Buddy cop film

Buddy cop film

The "buddy cop" is a subgenre of buddy films and crime films with plots involving two men of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime and/or defeat criminals, sometimes learning from each other in the process. The two men are normally cops, but some films, such as 48 Hrs. (cop and an ex-con), that are not about two cops may still be referred to as a buddy cop film, or as a member of a larger genre known as buddy films.

Frequently, although not always, the two heroes are of different ethnicity or cultures. However, regardless of ethnicity, the central difference is normally that one is "wilder" than the other: a hot-tempered iconoclast is paired with a more even-tempered partner. Often the "wilder" partner is the younger of the two, with the even-tempered partner having more patience and experience. These films sometimes also contain a variation on the good cop/bad cop motif, in which one partner is kinder and law-abiding, while the other is a streetwise, "old school" police officer who tends to break (or at least bend) the rules. Another frequent plot device of this genre is for one of the men be removed from his natural element: sometimes in a foreign country or new city, a "desk jockey" used to paperwork being forced into the field, or a rookie or non-cop partner who is unfamiliar with police work. When this is done, the other man acts as a guide to the unfamiliar.

In his review of Rush Hour, Roger Ebert coined the term "Wunza Movie" to describe this subgenre, a pun on the phrase "One's a..." that could be used to describe the contrasts between the two characters in a typical film.[1]

The cliché was satirized in the film Last Action Hero. While the movie in itself was a buddy cop film (i.e. pairing a fictional cop with a real world boy), the film's police department obligatorily assigned all cops a conflicting buddy to work with.

A subgenre of the buddy cop film is the buddy cop-dog movie, which teams a cop with a dog, but uses the same element of unlikely partnership to create comedic hijinks. Examples include Turner & Hooch, Top Dog and K-9.



Early pioneers to the buddy film/buddy cop genre include the TV series I Spy and Starsky and Hutch, and to a lesser extent, Miami Vice.

In the Heat of the Night was one of the earliest films of the genre, while the 1982 film 48 Hrs., starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, is one of the most successful.

