Best Episodes of Law & Order

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Even if you’ve never seen any episodes of Law & Order in your life, you know its infamous “dun-dun.”

The popular and long-running police procedural first premiered in September of 1990. At the time, even the producer, Dick Wolf, had no idea how popular the show would eventually become.

Whether you know the revolving door of cast members by heart or have never seen the show, here are some of the best Law & Order episodes to spark your righteous indignation.

 

Pro Se (1996)

Season: 6
Episode: 21
IMDb: 8.8/10
Director: Lewis Gould
Starring: Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach
Guest Stars: Denis O’Hare, Ann Dowd

When Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy prosecutes a schizophrenic man, everyone in the court must prepare. The defendant wants to represent himself, also known as going “pro se.”

While the attorneys battle it out, the judge and jury must decide how much allowance to give a man who hears voices in his head.

 

American Dream (1993)

Season: 4
Episode: 8
IMDb: 8.4/10
Director: Constantine Makris
Starring: Chris Noth, Michael Moriarty
Guest Star: Zeljko Ivanek

A new set of skeletal remains is enough to lead officers to the prime suspect.

The catch? He’s already been tried and convicted for the crime.

Another episode with a defendant representing himself, “American Dream” sees Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone face a man in prison and with nothing to lose.

 

 

COD (2004)

Season: 14
Episode: 24
IMDb: 8.2/10
Director: Matthew Penn
Starring: Jesse L. Martin, Elizabeth Rohm
Guest Star: Victoria Dillard, Glynnis O’Connor

Two seemingly unconnected men are murdered. As Detectives Green and Briscoe investigate, Briscoe finally admits that he put in his retirement papers, marking Jerry Orbach’s departure from the series after 11 seasons.

While many Law & Order cast members seemed to come and go, Orbach was a staple of the series, and fans missed him terribly following his leave.

 

The Violence Of Summer (1990)

Season: 1
Episode: 14
IMDb: 7.8/10
Director: Don Scardino
Starring: George Dzundza, Michael Moriarty
Guest Star: Samuel L. Jackson

Although he’s a household name today, Samuel L. Jackson was still relatively obscure during this episode’s airing.

After a reporter is gang-raped, she can’t remember enough about the attack to effectively testify. Stone and Robinette try to get her on the stand regardless, while the boys accused of the crime turn on on another.

 

 

Gunshow (1999)

Season: 10
Episode: 1
IMDb: 7.9/10
Director: Edwin Sherin
Starring: Sam Waterston, Angie Harmon
Guest Star: Neal Huff

ADAs Jack McCoy and Abbie Carmichael butt heads over a case of a mass-shooter in Central Park.

McCoy decides to prosecute the gun manufacturer, under the theory that they produce guns too easy to illegally modify.

Meanwhile, Carmichael—and many others—believe the actions of consumers should not be blamed on companies.

Agree or disagree, you can’t deny that McCoy delivers one of his most poignant arguments about the need for gun control laws in this episode.

 

Couples (2003)

Season: 13
Episode: 23
IMDb: 8.7/10
Director: David Platt
Starring: S. Epatha Merkerson, Jerry Orbach
Guest Star: Carlos Leon

It’s a seemingly endless day for Detectives Briscoe and Green, as they catch three separate homicides and a kidnapping in a single shift.

The clock at the bottom shows the time of day, as the ensuing 24 hours are filled with utter mayhem. It becomes even more difficult when they uncover a connection between a 10-year-old murder case, and a current open homicide investigation.

 

 

Refuge Parts 1 & 2 (1999)

Season: 9
Episode: 23/24
IMDb: 8.7/10
Director: Constantine Makris
Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Sam Waterston
Guest Star: Tom Mason

When a Russian mob case starts heating up, the police and the district attorney’s office find themselves the new targets.

The increasing political pressure puts them all at a disadvantage, especially when the Russian mob decides to plant a bomb in the police station.

Fueled with a need to stop the violence before the bodycount creeps any higher, ADA Jack McCoy uses some frowned-upon legal tactics.

 

Bodies (2003)

Season: 14
Episode: 1
IMDb: 8.7/10
Director: Constantine Makris
Starring: Sam Waterston, Elizabeth Rohm
Guest Star: Alexander Chaplin

When a serial killer stands trial for his crimes, he presents ADA Jack McCoy with a tough proposition: lessen the charges…or never find out where his victims’ bodies are buried.

The American Justice System makes it hard to try someone for murder when there is no body.

What’s more, the stakes are raised when the defense attorney finds out where the bodies are, and is then placed in an ethical dilemma: attorney-client privilege prevents him from disclosing the information.

However, the sight of the parents missing their children, and being prosecuted as an accomplice, are both powerful motivators to bend the rules.

 

 

Invaders (2006)

Season: 16
Episode: 22
IMDb: 8.8/10
Director: Matthew Penn
Starring: Dennis Farina, Jesse L. Martin
Guest Star: Ritchie Coster

ADA Alexandra Borgia is murdered, following the prosecution of DEA agent impersonators.

Her boss, Jack McCoy, will do anything to ensure her killers are brought to justice—even at the cost of his career.

 

Rubber Room (2010)

Season: 20
Episode: 23
IMDb: 8.7/10
Director: Rene Balcer
Starring: Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson
Guest Star: Angela Goethals

After finding an alarming blog describing a student’s plans to bomb their school, Detectives Lupo and Bernard must race against the clock to stop the carnage.

The final episode of Law & Order expertly kept the audience on the edge of their seats, and made sure the show would go out with a bang.

 

Law & Order ran for 20 seasons and spawned numerous spin-offs, some of which still run today. Even casual viewers have a few favorites, since it’s just too hard to pick one.

You can catch all Law & Order episodes on Peacock, YouTube TV, Sling TV, fuboTV, and Philo.

For more recommendations, check out the best Netflix Original series, every Black Mirror episode from worst to best, or the most addictive true crime podcasts.