Two years ago, Kevin Hart and Ice Cube paired up for Ride Along, a buddy cop film that dominated the box office. The comic talents of the two leads proved to be a winning combination that spawned a sequel, arriving in theaters this week.
Ever since Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte teamed up in 48 Hrs., the buddy cop genre has been good to Hollywood, with all types of pairings being brought to the big screen. With an eclectic array of celebs donning the badge, this has proven to be a popular premise for audiences.
In anticipation of Ride Along 2, we decided to take a look back at some of the best pairings and most humorous plots for our list of the 12 Best Buddy Cop Movies of All Time
12 Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Robert Downey Jr.’s career resurgence can be directly tied to Iron Man, and Iron Man is the film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The success of that film is probably why Warner Bros. relaunched its Sherlock Holmes franchise, with Downey as the star.
Just a year after Downey blasted off as the iconic super hero, he joined Jude Law in Guy Richie’s version of the famed Sherlock Holmes character. Along with his trusty assistant Dr. Watson, the pair re-claimed the brand’s “A-list” status at the Cineplex with a massive $65 million opening en route to nearly $500 million worldwide.
The sequel, though less successful in the States, was a massive international hit earning $535 million globally. The chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law mixed with the raw filmmaking style of Ritchie helped this series win over audiences.
Though Downey Jr.’s continued appearance in the Marvel films may mean that a third entry is a while off.
11 Tango & Cash (1989)
Tango & Cash took the usual buddy cop scenario and turned it on its head. Instead of the unlikely partners working a case, these two cops are forced to work together to clear their names.
After being framed, Lt. Raymond Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Lt. Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) must escape jail and then survive on the run, without getting killed and without killing each other. Adding to the pair’s conflict is Cash’s crush on “Kiki,” Tango’s kid sister, played by a then relatively unknown Teri Hatcher.
Stallone and Russell click on-screen, and that’s why this film has remained so popular in the 30-odd years since its 1989 release. Again, you have the good cop/wild cop dynamic, but with a twist, and a ton of action in the mix.
10 21 Jump Street (2012)
Did we really need a big-screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street? No. Are we glad we got one (and a sequel)? Absolutely!
The unlikely combo of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as a pair of cops who go back to high school (and then college) to solve a case proved to be a winning pair. While they may not have known each other prior to the films, you can tell they are real life pals now.
The fact these two are so comfortable with each other comes shining through in their performance. What’s interesting is that you can see that actual bond magnified in the sequel. The two really managed to up their game and top themselves, which is so incredibly rare.
While the sequel spoofed about a dozen possible scenarios for future films, a third film in the franchise is very much in the cards. Whether it’s a long rumored team-up with the Men In Black characters (Sony does own both franchises) or a new take involving two female detectives, it will be worth the wait.
9 Men In Black (1997)
One year after he broke through with Independence Day, Will Smith returned to box office supremacy with Men In Black. Yet of course he wasn’t alone; Tommy Lee Jones was right there beside him. The pair quickly reached the top of the box office and starred in two sequels.
Smith and Jones worked well together because of their natural styles. Smith, the cocky upstart (at the time) and Jones, the gruff Hollywood veteran, made for a distinctive team. The buddy cop style really isn’t used as much in sci-fi film fare, so it automatically had instant appeal to viewers. With these two leads and that unique paring you can see why it was a hit.
Of course, the fact the film broke into the pop culture with everything from branded Ray-Ban glasses to a Smith penned-and-performed theme song helped as well.
8 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
As we mentioned Robert Downey Jr. has always been a gifted actor, but many look back at his pre-Iron Man films in a different light. These were the ones he did mostly while battling his drug addictions, which didn’t so much impact his performance but did loom large in the background.
Around the time of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang he had really turned the corner but the public hadn’t truly noticed. Bang Bang should have gotten more love and attention than it did, as the combination of Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer was enjoyable.
Downey Jr. played a small-time crook posing an as actor to elude the cops, but ends up in a murder mystery when he’s teamed with a private detective (Kilmer) as research for the role. Written by Shane Black, the man behind Lethal Weapon (and later, Iron Man 3), the movie was a loving parody of the film noir genre.
7 Hot Fuzz (2007)
British humor either goes over huge or like a lead balloon with American audiences; there is no in between. Hot Fuzz, however, found a home with that select niche of American moviegoers who understand and appreciate humor from across the pond.
Simon Pegg stars as a hot-shot London cop reluctantly transferred to a small town where there is little crime. Once there, he ends up stumbling upon an actual massive conspiracy, but can only rely on his incompetent Bad Boys II-loving partner to save the day.
