10 Famous Directors Who Made Columbo Episodes

We uncover the minor (and not so minor) celebrities who helmed episodes of Columbo.

Columbo Spielberg
NBC/Universal Pictures

Columbo is one of the greatest shows of all time spanning 10 seasons and 69 episodes over a colossal 35 years. The seminal detective show made Peter Falk a household name, attracted some of the biggest stars of its day and gave scores of unknown actors a chance to make their mark.

Long-running television shows tend to make use of an extensive pool of working directors and Columbo is no different, featuring many of the best and most well-established television directors available at the time alongside some less experienced yet talented and hungry youngsters. Some of these auteurs, however, are celebrities in their own right, known for both their directing and acting abilities.

These celebrities have directed cult classics and remain lesser-known to the public at large, others have directed some of the most popular, highly regarded and successful films of all time, whilst others... well they're simply bona fide legends.

This list aims to uncover the celebrities - some well known, some relatively obscure, but all noteworthy - who have turned their hands to directing episodes of arguably the greatest detective show of all time.

10. Leo Penn

Columbo Spielberg

Leo Penn makes this list primarily for being the father of musician Michael Penn (known for scoring Boogie Nights), Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn (Mystic River, Milk) and tough-guy actor Chris Penn (Reservoir Dogs, True Romance).

That's a pretty solid lineage but Leo Penn was also a successful film and television actor/director in his own right. Unfortunately, his acting career became shrouded in controversy following allegations of connections with communism.

After being blacklisted as an actor in both film and television he struggled for work but was able to make a sidestep into directing and ultimately helmed episodes of some of the most popular shows of the time such as Star Trek, Lost in Space and Magnum P.I.

Penn directed three episodes of Columbo in all, Season 3's "Any Old Port in a Storm" (a top tier episode featuring Donald Pleasance), Season 7's "The Conspirators" and Season 8's "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine" (both middle of the road but still definitely worth a watch).


Christopher is a freelance pop culture writer, podcaster and self-confessed nerd from Scotland. He's also the owner, founder and editor at "The Head Scratcher" and a host of "The Scratch Cast" podcast. Visit www.theheadscratcher.com to find out more.