Buddy cop movies are an exciting mix of action, fun, and character development. Some of these duos have become iconic teams that have transcended generations. The AiPT! staff talk about their favorites and who they would like to see together.
What is your favorite buddy cop movie?
David Brooke: There are so many to choose from it hurts to even think about. I’m going to go with a modern film because I loved it so much: The Nice Guys. This movie was so damn perfect and was written by Shane Black who knows his way around a good buddy cop movie, having written Lethal Weapon and movies like The Last Boy Scout. The dynamic was excellent, the dialogue on point, and it had good action too.
Michael Rosch: I also have to go with The Nice Guys. Shane Black is the definitive master of the buddy cop genre. I’d also cite his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as yet another quasi buddy cop movie in his oeuvre. While Lethal Weapon is the first buddy cop film almost anyone thinks of, I feel like The Nice Guys is Black’s final word on the genre he helped define. The Nice Guys playfully undermines the competence we’ve come to expect from the leads of these movies. These guys aren’t Riggs and Murtaugh, aren’t very good at what they do, and fail constantly; especially when they’re trying to be cool. When Ryan Gosling’s Holland March tosses a gun to his partner, the gun goes out the window instead. And when he tries to break a window to sneak into a building, he badly cuts himself. March also wears visible reminders of all the injuries he suffers for the full runtime of the movie. The meta-commentary is only compounded by the fact that the film’s McGuffin is a literal film canister.Justin Cohen: There are truly so many to choose from but I have to go with Bad Boys II. I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time and being blown away by the mixture of nonstop action sequences and nonstop laughs. The chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is contagious! And it’s two and a half hours long, yet I could just keep watching it if it were longer. It has to be up there for movies I’ve the seen the most times in my life, and it’s one of the few great things I’ll admit Michael Bay has done.
Davis Pittman: I haven’t seen a lot of buddy cop type films to be honest, but there is one that I absolutely love. The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. This is one of my favorite films period. I laughed all the way through, the comedic material is top notch. And there’s something so right about Bullock and McCarthy as a pair due to their great chemistry. I’ve always thought this film didn’t get all the credit it deserves. Plus, it’s great to see two bad ass women heading up a film like this, given that it’s traditionally been two men.
Jason Segarra: It’s kind of cheating to choose what is essentially a parody as my favorite example of a genre, but it’s hard to claim anything but Hot Fuzz as my favorite buddy cop movie. (Non Bad Boys 2 division.) Officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the consummate straight-laced, by-the-book cop, while PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, in perhaps his most endearing role) is the slovenly everyman who just wants some excitement in his life. Butterman’s own love of buddy cop movies is infectious and makes the movie’s outstanding third act all the better for it. The action is both crisp and ridiculously over-the-top, making for one of the best finales for a cop movie since…well, maybe Bad Boys 2.
Who is your favorite buddy cop team?
Dave: I’m going with the classic Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover). They made four of these films and rightfully so. The dynamic worked.
Michael: I could continue adding to my love of The Nice Guys by picking Holland March and Jackson Healy, but instead I’ll go with Agent J and Agent K from the first Men In Black. Will Smith brings all of his Will Smith charm to the role and Tommy Lee Jones delivers a brilliantly deadpan performance that successfully sells the idea that he’s seen it all before and has “gotten too old for this s--t.”
Justin: I have to go classic like Dave and choose Riggs and Murtaugh. The Lethal Weapon films are all enjoyable and some of my favorites of the genre. The dynamic between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover was perfect, what more can be said?Jason: I mean, the obvious pick is Van Damme and Van Damme in Double Impact. That being said, I rather enjoyed the pairing of Bruce Willis’ John McClane and Samuel L Jackson’s Zeus in Die Hard with a Vengeance (the best Die Hard IMO). Both guys bring a lot of gravitas to the screen, had great chemistry and – and this is key in any on-screen pairing – seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Just watch them solving the water jug riddle and you’ll see two friends stuck in a crazy situation, instead of two actors pretending to like one another.
Nathaniel Muir: Jason’s pick is pretty Damme good but the correct answer is Riggs and Murtaugh. That being said, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg deserve some love for their turn in The Other Guys. As Detectives Gamble and Holtz, the two have great chemistry in this hilarious send up of the genre. Just ask Derek Jeter how tough they are.
What are the most important ingredients in a great buddy cop team?
Dave: The characters must hate or even despise one another, but through their adventure they somehow learn to work together.
Michael: Each partner should possess a quality the other needs. Neither is a functional person on their own. They’re two sides of the same coin who, only through their partnership, can solve both the case and their personal problems.
Justin: They have to have a love/hate relationship. They need to each have different skills or qualities that, when put together with their partner, makes them whole. They need the other to be complete and to be able to solve cases.
Jason: It’s a bit of what everyone else has already said, but most important is just chemistry. If the two actors don’t like working with each other, we lose all the fun of the pairing. That just leaves you with unwatchable dreck that wastes the talents of the cast and disenfranchises an entire generation about one of its heroes.
Nathaniel: Chemistry is so important in a buddy cop film. Great chemistry can give the worst movies a certain charm. (*cough* Rush Hour *cough*.) The whole reason these movies work is as individuals we may or may not like them, but we can’t help but root for them as a team. We watch them overcome their individual obstacles and somehow win in the end. Without chemistry you’re left with Cop & 1/2.
What is the most underrated buddy cop movie?