The magic here is that Pegg’s partner is played by his long-time friend Nick Frost. Simply put, the bond between the pair on camera in undeniable. Reminiscent of the chemistry between fellow UK comedy duo Fry and Laurie, the duo can take a simple premise and inject their own special humor into its veins.
6 The Other Guys (2010)
You have to give credit here to Will Ferrell and longtime collaborator Adam McKay, as The Other Guys was quite clever.
Two cops who were about as far from the “A-list” as they come get a chance in the spotlight after a unfortunate accident befalls the city’s top detectives. With Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg on board as those “other guys,” the stage was set for hijinks.
Initially, many questioned if Wahlberg could keep up with Ferrell in terms of improv, but those fears were quickly put to rest. The two played well off each other, but it wasn’t just them driving the comedy. Michael Keaton, Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson led a talented ensemble that helped round out the film.
Still it comes down to the two leads, who took a premise that could have been predictable and made it something truly memorable.
5 The Heat (2013)
While most of the great buddy cop films are teams of guys, we can’t do this list and not salute the amazing team of Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock.
The duo’s summer hit The Heat was a big crowd-pleaser, and the likability of the two actresses is a large part of that success. Yes, it was a traditional formula, but the pair, along with Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids fame), turned it into something different.
The film played to both McCarthy and Bullock’s strengths, and in doing so, made it appeal to a wider audience. The problem with these types of films is that usually they play to a specific gender and alienate the other. That wasn’t the case here as everyone knows these ladieshave an immense amount of talent.
Of course, it should go without saying that The Heat’s biggest draw is that it's genuinely funny. With the sorry state of some of today’s “comedies,” you know it's not as easy as it looks.
4 Bad Boys (1995)
It may have been well over a decade since Will Smith and Martin Lawrence last teamed up for a Bad Boys film, but that doesn’t matter to the fans. Rumors of a third film in the franchise had seemed to crop up every year and it’s clear why.
Bad Boys was very much the Lethal Weapon for a new generation. It had action, humor and two recognizable leads whose careers were helped immensely by the series. It was also a big winner for Sony, which last year finally gave the go-ahead for not one, but two new installments.
While we don’t know much about the new films, we do know the excitement level has been building. Smith and Lawrence are electric together on screen and play off each other better than many of today’s often mismatched offerings.
Throw back in action director Michael Bay and let the explosions re-commence in 2017.
3 48 Hrs. (1982)
Some may argue 48 Hrs. is the original buddy cop film, but given Eddie Murphy’s character isn’t actually a cop it is hard to win that argument. However we’d also argue buddy cop films don’t always need to involve two cops.
The idea of these films is always taking one experienced by-the-book cop and pairing them with a off-the-rails partner of some sort to solve a case. 48 Hrs. was no different, except this time the cop’s partner was a criminal.
First debuting in 1982 and spawning a sequel 8 years later, the films were highly entertaining. While we may not see another one to complete the trilogy, its legacy on the world of film is undeniable.
2 Rush Hour (1998)
Rush Hour likely wasn’t greenlit with by anyone thinking it would become as big of a blockbuster as it did, but it certainly proved to be a nice surprise. Released in the middle of September back in 1998, the film didn’t exactly get prime box office real estate, but the chemistry between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan was undeniable.
The pair took the traditional straight man/comic relief combination and infused it with a dose of high octane action. Many films prior had failed to meet this level of success because they prioritized one aspect over the other. Rush Hour had the right amount of both.
Tucker brought his unique humor, Chan brought his trademark stunt style and the rest is history. While the film’s two sequels were nowhere near as good as the first one, this was a fun franchise that audiences enjoyed.
CBS will look to re-capture that formula this year with a TV series inspired by the movie. We aren’t entirely sure how that will play out, but it will be very hard to live up to the original.
1 Lethal Weapon (1987)
This is the original.
When you look at buddy cop films, Lethal Weapon has to come to mind. Whether or not you like Mel Gibson, this franchise was a massive success that spurred three sequels. The team of Gibson and Danny Glover was formidable and funny at the same time.
While a large part of the franchise’s success was that combination, it was also (at the time) a unique set-up. Glover played the hard-nosed veteran and Gibson played the borderline suicidal young hotshot.
The one thing the pair had in common was that they preferred working alone. Granted that’s become cliché over the years, but a lot of it is because the pair set the bar so high.
What made the series work throughout though was the way the two continued to play off each other even as the supporting cast grew. From Joe Pesci to Rene Russo to Chris Rock, the ensemble continually clicked with audiences.
Given the fading star power of Gibson and Glover, a fifth installment isn’t as likely, but at one point it would have likely been welcomed in this sequel-heavy environment.
What's your favorite buddy cop film? Did we leave off one of your favorites? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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