Best & Worst: Buddy-Cop Movies

Best: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Oft-imitated but seldom surpassed, Lethal Weapon is the crème de la crème of buddy-cop movies. The black cop-white cop dynamic is more or less incidental to the real contrast between Murtaugh and Riggs, namely that one of them is a low-key family man and the other is an effing loon.

By-the-book grafter meets maverick loose cannon…it should be a bit of a yawn by rights, but a cracking pair of performances from Danny Glover and Mel Gibson (who knew he could play a nutcase? Oh…), a series of pulse-quickening set-pieces and plenty of zinging one-liners make it far more than the sum of its parts. All together now, “RIIIIIIGS!”

Worst: Collision Course (1989)

Nope, there’s no need to get some new eyes, that is indeed mega-chinned chat-show host Jay Leno teaming up with Mr. Miyagi himself, Pat Morita. God alone knows whose bright idea it was to put these two together, but needless to say the results are absolutely abysmal.

The plot involves some tosh about recovering a stolen Japanese turbocharger engine, but is really only there as a flimsy excuse for some East meets West “hilarity” between Morita and Leno. Leno now refers to the whole mess as, “a horrible movie,” which pretty much sums it up. Awful.

Best: Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Ben Stiller’s loving tribute to the 70’s cop show is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with audiences divided over whether the period trappings come at the expense of the gags. For our money though, it’s a pitch-perfect buddy-cop delight, with Stiller’s uptight shtick a perfect match for Wilson’s laid-back rule-bending.

Chuck in Fred Williamson as the perma-furious police chief and Vince Vaughan’s moustachioed sleazeball as the villain of the piece and you’ve got all the ingredients for an ace crime caper. Top soundtrack too. Do it. Do it…

Worst: Alien Nation (1988)

Any film containing a pun in the title should automatically be treated with suspicion, and this sledgehammer-subtle racial allegory is no different. The futuristic premise revolves around the arrival on earth of a race of extra-terrestrials known as the Newcomers. Before long, they’re mucking in with us earthlings as bus drivers, bin men and inevitably, cops.

Mandy Patinkin plays the excruciatingly-named Sam Francisco, who finds himself partnered with James Caan, no alien-lover himself having seen his last sidekick killed by Newcomers. A hopelessly clumsy social satire in which nothing very much happens, it’s a bit of a bore really. You can keep your life-lessons thanks, we want wise-cracks and action. Both are sadly missing here.

Best: Tango & Cash (1989)

“Who do you think you are Tango? Rambo?”… “Rambo’s a pussy!” Sly breaks open the funnies to good effect, riffing on his usual musclebound antics to play the bespectacled foil to Kurt Russell’s dishevelled loon in Tango & Cash .

There’s nothing terribly revolutionary here, a pair of mismatched cops forced to work together after being framed for murder, but the hackneyed set up is played for maximum laughs by Russell and Stallone, who seem to be cracking wise in more or less every line of dialogue. Meanwhile, Jack Palance is a hammy treat as the cackling bad guy.

Worst: Samurai Cop (1989)

Christ alive, if ever there were a more ham-fisted, knuckleheaded attempt at a buddy movie, it’s certainly passed us by. So much so in fact, that it’s impossible to talk about Samurai Cop without just a smidgen of fondness, so comically bad is its acting, dialogue, stunts…you get the picture.

Eponymous sword-swinger Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon, unsurprisingly making his first and only big-screen appearance) isn’t even Asian for a start, rather a lank-haired, Seagal-esque white boy, presumably cast in order to capitalise on the interracial chemistry to be had with his black partner, Frank.

Frank knows his way around a wise-crack you see, lending a touch of humour to the limb-hacking action. Well worth a look on YouTube for a quick chuckle, but the full film is a joke too far…

Best: Bad Boys (1995)

Fast-talking playboy Will Smith teams with happily married Martin Lawrence to take on some standard-issue, mid-‘90s Euro-baddies. Bad Boys cemented Smith as a bona fide leading man, and it’s easy to see why. His comic sparring with Martin Lawrence steals the show, despite Michael Bay blowing up everything around them in the cinematic equivalent of a someone shouting, “look at me, look at me.”

A Martin Lawrence film that’s not just watchable, but enjoyable as well? By virtue of that feat alone, Bad Boys definitely earns its spot on the Best list.

Worst: Running Scared (1986)

Swallowing the idea of slightly-built funnyman Billy Crystal as a cop isn’t such a problem given that he’s playing it for laughs, but when those laughs fall so consistently flat, it’s probably not worth the bother.

Neither Crystal or co-star Gregory Hines are particularly bad in their own right, but they just don’t work as a double-act. Both of them are playing the same cocky douchebag routine, without really bothering to see what the other is doing. Factor in a half-baked, by-the-numbers plot and you’re left with two hours of your life you’ll wish you spent elsewhere.

Best: Turner & Hooch (1988)

Man stars with dog in non-crap film shocker! We’ve all heard the received wisdom about working with animals, but Tom Hanks somehow pulls it off in this tale of a small-town cop forced to team up with a murder witness, who just happens to be a slobbering mutt.

Instead of being a wearisome slog through its kiddie-friendly premise, Turner & Hooch is genuinely quite funny, thanks largely to Hanks’ early-career gift for physical clowning and the Hooch’s prodigious appetite for lager. The ending still chokes us as well…

Worst: Top Dog (1995)

And here’s how the man and dog partnership can go horribly wrong. Poor old Chuck Norris must have fallen upon hard times indeed to agree to this one, and indeed, it doesn’t take a sniffer dog to detect the barely suppressed loathing old Chuck feels towards his canine co-star Reno.

He might be adept at knock seven bells out of the odd bad guy, but Chuck just isn’t cuddly enough to make this work. Meanwhile, the mixture of family-friendly doggie daftness and full-on terrorist mayhem makes for an uneasy watch. Plus, Hooch could have Reno every day of the week…

George Wales

George was once GamesRadar's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it. But now he's working at Stylist Magazine.