9 of the Greatest Movie Cops Who Always Get Their Man ...

All sorts make up the greatest movie cops, just like in the real police community. The pursuit of law and order and justice has always been a great vehicle for great movies, and cop stories have traversed many film genres. From kooky females to trigger-happy embittered detectives, the greatest movie cops are an eclectic bunch.

1. Popeye Doyle

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Many people would argue that Jimmy β€œPopeye” Doyle should always be at the top of any list of the greatest movie cops. Played by Gene Hackman in the movie The French Connection, the character and his partner are based on two real life New York Policemen. Considered one of the seminal movies of the 1970s, The French Connection was the first R rated movie to win the Best Picture Oscar. Hackman also won the Academy award for his portrayal of the hard-hitting narcotics detective on the trail of smuggling ring. (William Friedkin took home Best Director Oscar too.)

2. Inspector Lee and Sergeant Carter

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Who said the greatest movie cops can’t be funny? And, when you cut through the hilarious antics and the funny banter to the chase, the mismatched team of Lee (played by Jackie Chan) and Carter (played by Chris Tucker) always get their man – eventually. They may wreck Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, cause a diplomatic incident with the French and trash a massage parlor in Hong Kong through Rush Hour, rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3 but at least you’ll laugh while they’re doing it.

3. Virgil Tibbs

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The movie In the Heat of the Night was one of the first I remember having a really profound effect on me and opened my eyes to issues of diversity. In a landmark role for black actors, Sydney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs. As a black policeman at the height of the fight for civil rights, being falsely arrested for and then teaming up with a white sheriff to investigate a homicide in a racially hostile town was never going to be an easy task. The film includes two major moments: one where Virgil Tibbs retaliates in an episode of white provocation and two, where he says the immortal line β€œThey call me β€˜Mister’ Tibbs.”

4. John McClane

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One of the greatest movie cops for sheer entertainment value has to be the man in the sweaty grubby vest – New York Detective John McClane, played by Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series. This hugely successful film franchise, of which there have been four installments to date, is always high on explosive action and packed with wisecracks as McClane always finds himself at the wrong party. Still, they have to have a happy ending and McClane gets them in the end whether they are mastermind thieves or cyber terrorists.

5. Marge Gunderson

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If you are familiar with the work of the genius Coen brothers but haven’t seen Fargo, it won’t be any surprise that one of the most unlikely of great movie copies is Marge Gunderson. Fargo is a crazy tale of failed kidnap, blackmail and murder but with the most unusual cast of chaotic and psychotic characters. Marge – magnificently portrayed by Frances McDormand – is practically on the edge of giving birth, has a partner who keeps her fed while she’s on the job, and is definitely the most polite and matter-of-fact cop you will ever come across in the movies.

6. Harry Callaghan

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Can you really have a list of the greatest movie cops and not include Harry Callaghan? Portrayed by Clint Eastwood, this is another of the hugely successful cop movie franchises that began in the 1970s. Inspector β€œDirty” Harry Callaghan is a loner and as a lawman, something of a loaded weapon. Despite his flaws and not getting on with or liking anybody, he gets things done and rids the streets of real nasty criminals.

7. Axel Foley

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Another of the wise-cracking, smart-ass great movie cops is the Eddie Murphy character, Axel Foley. Despite being a Detroit policeman, Foley somehow always manages to get embroiled in things going down in Los Angeles, earning him the title that has been used in three movies to date – Beverley Hills Cop. Dragging LA detectives into places and situations that make them fish out of water, Foley likes nothing more than a bit of Hollywood havoc and mayhem.

8. Vince Hanna

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If you like your law enforcement officers to be hard-nosed, uncompromising and straight talking, then you’ll probably agree that Lieutenant Vincent Hanna is one of the best movie cops. Played by Al Pacino, whose black coffee croak of a voice was perfectly cultivated, Hanna has decimated his personal life (three wives) in his dogged pursuit of good versus evil. In this case, evil is thief Neil McCauley, played by Robert De Niro.

9. Martin Riggs

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The Lethal Weapon series has given us some of the best cop buddy movies of recent times but Danny Glover’s character, Roger Murtaugh, is always overshadowed by the antics of Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs. Unconventional, determined and slightly crazy, Riggs is a maverick being kept somewhat in check (not very successfully) by the somewhat staid Murtaugh as they see their way to tackling drug smugglers, bent cops, arms smugglers and people traffickers.

Who do you think are the greatest movie cops?

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