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Movies & TV

03rd Oct 2016

5 brilliant buddy cop movies you really need to see

And it's always you and me, always.


Why do we love buddy cop movies?

The genre’s blend of action and comedy has proved to be a winning cinematic formula for decades, but the success of a buddy cop movie nearly always hinges on its two main characters and their contrasting personalities.

At its core, the buddy cop movie is about problem solving and teamwork. Both leads bring something different to the table and more often than not they have diverging ideas about how to approach pretty much every situation.

But for a pairing to succeed they always have to learn to co-operate. You come for the shootouts, the snappy one-liners and the high-speed pursuits – but you stay for the friendship at the end.

With that in mind, here are five of our favourite buddy cop movies to date. There’s an exhaustive library to choose from, but as far as we’re concerned this lot nail it.

1. War on Everyone (2016)

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War on Everyone is a spit-your-drink-out hilarious riff on the buddy cop movie from the supremely talented Irish director John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Cavalry).

Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña play two crime-fighting detectives in New Mexico who are only really in the job for self-gain. Bluntly, if there’s a pile of cash at stake, there’s no form of rule-breaking this pair would draw the line at.

Pro-bribes, pro-stealing and pro-violence, it won’t come as much of a surprise that their chaotic approach to policing leads them to a criminal far more dangerous and deplorable than any they’ve encountered before. It’s only then that they start to discover their own – let’s say unconventional – sense of morality.

Make no mistake – War on Everyone is an unashamedly black-hearted, un-PC movie and nobody is safe from its satire (the clue’s in the title). Not easily offended? You’re going to have a right old time.

2. 21 Jump Street (2012)

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You could argue that Hollywood was hardly crying out for a big-screen adaptation of ’80s TV show 21 Jump Street, but man oh man are we glad it happened.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are a pair of generally unreliable cops who get assigned to a specialist unit headed up by a spectacularly angry police captain, played brilliantly by Ice Cube.

In order to infiltrate a high-school drug ring, they have to go undercover as students themselves. At school Jenko and Schmidt were polar opposites. Tatum’s character was your archetypal dimwit jock; Hill was the nerd. The Jump Street gig gives them another chance at nailing teenage life, and as such they end up getting a bit too into their roles, which makes getting the job done that much harder.

There’s an unforgettably bonkers hallucination scene, plenty of shooty action and a cameo that will leave fans of the original series grinning. But it’s the affectionate bromance between Jenko and Schmidt that really gave this movie the legs for a sequel.

3. The Nice Guys (2016)

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The Nice Guys channels the brash, bombastic buddy cop comedies of old, as Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe (initially foes) team up to investigate the mysterious death of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

Holland March (Gosling) is a clumsy PI with a wisecracking 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice) who has an inconvenient habit of following her dad to work. Jackson Healy (Crowe) is your typical punch-first-ask-questions-later freelance bruiser for hire. They are your quintessential buddy cop pairing in that at first they really aren’t keen on one another’s company at all.

The movie is dripping with ’70’s sleaze and chock-full of slapstick violence, but as a wider conspiracy begins to unravel it turns into a genuine thriller to boot.

The Nice Guys seemed to come a bit out of nowhere – and with relatively little hype – but it’s undoubtedly one of the finest examples of its genre in years. We want a sequel.

4. Hot Fuzz (2007)

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Edgar Wright’s pitch-perfect piss-take of the buddy cop genre was never going to be overlooked as the sole British entry on this list.

The effortless comic chemistry between pals Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Spaced and later Shaun of the Dead was not lost in Hot Fuzz. When Nicholas Angel (Pegg) first arrives in the deceptively sleepy village of Sandford and meets the dopey PC Danny Butterman (Frost), he’s an irritatingly over-competent hotshot who sucks the humour out of every situation.

Danny softens him up, though – one bonding session culminates in a drunken late-night viewing of Point Break and Lethal Weapon 2. This movie knows where its heart lies, and they soon form a formidable duo.

Hot Fuzz is a gloriously stupid but flawlessly scripted mishmash of gruesome murder mystery and over-the-top Michael Bay-esque action romp. It’s a love letter to buddy cop movies and there’s nothing else quite like it.

5. Lethal Weapon (1987)

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When people think of buddy cop movies, they tend to think of Lethal Weapon before any other. The first movie in the franchise is something of a blueprint for everything that came after it, and endures because of its iconic, mismatching protagonists.

Mel Gibson’s Riggs is young, reckless and suicidal, while Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is a seasoned veteran detective that is more than ready to call time on his career. Neither would have volunteered to team up, but as they encounter increasingly hairy situations, a unique and heartfelt bond develops.

The razor-sharp writing allowed Riggs and Murtaugh to trade memorable one-liners throughout the movie, and somehow the the movie manages to balance comedy with some obviously dark undertones.

Lethal Weapon has enough delirious action to fill 10 movies, but it is the final scene (SPOILERS), where Riggs hands Murtaugh an unfired hollow-point bullet he’d intended to end his life with but now no longer needs, that really tells you why this film is perhaps the definitive buddy cop movie.

War on Everyone is released in cinemas nationwide on October 7

This article originally appeared on

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