Buddy cop films from US cinema

  • 16 Blocks (depressed angry cop, and optimistic criminal)
  • 48 Hrs. (1982) and Another 48 Hrs. (1990) (sloppy cop with slick convict)
  • Alien Nation (human teamed with extraterrestrial)
  • Bad Boys and Bad Boys II (playboy teamed with family man)
  • Banlieue 13
  • Beverly Hills Cop and its sequels (an unorthodox, street-smart cop teams with by-the-book cops)
  • Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (FBI agent teams with his stepson)
  • Black Rain (American cop teamed with Japanese)
  • Blue Streak (ex-con impersonating an officer and a newly appointed detective)
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop (French Canadian and English Canadian cops)
  • Brooklyn's Finest
  • Bulletproof (undercover cop teams with a carjacker he befriended)
  • Chaos
  • Colors (rookie L.A. cop paired with a veteran L.A. cop)
  • Collision Course
  • Cop and a Half (child witness teamed with veteran)
  • Cop Out (veteran partners who are constantly annoyed by each other)
  • The Corruptor (American rookie cop paired with a veteran Chinese cop)
  • Cradle 2 the Grave (Taiwanese cop teams up with an African-American jewel thief)
  • Dead Heat
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance (cop paired with electrician)
  • Live Free or Die Hard (tough cop paired with computer hacker)
  • Double Impact (not cops; twin brothers team up to find their parents killers in Hong Kong)
  • Double Team (not cops; counter-terrorism agent paired with an arms dealer)
  • Downtown (a suburban patrolman teamed with a city cop)
  • Dragnet (the 1987 film starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks)
  • Fair Game
  • Freebie and the Bean (1974)
  • The Gauntlet (tough alcoholic cop paired with female convict)
  • The Glimmer Man (L.A. police partners who use different methods)
  • The Good Guys (Outdated Maverick & by-the-book rookie)
  • Hickey & Boggs (alcoholic, maverck police partners hunting a kidnapper)
  • The Hidden (an alien cop teamed up with a human cop)
  • The Hard Way (an actor teamed with a cop)
  • Hawaii Vice (series of pornographic films that parody the buddy-cop genre)
  • Hellbound (Chicago police partners on a mission in Israel)
  • Hard Boiled (a cop inspector teamed up with an undercover cop)
  • Hollywood Homicide (aging veteran L.A. cop paired with younger cop who wants to be an actor)
  • Hot Fuzz (genre parody and buddy cop movie by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Strict lawman teamed with silly and over-eager partner.)
  • I Spy (no cops; secret agent teams up with a championship boxer)
  • Invictus (white and black bodyguards are paired to protect Nelson Mandela )
  • K-9 (human cop and police dog)
  • The Killer (1989) (a hitman pairs up with a policeman who tries to hunt him down)
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (small-time crook paired with gay detective)
  • Knock Off (film) (tailor paired with CIA agents on a mission in Hong Kong)
  • Last Action Hero (fictional cop paired with real world boy)
  • The Last Boy Scout (hardened ex-Secret Service agent turned private detective teams up with disgraced American Football star)
  • The Lethal Weapon series (by-the-book family man teamed with maverick)
  • Life On Mars (Sam Tyler's 21st century policing methods conflict with the unprofessional methods of Gene Hunt)
  • Loose Cannons
  • The Man (2005 film)
  • Marked for Death (ex-D.E.A. agent turned vigilante teamed with his old Army buddy)
  • Maximum Risk (French cop paired with the girlfriend of his late twin brother)
  • Men in Black (Wise older agent of a top secret government agency recruits young renegade urban cop)
  • Mercenary (Mercenary paired with a wealthy tycoon)
  • Metro (wacky police hostage negotiator paired with a tough S.W.A.T. team member)
  • Midnight Run (bounty hunter teamed with well educated accountant)
  • Miami Vice (2006 film based on the television series)
  • Money Train (foster brothers/police partners paired with a Latino cop)
  • National Security (disgraced former cop teamed up with wannabe who got him into trouble)
  • Point Break (young undercover FBI agent paired with seasoned FBI agent)
  • Police Story 3: Super Cop (Hong Kong cop paired with a female detective)
  • Red Heat (Russian cop teamed with American cop)
  • Renegades (American cop paired with a Native American civilian)
  • Replicant (film) (cop paired with the human clone of a killer he's obsessed with catching)
  • Righteous Kill (vetern police partners pursuing a vigilante they busted years ago)
  • Rising Sun
  • The Rookie (stressed out, nervous rookie cop paired with seasoned Veteran cop)
  • The Rundown (not cops, but a similar idea: a bounty hunter must team up with the target he was originally put in charge of finding)
  • Running Scared
  • Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, and Rush Hour 3 (professional Chinese cop teamed with a loudmouth and obnoxious African-American cop)
  • Se7en (educated cop about to retire teamed up with young, eager cop)
  • Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights (no cops; Chinese- American former palace guard teamed up with American outlaw)
  • Shakedown (1988)
  • Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) (strong, tough American cop paired with Euroasian cop)
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009) (two intelligent detectives, one sensible, one slightly eccentric, teamed up)
  • Shoot to Kill (1988) (black FBI agent teams up with white outdoorsman to catch a killer in the Washington wilderness)
  • Showtime
  • Stakeout
  • Starsky & Hutch (streetwise intuitive cop teamed with reserved, intellectual cop)
  • Tango & Cash (smooth cop teamed with scruffy cop)
  • Taxi[disambiguation needed ]
  • Theodore Rex (human teamed with dinosaur)
  • The Guard (2011 film) (Irish cop teamed with FBI agent)
  • The Other Guys (Nerdy accountant-type cop teamed with aggressive, case breaking cop)
  • Top Dog (maverick human cop teamed with a smart German Sheppard)
  • Training Day (dedicated narcotics cop paired with rookie)
  • Turner & Hooch (cop paired with crime dog)
  • Wild Wild West (US Army Soldier teamed with US Marshal)
  • White Chicks (black FBI agents and brothers disguised as white women)

Parodies in pop culture

In the animated prime time series, The Critic, Jay Sherman reviews a sub par movie titled "Dirty Harry K-9-Robo-Cop-and-a-half 2" in which the title parodies numerous "buddy cop" films. In the film within a television show within a television show, Dirty Harry's constant loss of partners forces the police captain to team him with "a woman, a cute little kid, an ugly old dog, a dinosaur, and a leprechaun (which ends up exploding)." An Arnold Schwarzenegger character comments that he is partnered with "a pig, an alien, Siamese twins, a sofa, and a second rate mime (which explodes)." The scene parodies the aspect that a "partner" in a buddy cop film can be absolutely anything, no matter how strange it is.[2]

On sketch comedy series MADtv, a sketch appears for the trailer of a buddy cop film parody, known as The Seven Buddy Cops. The title refers to seven actors known for buddy cop films over the years (Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones).

National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson is a parody of the Lethal Weapon franchise, pairing the uptight Det. Luger character (Jackson, inspired by Lethal Weapon's Roger Murtaugh, portrayed as a by-the-book family man) and the loose cannon Det. Colt (Estevez, inspired by Martin Riggs, and described as a burnt-out, gun-happy psycho from the Narcotics Division).


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 18, 1998). "Rush Hour". rogerebert.com. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980918/REVIEWS/809180303/1023. Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  2. ^ "The Critic" Season 2, Episode 20: "Sherman of Arabia"

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