Dave: There’s a couple like End of Watch and not to mention the plethora of films that probably aren’t technically buddy cop films because one of the characters in the duo isn’t actually a cop. I’m looking at you Die Hard with a Vengeance. For a buddy cop movie with two cops though I’ll go with Loaded Weapon 1. Hilarious!
Michael: I’m going with Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes. I have no particular love for the sequel, but that first one successfully grafted Ritchie’s bombastic, propulsive style onto the typically more stodgily depicted Holmes story. But as much as a departure as it would seem to the casual viewer, it was shockingly more faithful to book Holmes than one might realize. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes really was an expert boxer. But mostly I appreciate how that film — unlike its follow-up — stayed true to the skeptical spirit of the character. When everyone else is convinced of the supernatural nature of the case, Holmes knows it’s a trick and a more rational solution exists. And the film ultimately rewards that rigorous pursuit of rational answers.Justin: Blue Streak. I’m just continuing the love for Martin Lawrence in this genre. I loved this movie as a kid and rewatched it recently to find it still holds up! Martin Lawrence and Luke Wilson are paired up and Dave Chappelle has some legendary one liners. There’s no way not to crack a grin watching this one.
Jason: Dragnet. It’s based on a show you probably never watched so the fact that it’s not a terribly faithful recreation of the source material is moot. Starring Dan Akroyd as Sgt. Joe Friday and a (almost entirely) pre-fame Tom Hanks as Pep Streebeck, this is a funny if slightly forgettable romp that ticks a lot of the boxes for fans of the genre. It’s super quotable (even people who haven’t seen it know the name Connie “the Virgin” Swail) and features a fun group of villains in the PAGANs (People Against Goodness And Normalcy), it’s well worth the 80 minutes.
Nathaniel: I have never heard a bad thing about it, but that may be because I really don’t hear about it that much to begin with. 21 Jump Street starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is a hilarious adaption of the late 80’s television show. Hill and Tatum have great chemistry together and the movie did well enough to warrant a sequel. When people talk about buddy cop movies, this one never gets mentioned for some reason.
What is the most overrated buddy cop movie?Dave: Rush Hour! I never got the hype and while the dynamic is interesting I couldn’t get into this series.
Michael: Damn. Dave beat me to it. Can’t argue with Rush Hour. While I would love to champion a major Hollywood film starring a black guy and an Asian guy with zero white dudes among the leads, Rush Hour just feels like a more comedic, poor man’s Lethal Weapon. Chris Tucker has his moments but, man, can he get annoying. And ultimately the film doesn’t deliver enough on the promise of Jackie Chan. I can’t even remember one stunt from the film while other English language Jackie Chan movies from that same era prove far greater showcases for what he does best. Also Brett Ratner isn’t a strong action director.
Justin: This is tough. I like the Rush Hour films. They probably are the most overrated in the genre though. I’ll specifically go with Rush Hour 3 since that was definitely the worst one. I do think the pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker is great but for how much recognition these films get, they’re not nearly as amazing as Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Beverly Hills Cop, etc.
Jason: Sorry Davis, but The Heat. I absolutely HATE that movie and can’t understand what people see in it. It isn’t funny, the action isn’t well choreographed, the plot sucks, there’s literally nothing to like about this movie beyond the typical Melissa McCarthy gags that she does in LITERALLY every role. I just don’t get what people see in it.
Nathaniel: Keeping in mind that overrated does not mean bad, I am going with the Bad Boys movies. Will Smith is great and the films themselves are filled with action packed fun. It all boils down to one person. I just find Martin Lawrence incredibly annoying and the only reason the movies work so well are the Herculean efforts of Smith and Michael Bay.
Dream casting time! Cast the ultimate buddy cop team.
Dave: I’d like to see Tom Cruise do a buddy cop film. He’s always the star with a supporting cast, but I’d like to see him chew up the screen equally with another. Maybe Matthew McConaughey or Leonardo DiCaprio. We already know Cruise can do it being in a more grounded street level action picture (see Collateral).
Michael: Dwayne Johnson may be an obvious choice but I think a good buddy cop film needs an element of comedy and Johnson has repeatedly shown that, in addition to his obvious tough guy physique, he’s got legitimate comedy chops. And I also randomly thought of Jason Schwartzman, who always brings a fun, quirky energy to any role he’s in and seems like the last person one would normally think to cast in a buddy cop film. So The Rock and Jason Schwartzman. I’ll also throw my two cents in for a much needed all-female buddy cop movie: Claire Foy and Lucy Liu.
Justin: I’m going to combine Dave and Michael’s choices and say I’d love to see Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson team up for a buddy cop movie. Both actors with lots of charisma/comedy chops that also are incredible action stars. They’re quite different too so I think it could be a hilarious pairing.
Jason: Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. That’s right, I want to see Bill and Ted in a buddy cop movie. These dudes obviously play well off each other, so why not use that natural chemistry in a new genre? We already know Keanu can do action with the best of them, so let Winter bring the comedy and let’s see what Officers Preston (esquire) and Logan can do on the mean streets of San Dimas. Honorable mention: Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez. I just want to see the two toughest women in Hollywood kick ass on screen
Nathaniel: I’m going with a duo we have already seen together, but by the time we got to them, their bond was already formed. Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson make a great team. We saw that in The Other Guys. But an origin story on how they got to be the bad ass duo that caused millions of dollars of property damage on a regular basis would be awesome.