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Eternal Question Finally Answered: Who is the Greatest Movie Cop of All-Time?

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Inevitably in any social setting known to man the question of “Who is the best movie cop of all-time?” perks it’s head up out of nowhere to hijack the conversation for the rest of the evening. That question can finally now be definitively answered thanks to the efforts of Sidepoints contributors Bobby Kwitkowski & Kevin Hocevar as well as myself.

For this massively important undertaking we chose the route of setting up a 36 cop bracket. We were originally going to roll with 32, but decided for the sake of consistency (and more importantly because it’s our bracket and we can do what we want) to have 4 play-in games consisting of the final 8 cops in the field. The selection process was tedious. We each jogged years of movie watching (with an assist to IMDB). We came up with a list of nearly 50 but had to start making cuts to narrow it down to 36 (Sorry Paul Blart).  From there, we selected the play-in games and then (to avoid potential seeding bias) used a double-randomization process to slot the remaining cops. From there we went through the matchups and each wrote down our votes. After the votes were completed for a round we revealed and in democratic tradition (U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!) the higher vote earner marched on towards the title of greatest movie cop of all-time.  It’s important to note that we did not include duos in this list. It was too difficult to determine whether or not they would’ve been just as good without their partner, so we discluded them from consideration.

Without further ado, let’s get to the participants (in no particular order):

John Anderton (Minority Report)

Eliot Ness (The Untouchables)

Undercover Brother/Anton Jackson (Undercover Brother) – Play-In Participant

Lt. Hanna (Heat)

Jimmy Doyle (The French Connection) – Play-In Participant

Officer Doofy (Scary Movie)

Ace Ventura (Ace Ventura 1 & 2)

Sam Gerard (The Fugitive & US Marshals)

John McClane (Die Hard 1, 2, 3, 4)

Donnie Brasco (Donnie Brasco)

Mike Lowery (Bad Boys 1 & 2)

Dirty Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool)

Frank Drebin (Naked Gun 1, 2 ½ & 33 1/3)

Richie Roberts (American Gangster)

Staff Sgt. Dignam (The Departed)

Judge Dredd (Judge Dredd) – Play-In Participant

John Kimble (Kindergarten Cop)

Shaft (Shaft)

Dave Kujan (The Usual Suspects) – Play-In Participant

Axel Foley (Beverly Hills Cop 1, 2, & 3)

Billy Costigan (The Departed)

Walker (Timecop) – Play-In Participant

Woody (Toy Story 1, 2, & 3)

John Spartan (Demolition Man)

Jacques Clouseau (The Pink Panther) – Play-In Participant

Commissioner Gordon (Batman Franchise)

Alonzo Harris (Training Day)

Johnny Utah (Point Break)

Bud White (L.A. Confidential) – Play-In Participant

Serpico (Serpico)

Nicholas Angel (Hot Fuzz)

Robocop (Robocop 1, 2, & 3)

Chief Wiggum (The Simpsons Movie)

T-1000 (Terminator 2)

Marion Cobretti (Cobra)

Carey Mahoney  (Police Academy 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7) – Play-In Participant

There you have it,  your list of 36 contenders to the crown, which will reign supreme as the best cop in the history of motion pictures? Let’s get to the matchups to find out:

Play-In Games: (Sorry NCAA, this isn’t round 1, these are the play-in games. Odds of an upset are small, and odds of them making it anywhere near the final four are impossible:

Undercover Brother vs. Jimmy Doyle

On the strength of his Afro and the fact that I was the only one to have seen the French Connection, Undercover Brother marches on.

Jacques Clouseau vs. Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd is the law, just ask him, he’ll tell you. Jacques Clouseau on the other hand has morphed from a great character into an absolute joke thanks to the god-awful performances by Steve Martin. Judge Dredd wins.

Walker vs. Dave Kujan

Full Disclosure, Walker made the field just to get Jean-Claude Van Damme back onto the scene. Kujan was a much better cop and didn’t have to wear neon spandex to prove it. Kujan Wins.

Carey Mahoney vs. Bud White

Again, having been the only one to see LA Confidential, I didn’t have high hopes for Bud’s chances. Truthfully, even I couldn’t pick him in this matchup. Mahoney has 7 films under his belt and moves on.

