Buddy cop film
A buddy cop film is a film with plots involving two people 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 are normally cops, but some films, such as 48 Hrs. (a cop and a con), that are not about two cops may still be referred to as buddy cop films. It is a subgenre of 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 placing one of the partners in an unfamiliar setting (like a different city or foreign country) or role (like requiring police field work of a non-cop, rookie, or office-bound "desk jockey"). In these cases, they are usually guided by the other partner.
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.
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, even to the extreme of one officer being partnered with a cartoon cat.
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.
Akira Kurosawa's 1949 Japanese film Stray Dog, starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, is considered a precursor to the buddy cop film genre. Other early pioneers of the buddy cop film genre are the 1967 American film In the Heat of the Night and 1974's Freebie and the Bean. The genre was later popularized by the 1982 film 48 Hrs., starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, one of the most successful buddy cop films.
American buddy cop films
- In the Heat of the Night
Racist white police officer paired with African-American detective
- Coogan's Bluff
Arizona sheriff partnered with NYPD cop
- Hickey & Boggs
alcoholic, maverick police partners hunting a kidnapper
American cop teamed with female British detective
- The Gauntlet
A tough alcoholic cop paired with female convict
- 48 Hrs. (1982) and Another 48 Hrs. (1990)
A sloppy cop with slick convict
- Partners (1982)
A heterosexual cop paired with "closeted" gay detective
- Beverly Hills Cop and its sequels
An unorthodox, street-smart cop teams with by-the-book cops
- Murphy's Law
A fugitive cop teamed with a female thief
- Armed and Dangerous
Fired cop and inept lawyer become security guards
- Running Scared
Two retiring cops find themselves having to make one final arrest
- Lethal Weapon and its sequels
A by-the-book family man teamed with maverick
Joe Friday who is by-the-book cop and Pep Streebek who is the straight man and doesn't go by the book
- The Hidden
An alien cop teamed up with a human cop
- Stakeout (1987) and Another Stakeout (1993)
Two cops on a stakeout
- Shoot to Kill (1988)
A black FBI agent teams up with white outdoors man to catch a killer in the Washington wilderness
- Heart Condition (1990)
A racist police detective Jackson Mooney who has a heart condition and a dead successful lawyer Napoleon Stone who is a ghost team up to find Stone's killer.
A rookie LAPD officer paired with a veteran LAPD officer
- Red Heat
A Russian cop teamed with American cop
- Die Hard with a Vengeance
NYPD cop McClane paired with electrician
- Live Free or Die Hard
McClane paired with computer hacker
- A Good Day to Die Hard
McClane paired with CIA-agent son
- Alien Nation
A human teamed with extraterrestrial
A female taxi driver Isabelle "Belle" Precious Williams and funny man and maverick NYPD detective Det. Andrew "Andy" Washburn team up to find an all female car theft ring.
- Collision Course
Detroit detective teams up with Tokyo detective.
A human cop and police dog
An American cop paired with a Native American civilian
- Loose Cannons (1990)
A hardened cop pairs with a detective with multiple-personality disorder
- Turner & Hooch
A cop paired with crime dog
- Black Rain
An American cop teamed with Japanese
- Tango & Cash
A smooth cop teamed with scruffy cop
A suburban patrolman teamed with a city cop
- I Come in Peace
Originally known as "Dark Angel", a maverick police detective is paired up with a "by-the-book" FBI agent on the trails of an alien drug dealer
- Marked for Death
An ex-D.E.A. agent turned vigilante teamed with his old Army buddy
- The Rookie
A stressed out, nervous rookie cop paired with seasoned Veteran cop
- Kindergarten Cop
Two L.A. detectives set a trap for a drug dealer who is stalking his ex-wife in a small town in Oregon.
- The Hard Way
An actor teamed with a cop
- A Gnome Named Gnorm
A cop paired with a little gnome
- Point Break
A young undercover FBI agent paired with seasoned FBI agent
- Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
A strong, tough American cop paired with Euroasian cop
- The Last Boy Scout
A hardened ex-Secret Service agent turned private detective teams up with disgraced American Football star
- Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
A cop teamed with his mother
- Last Action Hero
A fictional cop paired with real world boy
- Cop and a Half
A child hating officer paired with an 8-year-old boy who wants to be a cop
A Chicago police partners on a mission in Israel
- Bad Boys and Bad Boys II
A rich trust fund and ladies man cop Mike Lowrey teamed with family man cop Marcus Burnett.
