After a 17-year wait, the world will finally get a third installment to the “Bad Boys” franchise. “Bad Boys for Life” will hit theaters on Jan. 17, and of course it will feature the return of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as best friends and police officers Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. The previous two films are personal favorites of ours and are widely considered among the best buddy cop movies ever made. (For the record, we consider “buddy cop films” to be those that star two law enforcement-types who are also partners or friends or eventually become friends, and the movies must be at least partly comedic.) So in preparation for and celebration of the third “Bad Boys” film, here are our 25 favorite buddy cop movies.
“48 Hrs.” is often given the distinction of being the first film in the buddy cop genre, as it stars Nick Nolte as San Francisco Police Investigator Jack Cates and Eddie Murphy — in his film debut, no less — as his incarcerated former partner, Reggie Hammond. Reggie gets granted a two-day leave from prison to help his old friend crack a case, and the resulting fun combo of action and comedy found appeal among audiences and critics alike. It ended up making $79 million against a $12 million budget.
Eddie Murphy is the undeniable star of “Beverly Hills Cop” as Detroit police officer Axel Foley, but he eventually teams with detective Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton) to solve the murder of his friend, making the Martin Brest-directed comedy something of a buddy cop movie. After amassing more than $300 million at the box office, “Beverly Hills Cop” and its theme song solidified their places in pop culture, with the film eventually yielding two relatively forgettable sequels in 1987 and 1994.
“Running Scared” is a fun but oft-forgotten film that features Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal as a pair of wisecracking and unorthodox Chicago cops trying to take down a drug dealer played by Jimmy Smits. Audiences didn’t flock to theaters to see the cop comedy, but it fared well enough at the box office and received generally positive reviews for its amusing story and strong cast that also included Joe Pantoliano, Darlanne Fluegel, Steven Bauer and Jon Gries.
Shane Black’s original script for “Lethal Weapon” called for a much darker urban Western, but thanks to some input from director Richard Donner and producer Joel Silver, as well as the instant chemistry formed by stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the movie eventually became a buddy cop action-comedy set in Los Angeles. Gary Busey made an acting comeback as the villain in the story, which was armed with plenty of laughs (but also some serious moments) thanks to the initially reluctant duo of Riggs and Murtaugh, and it is now famous for lines like Glover’s crack “I’m getting too old for this s---.” The surprise success of “Lethal Weapon” eventually led to an Academy Award nod for Best Sound, three sequels and a TV series.
On the heels of his popular and successful comedies like “The Blues Brothers,” “Trading Places,” “Ghostbusters” and “Spies Like Us,” Dan Aykroyd co-wrote and co-starred in “Dragnet,” based on the popular 1950s-1960s radio and TV programs of the same name. However, unlike the original shows, the 1987 film was a lighthearted comedy that also had the star power of Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Alexandra Paul and Harry Morgan. Morgan reprised his role of Bill Gannon from the series, except in the film, it was revealed that Gannon had been promoted to captain.
It’s hard to go wrong when you cast Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez as the leads in a buddy cop action comedy — and it’s even harder to go wrong with the solid screenplay penned by Jim Kouf, who eventually won an Edgar Award for his work. Don’t be fooled by the shoddy 1993 sequel, “Another Stakeout,” the original “Stakeout” received near-universal praise and also included Aidan Quinn as the bad guy and Madeleine Stowe in a breakout supporting role.
A police officer is unexpectedly burdened with a dog, which he suddenly has to deal with while caught up in a murder conspiracy. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds like the plot of the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy ‘Turner & Hooch,’” then you’re right — except the version with Jim Belushi as the cop came out three months earlier. The actors and dogs are both different (Hanks was paired with a French mastiff, Belushi with a German shepherd) but both films brought in about $70 million.
This is the Tom Hanks movie. It’s also the movie that critics enjoyed more — the movie that was adapted into a TV pilot and one that somehow became a cult classic. Of course, “Turner & Hooch” doesn’t have two direct-to-video sequels and a terrible TV movie like “K-9,” so who’s the real winner here?
