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The Best Cop Movies of the 1980s

Updated February 17, 2021 2.4k votes 398 voters 27.5k views65 items

List RulesVote 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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    Blue Thunder

    Malcolm McDowell, Roy Scheider
    Blue Thunder is a 1983 action thriller film that features a high-tech helicopter of the same...  more

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    Code of Silence

    Chuck Norris, John Mahoney
    Code of Silence is a 1985 American action film directed by Andrew Davis, and starring Chuck...  more
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    Police Story

    Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh
    Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action film written and directed by Jackie Chan, who also...  more

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    #49 of 102 The 100+ Best Movies Streaming On The Criterion Channel#87 of 112 The Best Action Movies Of The 1980s

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    Alien Nation

    James Caan, Terence Stamp
    Alien Nation is a 1988 American science fiction action film directed by Graham Baker. The...  more

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    #123 of 186 The Best Alien Movies Ever Made#46 of 61 The Best Buddy Cop Movies

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    Die Hard

    Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman
    Die Hard is a 1988 American action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de...  more

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    The Presidio

    Meg Ryan, Sean Connery
    The Presidio is a 1988 American mystery film, directed by Peter Hyams, starring Sean Connery...  more
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    The Big Easy

    John Goodman, Dennis Quaid
    The Big Easy is a 1987 American crime drama directed by Jim McBride and written by Daniel...  more

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    #60 of 247 The Best Whodunit Movies#269 of 675 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

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    Fort Apache, The Bronx

    Paul Newman, Pam Grier
    Fort Apache, The Bronx is a 1981 crime drama film made by Producers Circle and Time-Life...  more
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    Police Story 2

    Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung
    Police Story 2 is a 1988 Hong Kong action crime comedy film written, directed by and starring...  more
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    Midnight Run

    Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin
    Midnight Run is a 1988 American action-comedy film directed by Martin Brest and starring...  more

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    #666 of 923 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films#242 of 1,139 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

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    Maniac Cop

    Bruce Campbell, Richard Roundtree
    Maniac Cop is a 1988 action/slasher film directed by William Lustig, and written by Larry...  more

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    #105 of 114 The Best Horror Movie Franchises#432 of 718 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

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    Prince of the City

    Jerry Orbach, Bob Balaban
    Prince of the City is an American crime drama film about an NYPD officer who chooses to expose...  more
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    Tango & Cash

    Sylvester Stallone, Teri Hatcher
    Tango & Cash is a 1989 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by Andrei Konchalovsky,...  more

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    #90 of 305 The Funniest '80s Movies#222 of 451 The Best Movies For Guys

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    Gorky Park

    William Hurt, Lee Marvin
    Gorky Park is a 1983 film based on the novel Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith. It was directed...  more
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    RoboCop

    Alex Van Halen, Peter Weller
    RoboCop is a 1987 American cyberpunk action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by...  more

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    #281 of 1,506 The Most Rewatchable Movies#51 of 156 The Best Superhero Movies Ever Made

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    10 to Midnight

    Kelly Preston, Charles Bronson
    10 to Midnight is an action-crime-thriller film directed by J. Lee Thompson from a screenplay...  more
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    The Salamander

    Christopher Lee, Claudia Cardinale
    The Salamander is a 1981 thriller film directed by Peter Zinner, at his directional debut. The...  more
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    Blue Steel

    Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Sizemore
    Blue Steel is a 1989 American action thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and starring...  more

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    #60 of 77 The Best Thriller Movies Of The 1980s#50 of 95 The Best Cop Movies of the 1990s

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    City Heat

    Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds
    City Heat is a 1984 American film starring Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and directed by...  more

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    #240 of 456 The Most Quotable Movies Of All Time#55 of 71 The Best Clint Eastwood Movies

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    Cop

    James Woods, Lesley Ann Warren
    Cop is a 1988 film starring James Woods and Lesley Ann Warren. It is based on the book Blood...  more

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    #44 of 176 The Best Police Movies#16 of 92 The Best James Woods Movies

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    Crocodile Hunter

    Andy Lau, Sandra Ng
    Crocodile Hunter is a 1989 Hong Kong action comedy film written and directed by Wong Jing, and...  more
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    Cruising

    Al Pacino, Ed O'Neill
    Cruising is a 1980 psychological thriller film written and directed by William Friedkin and...  more
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    Dead Heat

    Vincent Price, Joe Piscopo
    This film is a 1988 movie about an LAPD police officer, Roger Mortis, life ended while...  more
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    Fatal Beauty

    Whoopi Goldberg, Sam Elliott
    Fatal Beauty is a 1987 American comedic action thriller film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Sam...  more
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    My New Partner

    Philippe Noiret, Thierry Lhermitte
    My New Partner is a 1984 French comedy film directed by Claude Zidi, starring Philippe Noiret...  more