- Top Dog
A maverick human cop teamed with a smart German Shepherd
A educated cop about to retire teamed up with young, eager cop
- Theodore Rex
A human teamed with dinosaur
- The Rock
A group of rogue soldiers plan a chemical weapons attack on San Francisco from Alcatraz. To stop it Stanley Goodspeed, a FBI weapons specialist is paired with John Mason, a former Special Air Service Captain and the only man to escape from Alcatraz
An undercover officer teams with a carjacker he befriended
- Maximum Risk
A French cop paired with the girlfriend of his late twin brother
- The Glimmer Man
A L.A. police partners who use different methods
A wacky police hostage negotiator paired with a tough S.W.A.T. team member
- Men in Black
A tough guy senior agent of a top secret agency recruits young renegade urban cop
- Rush Hour and its sequels
A professional Chinese cop teamed with a loudmouth and obnoxious African-American cop
- The Negotiator
Two police hostage negotiators teamed up
- The Corruptor
An American rookie cop paired with a veteran Chinese cop
- Wild Wild West
A U.S. Army officer teamed with U.S. Marshal
- The Bone Collector
A female patrol cop paired with male tetraplegic forensics expert
- Blue Streak
An ex-con impersonating an officer and a newly appointed detective
- Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights
A Chinese former imperial guard (later a Nevada sheriff) teamed up with American outlaw
- 15 Minutes
A homicide cop teamed with arson investigator
- The Breed
A human cop teamed up with an immortal vampire detective.
- Osmosis Jones
Animated: above the law white blood cell cop with a by-the-book cold pill cop
A cop paired with the human clone of a killer he's obsessed with catching
- Training Day
A corrupt narcotics cop paired with idealistic rookie
- Ozzy & Drix
Animated: above the law white blood cell cop with a by-the-book cold pill cop
- National Security
A disgraced former cop teamed up with wannabe who got him into trouble
- Cradle 2 the Grave
A Taiwanese cop teams up with an African-American jewel thief
- Hollywood Homicide
An aging veteran L.A. cop paired with younger cop who wants to be an actor
- 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
- Starsky & Hutch
A streetwise intuitive cop teamed with reserved, intellectual cop
- White Chicks
Two black FBI agents and brothers disguised as white women
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
A small-time crook paired with gay detective
- 16 Blocks
A depressed angry cop, and optimistic criminal
- Miami Vice
2006 film based on the television series
- The Pink Panther
A clumsy police offer partnered with competent detective
- Righteous Kill
A veteran police partners pursuing a vigilante they busted years ago
- Sherlock Holmes (2009)
An eccentric, but brilliant detective and a former army doctor
- Cop Out
Veteran partners who are constantly annoyed by each other
- The Grace Card
A black policeman is partnered with a white policeman who suffers from bitterness after his son's death, caused by a criminal.
- The Other Guys
A nerdy accountant-type cop teamed with aggressive, case breaking cop
- Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
An FBI agent teams with his stepson
A veteran "judge" teamed with rookie
- End of Watch
Two LAPD officers
- Bullet to the Head
An undercover officer teams with a hit man
- 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street
A geeky cop and cool cop
- The Heat
A hot-shot female FBI agent teamed with a streetwise female detective
A recently deceased cop teams up with veteran supernatural cop
- 2 Guns
A DEA agent and NCIS officer
- Ride Along and Ride Along 2
A wise cracking security guard teamed with gruff police detective
- Let's Be Cops
Two friends pose as police officers
- Hot Pursuit
A female police officer and the woman who is to testify against a cartel leader
An anthropomorphic rabbit cop and a con-artist fox work together on a missing animal case.
- Bastille Day
Tough CIA agent teamed with a master pickpocket.
- The Nice Guys
A tough enforcer recruits a down-on-his-luck private investigator to help find a missing girl.
- Central Intelligence
A tough CIA agent paired with timid accountant.
