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Buddy cop film

A buddy cop film is a film with plots involving two people of very different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a crime and/or defeat criminals, sometimes learning from each other in the process. The two are normally cops, but some films, such as 48 Hrs. (a cop and a con), that are not about two cops may still be referred to as buddy cop films. It is a subgenre of buddy films.

Frequently, although not always, the two heroes are of different ethnicity or cultures. However, regardless of ethnicity, the central difference is normally that one is "wilder" than the other: a hot-tempered iconoclast is paired with a more even-tempered partner. Often the "wilder" partner is the younger of the two, with the even-tempered partner having more patience and experience. These films sometimes also contain a variation on the good cop/bad cop motif, in which one partner is kinder and law-abiding, while the other is a streetwise, "old school" police officer who tends to break (or at least bend) the rules. Another frequent plot device of this genre is for one of the women be removed from her natural element: sometimes in a foreign country or new city, a "desk jockey" used to paperwork being forced into the field, or a rookie or non-cop partner who is unfamiliar with police work. When this is done, the other woman acts as a guide to the unfamiliar.

In his review of Rush Hour, Roger Ebert coined the term "Wunza Movie" to describe this subgenre, a pun on the phrase "One's a..." that could be used to describe the contrasts between the two characters in a typical film.[1]

The cliché was satirized in the film Last Action Hero. While the movie in itself was a buddy cop film (i.e. pairing a fictional cop with a real world boy), the film's police department obligatorily assigned all cops a conflicting buddy to work with.

A subgenre of the buddy cop film is the buddy cop-dog movie, which teams a cop with a dog, but uses the same element of unlikely partnership to create comedic hijinks. Examples include Turner & Hooch, Top Dog and K-9.


Akira Kurosawa's 1949 Japanese film Stray Dog, starring Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, is considered a precursor to the buddy cop film genre.[2] Another early pioneer of the buddy cop film genre is the 1967 American film In the Heat of the Night. The genre was later popularized by the 1982 film 48 Hrs., starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, one of the most successful buddy cop films.

In television, early examples of buddy cop television series include I Spy (1965–68), Starsky and Hutch (1975–79), "The Sweeney" (1975–78) and to a lesser extent, Miami Vice (1984–89).

American buddy cop films

International buddy cop films

  • Banlieue 13 (France) 
    undercover cop and anti-gang activist
  • Roma Violenta (Italy) 
    violent cop against the criminals of Rome
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop (Canada) 
    Francophone and Anglophone Canadian cops
  • The Guard (Ireland) 
    Irish Garda officer teamed with FBI agent
  • Hot Fuzz (UK)
    Tough, 'By The Book' cop teamed with overweight wannabe action cop
  • Police Story 3: Super Cop (Hong Kong) 
    Hong Kong cop paired with a female detective
  • Split Second (1992, United Kingdom)
    A rookie police officer is assigned to partner Harley Stone, a burnt-out and highly cynical homicide detective
  • Stray Dog (1949, Japan)
    Directed by Akira Kurosawa, it stars Toshiro Mifune as a young cop paired with a more experienced cop played by Takashi Shimura
  • Taxi (1998, France) 
    Not strictly a buddy cop film, but features a cop and a taxi driver with dreams of entering auto racing
  • Tiempo de Valientes (2005, Argentina) 
    A depressed cop paired with a psychologist.
  • Dhoom (2004, India) 
    A cop paired with a thief.
  • Andar Baahar (1984, India) 
    A cop paired with a thief - inspired by 48 hrs.
  • Dhoom 2 (2006, India)
  • Dhoom 3 (2013, India)

In popular culture

  • In the animated prime time series, The Critic, Jay Sherman reviews a sub par movie titled "Beverly-Hills-Robo-K-9-Cop-and-a-half 2" in which the title parodies numerous "buddy cop" films. In the film within a television show within a television show, Dirty Harry's constant loss of partners forces the police captain to team him with "a woman, a cute little kid, an ugly old dog, a dinosaur, and a leprechaun (which ends up exploding)." An Arnold Schwarzenegger character comments that he is partnered with "a pig, an alien, Siamese twins, a sofa, and a second rate mime (which explodes)." The scene parodies the aspect that a "partner" in a buddy cop film can be absolutely anything, no matter how strange it is.[3]
  • National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) starring Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson is a parody of the Lethal Weapon franchise, pairing the laid back Detective Luger character (Jackson, inspired by Lethal Weapon's Roger Murtaugh, portrayed as a by-the-book family man) and the fearless Detective Colt (Estevez, inspired by Martin Riggs, and described as a burnt-out, gun-happy psycho from the Narcotics Division).
  • The Annoying Orange YouTube Series, features a mini video-series literally called Buddy Cop which parodies this genre. It features supporting protagonists Midget Apple and Marshmallow as amateurish buddy cops, with Marshmallow still possessing his usual childish, immature nature as a cop.


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 18, 1998). "Rush Hour". Retrieved 2006-06-25. 
  2. ^ "FilmInt". Film International (Sweden: Kulturrådet) 4 (1–6): 163. 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2012. In addition to being a masterful precursor to the buddy cop movies and police procedurals popular today, Stray Dog is also a complex genre film that examines the plight of soldiers returning home to post-war Japan. 
  3. ^ "The Critic" Season 2, Episode 20: "Sherman of Arabia"