Episodes in the 'SVU' record book

'Law & Order: SVU': The Most-Watched Episodes

Law & Order: SVU Episodes - The Most-Watched in Series History

Law & Order: SVU has been on the air since 1999, amassing over 400 episodes and literally billions of views over the years. But have you ever wondered which SVU episodes were the most-watched in the show's run of 20-plus seasons? Read on for a breakdown of the Top 10 most-watched episodes and what the numbers say about the history of SVU.

Since Law & Order: SVU debuted in 1999, the hit series has attracted millions of viewers to each and every episode. Especially popular in its earlier years, SVU regularly brought in over 10 million U.S. viewers per episode throughout its first 10 seasons.

The powerhouse NBC drama now enters season 22 in the 2020-21 TV season. Today, numbers closer to 3-5 million tune in to new episodes, but the show could see a spike in the post-COVID-19 viewing world. Before we get there, let's take a look at SVU history and the show's most-watched episodes.

Law & Order: SVU - The Most-Watched Episodes

Thanks to the work of dedicated SVU fans and TV historians, we were able to put together this Top 10 list of the most-watched SVU episodes. The list makes one thing quite clear: SVU fandom was at its absolute highest in season 3, closely followed by season 7.

Law & Order: SVU - Episodes "Monogamy," season 3

Half of the list is comprised of season 3 episodes, plus multiple season 7 episodes. But it was actually a surprise season 5 episode that came out on top as the most-watched SVU episode of all time! Here's the list:

Law & Order: SVU's Top 10 Episodes By US Viewers

  • 10: "Dolls" - Season 4, 16.80 million
  • 9: "Demons" - Season 7, 16.82 million
  • 8: "Protection" - Season 3, 17.00 million
  • 7: "Execution" - Season 3, 17.05 million
  • 6: "Rockabye" - Season 7, 17.08 million
  • 5: "Stolen" - Season 3, 17.20 million
  • 4: "Competence" - Season 3, 17.30 million
  • 3: "Storm" - Season 7, 17.54 million
  • 2: "Monogamy" - Season 3, 17.71 million
  • 1: "Head" - Season 5, 18.36 million

Season 5 finale "Head" is the only SVU episode to ever top 18 million viewers. And the episode was a suitably twisted one. It involved a criminal voyeur who catches a child molester in footage on his toilet camera. Inspired by a true case, the pedophile turns out to have a brain tumour that causes her behaviour.

Law & Order: SVU - Episodes "Head" season 5

While not necessarily the "best" or even most-memorable episodes, these were the SVU moments that had fans glued to NBC at numbers close to 20 million. Depending on how many episodes feature in season 22SVU will soon surpass the incredible milestone of 500 episodes — 22 more will do the trick. The new season premieres on Nov. 12, 2020.