Crime Shows and Movies

16 Examples Of Shoddy Police Work In Films That Are Downright Laughable 

Eric Conner
Updated June 14, 2019 351 votes 113 voters 9.8k views 16 items

List Rules Vote up the terrible movie police work that makes you most believe you could get away with a bank heist.

Movies about brave boys (and girls) in blue seem to have one thing in common: straight-up awful police work. The history of terrible cops in cinema is not a short one: how many times has Rookie Red Shirt been unable to keep even one eye on the killer handcuffed next to him? If Retiring Officer Rotund could run up three steps without getting winded, his police drama would have been gone in 60 seconds. There's certainly no shortage of movie cops who are really bad at their jobs.

Who qualifies as the worst movie cops? Well, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) makes some pretty amateur mistakes in Point Break, but, hey, they serve the plot, so who's counting? Basic Instinct, for all the cleverness of the plot, social satire, and oo-la-la sexy moments, has some awful movie police work. Whether it be a result of deus ex machina, poor character work, or scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, the cops on this list need to be put on leave stat, pending a review of their snafus. Because there's not enough suspension of disbelief in the universe to justify the following shoddy police work.  

The Dark Knight Rises is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 16 Examples Of Shoddy Police Work In Films That Are Downright Laughable
Photo:  Warner Bros

Yes, it's the story of a depressed billionaire who dresses as a bat, so expectations for the quality of police work should be tempered. But, since Christopher Nolan elevated the comic genre with his remarkable Dark Knight trilogy, grounding the films in all-too-realistic Pittsburgh, the police must be held accountable. Lest you forget, Nolan also directed Insomnia, a thriller about cops. He must be brought to task.

So what goes wrong in The Dark Knight Rises? Well, the entire police force gets trapped underground, except for Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Foley (Vision Quest star Matthew Modine). Not a well conceived plan. There really wasn't a single person on the Gotham police force who could've said, "Hey, guys? Maybe we should leave, like, at least maybe a dozen guys above ground, just in case Bane is tricking us or lying?"

Meanwhile, Bane is in the football stadium when he blows it. Guys. Seriously. WTF. You suck. 

Agree or disagree?

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Kindergarten Cop is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 16 Examples Of Shoddy Police Work In Films That Are Downright Laughable
Photo:  Universal

Ironically, Detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a much gentler kindergarten teacher than what many of you probably experienced. His work as an educator is well above average. However, at the center of this equal parts charming and violent family comedy is the darkest premise in the history of cinema. "Let's use a class full of adorable five year olds as human bait for a drug-pushing murderer. And we'll throw in a ferret for some laughs."  

Ferrets are creepy. And that's horrible, horrible police work. Plus why is John Kimble  Austrian? Has anyone ever bothered explaining that? 

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Point Break is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 16 Examples Of Shoddy Police Work In Films That Are Downright Laughable
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Moments after a bloody bank heist, surfer messiah Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) discovers  new bestie Johnny Utah is an undercover FBI AGENT, and Utah knows he knows. What does Johnny do next? Go into hiding? Witness protection? Hole up in the police station? Step in a time-traveling phone booth? Nah. He returns to his girlfriend’s apartment. Since Bodhi would never look there. By the by, in case you forgot, Johnny's gf is Bodhi's ex, so, like, come on, dude. 

When J-Ute is inevitably kidnapped by Bodhi and his luxurious hair, it's kinda like, um, “duh.” And this is hardly Utah's first snafu. Remember when he assumed a group of Nazi surfers were the Dead Presidents bank robbers, even though the Nazis are a bunch of hapless fools, not a group of professional, well-organized criminals? And then an FBI raid on the Nazi's house screwed up a DEA investigation. Bro. Come. On. 

Note: Agent Utah redeems himself at the film's end, by letting Bodhi ride one last great wave instead of arresting him for murdering Agent Pappas (Gary Busey). When Utah finally throws his badge down in the sand, all of us can breathe a sigh of relief.

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Basic Instinct is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 16 Examples Of Shoddy Police Work In Films That Are Downright Laughable
Photo:  Paramount

"He got off.  And then he got offed."  *Laughter from officers*   

No, this is not a Friars roast. It's San Francisco's finest in the middle of a grisly crime scene. Even David Caruso would keep his sunglasses off for that kind of talk, and remind them to act like they've been there before.  

This scene is foreplay for Basic Instinct's ultimate set piece, a showcase for Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) and her juice box in an artfully lit interrogation room. The cops present, who include Wayne Knight AKA Newman AKA Nedry AKA "Ah, ah ah. You didn't say the magic word!", demonstrate class and decorum befitting a fraternity pledge class watching their first porn without fear of being caught by their mommies.  

Seriously, these guys are grizzled homicide cops. They see naked women all the time. Dead ones. They're surrounded by misery and violence and spend their entire lives figuring out whether or not people are lying to them, and every single one of them is seduced by a novelist with a sexy voice, a female lover, and some genitalia on display. In Basic Instinct's defense, the movie is in part satire, but no matter how you slice it, that's just straight up garbage police work. 

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