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Top 10 Dirty Cops from Films

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Cops have starred in and been the focus of countless films. Most are good guys out to capture the perps, but there have always been bad apples. These are the police officers that accept bribes, commit crimes, work for the mafia or just plain refuse to follow a moral code of honor. Join as we count down our top 10 favorite dirty movie cops.

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Top 10 Dirty Cops from Films

These boys in blue have trouble following the rules. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our top 10 favorite dirty movie cops.

#10 – Captain Hank Quinlan: “Touch of Evil” (1958)

Kicking off our list is the film noir era detective who serves as one of cinema’s earliest and finest examples of badge abuse. Played by screen legend Orson Welles, this despicable detective fakes evidence to land convictions, under the assumption that his suspects are always guilty anyways. He's not always wrong, so we guess that's statistically sound?

#9 – Officer Gary Figgis: “Cop Land” (1997)

In this film, dirty NYPD officers run a New Jersey suburb like their own private playground. Ray Liotta's conflicted dirty cop “Figgsy” is the most interesting member of this group: this self-interested drunk spends the entire movie aggressively rationalizing his actions, before ultimately redeeming himself by helping Sylvester Stallone clean up the town.

#8 – Det. Sgt. Nico Toscani: “Above The Law” (1988)

It sometimes takes a cop who plays dirty to bust the corrupt ones. As a Chicago Detective, Steven Seagal is one of the good guys on the inside, but he breaks all the rules to get his job done: he performs extra-brutal interrogations, assaults suspects, shows off his spectacular martial arts moves and makes it cool to run like a girl. If you ask us, the dirtiest thing about him are his nasty one-liners.

#7 – Captain McCluskey: “The Godfather” (1972)

After 20 years of honest work on the force, this tough Irish cop gives in to easy money and begins accepting bribes. As police captain, he uses his power when and how it suits him – going so far as to clear criminal records, protect a drug dealer, and assist the mob by misdirecting his men. McCluskey basks in the safety he is afforded thanks to the American Mafia's policy to never harm a policeman, but don't worry: it doesn't do him any good in the end...

#6 – Dennis Peck: “Internal Affairs” (1990)

Don't judge a book by its cover, because you might just miss a dirty cop. Peck excels at hiding his true nature under the guise of a devoted father and LAPD role model. But, he turns out to be a memorably amoral, deceivingly handsome monster and womanizer who plants weapons on innocent suspects, regularly uses mind games to manipulate his fellow officers and sleeps with his partner's wife.

#5 – Det. Alonzo Harris: “Training Day” (2001)

Denzel is incapable of delivering an uncharismatic performance, and this corrupt LAPD vet is no exception. Harris is responsible for showing an idealistic rookie the ropes on his first day, and what this immoral narcotics officer presents to his pupil is a skewed interpretation of brutal inner-city life. He forces this green cop to partake in minor crimes, before the student turns on the master and decides to take out the trash.

#4 – Norman Stansfield: “Léon: The Professional” (1994)

Gary Oldman's Stansfield is beyond corrupt: he's a pill-popping sociopath and murderer who just happens to wear a DEA badge. His hobbies include gunning down an entire family – yes, kids too – while listening to classical music, and acting completely unhinged and unpredictable. Just watch him work: he is easily one of the most terrifying crooked cops ever put to film.

#3 – Staff Sergeant Colin Sullivan: “The Departed” (2006)

As a mole in the Boston State Police Department, this dirty cop protects a ruthless Irish mob boss whom he looks to as a father figure. Expertly portrayed by Matt Damon, Sullivan is super intelligent and uses his smarts to rise through the ranks and infiltrate the Special Investigations Unit. This is a complex, cunning and ruthless character, especially when he discovers the FBI has a mole as well!

#2 – The Lieutenant: “Bad Lieutenant” (1992)

The title says it all. Harvey Keitel's nameless policeman is the kind of filth who is motivated by heroin and crack addictions, to the point where he steals drugs off dead bodies. He has no problem waving guns at women, gambling on the job, and using his badge as a carte blanche to do whatever he wants. But, he has his limits. What could they possibly be? Raping nuns. That makes him sick.

#1 – Harry Callahan: “Dirty Harry” (1971)

Taking the top spot on our list is the tough and streetwise San Francisco homicide inspector who single-handedly un-popularized Hollywood’s obsession with pure movie heroes. While Harry isn’t corrupt, he earns the dirty title for his complete and utter disregard of the rules. With his trusty Smith & Wesson Model 29 in tow, Harry forgoes warrants, intimidates suspects, growls, and kills most of the punks he meets.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite dirty movie cop? For more great Top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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