For three too-short seasons starting in 2004, Bell played the teenage detective who lends her name to the cult-favorite show. Although Veronica Mars is only in high school, she takes on some serious crimes, starting with the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane. That murder is the mystery that drives Mars to start sleuthing when her father, a former sheriff of their California town, opens a P.I. agency. Although one-off mysteries pop up along the way, Mars devotes herself to getting to the bottom of series-long dilemmas—and she’s got enough wit, charm and typical-teenager foibles to land on our list.
Case File: In first-season episode “An Echolls Family Christmas,” Veronica investigates who took the winnings from a poker game and finds plenty of violence, romance and holiday cheer.