There you have it, the brackets are now set and we are ready to get after the difficult task at hand and determine once and for all, who the best movie cop of all-time is.

Round 1: Due to the fact that we double randomized the bracket positioning, there were some matchups that had no business being in the first round, but as they say when deciding the movie cop hierarchy, to be the best, you have to beat the best. Let’s get after it.

John Anderton vs. Undercover Brother

Fresh off his play-in victory, the Undercover Brother is looking to pull the upset on John Anderton. Anderton discovered the flaw…or did he? Bob’s question was did he solve it? Or was it pre-cog… (to be honest I stopped paying attention at this point and just drank a few more sips of my beer)… Undercover Brother on the other hand was a vigilante cop… The Afro was enough to get him here, but what put him over the top was the Orange Soda Dispenser, and the fact that he had just too much mayo for one sandwich to handle. Undercover Brother wins it on a buzzer beater.

John McClane vs. Ace Ventura

McClane is a favorite in any contest he enters including which cop could drink the most beer and which man has eaten the most cold cuts in his life. This contest is no different. It’s tough to see the only animal cop in the field bow out so early, but matchups make the tournament, and there’s no way Ace Ventura could win this one. McClane advances.

Mike Lowery vs Richie Roberts

This was a difficult matchup to pick. Roberts was a non-tough guy cop and nailed it… but at the end of the day Mike Loooowwwwwerrryyy is just much for fun to say. Lowery rides his love of tropical fruit bubblicious into the 2nd round.

Frank Drebin vs. Billy Costigan

Drebin, a veteran of multiple movies, that as Bob put it… “were equally… equal” didn’t have much of a shot in this one. Costigan was very adamant that he was “Nawwt a Cawwwwwp” and he was key to a great movie. He wasn’t THE key, but Costigan marches on easily.

Eliot Ness vs Judge Dredd

The movie version of Eliot Ness was untouchable? The real one? Ehhh, rumors have it being not the case. That notwithstanding he drew a tough matchup in facing off against Judge Dredd. I had a feeling this was going to be a split decision, and it was. Kevin excitedly declared that Judge Dredd was his George Mason… Bob on the other hand went with Eliot Ness. Leaving the decision up to me, I forcefully declared “I am the law!” and nearly had Dredd’s name penned in, but Eliot Ness lives on in liquid form thanks to the fantastic Great Lakes Brewing Company’s beer of the same name. That was the decision maker for me and Ness advances. Kevin’s darkhorse was eliminated and he drown his sorrows with a might swig of his Goose Island Honker’s Ale.

John Kimble vs. Officer Doofy

When this matchup was announced, Kevin exclaimed “NOOOOOOOOOO! Why did Kimble have to go against Doofy?!?!” Doofy was both handicapped and a killer, making him a dangerous two-fer. Kimble on the other hand has provided the world with endless quotable moments and potentially the best prank call soundboard in recorded history. Doofy provides a laugh a minute, but Kimble yelled “STOP IT!” as he narrowly escaped with a win.

Sam Gerard vs Dirty Harry Callahan

Kevin, still stinging from just losing two of his favorites “couldn’t care less” about this matchup. Dirty Harry was a hard-nosed cop with a bad attitude. Extremely quotable and Callahan moves on easily despite Kevin voting for Doofy again on this one.

Lt. Hanna vs Donnie Brasco

Two very good roles and two very good movies, but as Kevin again mentioned, had these guys been up against Doofy, they would’ve gotten smoked. Still, one has to advance and Donnie Brasco moves on.

Shaft vs. Dave Kujan

Shaft was another no-nonsense cop, and the focal point of the movie. Kujan on the other hand was a thinking man’s cop… it was a split decision, but Shaft got the nod due to the fact that Kujan didn’t figure it out until it was too late.

Axel Foley vs. Commissioner Gordon

This is like Duke vs. UNC in the first round. Both definitely deserve to move on, but only one can. Another split decision, but in the end, this was Eddie Murphy at his best and Foley survives and advances.

Nick Angel vs. Chief Wiggum

Tough to separate movie Chief Wiggum from his television role. Nick Angel was everything that a cop should be… but Wiggum shot donuts off his gun, and that kind of genius just doesn’t come along too often; Wiggum wins.