International buddy cop films
- Banlieue 13 (France)
undercover cop and anti-gang activist
- Roma Violenta (Italy)
violent cop against the criminals of Rome
- Bon Cop, Bad Cop (Canada)
Francophone and Anglophone Canadian cops
- The Guard (Ireland)
Irish Garda officer teamed with FBI agent
- Hot Fuzz (UK)
Tough, 'By The Book' cop teamed with overweight wannabe action cop
- Police Story 3: Super Cop (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong cop paired with a female detective
- Split Second (1992, United Kingdom)
A rookie police officer is assigned to partner Harley Stone, a burnt-out and highly cynical homicide detective
- Stray Dog (1949, Japan)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, it stars Toshiro Mifune as a young cop paired with a more experienced cop played by Takashi Shimura
- The Killer (1989)
A hitman pairs up with a policeman who tries to hunt him down
- Hard Boiled
A cop inspector teamed up with an undercover cop
- Isle of the Snake People (1971, Mexico)
Two officers on an island, one is highly skeptical of the voodoo religion, the other appreciates it. They must join forces to save a girl from a voodoo group.
- Taxi (1998, France)
Not strictly a buddy cop film, but features a cop and a taxi driver with dreams of entering auto racing
- Tiempo de Valientes (2005, Argentina)
A depressed cop paired with a psychologist.
- Andar Baahar (1984, India)
A cop paired with a thief - inspired by 48 hrs.
- Dhoom (2004, India)
A cop paired with a thief.
- Dhoom 2 (2006, India)
- Dhoom 3 (2013, India)
- The Bullet Vanishes (2012, Hong Kong-China) Two detectives, one is fast with a gun, the other is a deductive genius.
- Dragnet franchise (1949–2004, US)
Focuses primarily on police Sgt./Lt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and his various partners (most notably Officers Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan)).
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964–68, US)
This series features secret agents not cops, although it is similar to the traditional buddy cop format. The series focuses on the relationship between American spy Napoleon Solo, Russian spy Illya Kuryakin and their English boss Alexander Waverly who all work for U.N.C.L.E..
- I Spy (1965–68, US)
Two secret agents Kelly Robinson and Alexander "Scotty" Scott travel the globe masquerading as tennis players.
- The Mod Squad (1968–73, US)
A trio of young undercover cops.
- Both the original Hawaii Five-O and it's reboot focus on Hawaii police detective Steve McGarrett and his colleagues "Danno" Williams, Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua.
- McCloud (1970–77, US)
New Mexico Marshal Sam McCloud works with the New York City Police Department, partnered primarily with Sgt. Joe Broadhurst.
- The Persuaders! (1971–72, UK)
Two millionaires, one American, one British, solve crimes.
- McMillan & Wife (1971–77, US)
A police commissioner solves crimes with his young wife.
- Barnaby Jones (1973–80, US)
An ageing private eye teamed up with his daughter-in-law.
- The Rockford Files (1974-80, US)
Private Eye Jim Rockford aided by his dad "Rocky".
- Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979, US)
Two best friend detectives.
- Ellery Queen (1975–76, US)
Ellery Queen a mystery writer and amateur detective teamed with his father Police Inspector Richard Queen.
- The Sweeney (1975–78, UK)
Two officers of the Flying Squad.
- Charlie's Angels (1976-1981, US)
A trio of female private detectives work with mysterious millionaire Charlie Townsend and his assistant John Bosley.
- Magnum, P.I. (1980–88, US)
A team of four private investigators.
- Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (1980, US)
Two part-time detectives: one a former hustler, the other an accountant.
- Simon & Simon (1981–89, US)
Two brothers run a private detective agency together.
- Cagney & Lacey (1982–88, US)
Two female NYPD detectives.
- Remington Steele (1982–87, US)
A female private detective teams up with a con artist who takes on the identity of her fictional boss "Remington Steele".
- Knight Rider (1982-1986, US)
Michael Knight fights crime with the aid of an artificially intelligent talking car named KITT.
- Hardcastle and McCormick (1983–86, US)
A retired judge aided by former car thief.
- Riptide (1984–86, US)
A trio of private detectives work from a boat called Riptide.
- Miami Vice (1984–1989, US)
Two undercover detectives, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs.
- Hunter (1984–91, US)
Detective Sergeants Rick Hunter and Dee Dee McCall.
