Best & Worst: Buddy-Cop Movies

Best: 48 Hours (1982)

Grizzled boozehound Nick Nolte is on the hunt for a pair of cop-killing crims. A promising set-up for a hard-boiled thriller there, but not much potential for laughs along the way. So Nick goes and breaks his old partner out of jail…enter smirking wise-ass Eddie Murphy. Problem solved!

Brilliantly, the verbal jousting is a bit more vicious than your average buddy-cop flick, primarily because the two aren’t really buddies. In fact, they flat-out hate each other. It’s a sleazy, snidey take on the usual formula, and all the better for it. Top stuff.

Worst: Theodore Rex (1996)

Hmm, how to freshen up the buddy-cop formula? Well, you could cast Whoopi Goldberg as one half of the duo, that’d be a bit of a curveball. And for her partner? Why not make him a dinosaur? Brilliant! Best dust off the tux for Oscar night…

Seriously, this is probably the worst film on the list, largely thanks to the cast of fist-gnawingly irritating dinosaurs, creatures so unconvincing they make Barney look as though he’s strolled out of the Natural History Museum.

Incredibly, this isn’t some low-budget farce, but a serious attempt at a kiddie crime romp. Unsurprisingly, it became the most expensive film ever to go straight to video. At least Whoopi looks suitably embarrassed throughout…

Best: Stakeout (1987)

Old hand partnered with young buck. That’s the formula here, although the stereotypes are neatly subverted by making Richard Dreyfuss’s elder statesman the wreckless old lech, whilst Emilio Estevez is the exasperated straight-man.

Director John Badham crowbars his buddy-cop dynamic into a kind of comic reworking of Rear Window , with the pair assigned to spying duty on an ex-convict’s girlfriend, only for Dreyfuss to fall hopelessly in love with her. It’s as daftly implausible as it sounds, but thanks to the inter-generational chemistry between the two leads, it works!

Worst: Shotgun (1989)

“Playing by the rules can get you killed” warns the tagline of this uproariously shoddy (and thoroughly enjoyable) slice of ‘80s tripe. Stuart Chapin stars as Ian “Shotgun” Jones, a take-no-shit cop attempting to clean up the mean streets of LA with his partner Max Billings. Top name there, Max.

If this were a spoof it would be hailed as a laugh-a-minute Black Dynamite -esque pastiche. It’s not however. It’s an attempt at a gritty, maverick cop saga. That said, it’s still worth checking out, if only for a masterclass in ultra-wooden acting and hilariously full-throttle dialogue. Any film that features a character reacting to a bullet in the backside with an indignant, “you motherfucker, you just shot my asshole,” can’t be all bad!

Best: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Has Eddie Murphy ever been better than he is as Axel Foley? Sherman Klump you say…well anyhow he’s on top form in this ‘80s action caper, as the streetwise smart-mouth drafted in to help the squares at the Beverly Hills Police Department figure out the murder of one of his childhood friends.

A giant smash at the box office, Beverly Hills Cop would be a fairly standard police-thriller fare if not for Axel’s mile-a –minute jabber. Mickey Rourke and Sly Stallone had both been offered the role of Foley before Murphy got his hands on it. Can you imagine?

Worst: Rush Hour 3 (2007)

The first Rush Hour was an agreeable genre revival, the chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan adding a novel spin to the big, loud action favoured in most ‘90s blockbusters. The second one however, saw the novelty beginning to lose its shine, and by the time this stinker hit our screens, it had completely worn through.

Anyone with an appetite for a third round of Tucker’s ear-bleedingly relentless babble clearly needs their head looking at, but even taking him out of the equation, there’s nothing much to get excited about on the action front either. The plot is the usual Triad-related guff, with the added contrivance that Tucker’s character has mysteriously become a martial-arts pro overnight. Garbage.

Best: Demolition Man (1993)

Pairing face-smashing meathead Sly Stallone with lovely, pretty Sandra Bullock? This’ll never work…only somehow it does! It helps that the film has its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek, from the fact that Sandy’s character collects buddy-cop memorabilia (including an eerily prophetic poster for Lethal Weapon 3 ) to Wesley Snipes in full-on wackjob territory as the trigger-happy villain.

Bullock and Stallone also enjoy a surprisingly decent line in banter. “Let’s go blow this guy!” yells Sandy, to Sly’s dismay. “Away!” he yells. “Blow this guy away.” Plus, if there’s a better named double act than John Spartan and Lenina Huxley, we’ve yet to meet them.

Worst: Cop And A Half (1993)

Fonzie himself, Henry Winkler, has a crack at directing a cop movie, with predictably disasterous results. After a farcical plot contrivance allows pint-sized sprog Devon to join the police force for a day, the rest of the film consists of him spouting a series of infuriatingly childish witticisms, while “partner” Burt Reynolds hopes for the ground to swallow him up.

You know a family film has landed way off the mark when you find yourselves rooting for the bad guys to give the hero a thorough kicking. “I’m your worst nightmare,” shrieks Devon, “an eight-year-old with a badge!” You’re not wrong, son, you’re not wrong.

Best: Red Heat (1988)

Hmm, this one could have gone in either column to be fair, except that Arnie’s syllable-mangling turn as flat-topped commie copper Ivan Danko is just too much fun to be on a “worst” list of anything.

He’s paired up with wise-cracking smartass James Belushi on the hunt of the drug-pusher who killed his former partner. Cue much cross-cultural mickey-taking as the gunfights, punch-ups and car chases come thick and fast.

The tag-line should give you some idea of what to expect: “Moscow's toughest detective. Chicago's craziest cop. There's only one thing more dangerous than making them mad: making them partners.” Brilliant.

Worst: Loose Cannons (1990)

At best, this is a misjudged comedy farce. At worst it’s just plain offensive! Dan Akroyd stars a detective with a multiple-personality disorder of the Me, Myself And Irene variety, i.e. one that throws up a series of zany impersonations for humorous effect. Mental illness eh? What a riot.

He’s working with regulation hard-ass Gene Hackman, in an attempt to discover an Adolf Hitler sex-tape (seriously) that stands to jeopardise the career of a German politician. Aiming for wacky, but settling for plain stupid, this is one to expunge from the CV for its two talented leads.

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.