Serpico vs. Robocop

More often than not, when there is a robot involved, Kevin is all about it. This was no different as he quickly voiced his support for Robocop. What I didn’t realize though was that Bob has some deep seated resentment for Robocop…. May or may not have even said: “Robocop Sucks.” Also of note, Robocop was only half robot… that nugget may have very well influenced future votes. Despite that, Robocop moves on because Serpico as a film just doesn’t withstand the test of time, whereas Cyborg cops will never go out of style.

T-1000 vs. Carey Mahoney

After a discussion over whether or not it was T-1000 or T-2000, the vote was underway, and it wasn’t even close; 3 votes for T-1000 in a matter of seconds.

John Spartan vs. Johnny Utah

A terrible draw for John Spartan. Spartan definitely had 2nd round in his future, but drew a juggernaut in Johnny Utah. As Kevin put it: “Anyone that drew Johnny Utah was just a punching bag.” In this case, Spartan was that punching bag and Utah advances with ease.

Cobretti vs. Alonzo Harris

Cobretti was a “new kind of cop, bred by society to do the job that nobody wants.” Harris on the other hand was a dirty cop that did what he needed to do… King Kong didn’t have sh-t on him… Despite Cobra having the most quotable line… “Go ahead, I don’t shop here,” Harris moves on in a tight, split decision.

Staff Sgt. Dignam vs Woody

Let’s face it, Woody is in the field thanks to my politicking. Given the right matchup he may very well have moved on… but facing Dignam? He had about as much chance of winning this one as a dog has at winning a Chinese spelling bee. Woody is a toy, Dignam is the truth. Dignam in a rout.

With that, our field of 36 is now down to the sweet sixteen. Those just happy to be there are slowly being whittled out. Some big name casualties along the way, but at the end, there can only be one winner.

Round 2:

Undercover Brother vs. John McClane

Anton has had a nice run, two buzzer beaters put him in this position, but as is the case with Cinderellas, inevitably they run into a monster. For Undercover Brother, the monster is the cowboy himself John McClane. A loss to McClane is nothing to be embarrassed by, especially since it took some big shots late to get here… unfortunately the Orange Soda dispenser ran out and so did his chances at winning. McClane with the win.

Mike Lowery vs. Billy Costigan

This decision came down to one key point… if it weren’t for Costigan, there would be no movie. Mike Lowery got my vote, but it was a coin-flip at best. Even though Costigan was Pippen to Dignam’s Jordan, that’s still enough to earn the win over a game Mike Lowery.

Eliot Ness vs. John Kimble

Ness earned his way here, but even the beer isn’t enough to beat out John Kimble. This role helped pave the way for future comedic classics as Jingle All The Way and Junior. Things like that just can’t be ignored, so unfortunately it’s the end for Eliot Ness. Kimble moves on.

Dirty Harry Callahan vs. Donnie Brasco

Kevin isn’t too keen on Dirty Harry as he “isn’t into Westerns or whatever,” but a single no vote doesn’t mean a loss. Donnie Brasco was Jersey Shore before Jersey Shore, calling out Fugazis with mongoose like quickness. Still, Dirty Harry is an institution and he earned the hard fought victory.

Shaft vs. Axel Foley

This battle was decided by one key fact…. Bronson Pinchot was in Beverly Hills Cop 3. Shaft has no body of work that can compare to performing alongside the actor formerly known as Balki Bartokomous. The Balki effect was more than enough to have him march on… Axel advances.

Chief Wiggum vs. Robocop

While Wiggum wasn’t a central part of the Simpsons Movie, it’s tough to dismiss the body of work. Once Bob reminded Kevin that Robocop was not a full robot, this vote was sealed… Wiggum moves on.

T-1000 vs. Johnny Utah

It’s going to take a perfect storm to defeat Johnny Utah. T-1000 had no chance from the start. He gave it a shot, but his best wasn’t nearly good enough. Utah moves on without much trouble.

Alonzo Harris vs. Staff Sgt. Dignam

Both played key roles to the movie. This may have been Denzel’s best performance in his hall of fame career. Still, that wasn’t enough to overcome Dignam and his excellence. Harris gives it his all, but comes up short. Dignam marches on to the elite 8.

