The buddy cop movie follows a similar emotional path to the romantic comedy: What is it about you that I find repulsive? I despise the fact that I must spend time with you… Then again, maybe you’re not so terrible after all! Hey, it turns out we have a lot in common after all… Deep down, we might not be so different after all… I’m in love with you. A lot of buddy police movies don’t say that last sentence, but it’s implied — these films’ mismatched partners generally form a platonic friendship, setting aside their differences to build an ambivalent mutual regard. Buddy cops don’t kiss, but they could give each other a high-five instead of a kiss. The initial bromances can be found in these films.
Dwayne Johnson’s federal agent and Jason Statham’s assassin are compelled to work together in Hobbs and Shaw, which is the latest addition to this most macho of subgenres. Is it possible that they’ll hate each other’s guts from the start? Certainly. Is it possible that they will end up admiring one another? Yes, that does seem possible.
In light of this weekend’s release of the Fast and the Furious spinoff, we’ve ranked the 10 finest buddy cop films. We have to lay down some ground rules first. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s two major characters must be law enforcement officers, or at the very least pretend to be, in order to qualify. (Midnight Run appears on lists like these from time to time). There are cops in this movie, but Robert De Niro’s character is the only one.) For our list, we decided to only include films in which the officers end up forming some kind of relationship. After a lot of debate, we decided not to look at Training Day, a buddy-cop picture with a nasty undercurrent. They don’t even become friends in that film.) Finally, dogs are cops, too.
Lists like these tend to feature a lot of Shane Black and Jackie Chan, but there are also a lot of comedy that lampoon the genre. As it turns out, buddy cop movies have long been a forum for males to air their grievances about everything from race to class to masculinity. It’s a lot easier to broach sensitive topics when there are firearms around. Occasionally, these people even manage to solve a case or rescue the day themselves.
10. The Other Guys (2010)
A few years before he earned an Oscar for The Big Short, Adam McKay took his first stab at denouncing Wall Street malfeasance and financial inequity. People remember The Other Guys not for its plot, but for Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as mismatched officers whose regular inquiry takes them down the path of a dark conspiracy, which is what they remember most about the movie. While Anchorman and Talladega Nights have been more widely accepted by the public, The Other Guys may be as as quotable and amusing as those two films. Wahlberg got to play a naive hothead who was a foreshadowing of his future roles in Peter Berg’s earnest action films like Patriots Day and Mile 22 with this role. If that wasn’t enough, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson’s wonderfully on-brand cameo in The Other Guys makes it all the more ridiculous.
9. Miami Vice (2006)
When writer-director Michael Mann introduces us to Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice, they’re already a tight-knit team dealing with a dangerous underworld of drug dealers, thugs, and neon-lit clubs. Movies based on classic TV shows from the 1980s are always controversial. Law enforcement language, gloomy self-pity, and nocturnal digital photos are all mixed together in an unpalatable concoction. Perhaps the film is just “a dream,” as Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri described it back in 2015, a stunning hypervivid dance of images, sounds, and sensations that reduce the crime drama to its hallucinatory essence? As a result, we prefer the latter interpretation while admitting its strong merits. In contrast, Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx exude a swagger and confidence that carry you from hypnotic scene to hypnotic sequence as Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas never could. Although you may not fully comprehend what’s going on in Miami Vice, they act as your slick guides into the story’s seductive, sordid underbelly.
8. 21 Jump Street (2012)
As is customary in buddy cop films, one partner is the cool one while the other is anything but that. What if, in the course of the movie, the characters’ roles were reversed? Director Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s reimagining of the minor ’80s TV drama, in which Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play incompetent cops who go undercover in high school to catch a drug dealer, has this smart idea, among many others. Jenko was the popular jock and Schmidt was the pushed-around dweeb when they were teenagers, but they’ll learn that high school — and the culture at large — has evolved significantly since then, rewarding Schmidt’s emotional intelligence while scorning Jenko’s meathead arrogance. Aside from parodying cop movies, the Hollywood franchise glut, and John Waite’s “Missing You,” both 21 Jump Street and its similarly humorous sequel cleverly use the disparities in their performers’ characters. In trying to resurrect the buddy-cop genre, these filmmakers sabotaged it.
