"They pull a knife, you pull a gun..."
Officer Jim Malone (Sean Connery) in The Untouchables (1987)
A blunt but benevolent Irish vet who won’t take bribes in the moral murk of Depression-era Chicago and gives no-bull tutoring to Kevin Costner’s straight-arrow in the “Chicago way”. Dodgy accent, mind.
Cop that! “1… 2… 3…” Bang! Malone gets a witness to blab by smoking a corpse.
Stake-out song of choice: U2 – 'Where The Streets Have No Name.' Irish chest-beating, Wild West-like badland strut.
"Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"
RoboCop (Peter Weller) in RoboCop (1987)
After being horribly lead-peppered, Officer Alex Murphy is hot-wired to hard metal and resurrected to enforce the law in Detroit. Thing is, he wasn't taught not to feel, nor to turn a robo-eye to cop corruption. Steely yet soulful, RoboCop is Frankenstein's monster on a heavy-metal beat. He rocks.
Cop that! Robo-chops fells a rapist by busting his balls through the dress of a woman held hostage. “Your move, creep…”
Stake-out song of choice: The Prodigy – 'Their Law'. Very metal, robo-riffi ng, cop-rocking beats/beat enforcement.
"Get the fuck out of here!"
Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) in Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
A maniacal Murphy beat competitor Sylvester Stallone to the role of the rule-busting Detroit cop set loose in Beverly Hills and propelled the '80s high-concept action-com cycle to paydirt. Where Sly would've played it straight, Murphy plays fast, funny and filthy, fairly carrying a plot-light flick on sheer firecracker force of personality and profanity alone.
Cop that! Pretends to be Ramon, a male prostitute there to warn Steven Berkoff's villainous Victor Maitland to check for STDs. Naughty!
Stake-out song of choice: Jack your butt to Harold Faltermeyer's 'Axel F'
Lt John McClane (Bruce Willis) in Die Hard (1988)
“Most troublesome”? Damn straight. He's “The fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass…"
Hurl what you will, John McClane is always there. Battling terrorists or bombers, crawling along air ducts and lift shafts, he takes the battering, the damage and the bloodied white vest. Even if it's Christmas Eve, he'd rather be in Philadelphia and he's outside his jurisdiction. McClane is a Boy's Own, on-the-spot cop who'll stop for a sob then weather the blows with a quip and a love of movies.
Cop that! After a rib-crunching barney with Teutonic terrorist Karl, John-boy chokes him on a chain and leaves him jangling and dangling.
Stake-out song of choice: Echo & The Bunnymen – 'Nothing Lasts Forever'.
Officer Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) in Fargo (1996)
Marge is a wise, warm and rooted centre in the cold and chaos of Fargo. While all the men around her hatch schemes, murder, fluff their police-work or harbour crushes, matter-of-fact Marge gets down to work.
Cop that! “I’m just doing my job here.” Marge's politely tenacious questioning lays waste to Jerry Lundegaard.
Stake-out song of choice: Sly & The Family Stone – 'Everyday People'. Marge would dig its peace 'n' love sentiment.
"This is a real badge, Im a real cop and this is a real fucking gun!"
Sergeant Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson)in Lethal Weapon (1987)
A wild and crazy guy, delivered in a torrent of twitches. Head scrambled by Vietnam and the death of his wife, Riggs can't commit to suicide but isn't scared of do-or-die situations. Leaping off buildings with suicides? Trying out drugs? He'll do it all, with a psycho-boy macho quip for any occasion.
Cop that! Frying tonight. After electro-shock treatment, mad Marty nuts his torturer, breaks his neck and goes to work.
Stake-out song of choice: Britney Spears – '…Baby One More Time'. As in 'Hit Me!'. You think Gibbo can't take the pain?
Officer Wendell ‘Bud’ White (Russell Crowe) in LA Confidential (1997)
A vice cop who ain’t afraid to dish out rough justice. He’s got a history: his old man was a wife-beater who laid in on Bud, too. So Bud hits hard on wife-beaters. His fuse is short, as DA Ellis Loew fi nds out upside down, but this loose-cannon lummox has brains to match brawn and tenderness to go with the toughs.
Cop that! Dangles Ellis from a window until he ‘fesses up. Idea later nicked by Matthew Vaughn for Layer Cake.
Stake-out song of choice: Nick Cave – Sweetheart Come. A caveman’s ballad (“If he touches you again with his stoopid hands, his life won’t be worth living…”).
"Son of a bitch!"
Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman) in The French Connection (1971)
Half narc, half force of nature, Popeye is ferocious, obsessive and very much the warts’n’all New Hollywood cop. He shoots an FBI agent and pops an unarmed man in the back with commitment, albeit blurry ethics.