- Moonlighting (1985–89, US)
A couple moonlight as private detectives.
- The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1987-2000, UK)
Majority of episodes focus on DCI Reg Wexford and his colleague DI Mike Burden.
- Jake and the Fatman (1987–1992, US)
District Attorney J.L. "Fatman" McCabe, works with detective Jake Styles and Assistant district attorney Derek Mitchell.
- Inspector Morse (1987–2000, UK)
Inspector Endeavour Morse partnered with Detective Sergeant Robbie Lewis. A spin-off called Lewis (2006–2015) sees a promoted Lewis paired with DS James Hathaway, whilst prequel series Endeavour (2012–present) has a younger Morse partnered with DI Fred Thursday.
- Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989-2013, UK)
Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves crime with the separate/combined assistance of many colleagues including: his best friend Captain Arthur Hastings, police Inspector Japp, Poirot's secretary Miss Felicity Lemon and author Ariadne Oliver..
- Father Dowling Mysteries (1989-1991, US) Catholic priest Father Frank Dowling solves murders, with the aid of Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski.
- A Touch of Frost (1992–2010, UK)
DI Jack Frost is partnered with various different detectives most notably DS George Toolan.
- Diagnosis: Murder (1993–2001, US)
Dr. Mark Sloan solves crimes with the aid of his Detective son Steve.
- Byomkesh Bakshi (1993–97, India)
Detective Byomkesh Bakshi and his chronicler Ajit.
- The X-Files (1993–2002/2016, US)
Two FBI agents Mulder & Scully, investigate paranormal cases.
- Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001. US)
Texas Rangers Cordell Walker and Jimmy Trivette.
- Inspector Rex (1994–2004/2008–2015, Austria-Italy)
Rex, a German Shepard police dog partnered with various human detectives.
- Wycliffe (1994–98, UK)
Detective Superintendent Wycliffe is partnered with Detective Inspectors Doug Kersey and Lucy Lane.
- Cadfael (1994-98, UK)
Benedictine monk Brother Cadfael solves crimes along with Sheriff Hugh Beringar.
- Dalziel & Pascoe (1996–2007, UK)
Two detective partners: One is blunt and rude, the other is calm and well mannered.
- Midsomer Murders (1997–present, UK)
Inspectors Tom (and later) John Barnaby alongside Sergeants Troy, Scott, Jones and Nelson investigate murders in the village of Midsomer.
- Beck (1997–present, Sweden)
Martin Beck, a by the book detective, solves cases with Gunvald Larsson a cop who is angry and violent.
- Total Recall 2070 (1999, US)
A police officer paired with android partner.
- Inspector Montalbano (1999–present, Italy) and The Young Montalbano (2012–2015, Italy).
Both these shows focus on Salvo Montalbano and his police colleagues: Domenico "Mimi" Augello, Giuseppe Fazio and Agatino Catarella.
- The Invisible Man (2000–02, US)
Two operatives for a secret organisation one of whom can turn invisible.
- A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001–02, US)
Overweight and Eccentric private detective Nero Wolfe solves cases with the aid of his legman Archie Goodwin.
- The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (2001–08, UK)
Inspector Thomas Lynley paired with Sergeant Barbara Havers.
- Monk (2002–09, US)
Obsessive compulsive detective working with the San Francisco Police Department.
- Rosemary & Thyme (2003–07, UK)
Two gardeners who are also amateur detectives.
- New Tricks (2003–15, UK)
Three ageing male detectives and female detective solve various cold cases.
- Wallander (1994–2006, 2005–13, Sweden, 2008–present, UK)
Inspector Kurt Wallander works with his detective daughter Linda and his colleagues Martinsson and Nyberg.
- Bones (2005–present, US)
Forensic anthropologist Temperance "Bones" Brennan teamed with FBI agent Seeley Booth.
- Psych (2006-14, US)
Police consultant and fake psychic Shawn Spencer works with his partner and best friend Gus.
- Life on Mars (2006–2007, UK)
21st century detective Sam Tyler is seemingly transported back to the 1970s and ends up working alongside tough cop Gene Hunt, their different methods clashing. The series was remade in the US in 2008-09. Ashes to Ashes (a sequel to the original UK series) set this time in the 1980s showed Gene working with another time-displaced cop Alex Drake. The series aired from 2008–2010.
