Buzzing sirens, gunshot noises, and speedy car chases have made cop movies a favorite of action junkies around the globe. In its 110-year history, Hollywood has produced many cop movies. From the 70s’ Chinatown to The End Of Watch in 2012, we have seen many great police movies. But, which movies out of them stand tall? Some stand out because of their buddy-cop setting; others are fan favorites because of their remarkable action sequences. So, if you’re a thrill-seeker, here are our 15 best cop movies of all time:
15. The Fugitive (1993)
The Fugitive is one of the best crime dramas ever—period. It set the tone for many “good guy running from the authorities” movies that we see today. In the story, Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is framed for the murder of his wife.
Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) is bent on bringing him under the hammer of justice. He doesn’t know that soon things will be uncovered that’ll prove them all very wrong.
14. Speed (1994)
This Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves-led film needs no introduction. In this high-speed action thriller, the cop Jack Traven (Reeves) is chasing a resentful bomber who has planted a bomb in a local bus. The trick? The bus cannot stop, or the bomb explodes.
13. End of Watch (2012)
End of Watch is one of the best buddy-cop movies of recent memory. Some would even say it’s highly underrated, based on its gripping action sequences as well as an intriguing story. The film follows two police officers (Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena).
When they arrest a few henchmen of a powerful drug cartel, their life is sent into a blender as the cartel hierarchy wants them dead. What follows are remarkable action sequences accompanied by a great story, making it one of the most underrated cop flicks of all time.
12. Heat (1995)
This brings a long-time fan cast to life, as it brings a determined police detective against a sharp-headed criminal—Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, respectively. Heat was the Batman vs. Superman of its time, based on the two lead actors.
The film follows the account of Hanna (Pacino) facing the challenge of tracking a group of remarkable criminals, led by a charismatic forerunner (De Niro). Tensions get higher as the criminal group begins to attract heat, hence the name.
However, the most intriguing part about this crime drama is the cat-and-mouse game between the two leads—including that classic restaurant meetup.
11. Lethal Weapon (1987)
Lethal Weapon is one of the best cop movies of all time because of its amazing story alone. The film has everything, struggle with criminals, mental health, building friendships, and an energetic crime drama, which is ready to explode at any second.
One of the best parts of this film is Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s chemistry in the film. Some would even say this is the pioneer for buddy cop movies. The film plays out an intriguing story as they both get off on the wrong foot but become fond of each other by the time the credits roll.
10. The Untouchables (1987)
The Untouchables is the pioneer for false alarms in crime dramas. Led by the magnetic Kevin Costner, who plays Elliot Ness. This character is bent on bringing down one of the most infamous crime lords in US history—Al Capone (Robert De Niro).
The film also features a stellar supporting cast, including Sean Connery. So, if you’re looking to be surprised and jump out of your chair, then you should give this one a watch.
9. Chinatown (1974)
Chinatown is a Jack Nicholson-led classic, as the mystery/crime thriller will leave you baffled by the end. The dedicated detective Jake (Nicholson) is coerced into spying by a wealthy woman—on her husband.
Things get twisted when the husband dies, and things begin to unfold that’ll shake the foundation of L.A county.
8. L.A Confidential (1997)
L.A. Confidential is the best crime drama from the nineties. Many great actors found their breakthroughs with this film.
7. Mystic River (2003)
Mystic River is widely hailed as one of the best investigation crime dramas. With a strong ensemble, the film follows the story of Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), as Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) investigates the heart-breaking murder of Markum’s daughter.
In a seemingly unending mystery, the story unfolds old and new twists—all tying together at the Mystic River in Massachusetts. This film will surely give you a fix for your cop-movie-craving and leave you wonderstruck.
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is already a modern classic. We see Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) play a deranged mother. The harrowing drama follows this woman, who is bent on finding the criminals who raped and murdered her daughter.
In a bid to find the killer, she buys three prominent billboards just outside ebbing, filling them with questions—some too unanswerable by the local police. She’s also helped by the local policeman Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell).
5. No Country For Old Men (2007)
No Country for Old Men swept the Oscars in 2008 and for a good reason. This movie, otherwise considered a box office “flop,” became a cult classic. It’s now widely hailed as the most intriguing, entertaining, and somewhat unsettling Crime/Western film.
The story begins when a drug deal goes wrong, and a Hunter (Josh Brolin) finds the remains of a Mexican shootout. He’s then suckled into a game of life and death, as a deranged psychopath (Javier Bardem) chases him across states—while the cop (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to track them both.
4. The Departed (2006)
The Departed is one of the best cop films you will ever see. The Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese is at the top of his game in this film. We follow the story of Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), Dignam, and Captain Queenan (Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) asking him to go undercover.
In a strange twist of fate, the local crime lord, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), has his mole inside the police (Matt Damon). The intriguing story that follows cannot be described in words, as you will have to see it to believe it.
3. Die Hard (1988)
It’s impossible to mention police films without Die Hard. Yet another film with an astronomical ensemble, the story of John McClane (Bruce Willis), is one for the ages. We see a criminal mastermind, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), take a whole office building hostage.
The twist here is that McClane’s wife happens to be in the building—whom he came to visit during Christmas time in LA. However, what follows is a story that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, with many memorable dialogues and sequences.
2. Se7en (1995)
Se7en is one of the most twisted, bizarre, dumbfounding, and somewhat tragic cop movies ever made. The film begins with a rookie detective (Brad Pitt) just moving into big-city life. His partner (Morgan Freeman) is older and on the verge of retirement.
However, they begin to warm up to each other after spending time together. It instigates when they start working on a deadly case of a murderer, who uses the seven deadly sins as his inspiration to kill.
1. Training Day (2001)
Training Day should be your top priority if you’re looking for cop flicks that’ll make you pause, repeat, and play again. This film is a monument of great dialogue, amazing acting, and an enchanting story.
It all begins when senior narcotics specialist Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) takes Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) as an apprentice. While Harris must train Hoyt in a day, Hoyt begins to uncover something that’ll leave him in the middle of an unwanted trap.
- The French Connection (1971)
- Traffic (2000)
- Hot Fuzz (2007)
Did we miss any title that should have been a part of this list of the best cop movies of all time? Let us know in the comments below!