Cop that! “Police emergency, I need your car!” Popeye chases a train, laying the track for Jack Bauer, 30 years later.
Stake-out song of choice: Guns ‘n’ Roses – Mr Brownstone – given Popeye’s dancing with the dragon in the sequel.
"Dont fock wid me!"
Officer Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) in Serpico (1973)
The sensitive, seen-it-all cop-as-crusader who stands alone in both conviction and dress sense. He likes a good time as much as the next guy, but he won’t take a bribe, even if a bullet in the face may be his only medal. Crucified for his convictions, he’s Jesus with a badge.
Cop that! Beating up on a sleazebag before getting down to business at his typewriter.
Stake-out song of choice: Bruce Springsteen – It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City.
"The law is crazy..."
Inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Dirty Harry (1971)
Lonesome Clint is a loaded weapon and a lawman on the brink in Don Siegel’s post-hippie Nixon-era allegory. The right wing embraced Callahan and the left dubbed him fascist, but vigorous ambiguity is a closer fit. Harry gets on with no-one, from the mayor to terrorists, cops to snipers.
Cop that! Foils a bank robbery and asks the perp, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya? Punk?”
Stake-out song of choice : Gorillaz – Dirty Harry.
Shes got a GREAT ASS!
Lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) in Heat (1995)
A Mann’s man. A doggedly intuitive cop and a sharp guy’s guy with a black-coffee croak of a voice. Hanna’s monkish, angst-fuelled devotion to his
work-life leaves his wife-lives (three to date) decimated.
Cop that! Hands it on a plate to De Niro’s master-crook over a hard coffee (“Brother, you are going down…”).
Stake-out song of choice : Sir Mix-a-Lot – ‘Baby Got Back’. Google the lyrics...
Fuck you! Fuck you! Im fucking dying here!
Mr Orange (Tim Roth) in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Aka Officer Freddie Newendyke, an undercover cop who takes a bullet in a botched heist but stays in character, prepared to “sit here and bleed” until he gets his (multicoloured) men.
Cop that! The apparently inert Freddie unloads his clip and slays the Mr Blonde beast.
Stake-out song of choice : Black Sabbath – 'Paranoid'.
"They call me MISTER Tibbs!"
Detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) in The Heat Of The Night (1967)
Poitier’s Philadelphia cop holding his own on a Mississippi murder case. The city-sized homicide dick knows he’s smarter than the small town goons, even if Rod Steiger’s redneck sheriff takes some persuading.
Cop that! Steiger’s Chief Gillespie asks what they call him in Philadelphia. You know the answer.
Stake-out song of choice: The title track by Ray Charles…
"You work your side of the street, Ill work mine..."
Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) in Bullitt (1968)
McQueen writes the rulebook of cop cool as the laconic, leathery, ‘Frisco insubordinate with a conveniently hard surname.
Cop that! McQueen and Mustang: spot the seams. Bullitt blends into the upholstery in that squealing car chase.
Stake-out song of choice: The lithe, Lalo Schifrin score is the only sonic fit for his panther moves and polo-neck.
"Got the wrong guy, pal!"
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in Blade Runner (1982)
A future-noir anti-hero lone operator, Deckard looks as rough as the skin-jobs he leaves on the sidewalk, swaggering the thin line between cop and criminal.
Cop that! Rick applies his own first aid in the sink after a ferocious beating.
Stake-out song of choice: Kraftwerk – ‘Metropolis’. Synth-smothered eulogy to the urban sprawl – taken, tellingly, from the ‘Man Machine’ album...
"Hey! X-rated action!"
Inspector Yuen/Tequila (Chow Yun-fat) in Hard-Boiled (1992)
Hard shell, soft centre. In the opening 10 minutes alone, a leaping, diving, rolling Yuen obliterates a Chinese teahouse in a shootout as production number set-piece, without dislodging the cocktail stick in his mouth or breaking a sweat.
Cop that! Yuen is saved from his blazing trousers when the baby he’s holding pisses on the fireworks.
Stake-out song of choice: Leonard Cohen – ‘Jazz Police’. Yeah. That cool.
"Your anagrams are showing, doctor..."
Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Career and compassion come first for the briskly tenacious Starling, the cop who dares to confront the beast in the dungeon, reveal her innermost secrets to a psycho and empathise with skinned victims in order to save an American girl from a fl aying. A lone female avenger in a male world, she shoots straight and sure, even with the lights out.
Cop that! “Good afternoon, erm, sorry to bother you…” Starling soon intuits the worst on a house call to Bill.
Stake-out song of choice: Simon & Garfunkel – 'The Sound Of Silence' (“Hello darkness…”)