Not every installment in the “Lethal Weapon” franchise is worthy of inclusion in this list, but 1989’s “Lethal Weapon 2” is, and some fans even argue that the sequel was better than the original. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, of course, reprised their roles as Murtaugh and Riggs, respectively, except this time they were trying to stop South African drug smugglers, and Joe Pesci was along for the ride. During the early stages of “Lethal Weapon 2,” Shane Black dropped out as the film’s screenwriter, as he once again didn’t like the more comedic tone pushed by the studio. However, the resulting script was a hit with audiences, and “Lethal Weapon 2” ended up earning $227 million.
In a year stacked with buddy cop films, we have one more entry: “Tango & Cash.” The duo in this action-comedy is Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone portraying rival LAPD detectives who find themselves framed by a drug lord played by the legendary Jack Palance. Critics didn’t care for the over-the-top and borderline ridiculous “Tango & Cash,” but film junkies ate it up, with admiration and a cult following growing in the decades since. In late 2019, Sly even announced that he had written a sequel to “Tango & Cash” but was having a hard time getting Russell to sign on.
In an unlikely pairing, James Woods plays veteran cop John Moss opposite Michael J. Fox’s Nick Lang, an actor who got appointed to the NYPD to research a TV role. Among the familiar faces in the cast are Penny Marshall, Luis Guzmán, Christina Ricci, LL Cool J, Mos Def, Kathy Najimy and Lewis Black, but it’s Daniel Pyne and Lem Dobbs’ script that really makes “The Hard Way” a quality buddy cop film and an easy inclusion on this list.
Of course we have to include the first “Bad Boys” film in this list; it’s a big part of the reason why we’re so excited for the sequel. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith play Miami narcotics cops Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, respectively, who are trailing a French kingpin named Fouchet (Tchéky Karyo), with supporting performances by Téa Leoni, Theresa Randle and Joe Pantoliano. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Michael Bay, “Bad Boys” boasted a decent budget of $19 million and is packed with action, which, along with the humor of Smith and Lawrence, ended up earning the film $140 million.
Yes, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) aren’t cops, but they do police an enormous population of wacky Earth-dwelling aliens and protect the public from intergalactic alien threats, so it totally counts. Plus, in addition to “Men in Black” being one of the funniest films of the ‘90s and one of the best sci-fi comedies ever, Jones and Smith also make one of the most entertaining law enforcement duos in movie history with their straight man/funny man dichotomy. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Ed Solomon, “Men in Black” yielded nearly $600 million, sequels in 2002 and 2012 and a 2019 spinoff.
We can’t believe it’s been 22 years since Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker first teamed up for the hilarious action comedy in which the former plays a Hong Kong detective and the latter an LAPD detective, who are reluctantly paired in an investigation involving drugs, money and murder. Perhaps our incredulity is due to the fact that the duo teamed up more recently in two funny yet less memorable sequels, “Rush Hour 2” (2001) and “Rush Hour 3” (2007). Although the original was the best reviewed, the trilogy combined to make a total of $850 million worldwide.
Reviews be damned, we actually enjoyed “Bad Boys II” a bit more than the original. Sure, it was just gunfire, explosions and a constant back-and-forth between lifelong best friends Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith) but that’s all a “Bad Boys” film needs — and this time it also had a massive budget of $130 million. The sequel doesn’t take itself too seriously, leading to plenty of laughs, and it was rewarded with a $273 million payday.
Before he directed “Joker” (2019) and “The Hangover” (2009), Todd Phillips made “Starsky & Hutch,” a comedic adaptation of the ‘70s TV show of the same name. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, in the primes of their respective careers, star in the buddy comedy as the titular cops alongside Vince Vaughn, Snoop Dogg and Jason Bateman. Stiller earned a Razzie nod despite “Starsky & Hutch” having a strong performance in theaters and among critics.
Following the success of the horror spoof “Shaun of the Dead,” director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost teamed up once again — this time to lampoon a countless number of action movies. The trio nailed it once again, with both Wright and Pegg handling the screenwriting responsibilities, and the result netted an even bigger box office haul. In the film, Pegg plays a London police officer reassigned to a sleepy rural town and Frost plays his partner, a constable who loves buddy cop movies. The two are tasked with solving a string of murders, which is, of course, much funnier than it should be.