At this point in the contest, Kevin and Bob both realize what this means… That there will be an Elite 8 matchup of Dignam vs. Johnny Utah… or will there be? After serious discussion we decided to be progressive and randomly re-seed for the elite eight. Why do this? What give us the right? Well it’s our contest and we can do whatever the hell we want. So, after the random re-seed, we are left with the following matchups…

John McClane vs. Chief Wiggum

This pairing led Kevin to do a lot of soul searching. He had to separate TV Wiggum vs. Movie Wiggum. In the end it didn’t really matter, Bob and I both picked McClane, but it was fun to hang out and watch him rationalize his decision. McClane punches his ticket to the final four.

John Kimble vs. Axel Foley

There are no more easy picks at this stage in the game. The Banana in the tailpipe was nearly enough to put Foley into the final four… but at the end of the day, and after a 2-1 vote, the hours upon hours of fun with the Kindergarten Cop soundboard was enough for Kimble to advance.

Staff Sgt. Dignam vs. Dirty Harry Callahan

With the main point of the re-seed being splitting up Utah and Dignam, it was a foregone conclusion that Dignam would win this battle. Still, it wasn’t as easy at is seems. Harry still got a vote, but in the end the fact that Dignam was only suspended (with pay) for being a badass is more than enough for him to survive and advance.

Johnny Utah vs. Billy Costigan

This was the toughest battle in the competition to this point. On one hand you have a man in Johnny Utah who had a dog thrown at him and even that did not deter him from the matter at hand. It wasn’t to be for Costigan even without the reseed he would have taken on John McClane and probably would’ve been defeated… but against Utah… really no chance. Utah moves on.

The final four is set…. John McClane, John Kimble, Staff Sgt. Sean Dignam, and Johnny Utah. Undoubtedly the name John is the best cop name in the history of American cinema, but the winner of this battle is still yet to be determined.

John McClane vs. John Kimble

In one of the more improbable runs in bracket history, somehow John Kimble has made it to the final four… Part luck, part skill, part awkward hilarity all led him here. Unfortunately for him, he just can’t compete with the epitome of manliness that is Die Hard. John McClane claims his rightful spot in the finals with an easier than expected, but still hard-fought semifinal matchup.

Staff Sgt. Dignam vs. Johnny Utah

In the battle to end all battles, Dignam takes on Utah. A matchup destined for the finals, but even a random reseed couldn’t make it happen. One of these men has to win and it came down to this… The back of the Point Break box promises Skydiving, Surfing, Bank Robberies, Football, Car Chases, Fist Fights, and Gun Fights… Can Dignam compete with that? He has the better lines but fist fights and gun fights can’t hang with extreme sports and saving the life of a thrown dog… Utah moves on to the finals.

…and with that, the championship pairing is set. In one corner John McClane with his 4-movie resumé taking on former Ohio State QB-turned cop Johnny Utah.

John McClane vs. Johnny Utah

After defeating Dignam, Johnny Utah is flying high, but he can’t let his guard down now as he’s staring down the barrel of a matchup with John McClane. McClane deserves his spot in the championship pairing, but he needs to bring his A-game to take home the title. He has the repertoire, he has the pedigree, and the 4 movie library. Utah on the other hand is only a veteran of one movie, but he crammed more into two hours than most actors have in their lifetimes. Still though, the point remains that Utah had Bodhi in his grasp… and let him go to die on his own before quitting for unknown reasons… Or was that all part of the game? These are questions that can never be answered and may never be answered because only he and Bodhi know the truth. Utah has defeated some big names in order to get to this point and the master cop adds one more notch to his belt in John McClane.

…After 3 hours of deep contemplation, analytical reasoning, and formulaic masterwork, we came to a conclusion that we already knew… That Johnny Utah reigns supreme as the greatest movie cop of all-time.


6 Responses to “Eternal Question Finally Answered: Who is the Greatest Movie Cop of All-Time?”

  1. Also, it’s important to note that although we left out famous, or traditional partner-pairs, some of these lucky lawmen were paired up with an on-screen partner, but our reasoning was that the partner did not contribute enough to call it a partnership. If we couldn’t remember their name, then they could have been written out of the movie and the chosen cop would still have carried the weight of the movie. Sure, BAD BOYS had Martin Lawrence and Will Smith….great pair…but, can you name the other one other than Lowery? Nope. