50 Coolest Movie Detectives

Inspector Clouseau

The Detective: A one-man disaster zone whose supporting role trying to solve the theft of The Pink Panther (1962) led to his own slapstick spin-off. Somewhat worryingly, he's supposed to be the best inspector in the French Sûreté.

Why They're Cool: As played by Peter Sellers (sorry, Alan Arkin and Steve Martin), Clouseau is one of the great comic creations. Sure, he gives detectives a bad name, but we're laughing too hard to care.

Quintessential Quote: "I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one."

Vincent Hanna

The Detective: Lieutenant in the LAPD Robbery-Homicide division who makes it an obsession to catch master-thief Neil McCauley in Heat (1995). Well, given that Hanna is Al Pacino and McCauley is Robert De Niro, he would, wouldn't he?

Why They're Cool: Michael Mann ensures that cop and robber are two sides of the same coin, and Pacino revels in being the flamboyant yang to De Niro's yin.

Quintessential Quote: "My life's a disaster zone. I got a stepdaughter so fucked up because her real father's this large-type asshole. I got a wife, we're passing each other on the down-slope of a marriage - my third - because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block. That's my life."

Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh

The Detectives: One is a uptight homicide veteran who's getting too old for this shit. The other is a suicidal, loose-cannon narc who doesn't give a fuck. Inevitably, they become the best of friends.

Why They're Cool: No list of screen detectives would be complete without a mismatched-buddy duo, and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover achieved such chemistry in Lethal Weapon (1987) that the film led to a much-loved franchise.

Quintessential Quote: Riggs - "I don't make things difficult. That's the way they get, all by themselves."

Hank Quinlan

The Detective: Obese Police Captain in Touch Of Evil (1958), who brooks no crime in his Tex-Mex border because he can instantly tell a man's guilt - regardless of whether or not there is any evidence.

Why They're Cool: Writer/director Orson Welles doesn't shy away from Quinlan's corruption and racism, but retains some sympathy because Quinlan is a guy whose moral compass doesn't waver from arresting wrong-doers.

Quintessential Quote: After he dies, friends Schwartz and Tanya pay their respects. "He was a great detective… and a lousy cop," concluding "he was some kind of a man."

William Somerset

The Detective: Morgan Freeman's week-away-from-retirement veteran in Se7en (1995), whose last case tests both his intellectual prowess and his stomach for violence.

Why They're Cool: This is a cop who does the bulk of his detective work in the library, piecing together John Doe's plan by reading up on Dante.

Quintessential Quote: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

Rick Deckard

The Detective: The titular Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford in the 1982 film, tasked with hunting and destroying a gang of rogue telepaths.

Why They're Cool: Voiceover or no voiceover, Harrison Ford gets immediately that, despite living in the future, Deckard's a hard-boiled, film-noir kinda guy.

Quintessential Quote: "They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop. Ex-blade runner. Ex-killer."

James Gordon

The Detective: By the time of The Dark Knight Rises (2012), he's Commissioner Gordon, but one of the strengths of Christopher Nolan's Bat-trilogy is to show the character when he was an officer on the ground, trying to deal with nutjobs and psychos on both sides of the law.

Why They're Cool: Much of the complexity of Nolan's vision rests on Gary Oldman's portrayal of a decent, instinctive detective who reluctantly transforms into a politician who invents lies to hide unpalatable truths.

Quintessential Quote: Talking about Batman - "He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight."

Virgil Tibbs

The Detective: Philadelphia homicide cop, played by Sidney Poitier in In The Heat Of The Night (1967), who visits the Mississippi backwater of Sparta to help redneck local law enforcer Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) solve a racist murder.

Why They're Cool: Poitier made Tibbs a poster-boy for progress in the civil rights era, and proved so popular he reprised the role in two sequels.

Quintessential Quote: "They call me Mister Tibbs!"

Marge Gunderson

The Detective: Police chief in Brainerd, Minnesota, who has to mop up a case of kidnap and murder in Fargo (1996), despite being heavily pregnant.

Why They're Cool: Frances McDormand's Oscar-winning performance turns Marge into an anchor of warmth and generosity, who never lets the cruelty of the world get in the way of her happy home life with husband Norm.

Quintessential Quote: "Sir, you have no call to get snippy with me, I'm just doing my job here."

J. J. Gittes

The Detective: Sharp-tongued Los Angeles P.I. with a nose for trouble and a weakness for a femme fatale. Very capable, provided he steers clear of Chinatown (1974).

Why They're Cool: In a role written specifically for Jack Nicholson, Gittes is one of the most three-dimensional detectives in cinema, whose vulgar, sarcastic shell is a mask to hide his essential integrity.

Quintessential Quote: "I said I want the truth!"