25 Cult Cop Movies That Are Worth Your Time

18. The Hidden (1988)

The Hidden (1987)

“A new breed of criminal” [27]. A Los Angeles homicide detective (Michael Nouri) must team up with an alien (Kyle MacLachlan) posing as an FBI agent in order to catch an alien parasite, which can inhabit human bodies and has been going on a killing spree along LA. The alien parasite also has a fondness for Ferraris and heavy metal and punk rock music.

This is an unusual take on the buddy cop film genre, mixing it with the sci-fi and horror genres. There is a good combination of action, violence, special effects, good dialogue, and good acting. There are a lot of action and gun fights in this film, most notably an extended car chase scene that ends up going through Macarthur Park.

The Special effects are excellent from Kevin Yagher and a crew that also included Robert Kurtzman, who is now widely known for working on The Walking Dead. Yagher had done effects on the Freddy Krueger and Child’s Play films. The script was well written with a lot of great dialogue between Nouri and MacLachlan’s characters.

Both actors play there parts well. MacLachlan playing the unusual and weird alien pretending to be human, who is seeking revenge for the death of his partner and family. The character fit well for his transition to Agent Dale Cooper on the television series Twin Peaks. Nouri plays the veteran cop, showing his emotion and frustration over the unusual events that are taking place.

The film was a minor hit earning $9,747,988 versus a budget of $5,000,000 [27]. It has become a cult film among sci-fi and horror fans. If you like those genres, buddy cop films, 1980’s films, or any of the cast, then you should check this out. If you enjoy this, you may also like Near Dark, Scanners, Night of the Creeps, or The Blob.


19. Dead Heat (1988)


“You can’t keep a good cop dead” [28]. Its Lethal Weapon meets Dawn of the Dead in this buddy cop horror comedy, the ultimate genre mix. Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo play a pair of L.A. cops investigating a robbery that was committed by a group of walking and talking dead guys, who have previous autopsy scars.

A chemical in the dead guys leads them to a company that has created a resurrection machine being operated by Vincent Price and Darren McGavin. Williams’s character accidently gets caught in a machine and dies of asphyxiation. Piscopo is able to bring him back as a zombie using the resurrection machine, Williams character name is ironically Roger Mortis. So Williams must help his partner take care of everyone responsible before his body decomposes.

There are plenty of special effects to please zombie film fans, despite the fact that they had to cut scenes in order to avoid an X rating [29]. There is a memorable scene in a Chinese butcher shop where all of the animals become reanimated. There is also plenty of action scenes and comedic banter between the two main characters. Your liking of it is mainly going to be based on how you feel about Joe Piscopo’s comedic style and delivery.

Piscopo is mainly known for his time on Saturday Night Live from 1980-1984 when he frequently performed with Eddie Murphy. Treat Williams had a period from the late 1970’s through mid 1980’s where he had some memorable roles in Hair, Prince of the City, and Once Upon a Time in America.

The film cost New World Pictures $5,000,000 to make and it was a box office failure, this was one of the last big failures for “soon-to-be-defunct distributor” [29]. Despite the failure, it has grown to be a cult classic among zombie and buddy cop film fans.

So if you enjoy either of those or 1980’s VHS rentals then check this one out, it’s a fun movie. If you liked this film, you may also enjoy Night of the Creeps, Waxwork, Night of the Demons, Lifeforce, and Nightbreed.


20. Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop (1988)

“He Prefers To Kill, Instead Of Protect” [30]. A serial killer dressed in a New York City police officer uniform is going around town murdering people. A young cop played by Bruce Campbell is framed by the real killer, and it’s up to Lieutenant McCrae (Tom Atkins) to solve the puzzle and discover who the maniac cop is.

It turns out the maniac cop was a violent cop who was sent to prison and presumably murdered there. There is debate over whether this film falls in the zombie genre, because it never resolves whether the maniac cop is living or undead.

This is a pretty well produced low budget action/horror film with an impressive list of talented B movie actors with decent performances. It included brief cameos from director Sam Raimi, former boxer Jake Lamotta, and Richard Roundtree of Shaft fame. Bruce Campbell is best known for his portrayal as Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy.

Tom Atkins is a very underrated actor known for appearing in a series of possible cult films, including The Fog, Escape from New York, Creepshow, Night of the Creeps, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (screw the haters), Night of the Creeps, and Lethal Weapon. It also includes popular B movie actor Robert Z’Dar, who is known for his very large and distinct jaw. There is a very good interview with him on the extras of the DVD.

It did poorly at the box office, grossing $671,382 versus a budget of $1,100,000 [31]. Despite the failure, it has grown a cult following among horror fans and the cast involved. It did spawn two more sequels. This one’s a lot of fun especially if you enjoy the 1980’s VHS era; there is more than enough action and violence to please a horror genre fan.

If you like horror, or any of the actors mentioned then you should watch this. If you enjoy this, then you may also like Maniac, Vigilante, and Intruder.


21. Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D (1990)

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D (1990)

“Fatal Sushi … Lethal Chopsticks .. And As American As Apple Pie!” [32]. It’s the ultimate mix in genres and studios, as Troma Entertainment brings a mix of Toxic Avenger and there style to a Japanese style children’s superhero character.

A somewhat inept New York detective is investigating a series of deaths involving kabuki actors, and is passed on Kabuki superhero powers from a dying Kabuki actor. He comes to find out that he has the ability to transform into this superhero Kabukiman whenever he wants, and he uses his superhero powers to take out all of the bad guys.

If you’re familiar with Troma, then you know what you are in for with this one. It contains silly and intentionally offensive dialogue and situations, flying sushi rolls, flying Japanese shoes and umbrellas, an awesomely silly Kabukiman superhero outfit, violence and action.

