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Punch It! – The Ten Best Buddy Cop Movies

(Co-written with Whitney Moore)

This weekend sees the release of Paul Feig’s cop-comedy, The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. In it, they play a mismatched pair of investigators (one FBI, the other Boston PD) who have to take down a ruthless druglord. (They’re always ruthless, aren’t they? Just once I’d like to see a ruthful druglord.) Also out this week is White House Down, in which a secret service agent has to team up with the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES when a terrorist attacks Washington. This got us to thinking about that age-old subgenre, the Buddy Cop movie, which, despite the name, isn’t necessarily limited to police officers. Here are our ten favorite Buddy Cop movies in no particular order to get you through these hot summer months.

The Other Guys

This 2010 sleeper hit starring Mark Wahlberg as a roughneck cop with anger management issues newly assigned to Will Ferrell, a meek, order-craving desk jockey, will surprise you with both its rich character arcs and range of comedy, both on-the-nose and subtle. The plot in this one isn’t so much as important as the great take on classic buddy cop clichés.

48 Hrs.

Director Walter Hill had already given us action fare like The Driver and The Warriors when he unleashed the story of a slovenly police officer (Nick Nolte) who makes a deal with a slick criminal (Eddie Murphy) to help track down a pair of murderers over the course of two days. The result is overstepped boundaries and lots of hilarious bickering. And good action, too.

Stakeout

What would our list be without a little romance to round things out? The 1987 comedy Stakeout stars Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez as two cops assigned to keep tabs on a supposed killer (Madeline Stowe) – with deadly good looks! Ugh. Anyway, Dreyfuss’ character falls in love with the criminal, which of course is a bad thing that you’re not supposed to do when you and your partner are trying to incarcerate someone. At least, that’s what we’re told.

Tango & Cash

“Rival cops” seems like something you’d only find in the movies, but since this IS a movie, it makes a lot of sense. Tango (Sylvester Stallone) is a straight-laced yuppie detective and Cash is a rough-and-tumble good ol’ boy; they’re polar opposites! Of course they’d have to team up! This is another in what the late Roger Ebert called “Wunza” movies. “One’s a by-the book guy, one’s a loose cannon… can they get along?!?!”

Rush Hour

What could have been another unimpressive, unaffecting action movie was changed into one of the quintessential buddy cop films because of two things: Chris Tucker is hilarious and Jackie Chan is an amazing martial artist. We wish there were a duo like this now, but there are always the second, third, and fourth installment to quell our thirsts.

Hard Boiled

John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat teamed up for some of the very best action movies in Hong Kong, and this is arguably their magnum (guns, get it?) opus. Chow’s a two-fisted cop named Tequila who is trying to take down a drug ring (common) and has his sights on a super-suave underboss (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) only to find out he’s an undercover agent himself! This movie might have the single most number of bullets fired in cinema history, including war movies.

Dragnet

This semi-spoof of the humorless 1960s TV series has Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday, who is about as clean-cut a cop as anything the ’80s had to offer, who gets teamed with Tom Hanks’ goofy Detective Streebeck to investigate an incredibly convoluted plot involving televangelism and virgin sacrifice. You know, that old chestnut.

Beverly Hills Cop

A must-see for the younger generations who aren’t hip to how Eddie Murphy became a superstar. (Hint: it wasn’t The Adventures of Pluto Nash). This is one of his masterpieces, and a true example that a film can be carried with the right star that has enough charisma and talent – because other than him, the film would be unmemorable. The original reckless cop from Detroit who does what he wants is paired with by-the-book Beverly Hills officers to help solve a murder. Instant classic, hilarity ensues.

Hot Fuzz

How could you not love a buddy cop movie that spends the first half of its running time actively making fun of buddy cop movies? Edgar Wright’s genius action comedy has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as cops in the most peaceful village in England, only to end up in the mother of all gun battles against a gang of evil octogenarians packing heat. They even fire two guns whilst jumping through the air. C’mon, what else can you ask for?

Lethal Weapon

Another action buddy cop film that turned into a successful franchise, Lethal Weapon is a classic that deserves to be rewatched. A bemulleted and suicidal Mel Gibson is paired with veteran cop Danny Glover to investigate a death of a young woman and chase around some drug dealers; explosions, murder, and high-tension action ensue. (Note, did you notice the music in this trailer is the same as the music in the Hot Fuzz trailer? Not a coincidence.) No matter how many times you watch it, you’ll never be too old for this shit.

Surely there are more Buddy Cop movies than this (like Bad Boys, we know.) Do you think we missed any big ones? Let us know in the comments below.

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14 comments

  • Running Scared with Gregory Heins and Billy Crystal. “It’s not the voltage that gets you, it’s the amps.” “How many amps are there?” “Enough to push a train, and SHUT UP!”

  • The LETHAL WEAPON films are unique unto themselves. There’s nothing worthy about the plots that they need to remake if indeed they’re still going to do that. There was just something special about that team and the family they accrued during the franchise. Very hard to replicate in a script because it was the chemistry that made it work.

    48 HRS. is just a great premise in general. Two misfits forced together and both are betrayed by their people an they’re the only ones they can count on.

    STAKEOUT is great too. Yeah, the chemistry between Chris and Bill are good, but also the other pair of cops on the stakeout rotation. Don’t get me started on ANOTHER STAKEOUT.

    BEVERLY HILLS COP is good especially with the whole Bogomil stuff.

    But oddly, I’ve always liked the relationship between Al Powell and John McLane in DIE HARD. I like the fact that they never really meet until the end of the movie, but yet they somehow trust each other.

    On a different note, but not totally, I really liked Matt Nix’s THE GOOD GUYS series. It was an ode to 80s action buddy flicks.

  • @Fartbooty POINT BREAK is an awesome flick, but the relationship between Utah and Papas wasn’t as fully realized as it was with Bodhi. So, I wouldn’t call it a cop-buddy flick, but still a good buddy flick. Same could be said about 48 HRS.

    As for other cop-buddy flicks:

    Love BLACK RAIN. It starts with one pair of friends and after he dies another team up is in the works.

    DEAD HEAT: Awesome comedy and an awesome buddy flick.

    The K-9 series I just love through and through.

    RED HEAT: Probably loved that more back in the day then I do now.

    And I guess maybe ALIEN NATION. I think at the time it was called OUTER HEAT, but with DEAD HEAT, RED HEAT all coming out in the same year they changed it to ALIEN NATION.

  • Obviously whoever wrote this never saw Stakeout.

    “two cops assigned to keep tabs on a supposed killer (Madeline Stowe) – with deadly good looks!”

    In that movie, the two cops are watching the ex-girlfriend of an escaped convict incase he tries to make contact or use her as a place of refuge. She’s not a suspected of anything!

    Although Midnight Run is not a cop movie it has a very similar feel and is a really good movie.

  • I want to jump on the Running Scared bandwagon. I wouldn’t call Point Break buddy cop since they’re FBI agents though.

    But I want to toss another movie out there. One that I would replace Rush Hour or Stakeout with. And that is The Rookie starring Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen, and Raul Julia

  • Dragnet? Tango & Cash? Stackout? REALLY!?

    Where is Supercop? Come on, Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh!
    And I agree with Running Scared.
    Then again, The Crimson Rivers would be on my list.