7. Men in Black (1997)
It’s hard not to smile when you see him. It’s hilarious.” Those were the words of Tommy Lee Jones, who played Will Smith’s co-star in Men in Black, which made him a household name. Both of the film’s leads were incredibly humorous, but in very different ways, making this action-comedy based on the comic book even more enjoyable. Both performers, Smith and Jones, embraced the buddy-cop genre with ease as Agents J and K. Even when they didn’t get along, the actors’ camaraderie was clearly evident in their portrayal of the two characters. While Smith was at the height of his blockbuster appeal — that seamless ability to make summer popcorn movies seem like such ecstatic delight — Men in Black also caught Jones in a more playful mood than usual. Oscar-winning actor has a tendency to look lost in big-budget films like Batman Forever, but here, he’s the perfect straight guy. By glaring at Agent J, Jones elicits laughs from the audience.
6. 48 Hrs. (1982)
As far as action comedies go, 48 Hrs. may have been the first of its kind, but it also had an advantage that no previous buddy-cop movie could carry off: Eddie Murphy bursts onto the scene as a 21-year-old comedic powerhouse in his film debut. But Murphy’s movie: Nick Nolte is the perfect slow-burn foil. Although he’s a supporting role in the film, the entire focus is on him. For the next 20 years, his movies would be the same, whether they were good or bad.
5. Lethal Weapon (1987)
However, the original recipe is the one that we’ll stick with because it’s more deeper, more sombre, and features less of Joe Pesci’s yapping. Pesci is a fantastic actor, but after the third film, I was like, “Whew, this is it.” Mel Gibson and Danny Glover acted as such polar opposites in the film that their awkward and energetic energy propels the film along; you feel that both guys desire to die but for very different reasons. In comparison to the sequels, the first film retains an air of suspense. And it made Gibson the world’s most famous actor. As a result of which we can only assume it will be held accountable in perpetuity.
4. Stray Dog (1949)
“The Big Bang” of buddy-cop movies, this Akira Kurosawa classic introduced every trope: the veteran and novice, the friction as they go deeper and deeper into an investigation they don’t comprehend, the showgirl they both are mystified by but promise to protect—you name it, Kurosawa got there first. It’s strange to watch Stray Dog now since it’s both familiar and new, but Kurosawa’s empathy and attention to detail set it apart from the numerous imitators and inspirations that would follow.
3. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Norman Jewison, the director of the first of two Best Picture wins on this list, chose a criminal drama over a “issue film” in In the Heat of the Night. Of course, there’s a political and social undertone to this story about a black Philadelphia officer who investigates the death of a white Mississippi police chief (Sidney Poitier) who’s unwillingly supported by a local white police chief (Rod Steiger). It wasn’t until Jewison and his skilled cast realized that the message would go down better in a genre play that the characters had room to reconcile their racial and cultural divides. In addition to being black, Virgil Tibbs’ grace and brilliance make Steiger’s Gillespie look like a hick. ) In the Heat of the Night is a better film than its kind because Poitier and Steiger made these characters real – they were real people, not symbols.
2. Seven (1995)
However, that’s exactly the point: You think you know what to expect from two mismatched cops working together, but David Fincher’s uncompromising thriller takes all of that and twists it against itself. Every tale beat becomes more and more horrific until it reaches its climax. When Morgan Freeman’s world-weary police officer learns to admire Brad Pitt’s younger, idealistic yet intense counterpart, you know it will be a hit. But you’ve never seen it like this before. This is the movie’s photo negative; this is what happens when things go horribly wrong in the buddy-cop movie.
1. The French Connection (1971)
In William Friedkin’s masterwork, two tough cops who don’t want to work together are forced to do so and become stronger as a result. Even though Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play the good characters, the movie is so bleak and depressing that it’s hard to recall that Popeye Doyle and Cloudy Russo. However, for our money, New York’s streets take center stage in this film. Despite the fact that the film is based on a true story, it nearly feels like a documentary. “The French Connection” accurately depicted this exact point in time… the sense of urgency and rawness would never be greater.