It’s a love hate relationship from the company that created the Toxic Avenger, so you either love what they do or absolutely hate it. Some Troma fans don’t like this as much because it is rated PG-13 and doesn’t have the same level of excessive violence and nudity as their other films.

So if you like any of the Troma movies, or ones that are weird and absurd, then you may want to give this one a chance.


22. Hard Boiled (1992)

Hard Boiled

“More exciting than a dozen Die Hards” [33]. The story involves Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-Fat), who is looking for revenge against the Triads after his partner and an undercover cop were killed in a gunfight with a group of gangsters. He must eventually team up with Alan (Tony Leung), who is an undercover cop working for the Triad leader played by Anthony Wong.

The films climactic ending takes place in a hospital with a fierce gun battle, where they must try to save the patients while battling mob hit men.

This was director John Woo’s final Hong Kong film before moving on to Hollywood, he had success in Hong Kong with the Better Tomorrow series, The Killer, Bullet in the Head, and Once a Thief. This was by far his action opus, creating quite possibly the greatest action scenes put to camera.

There are three main action sequences that take place in the film; one in the beginning, one towards the middle, and then basically a thirty minute gun battle in a hospital that gets completely destroyed. They are all memorable for various elements. Somewhere near 80 people get killed in this movie, it’s insane. There were also three great main actors at the top of their game in Yun-Fat, Leung, and Wong.

The production sounded pretty grueling. It was mostly shot in an old Coca-Cola plant, doubling for the wharehouse scene, the hospital, and whatever else was needed [34]. They had issues with local gangsters trying to get protection money and threatening to shut down production and destroy equipment [34].

For the hospital scene, they were shooting simultaneously with a second unit inside and outside the building [34]. The shooting schedule was going anywhere from eighteen to twenty four hours a day for four to five days, with the hospital scene taking forty days to complete [34].

The film didn’t do as well as previous Hong Kong films, but has a strong cult following among Hong Kong cinema, action films, and fans of the director and actors. If you like any of those then this is a must see. If you enjoy this film, you may also like The Killer, The Raid, Dredd, and the Police Story series.


23. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

“Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop” [35]. The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) is investigating the rape of a Catholic nun and begins to reflect on his personal lifestyle, which is completely out of control. He has multiple addictions including an out of control gambling addiction that has him in debt with some bookies. He also does a large amount of drugs, messes around with prostitutes, steals police evidence, and uses his status to take advantage of people.

The film stands out for several reasons. There is a very large amount of violence, drugs, and sexual situations which led to the film receiving an NC-17 rating. There is also the very unforgettable fully nude scene involving Keitel. Despite all of the bad subject matter, it is a well made film featuring an unbelievable performance from Keitel. It was directed by Abel Ferrara and co-written by Zoe Lund, who were both involved in the cult revenge film Ms. 45.

The film did decent considering its rating, earning $2,000,000 versus a $1,000,000 budget. It was re-cut to get an R rating for video rental release, because Blockbuster and Hollywood Video wouldn’t carry NC-17 films [35].

The film has a cult following partly because of the fact that it received an NC-17 rating, and partly because of fans of the film and cast. If you like crime thrillers or Keitel, then you should watch this at least once. Just keep in mind that it’s not a happy movie.


24. Insomnia (1997)

Insomnia (1997)

This Norwegian neo-noir thriller involves the investigation of a murder in a city above the Arctic Circle, with a 24 hour daylight cycle. Officer Jonas Engstrom (Stellan Skarsgard) and his partner are sent to the city to track down the killer.

A plan to catch the killer goes bad, and he accidently shoots and kills his partner. In order to protect himself, he covers up evidence in order to make it look like the killer did it. Suffering from insomnia and guilt, he slowly starts going mad and having hallucinations. The killer also saw what happened and is trying to blackmail Engstrom and a cat and mouse type game ensues amongst them.

This is a great psychological thriller, which focuses more on the Engstrom character and his problems than on the search for the killer. Skarsgard gives an excellent performance as the cop trying to keep himself together. He is probably most known to American audiences for appearing in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Mamma Mia, and also in multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe films. An American remake was done in 2002 starring Al Pacino, but is nowhere near as good as the original.

If you liked the remake, crime thrillers, or neo-noirs, then you should check this out.


25. Infernal Affairs (2002)

Infernal Affairs film

“The Motion Picture that inspired The Departed” [36]. This is a complex Hong Kong produced police crime thriller. There is a police officer secretly undercover in the local Triad, while at the same time a police inspector is also secretly a member of that Triad gang. What plays out is an intense cat and mouse game, where both are trying to figure out who is the mole and who is the cop.

This is an excellent and suspenseful crime drama with a great cast of well known Hong Kong actors, including Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, and Eric Tsui. There are great performances all around, but three stand out.

Tony Leung for his portrayal of the undercover cop, Anthony Wong as the Superintendant and the only person who knows the undercover cops true identity, and Andy Lau as the Inspector who is secretly working with the Triads. The film won multiple awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Leung, and Best Supporting Actor for Wong.

There are many memorable and intense scenes in this film, such as one where Leung’s character is trying to tip off the police about a drug deal without being noticed, while Lau’s character is trying to figure out who the undercover cop is.

The climatic ending is one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon when you watch this. The popularity of the film resulted in two sequels being made along with an American remake. Despite The Departed winning Academy Awards, it is straight garbage compared to the original.

It has a cult following among Hong Kong film fans, and fans of the cast. If you like crime thrillers, police dramas, or foreign films, then you need to see this one.

All the works cited can be found here.

Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.