The 10 Best Buddy Cop Movies Of All-Time, Ranked

Buddy cop movies have a long, rich history, a history that continues this weekend as Kevin Hart and Ice Cube team up once again for some hijinks in Ride Along 2, the follow up to their hit 2014 action comedy Ride Along. There are a lot of ways to play this formula, but at the core is a mismatched team of protagonists with drastically different approaches who have the same goal. And with Ride Along 2 coming, we thought what better time to run down a list of our favorite buddy cop movies of all time. There are some greats that didn’t quite make the cut—like Collision Course (Pat Morita and Jay Leno together at last), 21 Jump Street, and Men in Black (which gives the formula a sci-fi twist)—so shout out your favorites that we missed in the comment section below.


10. 2 Guns

A throwback to a type of R-rated action comedy that doesn’t get made much anymore, 2 Guns puts Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg together as two undercover agents from different branches of law enforcement. Each works his own angle unbeknownst to the other, and a convoluted plot has them rob a CIA slush fund, fight drug dealers, and learn to work together. They’re on the run, trying to save their asses from threats on all sides, and it’s way more fun than it has any right to be. You get shootouts, wise cracks, and action, everything you want out of a movie like this. Washington and Wahlberg have a strong chemistry, but it’s Bill Paxton as a sleazy CIA spook who really steals the show.


9. Turner & Hooch

Remember when Tom Hanks made funny movies? I miss the days of Splash, Big, and, of course, Turner & Hooch. There is nothing funnier than a cop with a dog sidekick, especially a massive, drool soaked behemoth like Beasley, the canine who takes the role of the eponymous Hooch. This plays like a buddy cop version of the Odd Couple—pairing an obsessive neat freak with a total slob—only if the messy part of the equation was a dog that is the only witness to a murder. If that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what else I can tell you.


8. Bad Boys 2

1995’s Bad Boys is something rare, a relatively short, trim movie from Michael Bay. However, the 2003 sequel, Bad Boys 2, is the most excessive, over-the-top action spectacle from the director that doesn’t bear the word Transformers in the title. This is the most bonkers movie ever made. With a massive budget, every frame is a sight to behold, even Martin Lawrence getting shot in the ass. Bad Boys 2 is all slow motion dives, blazing pistols, and bullets whizzing by your face. There’s an epic car chase that goes on, takes a moment to pause, and then starts going again, dropping cars and boats all over a Miami freeway. Bay wrecked his own Ferrari in the movie just for shits and giggles, and by the end Lawrence and Will Smith literally drive a bright yellow Hummer down a mountainside, plowing through a Cuban favela with a complete disregard for human life. Bad Boys 2 is a celebration of excess on every level, and it’s glorious.


7. The Heat

Director Paul Feig has a knack for taking traditionally male-dominated subgenres and giving them a fresh, female-fronted makeover. He did it for raunchy comedies with Bridesmaids, he’s giving Ghostbusters a fresh coat of paint, and he did it with the buddy cop comedy with The Heat. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a typically mismatched pair of cops—one straight-laced and proper, the other slovenly and crude—and while The Heat doesn’t break any new ground as they clash and ultimately bond against a common enemy, it is really goddamn funny, and the two leads are perfectly cast, relatable, and have a fantastic chemistry.


6. Running Scared

Not to be confused with the 2006 Paul Walker action flick of the same name, Peter Hyams’ Running Scared cast the unlikely duo of comedian Billy Crystal and dancer Gregory Hines as two street-wise Chicago cops who have to come back from a Florida vacation to stop a drug dealer they have a past with. Not breaking any new ground by any stretch of the imagination, Crystal and Hines carry what is, plot wise, a pretty standard police procedural, with humor, chemistry, and a script full of sharp dialogue and clever banter. This is the kind of movie you start watching on cable one dreary weekend afternoon and before you know it you’ve watched the entire thing.


5. Tango & Cash

Putting the guys who played John Rambo (and Marion Cobretti, Rocky Balboa, and John Spartan) and Snake Plissken (and Jack Burton) together in the same film is a sure way to catch my attention, and when the result is Tango & Cash, well, you just made one of my all time favorite movies. Sylvester Stallone’s Ray Tango is a slick dressing, business savvy detective from uptown, while Kurt Russell’s Gabriel Cash is a wisecracking, play-by-his-own-rules slob from Central Division, where shit gets real. The two rival cops run afoul of the same nefarious criminal, a delightfully scene chewing Jack Palance, and set up, they must work together to escape from wrongful imprisonment, clear their names, and take down the bad guy. To quote Cash, the result is "a violent work of art."


4. Hot Fuzz

As a filmmaker, Edgar Wright is incredibly adept at taking a genre and parodying it at the same time that he creates an effective entry into that segment of the film world. With Shaun of the Dead he took the piss out of zombie movies at the same time he made a great zombie movie. A few years later in 2007, he did the same thing with the buddy cop action flick with Hot Fuzz, playing up all the tropes and clichés for laughs, but also making clever entry into the genre. Fronted by frequent co-conspirators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as a hard-nosed cop who’s all about the action and a slacker small town officer with dreams of Point Break, respectively, Hot Fuzz is witty, funny, action-packed, and full of love for all of the movies it sends up.


3. 48 Hrs.

One of my favorite set ups for this genre is the reluctant team up between a gritty, hard-nosed cop and a smart-ass, wise cracking criminal, and few films have done that as well as 1982’s 48 Hrs. Pairing Eddie Murphy as the height of his comedic powers with a world weary Nick Nolte helps elevate a rather standard story into a brisk, total blast of a thriller that even manages to touch on the tricky topic of race. Under the guidance of director Walter Hill, 48 Hrs. deftly balances the action and comedy, infusing the story with a layer of grit for weight, and the finished product is one of the high points of the buddy cop genre, one that laid out the template for most of the 1980s and beyond.


2. In The Heat Of The Night

When we think of this genre, we usually think of movies with a comedic edge, if not full-blown comedies, but that’s not always the case, as we see in Norman Jewison’s 1967 In the Heat of the Night. Instead of playing the mismatched pair of leads—Sidney Poitier as a northern detective and Rod Steiger as a southern police chief—for laughs, they use it to tackle the friction between the two men and examine the racial tension of the time and place. As the two have to work together to solve a murder in a racist town, they come to respect one another, and without In the Heat of the Night we wouldn’t have the likes of 48 Hrs. or the next title on the list.


1. Lethal Weapon

I will never get too old for this shit. And never has Danny Glvoer’s Roger Murtaugh felt this more than when he partners up with suicidal widower Vietnam war veteran Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) to track down a gang of drug dealing mercenaries who eventually kidnap Murtaugh’s oldest daughter. The two, of course, ultimately form a close bond, and while there’s fantastic action and great comedy, there’s a darkness to Richard Donner’s film, especially with Riggs’ self-destructive tendencies, that give the movie an additional heft and an emotional layer many films of this ilk lack. A ship that launched a number of sequels, Gibson and Glover became the ideal as far as buddy cops go, and Lethal Weapon is the top of the heap.

Brent McKnight