Buddy cop movies have been around for decades, and the formula is pretty set in stone: take one hard-edged, follow-his-own-rules cop and saddle him with a wacky comedic foil. And who better to play the comic sidekick than a comedian? Check out these 11 comics who've tried their hand at playing policeman in movies.
The movie that made a movie star out of Eddie Murphy is also the one that wrote the template for almost every buddy cop movie starring a comedian to follow (one could make the argument that even the idea of casting a comedian was ripped off from 48 Hrs.). Murphy is scary talented in 48 Hrs., and it's got the kind of rough-edges, rated-R greatness of his early movie roles -- the kind he abandoned later on for vanity projects and awful family fare. He's funny and tough in a movie that's funny, tough and violent and really knows how to use his particular talents. If 48 Hrs. was the movie that set the template for comedian buddy cop movies, we could have done a whole lot worse. The 1990 sequel, Another 48 Hrs., failed to repeat its success.
I'm pretty sure no one familiar with Billy Crystal would ever think "action star," but that's precisely what he is in 1986's underrated cop film Running Scared. Sure, he and partner Gregory Hines are more about the wisecracks than shootouts, but Crystal is great in the role and has terrific chemistry with Hines. It's the last time Crystal would play anything even resembling an action hero, and that's probably for the best, but alongside City Slickers and When Harry Met Sally..., this is actually one of my favorite Billy Crystal movies and one of my favorite buddy cop movies of all time. If you're a fan of either, you should check it out.
While less of a comedian than some others on this list, Jim Belushi did get his start at Second City in Chicago and spent some time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. For Red Heat, he's teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger's KGB agent to chase down the Russian mob in Chicago. Belushi, a Chicago native, is actually quite credible as a cop and manages to get off a few amusing one-liners. The movie is ultimately Schwarzenegger's show, meaning Belushi isn't so much the comedian "buddy" as he is the comedian sidekick. The movie is forgettable, even by '80s action standards, but for a comedian Belushi is one of the more convincing cops on the list.
Before he was a soulless robot who would let no one stand in his way of being terrible on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno was a funny and successful stand-up comic. And, like most stand-up comics, he tried to break into movies with this little-seen and very awful buddy cop movie. Leno stars as a Detroit cop in a culture clash with his Asian partner, played by Pat Morita. Hilariousness does not ensue. The movie sat on the shelf until 1992, when it was released straight to video. Leno has publicly denounced the movie ever since, making it one of the few aspects of his career he's accurately able to recognize as horrible. He never officially acted again, though he was willing to play himself in just about any movie that asked.
Dan Aykroyd teams up with Gene Hackman for a buddy cop movie that gives Collision Course a run for its money in terms of sheer badness. The comedian plays a detective with multiple personality disorder teaming up with Hackman's no-nonsense cop (is there any other kind in a buddy cop movie? Must be why the comedians are always all-nonsense) to retrieve a pornographic Nazi film. It's as bad and tasteless as it sounds, with Aykroyd mugging endlessly and never scoring a single laugh. In a resume of less-than-stellar movies, this certainly ranks near the bottom of Aykroyd's filmography.
Hateful, mean-spirited and mysogynistic, The Last Boy Scout remains a quintessential early-'90s buddy cop movie. Damon Wayans, still getting laughs weekly on In Living Color, makes a convincing action hero as disgraced NFL quarterback Jimmy Dix, teaming up with Bruce Willis' low-rent P.I. to solve a murder that leads to a conspiracy involving all of pro football. There are tons of macho wisecracks and tons of violence, but if you can stomach it the movie is a pretty good representation of its genre. Plus, the movie doesn't just saddle Wayans with all of the jokes -- he's allowed to shine in the action scenes, too. That's rare for a comedian in a buddy cop movie.
Though it should probably be remembered as the movie that made a big-screen star out of comedian and TV star Martin Lawrence (as well as rapper/TV star Will Smith), Bad Boys will always be known as the film that launched the career of Destroyer of Cinema Michael Bay. Lawrence and Smith may seem like unlikely casting to play hard-edged but funny Miami Cops, but consider the alternative: the film was originally conceived as a vehicle for SNL stars Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. Lawrence does his funny cop schtick well enough and avoids the mugging that would plague his later film career, and Bad Boys shows more restraint than any other Michael Bay film. A 2003 sequel, on the other hand, is bombastic and violent and disgusting. Yuck.
In just a few short years, Damon Wayans went from the comedian sidekick role (in The Last Boy Scout) to the straight man cop role in Bulletproof, stepping aside so that Adam Sandler could take over in the comic relief role. Made shortly after Sandler left Saturday Night Live, the movie was made before he became a big movie star. It's also kind of terrible, with Sandler playing a petty thief being escorted (in handcuffs) by Wayans' undercover cop. There's nothing here to suggest that Sandler would go on to be one of the biggest comedy stars of all time, and even within the fairly limited genre of comedian buddy cop movies, Bulletproof is totally forgettable.
If Friday put comedian Chris Tucker on the map, Rush Hour made him a superstar. Partnering with kung fu superstar Jackie Chan to solve an international kidnapping case, Rush Hour combines the fast-talking trash talk of 48 Hrs. with the East-meets-West culture clash of Collision Course. It's better than it sounds, thanks to Chan's stuntwork and Tucker's comedic chops. It's one of the few instances where a comedian saddled with a whole lot of jokey material in a buddy cop movie is actually funny, and it deservedly made Tucker a star. Sadly, the rest of his movie career consists almost entirely of Rush Hour sequels; the second is watchable but repetitive, while the third is dire and miserable.
Comedian and 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan teams with Bruce Willis (making this his second comedian team-up, following The Last Boy Scout nearly two decades earlier) for Cop Out, an action comedy throwback to the 1980s. The Kevin Smith-directed (but not written) film doesn't look to be breaking a single mold, with Morgan relegated to nothing more than mugging for laughs while Willis plays the hard-edged cop. After nearly 30 years of comedian in buddy cop movies, this kind of predictability probably isn't going to cut it.
11. Will Ferrell - 'The Other Guys' (2010)
Will Ferrell teams with Mark Wahlberg for this buddy-cop spoof from writer/director Adam McKay, who previously collaborated with Ferrell on Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. Unlike just about every other buddy cop movie on this list, there's not much of an attempt to play up the action elements -- this one is happy to be a straightforward comedy. It also gives Will Ferrell the opportunity to play a different kind of character: a buttoned-up accountant obsessed with order and control (think a funnier version of Harold Crick from the underrated 2006 comedy drama Stranger Than Fiction). It's a very funny movie, and puts the team of McKay and Ferrell at four for four.