Top 5 Cop Movies

Written by Retired Lt. Ricky Rhodes of Tigard PD/FBINAA #220

Top 5 Cop Movies

Officer’s need down-time, it’s important to your rest and recovery. What better way to relax than kicking back with some classic cop movies. We scoured the internet, dug through Reddit forums, analyzed the extensive databases of Rotten Tomatoes and IMBD, and surveyed multiple officers and aficionados to bring you the top 5 movies.

1. Die Hard, 1988

Rotten Tomatoes: 8.4/10

This action-packed movie follows Bruce Willis as John McClane, an NYPD officer, as he jumps through elevator shafts and climbs through air vents. McClane is off-duty on Christmas Eve when he flys out to LA to reconcile with his estranged wife at her employer’s Christmas party, the Nakatomi Corporation. The party is well under way when the leader of a crime group, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), arrives at the party with his henchmen. Gruber and his men seize the tower and take everyone inside as hostages- except McClane, who is able to slip away. Gruber has planned a lucrative heist and with no backup or ability to reach the police, McClane takes things into his own hands to save the hostages, and his wife.

2. The Departed, 2006

Rotten Tomatoes: 8.2/10

Growing up in South Boston, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) had been groomed by Irish Mob boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) to become a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police. Eventually, Sullivan ends up in the Special Investigations Unit, focusing on organized crime. Meanwhile, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) graduates from the police academy and is recruited into Massachusetts State Police to go undercover in Costello’s organization. Costigan’s family ties to organized crime make him the perfect candidate for the position. After a sting operation goes awry, both mole’s learn of the other’s existence. Sullivan and Costigan race to identify each other’s existence before their own identities are exposed. Questionable loyalties and blurred identities are woven together in what has been described as Scorsese’s return to form.

3. Dirty Harry, 1971

Rotten Tomatoes: 7.8/10

We couldn’t make a list without Clint Eastwood, it would be improper. Eastwood plays San Francisco PD inspector Harry Callahan, nicknamed Dirty Harry for all of the dirty jobs he has to do. Set in San Francisco, Dirty Harry is loosely based on the infamous San Francisco Zodiac Killer. After a psychopathic serial killer, “Scorpio”, murders a young woman from a rooftop, Callahan finds a blackmail message from him demanding money from the city. If the city doesn’t comply, Scorpio will kill one person for each day the money is refused. Callahan has to race against time as Scorpio starts to make good on his promise.

4. End of Watch, 2012

Rotten Tomatoes: 7.1/10

Shot documentary style, End of Watch stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, two LAPD officers working in South Los Angeles. The film explores their day-to-day activities as officers and their personal relationships. Taylor and Zavala have a few successful arrests that include uncovering illegal firearms and human trafficking victims. However, the men they arrest are involved in the dangerous Surenos gang and Sinaloa Cartel. The officers are ordered to lay low to avoid any possible retaliations. That plan only works for so long as the Sinaloa Cartel places orders for their deaths. Under fire and pursuit from the cartel, Taylor and Zavala try to escape with their lives.

5. Lethal Weapon 1-4, 1987-1998

Rotten Tomatoes: ~6/10

No cop movie list would be complete without a nod to the Lethal Weapon franchise. Set in the LAPD, these buddy cop movies follow homicide detective Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and his mismatched partner, Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). Murtaugh is a cautious, level-headed detective determined to make it home to his family every night. In contrast, Riggs is a former suicidal U.S. Army Special Forces soldier dealing with the loss of his wife, taking his aggression out on suspects. Murtaugh and Rigg’s extremely different backgrounds lead to tension between the partners. However they eventually find a dynamic synergy as partners to form one of the closest brotherly bonds in cinematic history. The Lethal Weapon franchise follows Murtaugh and Rigg as they uncover illegal drug-smuggling operations, black-market arms dealers and human traffickers, while exploring a variety of complex relationships.

It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to only five movies so here’s our honorable mention list:

  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • The Untouchables
  • 21 Jump Street (2012 Version)
  • Magnum Force
  • The New Centurians
  • LA Confidential
  • Hot Fuzz

Let us know what your favorite cop movies are in the comments below!

About Retired Lt. Ricky Rhodes

Ret. Lt. Ricky Rhodes

Ricky has over 30 years of experience serving in the police force and is an active member of the FBINAA community, so lets just say he may know a thing or two. Currently he works at InTime helping police departments solve their complex scheduling requirements.