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Top 10 Male Movie Cops

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. Mean streets, evil crime lords and non-stop shoot-outs and chases – it’s all par for the course for these officers of the law. Whether they’re fighting terrorists, the mob, drug cartels or even the rest of the police force, these movie cops have really made an impression. They also remind us that no matter how bad things get, there’s always going to be someone around to save the day. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 male movie cops. For this list, we’ve decided to disqualify guys who shoot first and ask questions later – sorry Clint, we guess it’s not your day.
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Top 10 Male Movie Cops


Mean streets, evil crime lords and non-stop shoot-outs and chases – it’s all par for the course for these officers of the law. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 male movie cops.

For this list, we’ve decided to disqualify guys who shoot first and ask questions later – sorry Clint, we guess it’s not your day.

#10 – Billy Costigan: “The Departed” (2006)

Billy Costigan is the quintessential good cop, so why’s he asked to act like a really bad one? Well, his family ties to the underworld make him the perfect choice to infiltrate a criminal mob. Sure, Dignam may be the last man standing in this crime thriller, but Billy has loads of valuable skills, the most important being that he cannot be corrupted, no matter what he’s offered.

#9 – Lt. Frank Bullitt: “Bullitt” (1968)

Like Steve McQueen himself, Frank Bullitt has the last word on edgy coolness: He’s a cop who doesn’t play by the rules but instead makes his own. That “if you don’t like it, tough” attitude lets Bullitt make justice in a world where even the good guys aren’t so good. His hardcore attitude and ability to handle any situation, including the screen’s most famous car chase, can’t be touched.

#8 – Det./Lt./Commissioner James Gordon: “The Dark Knight” trilogy (2005-12)

The clean cop in a dirty town can be a cliché, but with Batman’s buddy James Gordon, you totally buy it. Gordon’s jaded, but deep down he can’t help believing in the ultimate goodness of people. Clever and resourceful, he’s smart enough to let his stern sense of justice bend when the vigilante Batman appears; it’s a compromise, but if it saves the soul of his City, he’ll make it work.

#7 – Det. Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle: “The French Connection” (1971)

You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. For “Popeye” Doyle, you gotta break a few rules to collar the criminals. Rough and single-minded, Doyle knows there isn’t always enough time to play by the book. This cop won’t win a lot of congeniality contests; he can be gruff, disrespects authority and isn’t always broadminded. But he’s a helluva cop.

#6 – Lt. Vincent Hanna: “Heat” (1995)

For ex-marine Vincent Hanna, being a policeman isn’t a job; it’s an obsession. His personal life suffers, but that dog-with-a-bone tenacity is what makes Hanna a success. His personal isolation hones Hanna’s skills and instincts; in fact, he’s able to track his adversary because they’re two sides of the same coin – and Hanna knows how to play that to his advantage.

#5 – RoboCop: “RoboCop” series (1987-)

Being murdered and brought back to life as a cyborg has its drawbacks, but it does make you one awesome cop. With state-of-the-art technology, armor and weapons, officer Alex Murphy, otherwise known as RoboCop, is a virtually unstoppable crime-fighting machine. This dude is a match for anything villains can throw at him – except for a secret programming glitch that keeps him from attacking his makers.

#4. Det./Sgt./Captain Martin Riggs: “Lethal Weapon” series (1987-98)

He’s a nutcase whose hands are lethal weapons – pun intended – and whose skill with a firearm makes him even more deadly. With his partner Roger Murtaugh at his side, Riggs gives new meaning to the word reckless, but his unpredictability is his advantage. Add in his stealth and perceptivity, and you have a cop that can’t be beat.

#3 – Det. Axel Foley: “Beverly Hills Cop” series (1984-94)

Even without Eddie Murphy’s comic brilliance, Foley’s street-smart con man act woulda made an impression. A genuine fish-out-of-water in the cop world, Axel is a loose cannon who knows how to read people and when to put on the brakes. He may act a little crazed, but he’s far from crazy – and that gets the job done.

#2 – Det. Frank Serpico: “Serpico” (1973)

When real-life policeman Frank Serpico wants to blow the whistle on the rampant police corruption he encounters, things get nasty for him. Serpico’s quick-trigger temper and self-righteousness don’t help matters either. He becomes an outcast, which ironically aids his police work as an undercover cop among counterculture types. Ultimately, Serpico’s commitment to morality gets results – but he’s too committed to pure justice to stay on the force.

#1 – Det./Det. Lt. John McClane: “Die Hard” series (1988-)

McClane can survive massive explosions, fires, and anything else that’s thrown at him. Sure, he’s lucky, but he’s also an experienced cop with an instinct for when to push and when to fall back. Always ready with a wisecrack, McClane is a hero because he has to be, not because he wants to be – and that’s what real courage is all about.

Do you agree with our list? Which movie cop do you think does the most with his badge? For more top 10s about your favorite film characters, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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