23 of the best and most quotable buddy cop movies
Best friends in badges
A buddy cop movie is more than just two police officers working together; they hate each other, they like each other, they love each other, and they’re always trying to get in the last word with each other. There is no peril so great that it cannot be disarmed with the perfect one-liner, so in honor of the release of Bad Boys for Life, buckle up and take a ride with the best buddy cop movies and the quotes audiences remember.
Bad Boys (1995), Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith)
Director Michael Bay encouraged both Martin Lawrence and Will Smith to improvise while filming, knowing the pair’s talents would go a long way to help develop Bad Boys as he was not a fan of the original script.
Mike Lowrey: Now back up, put the gun down, and get me a pack of Tropical Fruit Bubblicious.
Marcus Burnett: And some Skittles.
Bad Boys II (2003), Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith)
In the ’90s and ’00s, not only were the Bad Boys movies inescapable, but the theme song of the same name — which also famously opens the long-running TV series Cops — was a cultural touchstone. It's inexcusable Burnett hadn’t learned the song by then, no matter how busy he was with his family. Did Seth Rogen have something to do with this joke? He posted on Twitter that he wrote that scene with writing partner Evan Goldberg for Judd Apatow.
Lowrey: [singing] Bad boys, bad boys, what ’ya gonna do? What ’ya gonna do when we come for you?
Burnett: [Ad-libs first verse and scats]
Lowrey: Dude, you gotta learn the words.
Burnett: We usually only do the chorus.
Stakeout (1987), Chris Lecce (Richard Dreyfuss) and Bill Reimers (Emilio Estevez)
Stakeout’s success can be attributed to two likable leads (Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez) carrying the film through some terribly unprofessional waters, even for an ’80s buddy cop flick, where multiples lines were crossed in this surprisingly violent film.
Lecce: Give me the keys. I'll go to the supermarket. What do you want?
Reimers: Truth and justice.
Lecce: Anything else?
Lecce: Why not? We're cops.
48 Hrs. (1982), Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) and Eddie Murphy (Reggie Hammond)
Eddie Murphy was still breaking out of the box Hollywood had assigned to him as a stand-up comedian and Saturday Night Live cast member when he made 48 Hrs. with costar Nick Nolte, but the pairing of a convict on leave with a gritty street cop, who together have 48 hours to find a suspect, proved to be the perfect big-screen debut for the performer.
Hammond: You know, you're real stupid for a cop, man. You're following this guy too close.
Cates: Yeah, well, most cops are pretty stupid, but since you landed in jail what the hell does that make you?
Rush Hour (1998), Yang Naing Lee (Jackie Chan) and James Carter (Chris Tucker)
On the heels of his Rumble in the Bronx success, Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan was finally able to make his mark on the American box office alongside Friday star Chris Tucker in Rush Hour, which went on to gross more than $140 million domestically and nearly $250 million worldwide, inspiring two sequels, with a possible third on the way.
Lee: Not being able to speak is not the same as not speaking. You seem as if you like to talk. I like to let people talk who like to talk. It makes it easier to find out how full of s— they are.
Carter: What the hell did you just say? "I let people talk, blah blah blah," so I'm the one full of s—?
Lee: We both full of s—.
Carter: You full of s—.
Lethal Weapon (1987), Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover)
If the 1970s were the age of gritty New York cop movies, the 1980s were the age of gritty Los Angeles cop movies, but with added humor and the sex appeal of beaches. The potent mix of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as a by-the-book sergeant working with, well, the title Lethal Weapon speaks to unhinged nature of Riggs, was a smash-hit with audiences and inspired three sequels.
[Murtaugh, motioning to Riggs’ gun after seeing his perfect target range results]
Murtaugh: What do you do, sleep with that thing under your pillow?
Riggs: I would if I slept.
(With special regards to Murtaugh’s “I'm too old for this s—!” line, which gives us a GIF usable in nearly every situation.)
Hot Fuzz (2007), Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) and Danny Butterman (Nick Frost)
Big-city cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is sent to a small village outpost and paired with an unassuming action-film superfan, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who has not solved many cases, in this hilariously smart send-up of the buddy cop genre.
Angel: [watching Point Break] I won't argue that it wasn't a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-fuelled thrill ride, but there's no way that you could perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork.
