The action genre has been well known for its heavy use of heroic archetypes, ranging from the gunslinger to the retired soldier. One of the best and most successful of these action hero archetypes is the hardened, no-nonsense cop, often one who works against the very system he stands for. Usually up against superior numbers, these heroes use a combination of brains and brawn to battle their way to victory.
Often seen with a unique and cool weapon, these cops are tasked with taking down the toughest criminals, sometimes also facing corruption. Once a big action cop is on a case, nothing less than death itself can stop him from achieving his goals and finding the bad guy. But when it comes to the toughest of tough cops, these law enforcement officers are unbeatable.
10/10 Ben Shockley overcomes dirty cops, the mob and a hangover to keep a witness safe
The Gauntlet – Clint Eastwood
In Glove, Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) was tasked with transporting “Gus” Malley (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas to Phoenix, AZ. Shockley soon learned that the gambling town had odds on the two not making it to their destination, where Gus was set to testify.
As the duo set out on their journey pursued by police, gangsters, and biker gangs alike, they fight their way through every obstacle in their path. Shockley started the job as a drunk and embittered cop, but ends up victorious, exposing a ring of corruption involving the police and the mob.
9/10 Jim Malone knows that when they pull out a knife, you pull out a gun.
The Untouchables – Sean Connery
The Untouchables tells the story of Eliot Ness’ police task force against Al Capone in prohibition-era Chicago. Eager to have honest cops on his side, Ness approaches Malone, a senior cop with the Chicago Police Department, as he has proven himself a good cop and a believer in the law.
Played by Sean Connery, the initially reluctant Malone proved to be one of Ness’s most ardent fighters against Capone and the corruption of the Chicago police department. Even when Capone’s men found him and shot him dead, a full magazine of bullets wasn’t enough to stop Malone from getting the last laugh.
8/10 Martin Riggs was a cop with a death wish.
Lethal Weapon – Mel Gibson
The pairing of Danny Glover’s Murtaugh and Mel Gibson’s Riggs are one of the best buddy cop duos in movies, making lethal weapon what a great series it is. While most cops would try diplomatic methods to take down a criminal, Riggs was your typical shoot-first hero.
Riggs delighted in creating the image of an unstable cop with a death wish, something that made him unpredictable in the face of criminals. While Murtaugh was looking forward to his retirement, the energetic and aggressive Riggs was getting them into trouble that could only be solved by shooting lots of bad guys.
7/10 Mike Harrigan singlehandedly defeated a predator
Predator 2 – Danny Glover
Danny Glover’s Mike Harrigan was the main lead in predator 2, leading a detective squad against unchecked gang violence in Los Angeles. When a Yautja appeared and began dealing with Harrigan’s gangs, he was interested in the case to find out why he was committing the gruesome murders.
One of the few humans to have fought a Predator and lived to tell the tale, Harrigan is without a doubt the toughest cop in Los Angeles. Their pursuit of the predator through the streets and buildings of Los Angeles culminated in a confrontation on the alien hunter’s ship, with Harrigan leaving with his life. Not even Arnold Schwarzenegger could pull it off.
6/10 John Spartan brought ’90s action to a peaceful future
Demolition Man – Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s John Spartan earned the nickname demolition man in Los Angeles in 1990 for his excessively destructive tactics against criminals. When he was framed for murder, Spartan was frozen in ice, ready to be released in the future.
When notorious criminal Simon Phoenix awoke from his own freeze, he set out to terrorize the city, necessitating the return of Spartan. While Spartan was an exceptionally tough cop even in his own time, San Angeles’ soft and passive future made him the toughest officer in town.
5/10 John McClane always managed to beat the odds
Die Hard – Bruce Willis
In the Christmas action classic die Hard, Bruce Willis’ John McClane was trying to visit his estranged wife at her workplace one Christmas when a gang of criminals opened fire, taking the employees hostage. With nothing more than a gun and a radio, McClane managed to fight his way through nearly a dozen armed men.
John McClane was repeatedly embroiled in more major crimes throughout the die hard series, ranging from terrorists attacking an airport to a heist at the Federal Reserve. No matter the odds or the situation, McClane always manages to come out on top, and even old age hasn’t changed that.
4/10 Part man. Part of the machine. all police
RoboCop – Peter Weller
robocop it was the perfect blend of sci-fi, action, and dystopian storytelling all rolled into one. When Detroit cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) was mercilessly gunned down by Clarence Boddicker and his gang, Murphy became the cyborg cop from the future, RoboCop.
As he slowly regained his free will and old memories, Murphy’s RoboCop set out to track down the men responsible for his predicament. Fighting his way through gangs, giant robots, and the corporation that destroyed his life, RoboCop managed to emerge victorious against OCP and the criminal underworld.
3/10 Callahan is the deadliest officer in San Francisco
Dirty Harry – Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood’s legendary role as Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry The series is one of the most memorable and successful of his long Hollywood career, spawning four sequels. Harry was a gunslinger-type character from the Wild West reimagined as a San Francisco inspector on the hunt for a serial killer sniper.
Undeterred by the changing political and legal landscape of 1970s California, “Dirty Harry” Callahan sticks to his tough, no-nonsense tactics. As much criticism as the film and the character have received, Harry Callahan established a new modern cowboy archetype that influenced later cop movies.
2/10 Crime is a disease. he is the cure
Cobra – Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone’s iconic action cop Marion “Cobra” Cobretti lives in a city that has been brought to the brink of rampant chaos. The world of Cobra it feels like a society on the verge of collapsing any day, with senseless violence idolized by some of the city’s worst criminals and youth.
A serial killer known as the Night Slasher leads a cult group, forcing Cobra to protect a witness and guard against killers who want to keep them silent. In many ways, Cobra is the epitome of the ’80s action hero: a tough, no-nonsense hero cop hampered by a bureaucratic system.
1/10 He is the law of Mega City One
As cheesy and fun as the one from 1995. judge dredd movie was, 2012 Dredd took Mega City One’s action hero, played by Karl Urban, to a whole new level. In what should have been a routine murder case, Judge Dredd and his partner Judge Anderson find themselves trapped in a Mega Block with all the criminals looking to eliminate them.
Armed with their iconic and powerful Lawgiver pistol, helmet and armor, Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson fight their way through one of the toughest gangs in town. The comic book anti-hero is known for his status as the toughest cop in all of fiction, his name being synonymous with a no-nonsense super cop.
NEXT: 10 Best TV Action Heroes