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The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s 

Ranker Film
Updated July 8, 2019 2.1k votes 359 voters 23.8k views 38 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite police films that were released in the 1980s

The best ‘80s cop movies are a unique blend of kitsch, grit, and violence. Fans of the police genre might say that the 1980s was an off decade for cop movies. There are, however, numerous classic police stories from the ‘80s, including directing legend Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables. Starring Kevin Costner, this film details the endeavors of Elliott Ness and his band of federal agents to bring down mob kingpin Al Capone in 1930s Chicago.  

Also on this list of top ‘80s cop movies, you’ll find plenty of lighter fare. The 1980s was the heyday of the buddy cop film, the prime example being Lethal Weapon. Starring Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, the Lethal Weapon franchise has become a cultural touchstone, having been referenced and parodied countless times since its release. Here, you’ll also find Clint Eastwood reprising his role as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool and Sudden Impact.  

Vote up the best cop films of the 1980s, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section! 

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1
Lethal Weapon is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Mel Gibson, Gary Busey, Danny Glover

Released: 1987

Directed by: Richard Donner

Lethal Weapon is a 1987 American buddy cop action film directed by Richard Donner, starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a mismatched pair of L.A.P.D. detectives and stars Mitchell Ryan and ...more

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Surprising Facts Most People Don't Know About 'Lethal Weapon' #18 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #64 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

2
Beverly Hills Cop is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Damon Wayans, Paul Reiser

Released: 1984

Directed by: Martin Brest

Beverly Hills Cop is a 1984 American action comedy film directed by Martin Brest and starring Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills, California to ...more

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#9 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #9 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #95 of 726 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked

3
Lethal Weapon 2 is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Mel Gibson, Joe Pesci, Danny Glover

Released: 1989

Directed by: Richard Donner

Lethal Weapon 2 is a 1989 American buddy cop action film directed by Richard Donner, and starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Patsy Kensit, Derrick O'Connor and Joss Ackland. It is a ...more

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#61 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #941 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #79 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys

4
48 Hrs. is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Annette O'Toole

Released: 1982

Directed by: Walter Hill

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial 48 Hrs. is a 1982 American action comedy film directed by Walter Hill, starring Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy as a cop and convict, respectively, who team up to catch a cop-killer. The title ...more

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#74 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #124 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #130 of 1,209 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

5
The Untouchables is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner

Released: 1987

Directed by: Brian De Palma

The Untouchables is a 1987 American drama film directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet. Based on the book The Untouchables, the film stars Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot ...more

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#90 of 366 The Best Movies Based On Books #65 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
Beverly Hills Cop II is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Gilbert Gottfried

Released: 1987

Directed by: Tony Scott

Beverly Hills Cop II is a 1987 action comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and directed by Tony Scott. It is the first sequel in the Beverly Hills Cop series. Murphy returns as Detroit police ...more

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#89 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #41 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #276 of 1,030 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

7
Police Academy is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Kim Cattrall, Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith

Released: 1984

Directed by: Hugh Wilson

Police Academy is a 1984 comedy film directed by Hugh Wilson, and starring Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, and G.W. Bailey. It grossed approximately $146 million worldwide and spawned six more ...more

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#71 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #13 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #170 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

8
The Dead Pool is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Clint Eastwood, Jim Carrey, Axl Rose

Released: 1988

Directed by: Buddy Van Horn

This film is a 1988 American action flim directed by Buddy Van Horn, written by Steve Sharon, and starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. It is the fifth and final ...more

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#264 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #544 of 599 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made #22 of 45 The Best Movies Starring Clint Eastwood

9
Colors is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Don Cheadle

Released: 1988

Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Colors is a 1988 American police procedural action film starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, and directed by Dennis Hopper. The film takes place in the gang ridden neighborhoods of South ...more

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#521 of 726 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #10 of 16 The Most Powerful Movies About Police Brutality #58 of 144 The Best Films Directed by Famous Actors

10
Turner & Hooch is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Tom Hanks, Craig T. Nelson, Mare Winningham

Released: 1989

Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode

Turner & Hooch is a 1989 American comedy-thriller film starring Tom Hanks and Beasley the Dog as the eponymous characters, Turner and Hooch respectively. The film also co-stars Mare ...more

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#97 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #91 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #254 of 1,209 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

11
The Naked Gun: From the ... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
O. J. Simpson, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Reggie Jackson

Released: 1988

Directed by: David Zucker

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is a 1988 American comedy film. It is the first in The Naked Gun series of films starring Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, and O. ...more

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#45 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #76 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #21 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies

12
To Live and Die in L.A. ... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Willem Dafoe, John Turturro, Jane Leeves

Released: 1985

Directed by: William Friedkin

This film is a 1985 American action thriller film directed by William Friedkin and based on the novel by former U.S. Secret Service agent Gerald Petievich, who co-wrote the screenplay with ...more

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#331 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #194 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars #76 of 98 The Best Action Movies of the 1980s

13
Sudden Impact is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Clint Eastwood, Mara Corday, Sondra Locke

Released: 1983

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Sudden Impact is a 1983 American action film and the fourth film in the Dirty Harry series, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Eastwood and Sondra Locke. The film is notable for the ...more

