You Have the Right to (BANG!) Be Silent: 10 Greatest Cop Movies Ever

Jul 28, 2007

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The Bottom Line Good guys, bad guys, chase scenes, bullets, beatings, and bribes. Here's 10 GREAT Cop Movies that will keep your blood boiling blue...

Is every police movie a "cop movie"? Are "whodunits" cop movies? I'm not sure they are. But I'm sure that I know a great cop movie when I see one, and I'm looking for the very best cop movies.

I like an unhealthy dose of raw macho in a truly "great cop flick". Cut and dry good guys and bad guys. And I don't want surprises at the end. I want the bad guy to painfully die like a dog in a hail of gunfire and car explosions. Along the way, I like a few naked breasts and a healthy dose of swear words and gratuitous violence. I like car chases, and lots of 'em (preferably ending in flaming wrecks). I like shootouts involving unrealistically large quantities of ammunition. And I like so much macho attitude that the TV reeks of testosterone for a week. Now THAT'S a recipe for an OUTSTANDING cop flick! And that's what I'm really looking for as I put together my ULTIMATE LIST OF THE BEST COP MOVIES EVER.

10. The Onion Field (1979)
Fave quote: "Guilty? That's just something the Man says in court when your luck runs out."

One of the strongest "true story" cop flicks you'll see. It's also an emotional roller coaster as we watch a cop caught in the dilemma of what to do when a seriously bad 'un has a gun on his partner. Is it cowardice or is it a genuine belief that it's the best way to save his partner's life that has a cop dropping his weapon? And once he does, how will he ever live down the constant buzz that he's as yellow as they come, all the while suffering the indignant taunts of a criminal mind who knows and is ready to play the system like a fiddle.

9. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Fave quote: "You know what I keep thinking about? You know the end of Butch Cassidy? Redford and Newman are almost out of ammunition, and the whole Bolivian army is out in front of this little hut?"

The sequels sucked like a Hoover set to "Deep Carpet", but the original flick that started it all has cop action galore with a gleeful counterpart in the irreverant attitudes of Detroit detective Axel Foley, in one of Eddie Murphy's most solid and enduring roles ever. Of course the movie culminates in a wonderfully memorable else could I justify including what's essentially a classic 80s comedy in this ultimate list of outstanding cop movies?

8. Serpico (1973)
Fave quote: "Who can trust a cop that won't take money?"

Al Pacino turns in a knockout performance as honest cop Serpico in a New York City PD that's riddled with corruption --- corruption that nearly costs him his life. Serpico straddles a fine line between his duty to root out the bad apples in the department without violating the loyalty that stands behind the long-standing "blue wall". Gritty, brutal, and unsettling --- it's still a great cop flick!

7. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Fave quote: "Well, I wouldn't argue that it wasn't a no holds barred, adrenaline fueled thrill ride. But, there is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork."

The problem with Nicholas Angel is that he's too good. His stellar arrest record makes all the other officers in his department look bad. So what do they do? They transfer him! To a small, quiet, seemingly perfect little English town where the most serious crime in years was a parking ticket. When he teams up with Danny Butterman, an overeager young cop who wants to experience the kind of cop action he sees in all the other movies on my list of outstanding police movies, sparks ignite. Especially when it turns out that town is not quite what it seems. Can Nicholas overcome the forces of the town grocery store? See the flick and find out!

6. Bullitt (1968)
Fave quote: "Lets understand each other... I don't like you."

You don't watch Bullitt for the incomparable plot or the stellar dialog. You watch Bullitt to see one of the coolest car chase scenes ever filmed, as Steve McQueen rockets through the hilly streets of San Francisco in a 1968 Mustang GT. Of course there is still the story of how his witness protection assignment went awry, killing two brother cops and leaving his witness critically injured (not to mention p*ssing off the powers that be). Tracking down the hitman and bringing justice to the mobster who hired him becomes personal. And of course, there's that glorious car chase in that beautiful 'Stang!

5. The Fugitive (1993)
Fave quote: "If they can dye the river green today, why can't they dye it blue the other 364 days of the year?"

Harrison Ford turns in a stellar performance as escaped convict, Richard Kimble, wrongly accused of his wife's murder. Hot on his heels is U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard, masterfully portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones. What makes this flick different from most of the movies on the list is that neither of the major characters are clearly "bad guys". The elusive one-armed man --- now he's a real bad guy. The problem will be convincing the cops while staying at least several steps ahead of them. Great train-bus wreck scene plus the classic desperately suicidal leap from the top of a dam keep the action rolling.

4. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Fave quote: "I was driving before you were an itch in your daddy's pants! "

Roger Murtaugh, responsible cop on the verge of retirement, gets partnered with Martin Riggs, psycho cop who nobody else will work with. Friendship ensues as the two hunt down a heroin ring who will stop at nothing to ensure world domination. The story line is thin, with the only real meat being the unlikely friendship that blossom between the unlikely partners. Other than that, Gary Busey plays a great class-A sphincter, and nobody in the theatre cries when he dies an appropriate death.

3. Robocop (1987)
Fave quote: "Dead or alive, you're comin' with me."

I just can't help but love the stylized out-of-control Detroit that Paul Verhoeven portrays in this classic futuristic 80s cop thriller. The real villains are tax cutbacks and the incessant insistence on government "privatizing" functions that they have no business privatizing. Privatization even extends to the city turning over police operation to Omni Consumer Products, an amoral corporation whose only ethic is to maximize profits (big surprise there). But one OCP product, Robocop, goes awry and does right, saving the day, saving the city, and even saving OCP. I'd buy THAT for a dollar!

2. Mad Max (1979)
Fave quote: "I am the Nightrider. I'm a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller! "

In the Australian Outback of the future, there's no rules, but things definitely are not "just right". Enter the MFP (Main Force Patrol) --- the rule of law in a lawless society. The movie starts with one of the most kickass chase scenes in cinema, as an escaped outlaw biker steals a police pursuit vehicle. When the first team ends up in a wreck of catastrophic destruction, the second team ---- Max cruises in. Car wrecks, biker gangs, and wanton violence ensue in this early Mel Gibson classic. Squeemish viewers will squirm.

1. Dirty Harry (1971)
Fave quote: Are you kiddin' know this is the greatest quote in the history of cop know what it you really want me to type the whole damn thing in here? Awww, what the hell...I'll do it...for you!
Fave quote: "I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? "

Never before and never since has the cinematic world had such a blatantly macho, self-assured, "Git er done" police ethic as that of Inspector Harry Callaghan, the one man in the San Francisco P.D. with the cajones to deal with a sniper who has the population at bay. Wimpy chiefs, wimpy prosecutors, wimpy politicos of every persuasion come off looking little better than the punks Harry deals with so very persuasively. So, if you want to see the Greatest cop movie of all time, just head over to Blockbuster and check out Dirty Harry. Timelessly classic.

So. There you have it! My fave movie cop is Inspector Harry Callaghan --- the dude totally makes my day! But the nine runners up are great action-packed thrill rides in their own right. Lots of adrenaline. Lots of testosterone. Give 'em a watch. I bet you love these flicks as much as I do.

What do you think? Is this a great list of outstanding cop movies, or do you have some even better ones in mind?

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