We know the protagonists of the Judd Apatow-produced comedy “Superbad” — Seth (Jonah Hill), Evan (Michael Cera) and McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) — aren’t cops, but the biggest members of the supporting cast are. Seth Rogen (who co-wrote “Superbad” with lifelong friend and fellow screenwriter Evan Goldberg) and Bill Hader steal their scenes as a pair of dimwitted young cops who befriend McLovin and drink and destroy about as much as they protect and serve. Officers Slater and Michaels are the police officers every teen wishes they had known, which is exactly what Rogen and Goldberg had in mind when creating the characters.
According to fans, 2010’s “The Other Guys” wasn’t nearly as good as Will Ferrell’s previous collaborations with director Adam McKay — “Anchorman” (2004), “Talladega Nights” (2006) and “Step Brothers” (2008) — but it was actually the best reviewed. Critics enjoyed watching Ferrell play a mild-mannered, desk-jockey detective named Allen Gamble alongside Mark Wahlberg’s trigger-happy Terry Hoitz. Eva Mendes plays Ferrell’s significantly more attractive wife, Michael Keaton plays the duo’s boss and Steve Coogan, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel and numerous others also appear in the New York City-based police comedy.
Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) constantly swears, smokes, drinks and takes drugs, but he also happens to be a sergeant with the Irish police service — and an effective one at that despite his unorthodox tactics. While investigating a murder, Boyle is partnered up with straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle), and although there are plenty of violent twists and turns in “The Guard,” there are also plenty of humorous moments. John Michael McDonagh received heaps of praise for his directorial debut, and Gleeson was also commended for his performance in the Irish dramedy, which earned the longtime actor his second Golden Globe nomination.
Two young cops played by Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill go undercover as high school students to catch a drug dealer in this hilarious action-packed comedy that also features an all-star supporting cast of Brie Larson, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, Chris Parnell, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Nick Offerman and Dakota Johnson. Although it’s only loosely based on the 1980s police drama of the same name, “21 Jump Street” does include a couple of notable (and outrageous!) cameos from the show’s cast.
The criminally underrated buddy cop film “The Heat” pairs Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as a cop and an FBI agent, respectively, tracking down a mobster. Besides the duo’s natural chemistry (or anti-chemistry, as they constantly spar), the best part of “The Heat” is McCarthy’s character’s boisterous, thick-accented Boston family played by Michael Rapaport, Bill Burr, Jane Curtain, and Joey McIntyre, among others. Although critical reviews were mixed, audiences loved “The Heat” and propelled it to two People’s Choice Awards and two Teen Choice Awards.
As promised in the final scene of “21 Jump Street,” the next assignment of officer Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and officer Jenko (Channing Tatum) would be infiltrating a college, which is the plot of the 2014 sequel “22 Jump Street.” And it’s not just our love of raunchy comedies that made us include these films in this list, as they were both actually quite successful. The first earned $201 million at the box office and an 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the second raked in $331 million and earned 84 tomatoes.
Critics didn’t care for “Let’s Be Cops,” but as fans of “New Girl,” we enjoyed watching a movie that pairs Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as Ryan and Justin, two ordinary pals who dress up in cop costumes as a gag and end up taking it too far. Way too far. Like, unbelievably far for a movie plot — even a comedic one. Still, despite the outlandish premise and passable script, Johnson and Wayans have an undeniable chemistry that helps “Let’s Be Cops” crack this list, as well as the performances of a supporting cast that includes Keegan-Michael Key, Andy Garcia, Natasha Leggero and, for what seems like the 50th time on this list, Rob Riggle.
Are the two protagonists in “Zootopia” both cops? No. Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) is of course with the Zootopia Police Department, but she mostly works with a con artist fox named Nick (Jason Bateman) while attempting to solve a string of missing persons — or missing animals — cases. However, it’s worth pointing out that (spoiler!) Nick does end up becoming a police officer and Judy’s partner at the end of the animated Disney comedy that also features the voices of Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk and Shakira. Zootopia received Academy Award, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and Annie Award nominations for Best Animated Film — and won all four honors.