Twenty buddy cop movies worth seeing again
With Friday's release of The Heat (Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy), another buddy cop movie joins a film library filled with explosions, oddball pairings and broad humor. While the genre's been compacted into a cliche over the years (especially immediately following its heyday in the late '80s and early '90s), and also justly satirized for it, the fundamentals of the buddy cop film return each summer to theaters.
Here are twenty films from the genre that's been a mainstay in theaters and weekend cable programming.
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Tango & Cash (1989) Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell are LAPD narcs (they can't stand each other, natch), forced to partner up and go after a crime boss with the worst name a crime boss could have: Yves Perret. Just 1-in-4 critics thought it was worth seeing. But more than 20 years on, you may enjoy an ironic viewing if only to hear Stallone do his serious-cop voice. -- Nick Lucchesi
Miami Vice (2006) Holding only a 47 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Michael Mann's take on the '80s television series of the same name has been criticized for taking itself too seriously. -- Nick Lucchesi
Starsky & Hutch on ABC's Movie of the Week (1975) The original 90-minute pilot movie that spawned the TV series. If you can find it, please watch this one instead of the reboot with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller. -- Nick Lucchesi
FEDS (1988) For these ladies, it's a battle of brains vs. braun. Rebecca De Mornay as Ellie DeWitt (physically tough but not very smart) and Mary Gross as Janis Zuckerman (the opposite) play FBI Academy cadets in FEDS, co-written and directed by Daniel Goldberg, perhaps best-known as a producer for The Hangover franchise. -- Nick Lucchesi
Hot Fuzz (2007) Secretly every buddy cop flick is a platonic love story, and there may be no better on-screen bromance than the one between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz. Add in some explosions and you've got a flick that'll make you cheer, not just for violence, but for friendship. -- Cory Garcia
Lethal Weapon (1987) Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Riggs (Braveheart), just hate each other at the beginning of this Richard Donner movie, but of course (SPOILER ALERT!) end up close friends by the end of this 1987 release that launched a four-film franchise. -- Nick Lucchesi
Se7en (1995) David Fincher's serial-killer classic pairs Morgan Freeman with Brad Pitt, veteran with younger detective. An unconventional buddy cop movie in that it holds generally strong reviews and doesn't feature a single scene where the duo walk away from an explosion in slow-motion, Se7en's true attraction is the bad guy. -- Nick Lucchesi
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) A hilarious take on old-school hardboiled detective novels, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes the best of the genre and turns it on its head with amateur detectives infiltrating Hollywood's dark side. This is Robert Downey Jr. at his not-so-smooth-talking best, before he became Tony Stark. And Val Kilmer positively shines as Gay Perry, the aptly-named private investigator. -- Tatiana Craine
21 Jump Street (2012) Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play up their dumb hunk and over-eager police cadet roles for an A+ revamp of the high school-based 21 Jump Street revamp. Unlikely as besties, cops, and students in the flick, the duo somehow makes old-school material look cool again. -- Tatiana Craine
Cop and a Half (1993) Ironically adored by anyone older than 8 who also doesn't have children, Cop and a Half stars Burt Reynolds and Norman D. Golden III, a precocious boy who adorably proclaims: "I'm your worst nightmare: an eight-year-old with a badge!" -- Nick Lucchesi
Training Day (2001) The anti-buddy cop film, Antoine Fuqua's Training Day essentially shows Denzel Washington's Detective Alonzo Harris torture and eventually try to kill Ethan Hawke's Jake Hoyt over the course of its two hours. This is one of the rare police-partner films to earn an Academy Award (Washington for Best Actor). We're already suspicious that Washington's Harris is extremely dangerous before he says to Hawke, "Didn't know you liked to get wet, dog." -- Nick Lucchesi
In the Heat of the Night (1967) A winner of five Academy Awards -- but not one for Sidney Poitier's powerful performance -- In the Heat of the Night pairs Poitier's Detective Virgil Tibbs with Rod Steiger's Police Chief Bill Gillespie. "Now just what do you do up there in Pennsylvania to earn that kind of money?" asks an incredulous Gillespie about money found on Tibbs, to which Tibbs responds, "I'm a police officer." The two work together to solve a murder, but only after Tibbs' police chief back in Philadelphia tells him to stay in Mississippi to solve the crime. -- Nick Lucchesi
48 Hrs. (1982) A prototype of the '80s buddy cop movie, and one of its greatest: Grizzled cop (Nick Nolte) pairs with Eddie Murphy, who is at his most smart-assed. -- Nick Lucchesi
Turner & Hooch (1989) Scott Turner (Tom Hanks) is only days away from leaving the department -- a play on the buddy cop stand-by of the veteran officer being close to retirement, of course -- until a local man is killed and Hanks is forced to "partner" with the dead guy's dog, Hooch. -- Nick Lucchesi
Men in Black (1997) Space cops Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. You can gather which one is the grizzled vet.
Rush Hour (1998) Chris Tucker's Detective Carter doesn't want a partner -- but he gets Jackie Chan's Detective Lee in Brett Ratner's Rush Hour. There's a kidnapping the two cops need to resolve with explosions and martial arts aplenty. This buddy cop film -- the first of a three-movie franchise -- marked Chan's big entrance into Hollywood. Today, he has his sights on opening a school that can train tomorrow's Jackie Chan. -- Nick Lucchesi
The Guard (2011) From Nick Pinkerton's 2011 review: "As an FBI agent visiting to intercept a massive drug drop, Don Cheadle is on hand to straight-man, and to instruct the audience to grudgingly appreciate Boyle [Brendan Gleeson] for what he is, despite his racial ribbing of the Don Rickles all-in-good-fun school ("I'm Irish, sir, racism is a part of me culture," Boyle announces)." (Keep reading The Guard movie review.)
Dirty Harry (1971) Released in late 1971, Dirty Harry introduced the figure of the Legal Vigilante that would prove so useful to Richard Nixon in the upcoming election year. Dirty Harry was a dirty man for a dirty time--an authority figure who hated authority. More than the original anti-Miranda, anti-Great Society cop film, Dirty Harry was Easy Rider in reverse, featuring a hippie as serial killer rather than victim. In its day, the movie was critically and commercially overshadowed by The French Connection, but en route to inspiring four sequels, it became a mainstream cult film. --J. Hoberman
Bad Boys (1995) As Michael Bay's directorial debut, Bad Boys portrays Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as cops who are already friends from the get-go, allowing us to by-pass the meet-awkward beginnings of other buddy-cop movies. This frees up screen-time for the kind of former-jock wise-cracking that usually doesn't arrive until halfway through the movie. Lines like, "You know I'm a better cop when I get some in the morning, I feel lighter on my feet" (Lawrence), and, "If you don't sit your lanky ass down right now, bottom-line, I will knock you the fuck out" (Smith). -- Nick Lucchesi
Freebie and The Bean (1974) This is the gritty '70s version of the buddy cop flick, which is to say you may find yourself laughing even though the characters are deplorable. They may be awful people, but they do get in to some mighty fine car chases. Why didn't more casting directors pair up James Caan and Alan Arkin? -- Cory Garcia
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