A-List: Best Buddy Cop Films
By J. Don Birnam
June 16, 2016
This weekend, The Rock and Kevin Hart team up as mismatched partners in the latest buddy cop to hit theaters this year, Central Intelligence. At least three other films have made it out this year—from animal cops in Zootopia to a sequel in Ride Along, and even a quirkier comedy a few weeks ago in The Nice Guys. Indeed, this is a genre that keeps on giving and that has been around for a long while.
So let’s look at the best such five movies of all time, shall we?
Definitional rules are tricky again. Some movies have the straight up two cops trying to help each other. Others are more ambiguous - the cops can be women (think of the recent The Heat), which of course counts, but what if one of the partners is a dog? What if one of the partners is not strictly a cop but just a sidekick of sorts like in the upcoming The Rock film? Let’s just say that if two individuals are working more or less towards the same purpose (as opposed to a good guy vs. antagonist movie like Training Day), then it counts.
Of course, there are a lot of movies here that deserve honorable or perhaps dishonorable mentions. Though I disqualified Denzel’s superb Training Day, you could also look to his turn as a paraplegic cop in the chilling Bone Collector. Arnold Schwarzenegger has his fair share of OK (Last Action Hero) to mostly bad buddy cop movies (Kindergarten Cop). The ex-Governor is a lot better at playing the leading cop all by his lonesome. Bruce Willis, too, has ventured into the genre, with at least a few Die Hard sequels featuring the trick. And who can forget Eddie Murphy’s turns in buddy cop movies from the cult hit 48 Hrs. to the genuinely funny Beverly Hills Cop.
Last, I do have to give a shout out to the most unlikely cop on the list - Tom Hanks, in his endearing and touching Turner & Hootch. Onward to the top five, but, if you tweet, tweet me your favorites.
5. Men in Black (1997)
Will Smith had a good couple of years between Independence Day and this movie (though he arguably lost some of his good will later with another buddy cop movie later, Wild Wild West). Anyway, this movie features a known buddy cop trope - older cop teaching younger, more idealistic cop what it’s like. But, there is a twist - these are secret cops, and these are secret missions. No one is meant to remember.
The concept was novel, so the twist on the old formula was welcome. And, in a little bit of trivia, MIB was the only movie to beat Titanic for a non-acting Academy Award - Best Original Makeup. Sequels did not do the original justice, but Smith’s wit mixed well with Tommy Lee Jones’ dry-pan cynicism (and he certainly had experience of his own as a cop after his award-winning turn in The Fugitive), resulting in an undeniable crowd pleaser.