- Inspector George Gently (2007–present, UK)
George Gently paired with DS John Bacchus.
- Murdoch Mysteries (2008–present, Canada)
Detective William Murdoch is assisted by Inspector Brackenreid, Dr. Julia Ogden and Constable George Crabtree.
- The Mentalist (2008–15, US)
A fake psychic working with the CBI (California Bureau of Investigations), particularly with female CBI agent.
- Castle (2009–present, US)
A crime author partnered with female NYPD detective.
- White Collar (TV series) (2009–14, US)
A con artist helping an FBI agent solve crimes.
- DCI Banks (2010–present)
Inspector Alan Banks, DI Helen Morton and DS Annie Cabbott.
- The Good Guys
An outdated maverick and by-the-book rookie.
- Rizzoli & Isles
Homicide detective Jane Rizzoli is paired with medical examiner Maura Isles.
- Vera (2011–present, UK)
DCI Vera Stanhope assisted by DS Joe Ashworth and DS Aiden Healy.
- Grimm (2011-present, US) Police detective and grimm Nick Burkhardt, his human partner Detective Hank Griffin and his Wesen friends Monroe and Capt. Renard.
- Scott & Bailey (2011–16, UK)
Female police officers Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott.
- Death in Paradise (2011–present, UK/France)
A British detective joins the police force on a Caribbean island.
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (2012–present, Australia)
Phryne Fisher solves crimes with her companion "Dot", Inspector Jack Robinson and Constable Hugh Collins.
- The Finder (2012, US)
Spin-off to Bones.
- Beauty & the Beast (2012-16, US)
A female NYPD detective and a genetically engineered ex-soldier.
- The Blacklist (2013–present, US)
A criminal working alongside FBI profiler.
- Sleepy Hollow (2013–present, US)
Ichabod Crane paired with Lt. Abbie Mills.
- Mr & Mrs Murder (2013, Australia)
A married couple work as crime scene cleaners and become amateur sleuths.
- Almost Human (2013-14, US) Similar premise to Total Recall 2070: Human detective and android partner.
- Hannibal (2013–15, US)
An FBI profiler initially solves crimes with a forensic psychiatrist who is a secret cannibalistic serial killer.
- Old School (2014, Australia)
A reformed criminal paired with retired cop.
- Forever (2014–15, US)
A secretly immortal NYPD medical examiner teamed up with female detective.
- Gotham (2014-present, US)
Gotham City Police Department partners Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock.
- Grantchester (2014–present, UK)
Sidney Chambers, a young priest and amateur detective works with Inspector Geordie Keating.
- iZombie (2015–present)
Female zombified coroner's assistant teamed with human male Seattle PD officer.
- Lucifer (2016–present, US)
The Devil "punishes" guilty ones with the aid of female LAPD detective.
In popular culture
- In the animated prime time series, The Critic, Jay Sherman reviews a sub par movie titled "Beverly-Hills-Robo-K-9-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.
- 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). Another sketch from the series called "Cream of the Cop" featured a hardened cop Phil LaMarr partnered with a can of creamed corn.
- National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson is a parody of the Lethal Weapon franchise, pairing the laid back Detective Luger character (Jackson, inspired by Lethal Weapon's Roger Murtaugh, portrayed as a by-the-book family man) and the fearless Detective Colt (Estevez, inspired by Martin Riggs, and described as a burnt-out, gun-happy psycho from the Narcotics Division).
- The Annoying Orange YouTube Series, features a mini video-series literally called Buddy Cop which parodies this genre. It features supporting protagonists Midget Apple and Marshmallow as amateurish buddy cops, with Marshmallow still possessing his usual childish, immature nature as a cop.
- Ebert, Roger (September 18, 1998). "Rush Hour". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2006-06-25.
- "FilmInt". Film International (Sweden: Kulturrådet) 4 (1–6): 163. 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
In addition to being a masterful precursor to the buddy cop movies and police procedurals popular today, Stray Dog is also a complex genre film that examines the plight of soldiers returning home to post-war Japan.
- "The Critic" Season 2, Episode 20: "Sherman of Arabia"