The Other Guys (2010), Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg)
Director Adam McKay teamed up with frequent collaborators Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a buddy cop movie that asks, what happens to all the other guys on the force when there are two cops getting all the glory?
Gamble: [lying on the ground after an explosion] I can't hear! I can't hear! There's blood blisters on my hands! Oh my God! How do you walk away in a movie without flinching when it explodes behind them? There's no way! I call bulls— on that! When they flew the Millennium Falcon outside of the Death Star, and it was followed by the explosion, that was bulls—!
Hoitz: Don't you dare badmouth Star Wars! That was all accurate!
Related: The Other Guys: Best comedy tag team
21 Jump Street (2012), Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum)
The original police procedural 21 Jump Street might have helped launch the careers of stars like Johnny Deep and Holly Robinson, but the buddy cop comedy version confirmed Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum were dynamic superstars with box office appeal, as the film went on to make over $200 million worldwide and resulted in a popular sequel, 22 Jump Street, that upped their game to over $300 million worldwide.
Jenko: [wounded on the ground, encouraging Schmidt] You got this. C’mon…
Schmidt: [shooting bad guy] You peaked in high school, motherf—er!
Men in Black (1997), Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith)
One of the better buddy cop tropes revolves around cops who are not only fish (or aliens) out of water, they’ve reached an assignment so dangerous and secretive that no one can even know what they’re working on or who they are working with. Thankfully in Men in Black, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is able to give Agent J (Will Smith) a device designed to keep the civilians they deal with completely in the dark.
Agent J: You do know Elvis is dead, right?
Agent K: No, Elvis is not dead. He just went home.
Running Scared (1986), Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal)
When two Chicago cops, Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal), are sent on vacation to Key West, they find they cannot leave their need to solve crime behind in the snow.
Costanzo: I don't mean being a cop. I mean to quit, retire, be a regular person.
Hughes: Regular people suck!
Costanzo: Maybe, but they hardly ever get shot.
Dragnet (1987), Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks) and Joe Friday (Dan Aykroyd)
It’s a special type of ludicrous comedy magic that happens between Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd when they give their take on the 1950s television classic in movie form, as Streebeck and Friday take on one of the era’s greatest enemies, P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness and Normalcy).
Friday: Let's check Enid Bordon's description.
Streebeck: [reading notebook] "Big, bad, stupid-looking."
Friday: An exact match.
Related: Tom Hanks’ most iconic roles
The Heat (2013), Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy)
Despite the popularity of female cop shows — Cagney & Lacey, Rizzoli & Isles among others — it’s not often we’ve seen the same buddy cop dynamic in the theaters, and Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy rose to the challenge in the first women’s entry in the buddy cop universe.
Ashburn: [visiting Mullins’ apartment] Wow, your windows are all boarded up.
Mullins: Yeah, I've got the glass, I just don't have the… you know, the window blankets.
Ashburn: Curtains? You mean the curtains?
Tango & Cash (1989), Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell)
Sometimes moviegoers want something as simple as box office stars slinging signature lines, and it took until the last year of the decade to put two of the 1980s’ biggest macho stars, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, together in this downtown-versus-Beverly Hills cop comedy.
Gabriel Cash: He's a little upset. He misses his wardrobe.
Ray Tango: I do miss my wardrobe.
Related: Stallone on Stallone
Seven, David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman)
One of the darker entries on this list of buddy cop movies, Seven still manages to slide in a few moments of quotable relief between a young, green Mills (Brad Pitt) and a world-weary Somerset (Morgan Freeman).
Somerset: This guy's methodical, exacting, and worst of all, patient.
Mills: He's a nutbag! Just because the f—er's got a library card doesn't make him Yoda!
In the Heat of the Night (1967), Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) and Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger)
Going on to win five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role, In the Heat of the Night paired a black detective from Philadelphia, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), with a small-town sheriff, Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger, who was recongized by the Academy), to solve a murder in Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement.
Tibbs: Look, I've had your town up to here!
Gillespie: Boy, it would give me a world of satisfaction to horsewhip you, Virgil.
Tibbs: My father used to say that. He even did a couple of times.
