Here is an exciting list of the most thrilling cop movies ever made. But which one will take the crown as the ultimate police film? Explore the police films below, which can be sorted by release year, director, or actors. Get ready to dive into more awesome movie lists on Netflix, including spine-chilling horror flicks, hilarious comedies, and adrenaline-pumping action films.
Prepare yourself for a mix of recent action-packed police dramas like “End of Watch” and cult classic comedies like “Super Troopers.” Whether you prefer timeless classics or modern favorites, this list has got all the iconic law enforcement movies covered. Many of the top police films, such as “Training Day” and the “Lethal Weapon” series, revolve around dynamic duos of cops.
Feel free to rearrange the rankings of these police films to create your own personalized list of good cop/bad cop movies, thrilling police procedural films, heart-wrenching cop dramas, or hilarious buddy cop adventures. Which cop films will reign supreme? These movies might just change your perspective the next time you watch a thrilling serial killer flick.
While this list may not include every cop movie ever made, it features the absolute best in the genre.
1. End of Watch
End of Watch, released in 2012, is an intense police drama that takes a deep dive into the lives of two LAPD officers, portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Directed by David Ayer, this film adopts a unique found-footage style, adding an extra layer of realism to the story. End of Watch delves into themes of loyalty, sacrifice, and the strong bond between partners in law enforcement. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña is undeniable, making their friendship feel genuine and emotionally charged. This movie received widespread critical acclaim for its gripping portrayal of the realities faced by police officers on the streets.
Directed by: David Ayer
Actors: Anna Kendrick, Jake Gyllenhaal, America Ferrera
Released in 1995, Seven is a film directed by David Fincher that delves into the world of two homicide detectives. The seasoned veteran, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, and his impulsive partner, played by Brad Pitt, find themselves entangled in a bone-chilling investigation centered around murders inspired by the seven deadly sins. This psychological thriller has left an indelible mark on audiences with its unsettling atmosphere and a twist ending that continues to captivate viewers to this day.
Themes of obsession, justice, and morality are intricately woven into the fabric of Seven, creating an unrelenting sense of dread throughout its runtime. The film’s impact on popular culture is evident through the numerous parodies and references it has inspired across various forms of media.
Directed by: David Fincher
Actors: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
3. The Departed
The Departed is a gripping thriller that brings director Martin Scorsese back to his crime genre roots. The movie revolves around two undercover operatives – one infiltrating Boston’s criminal underworld played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and the other working as a mole within law enforcement portrayed by Matt Damon. With an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg, who earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting role, The Departed explores compelling themes of loyalty, betrayal, and identity. It has received critical acclaim, winning the Best Picture award at the Oscars and several other prestigious accolades. Its impact on contemporary crime cinema is undeniable.
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson
4. Training Day
Training Day is an incredible movie with Denzel Washington delivering an unforgettable Oscar-winning performance as Alonzo Harris. He plays a corrupt narcotics detective from the LAPD who chooses to mentor a rookie cop named Jake Hoyt, played by Ethan Hawke. Together, they embark on a twisted and dark journey through the world of law enforcement. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, this film is widely praised for its morally ambiguous characters and its gripping exploration of police corruption. Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Harris is easily one of his most iconic roles to date.
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Actors: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn
Heat is an incredible film that brings together the talents of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in an epic showdown. Directed by Michael Mann, this sprawling crime saga delves into themes of obsession, honor among thieves, and the blurred lines between good and evil. It’s a must-watch for any fan of cop movies, and it’s particularly noteworthy because it marks the first time Pacino and De Niro share the screen in their illustrious careers. Heat has rightfully earned its place as one of the greatest films in cinema history.
Directed by: Michael Mann
Actors: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer
6. The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme, is a psychological horror film that follows ambitious FBI trainee Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster. In her pursuit to capture a dangerous killer, she turns to the imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. This movie explores deep themes of manipulation, identity, and the hidden darkness that lies within individuals.
The performances of both Foster and Hopkins were so captivating that they were both awarded Oscars for their roles. In fact, The Silence of the Lambs achieved a remarkable feat by winning the prestigious Best Picture award, making it one of only three movies in history to achieve a “Big Five” sweep at the Academy Awards.
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Actors: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
7. The Fugitive
The Fugitive is a gripping film based on a true story. It features Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man who is falsely accused of murder. Determined to prove his innocence, Kimble goes on the run, all the while being relentlessly pursued by U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, played by Tommy Lee Jones. This thrilling cat-and-mouse chase delves into themes of perseverance against injustice and the unwavering determination to uncover the truth. Jones’ outstanding performance in this movie earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, cementing The Fugitive as a timeless classic in its genre.
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Actors: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward
8. The Untouchables
Brian De Palma’s 1987 film, The Untouchables, is a masterfully crafted crime drama. It follows a group of honest law enforcement officers, led by Kevin Costner’s Eliot Ness, as they strive to take down the infamous mob boss, Al Capone, portrayed with captivating menace by Robert De Niro. The movie is set in the Prohibition-era Chicago, and it skillfully explores themes of morality within the police force and the fight for justice in the face of widespread corruption. Notably, Sean Connery delivers an Academy Award-winning performance as veteran police officer Jim Malone. With its enduring status as a revered classic in the cop movie genre, The Untouchables is a must-see.
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Actors: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro
9. Point Break
Let’s talk about ‘Point Break.’ Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this movie follows the journey of Johnny Utah, an undercover FBI agent played by Keanu Reeves. He gets caught up with a gang of surfers who rob banks, led by the enigmatic thrill-seeker Bodhi, played by Patrick Swayze. This film is all about high-energy action, mixing intense chase scenes on land and sea. But it’s not just about the adrenaline rush. ‘Point Break’ also dives into deep conversations about finding meaning in life. It’s a masterful exploration of self-discovery in the face of adversity. And let’s not forget about the impact it had on pop culture, thanks to Swayze’s charismatic portrayal of Bodhi.
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Actors: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey
10. L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential takes you back to 1950s Los Angeles, where three very different cops – Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce – team up to solve a web of crimes. Based on James Ellroy’s book of the same name, this movie, directed by Curtis Hanson, is a gritty crime thriller with a touch of noir. It explores themes like police corruption, media sensationalism, and the hidden side of Hollywood’s glamour. And let’s not forget the incredible cast, which includes an Oscar-winning performance by Kim Basinger. No wonder this film has become a benchmark in its genre.
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Actors: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce