. I’m a bit confused that you object so strongly to Colombo telling a girl she is pretty and watching a belly dancer. Is it became he is objectifying them? If so, this post would seem to indicate that not much has changed.

  17. I’m not alone anymore! I have had the hots for this guy since I was a teenager, and now I’m 60! My best 2 Columbo moments were from 1) How to Dial a Murder, when they are siting in highbacked chairs drinking wine and playing the Word Game, and 2) Make Me a Perfect Murder, when Columbo and Kay are sitting in the abandoned house and she’s giving him a shoulder rub. As far a films go, I don’t think you can get any sexier than Peter Falk in The Cheap Detective.

    • He and Faye Dunaway were quite something together in that later episode as well…the episode name escapes me.

  18. Kat, thank you! This was a fun read! You’re the type of person I’d love to have a Columbo viewing marathon with, as we think alike!
    I’d like to add Falk’s scenes with Dog from Forgotten Lady to the list, particularly the ice cream scene. A man being such a goof with his dog is just so charming. Falk’s smile as Dog enjoys his treat makes him devastatingly handsome. Such a joy to watch!

    • Vivian, yes!!! Any of the scenes with Dog are beyond charming, I may have to revise this again in my head, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it 😉

      • Kat, I’m sure I speak for many when I say we would love an additional list (or lists) from you! Your article was a joy to read!

  19. Fine list but it’s missing the #1 sexiest Columbo moment–the boxer shorts massage in “Make Me a Perfect Murder.”

  20. An interesting component to the leading men of classic TV (60’s, 70’s 80’s) was their display of natural manliness. I think this guest author picked up well on that characteristic. Meaning the effect was never forced. It was about who they were, or at least, how they instinctively projected their personality. They were also anything but “cookie cutter” actor male studs! Becoming exceptionally memorable. It was an individualism they possessed. And my hunch is, what good actor training (and experience) taught them.

    With full acknowledgement to this guest author’s observations (for an appreciation) of Columbo, as well as opening up this topic in general, here’s a question for the forum.

    How would ardent fans describe Columbo’s treatment (handling, approach, attitude, opinion, etc.) of female guilty suspects? Do you think it depends on the character herself? On the guest star? Does he surrender a natural affinity for the opposite sex while he pursues the case in his usual “bird dog” tenacity? IMO Columbo is a natural born Ladies Man without even trying or being excessively aware of his charm. But does he ever resort to intentional manipulation? Using that charm to distract the suspect? Or can he not but help himself in creating 50% of the chemistry that flies between him and an especially captivating female suspect? Anyway, that’s my drift.

    Not knowing all the episodes as well as all the dedicated fans here, I was fascinated by #46 Sex and the Married Detective. IMO Columbo hinted towards some otherwise (and normally) well contained sexual fantasies. No doubt out of curiosity perhaps. Or then, was it? While in the end being turned off (of course) by the woman’s dastardly deed!

    • Not a knowledgeable enough fan to answer your larger questions, but in SatMD, I think Columbo feels genuine sympathy for Dr. Allenby as a wronged lover, is impressed by her professional success in a man’s field (at the time), and is sincerely a bit flummoxed/fascinated by her lack of repression/openness about her sex life. He is an older man from a different era after all.

      But I never got the impression he was aroused by her. Rather, if she wasn’t a murderer, I could see them becoming good friends. Columbo certainly appreciated her lack of pretention … rare for a series baddie.

  21. All of this totally *needed* to be said, out loud & without fear. I feel affirmed, Kat, and tho I no longer have a husband, I do have adult children that enjoy teasing me about my goofy sighs & moon-eyed adoration of Columbo. Fortunately they love him as much as I do, if for different reasons. Truly, Columbo is the man with something for everyone.

  22. I really enjoyed this. Very funny and astute. Interesting to hear a total newcomer’s view. as well and I have a very soft spot for Columbo too! He’s a dish! hahah!

  23. While my sexual preferences lean more Pleshette than Falk, I agree that Peter is an oddly attractive man. And that scene where he gently chides her for lacking confidence in her convictions certainly got me feeling tingly where it counts.

  24. This was fun to read. And the mention of how good Falk looked with gray hair gives me an excuse to denounce his use of hair-dye through most of the re-boot era. It appeared in some episodes that he was even dyeing his eyebrows.

    • While I’m a huge Columbo & Peter Falk fan, I don’t have a memory for details so this was a fun article. On a non Columbo note, if you’ve never seen him in Griffin and Phoenix, you’re truly missing a gem ❤

  25. Bravissima, Kat! This made my morning & I am in total agreement on all counts. My crush on Falk has lasted upwards of 40 years, so this obsession will serve you well! My husband sees me watching the latter-day episodes (which we do consider infinitely less worthy) & says, “I see you are still blinded by love.” ☮️❤️😊

      • This is going to be hard to share in print:

        Your Chef story is what special memories are made of. Not only because it created an extended connection with a celebrity! But in an of itself even the initial connection created an unforgettable impact. Here’s why. The real magic occurs when being exactly in the moment, as you realize it will always be about that moment. It’s where the present collides with the future. A knowing feeling, meaning the ability to look back on yourself while enjoying the moment itself. Call it a parallel experience. It happens so rarely in our lives because new experiences keep crushing out the older ones. So that the ones that do endure (and can be endlessly relived with all the same passion) are the ones that carve out a place in our heart – forever.

        I had a friend who said once, happiness like a drop of honey in your hand, creating an unforgettable sweetness.


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