Gillespie: Yeah, well, not enough to suit me! Now you listen to me. Just for once in my life I'm gonna hold my temper. I'm telling you you're gonna stay here. You're gonna stay here if I have to go inside and call your chief of police and have him remind you of what he told you to do. But I don't think I have to do that, you see? No. Because you're so damn smart. You're smarter than any white man. You're just gonna stay here and show us all. You've got such a big head that you could never live with yourself unless you could put us all to shame! You wanna know something, Virgil? I don't think that you could let an opportunity like that pass by.
Training Day (2001), Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) and Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke)
Both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke went on to be recognized with Oscar noms (with a win for Washington) for their portrayals as Detective Harris and Officer Hoyt and what happens with a veteran wolf teaches his young trainee what separates them from the sheep.
Hoyt: [getting into Harris’ kitted-out Monte Carlo] This car is not from the motor pool.
Harris: It's not. Sexy though, isn’t it?
Hoyt: So where's the office? Back at division?
Harris: You're in the office, baby.
Freebie and the Bean (1974), Bean (Alan Arkin) and Freebie (James Caan)
This politically incorrect — even for its time — anti-counterculture buddy cop film starring Alan Arkin and James Caan, which Quentin Taratino has cited as an inspiration for years (he even programmed it in early QT festivals), can be an intense watch in the modern age, but Caan and Arkin have a chemistry that cannot be denied.
Bean: Apologize about my gun!
Freebie: Apologize to this!
Bean: Apologize about my gun and I’ll apologize about your lip!
Miami Vice (2006), James "Sonny" Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx)
Director Michael Mann tapped into his television buddy cop roots when he brought Miami Vice to the screen more than 20 years after its NBC debut, this time tapping Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx to fill the roles of Detectives Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs.
Crockett: As in?
Tubbs: As in there is undercover and then there is "Which way is up?"
Crockett: What? Do you think I'm in so deep I forgot?
Tubbs: [beat] I will never doubt you.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Harold "Harry" Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) and Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer)
Okay, so maybe Robert Downey Jr.’s Harry isn’t a cop, he’s just an criminal-turned-actor shadowing a private detective learning how to pretend to be an investigator for a role, but he and Val Kilmer (as Perry van Shrike) give buddy cop genre writing legend Shane Black all that they can in his feature directorial debut.
Perry: How about you, Harry, did your father love you?
Harry: Ah, sometimes, you know, like when I dressed up like a bottle. How about yours?
Perry: Well, he used to beat me in Morse code, so it's possible, but he never actually said the words.
Related: Lethal Weapon writer back
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), John Vukovich (John Pankow) and Richard Chance (William Petersen)
Writer and director William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. features two U.S. Secret Service agents (William Petersen and John Pankow) desperate to take down notorious counterfeiter and art printer Rick Masters (played in all his weird glory by Willem Dafoe), who is responsible for the death of Chance’s former partner Hart, who — wouldn’t you know it — was days away from retirement.
Vukovich: It's a crime scene, buddy. The book is evidence. What if the cop remembers it's missing?
Chance: S—. The rookie couldn't remember what he saw. He wasn't in there long enough.
The French Connection (1971), Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider)
Another buddy cop movie that brought home the Oscars, William Friedkin’s The French Connection (based on the novel of the same name and inspired by real-life NYPD narcotics detectives) is known for its wild car chases, but it’s the relationship between Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Russo (Roy Scheider) that helps carry this heroin smuggling drama across the line.
Doyle: All right! You put a shiv in my partner. You know what that means? Goddammit! All winter long I got to listen to him gripe about his bowling scores. Now I'm gonna bust your ass for those three bags and I'm gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.
Related: William Friedkin on Roy Scheider
The Rock (1996), John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) and Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage)
What part of The Rock is not quotable? Sure, director Michael Bay puts a former British spy (Sean Connery) and a bookish FBI agent (Nicolas Cage) through all manner of car chases, explosions, gun battles, and a relationship with a former prom queen, but it’s the rapid repartee that lands this buddy cop movie on our quotable list. Where do we even start?
Goodspeed: [yelling at Mason] Do not move that!! Your muscles freeze, you can't breathe, you spasm so hard you break your own back and spit your guts out. But that's after your skin melts off.
Mason: My God…
Goodspeed: Oh, I think we'd like God on our side at the moment, don't you?
Related: Behind the scenes of The Rock