Partners in Crime—The Best Cop Partners in Movie History

A close-up of Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) posing next to each other with their handguns raised against a greyish/brown background in a promotional shot for Lethal Weapon (1987)

At its core, the buddy-cop movie, with nearly 40 years of cinematic success, is a big lesson in problem solving. While surrounded with car chases, shoot outs, and hilarious banter, two contrasting personalities, often forced to work together, must learn to coexist in the midst of chaos and disaster to find a way to cooperate. It is a timeless movie trope but quite possibly responsible for some of the best on-screen chemistry we’ve ever seen.

While many of these movies lean on more of the comedic side, since 1967's In the Heat of the Night, these movies have used the police force as a vessel for addressing racial, cultural, and political concerns. With the upcoming release of Black and Blue (2019), a politically-charged, high-energy thriller following Naomie Harris who plays a rookie cop on the run for her life, we wanted to take a look at some of the best police partner pairings in movie history! 

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6. Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz
The Other Guys (2010)

The Other Guys-Wahlberg and Ferrell
Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) and Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) in The Other Guys (2010)

The Other Guys cranks up the crazy knob in the world of cop-based movies. Flipping expectations—Will Ferrell plays a buttoned up, anxious pencil-pusher while Mark Wahlberg is a hot-headed "peacock" waiting to fly— director Adam McKay crafts an ideal personality clash. Each have some regretful histories and vulnerabilities that bring them closer together during a case that starts with a scaffolding permit violation and ends with an attempt to stop a pension fund scandal. In between, The Other Guys puts on their big-boy pants and drops some of the most quotable lines in the genre. 


5. Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett
Bad Boys (1995)

Bad Boys-Lawrence and Smith
Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) in Bad Boys (1995)

Bad Boys could be one of the wildest buddy cop pairings ever. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have an explosive chemistry on screen and always seem to be pulling witty lines out from their pockets. Smith and Lawrence play two cops investigating a case on stolen drugs while also accounting for the safety of a murder witness. These partners are more on the similar side in personality compared to many other buddy cop movie pairings, which is equally as fun. Bad boys for life! 


4. Nicholas Angel and PC Danny Butterman
Hot Fuzz (2007)

Hot Fuzz-Frost and Pegg
PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) in Hot Fuzz (2007)

This cult-classic, buddy-cop movie follows expert London cop, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), who is paired with the inept and unprofessional Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who questions the better cop’s every move. When they arrive at the quaint town of Sandford, the veteran cop finds that his main responsibility falls to capturing runaway swans. Things quickly change after two actors are found decapitated, and the pair stumble into a major conspiracy.

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3. Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond
48 Hrs. (1982)

48 Hrs-Nolte and Murphy
Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) in 48 Hrs. (1982)

This action-comedy stars Eddie Murphy as convict Reggie Hammond and Nick Nolte as police officer Jack Cates. They have two days to solve a crime and catch two cop-killers, Albert Ganz and Billy Bear, all while figuring each other out. Their cop-crook dynamic that crosses racial boundaries works out surprisingly well for them, and delivers a unique allure to their characters all wrapped up in a very well written crime-drama.  


2. Somerset and Mills
Se7en (1995)

Se7en-Freeman and Pitt
Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt) in Se7en (1995)

Se7en is certainly a darker movie than any other on this list, but that’s, of course, the point: The genius of David Fincher’s uncompromising thriller is that it takes all you think you’re going to get from two mismatched cops working together and turns it on its head. We get to see the experienced, world-weary Somerset (Morgan Freeman) alongside the younger, more idealistic but jaded Mills (Brad Pitt), as they face off with one of the most diabolical movie villains to date. This is the photo negative of the buddy-cop movie, showing what the genre entails when everything goes wrong.

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1. Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh
Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon-Glover and Gibson
Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) in Lethal Weapon (1987)

Could there possibly be any other partnership to take number one? In Lethal Weapon—and particularly in Murtaugh and Riggs—we have the king of all buddy cop pairings. With a total of four movies built around this Mel Gibson-Danny Glover partnership, it’s the first movie that set the pace for how many of today’s modern buddy cop movies are done. Even though this 1987 movie wasn’t the forerunner for buddy-cop movies, Lethal Weapon quickly became the standard by which all others are compared. 


Looking for the next high-energy police action movie? Look no further than Regal for the release of Black and Blue, coming this Friday, October 25th! 

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