We considered dozens of movies for this list, but could only pick 10. It was a tall order, but these are the ALL-TIME BEST 10 COP MOVIES!
10. Serpico (1973)
Al Pacino’s Frank Serpico, like others on this list, took on the bad guys. This time though, the bad guys were Serpico’s corrupt brethren in blue. Pacino’s performance was top-notch, even though the plot unfolds rather slowly. Ultimately, more people remember the character than the film itself…which is really a shame.
9. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon is the Citizen Kane of buddy-cop movies. You have the straight-laced Glover and the crazy Gibson (they say art imitates life, right?). You also have some big time baddies. Most notably, Gary Busey as Joshua, a nutcase impervious to pain (art meets life, redux).The film’s climax is one of the most realistic and brutal fight scenes ever, pitting Gibson against Busey in what should have been an episode of Celebrity Boxing a decade-and-a-half later.
8. Dirty Harry (1971)
Clint’s had some pretty iconic roles, but Harry Callahan might be his biggest. The character inspired several hit-or-miss sequels, but the original still stands as the best in the series. The scene most people remember drives home the all-important lesson that you should always keep track of how many bullets you have left. Somewhere, Harry still teaches firearm safety.
7. Die Hard (1988)
Simply put, Die Hard is the greatest action movie of all-time with quite possibly, the greatest action hero of all-time. Bruce Willis as John McClane is perfect, but a great hero needs an equally great antagonist. Enter the brilliant, suave, and brutal Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). The mental and physical duel between the two is sublime, and the film is perfectly executed.
6. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Curtis Hanson’s take on neo-noir was about as well acted, top to bottom, as a film can get. The cast is star-studded, including a young Russell Crowe, and the plot is the perfect balance of character and melodrama. When watching L.A. Confidential, one can’t help but think of Brian De Palma’s work, but I feel Hanson’s film is even tighter than much of the former’s films.
5. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Mr. Tibbs ventures to the South to help local police solve a murder. Like many of the films on the list, the acting is amazing. What falls a bit short though, are the fight scenes, which seem more West Side Story than Lethal Weapon. Nonetheless, the film is excellent and timely considering the zeitgeist of the 1960’s.
4. The Departed (2006)
What happens when you mix Martin Scorsese with Chinese crime drama…well, one of the best films of the past decade! Based on Infernal Affairs, The Departed is more tragedy than action flick. The characters are perfectly penned and the acting is on point. While DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen are amazing, Jack Nicholson completely steals the show as crime boss, Frank Costello.
3. Seven (1995)
A lot of times, the glamours of police work are portrayed on screen. Not so much in this one. Seven is a brutal trip through hell, that is equal parts horrifying and intellectually stimulating. I’m not going to give away who plays the killer, although most of you probably know, but the actor is pretty great. At the end of the day, it’s about a box…and what’s in that box.
2. The French Connection (1971)
This was our initial look at obsessed and dangerous NYC cop, Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle. The film was also one of the first and most prominent to take a gritty look at policing in the Big Apple. The dialogue and plot in this one are top notch, but they are often overshadowed by one of the best chase scenes in cinematic history
1. Heat (1995)
Besides the epic Pacino/DeNiro showdown, Heat is a taught crime thriller that blurs the line between cop and criminal. The film also has a stacked supporting cast and the best shootout in the history of film. While the runtime is a little long, the film rarely sputters. The characters and dialogue are masterfully written. This one really is spectacular.
For TV Tuesday, we’re counting down the BEST 10 TV FAMILIES TO BE A PART OF!