This movie is all about the car chase. In fact, I don’t think I’m stretching the truth much to suggest Bullitt features the greatest movie car chase of all time. And don’t shoot this movie down just because it’s old, having been released in 1968. Quite probably the best movie Steve McQueen stared in, at least in my opinion.
Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. And plenty of gunfire, too. That’s what this 1988 film had to offer, as well as plenty of great one-liners from star Bruce Willis. Die Hard is one of the best action movies out of the ’80s, right up there with the original Lethal Weapon (which you’ll see below). And the lead villain, Hans Gruber, was memorably played by Alan Rickman. Willis, playing cop John McClane, finds himself trapped inside a building that has been taken over by terrorists. What to do? Fight back.
The greatest cop movie ever made. Period. If you disagree, you are wrong. It’s that simple. This 1971 flick features Clint Eastwood in the title role, and in one of the best role’s he’s ever played (the Man With No Name and Josey Wales are just about as good). In this movie, Harry hunts down the notorious Gemini serial killer. The scene on the football field is alone enough to make this the best cop movie ever, let alone the many other excellent scenes in this film.
The French Connection
1971 was a great year for cop movies because both Dirty Harry and The French Connection came out that year. This one stars Gene Hackman as Detective Popeye Doyle who becomes involved in a case involving heroin smuggling from France to New York City. This is another movie that has a fantastic car chase scene, though I personally think the chase in Bullitt is better (though just barely).
Buddy cop movies. You got to love them. And this is the finest. Part action, part comedy, 1987’s Lethal Weapon lead the way for many, many buddy cop movies that came later. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover star as a couple of detectives who become embroiled with a private ops team that’s smuggling drugs from Southeast Asia into America. A truly funny movie, and it also includes some of the best action sequences ever filmed.
The Maltese Falcon
Arguably, this 1941 movie isn’t a cop movie. Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade character is a private investigator, after all. But it’s close enough you couldn’t tell the difference. The basic plot has Spade coping with a trio of crooks who are trying to get their hands on the Maltese Falcon, a small statue worth tons and tons of money. This one might be more noir or thriller than a true action flick, but you’ve still got to see it for no other reason than it was a huge influence on later detective movies.
Not a cop movie, you might think? I beg to differ. One of the main characters, Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange, is an undercover police officer. And this 1992 film is definitely a crime movie. The plot has Roth going undercover to catch a crime boss who has set up a diamond heist. Part of the genius of this movie is that the viewer doesn’t know at first that Mr. Orange is actually a cop; you just think he’s another crook at first. But there’s plenty more moments and ideas of genius in this Quentin Tarantino debut.
Almost more of a horror movie, 1995’s Seven is still technically a cop movie. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are big city detectives trying to catch a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as tokens in his slayings. One of the darkest movies of the 1990s, and it has one of the strongest endings ever to anything on film from a major studio.
A good cop, bad cop movie. It’s Ethan Hawke’s first day as a detective, and he’s under the wing of Denzel Washington. Unfortunately for Hawke, Washington’s character turns out to be a cop so crooked he’s leading a gang of crooked cops. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A strong film, with some good action sequences, though mostly this isn’t a movie with a bunch of big explosions. Came out in 2001.
Who could forget Sean Connery as Irish-American cop Jim Malone. And Kevin Costner does a decent job as lawman Elliot Ness chasing down Al Capone, here played by Robert DeNiro in this 1987 movie. Not quite a true gangster movie, but close. There’s plenty of old-fashioned shoot-em-up moments to be found here.