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#236 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #55 of 83 Great Movies About Furious Women Out for Revenge #23 of 102 The Best Movies Directed by the Star

14
Cobra is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Sylvester Stallone, Ron Jeremy, Brigitte Nielsen

Released: 1986

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Cobra is a 1986 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos, and written by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the title role. The film co-stars Reni Santoni, Brigitte Nielsen and ...more

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#304 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #212 of 347 Movies with the Best Soundtracks #32 of 92 The Most Rewatchable Action Movies

15
Running Scared is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Billy Crystal, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Hines

Released: 1986

Directed by: Peter Hyams

Running Scared is a 1986 action/comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Peter Hyams, written by Gary Devore and Jimmy Huston, and starring Gregory Hines, Billy Crystal, and ...more

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#270 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #680 of 1,209 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #29 of 61 The Best Buddy Cop Movies

16
Stakeout is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Madeleine Stowe, Richard Dreyfuss, Forest Whitaker

Released: 1987

Directed by: John Badham

Stakeout is a 1987 comedy film directed by John Badham and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez, Madeleine Stowe, Aidan Quinn, and Forest Whitaker. The screenplay was written by Jim Kouf, ...more

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#272 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #123 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #395 of 1,209 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

17
Red Heat is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon

Released: 1988

Directed by: Walter Hill

Red Heat is a 1988 American buddy cop action film directed by Walter Hill. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Moscow narc Ivan Danko, and James Belushi, as Chicago detective Art Ridzik. ...more

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#153 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #30 of 61 The Best Buddy Cop Movies #14 of 40 The Greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies

18
K-9 is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Jim Belushi, Ed O'Neill, William Sadler

Released: 1989

Directed by: Rod Daniel

K-9 is a 1989 American action-comedy film starring James Belushi and Mel Harris. It was directed by Rod Daniel, written by Steven Siegel and Scott Myers, produced by Lawrence Gordon and Charles ...more

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#703 of 1,030 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #25 of 36 The Funniest Movies About Cops #37 of 40 The Funniest Movies About Animals

19
Police Academy 3: Back i... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, Bobcat Goldthwait

Released: 1986

Directed by: Jerry Paris

Police Academy 3: Back in Training is a 1986 comedy film directed by Jerry Paris. It is the third film and the second of the six sequels of the Police Academy film series. Despite receiving ...more

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#43 of 73 The Dumbest Movie Sequel Titles #92 of 145 The Best Police Movies #2 of 7 The Best Police Academy Movies

20
Police Academy 2: Their ... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Steve Guttenberg, Jason Hervey, Bubba Smith

Released: 1985

Directed by: Jerry Paris

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment is a 1985 comedy film directed by Jerry Paris. It is the first of six sequels in the Police Academy series. Many actors return from the first film to ...more

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#19 of 68 The Best Comedy Movie Sequels #39 of 73 The Dumbest Movie Sequel Titles #88 of 145 The Best Police Movies

21
Tightrope is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Clint Eastwood, Alison Eastwood, Geneviève Bujold

Released: 1984

Directed by: Clint Eastwood, Richard Tuggle

Tightrope is a 1984 American suspense thriller produced by and starring Clint Eastwood and written and directed by Richard Tuggle.

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#112 of 280 The Best Whodunit Movies #33 of 45 The Best Movies Starring Clint Eastwood #37 of 81 The Best Clint Eastwood Movies

22
Dragnet is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Tom Hanks, Dan Aykroyd, Christopher Plummer

Released: 1987

Directed by: Tom Mankiewicz

Dragnet is a 1987 American buddy cop comedy film written and directed by Tom Mankiewicz in his directorial debut, and starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. The film is based on the television ...more

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#115 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies #8 of 11 Tom Hanks Roles When He Wasn't The Nicest Guy, Ranked #27 of 61 The Best Buddy Cop Movies

23
Action Jackson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Sharon Stone, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson

Released: 1988

Directed by: Craig R. Baxley

Action Jackson is a 1988 American action film directed by Craig R. Baxley in his feature film directorial debut, and starring Carl Weathers, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson and Sharon Stone. The film ...more

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#365 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #382 of 726 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked #91 of 98 The Best Action Movies of the 1980s

24
Alien Nation is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
James Caan, Terence Stamp, Mandy Patinkin

Released: 1988

Directed by: Graham Baker

Alien Nation is a 1988 American science fiction action film directed by Graham Baker. The ensemble cast features James Caan, Mandy Patinkin and Terence Stamp. The film depicts the assimilation ...more

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25
Blue Thunder is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s
Blue Thunder Malcolm McDowell, Roy Scheider, Warren Oates

Released: 1983

Directed by: John Badham

Blue Thunder is a 1983 action thriller film that features a high-tech helicopter of the same name. The movie was directed by John Badham and stars Roy Scheider. A spin-off television series also ...more

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#441 of 624 The Greatest Guilty Pleasure Movies #294 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #131 of 280 The Best Whodunit Movies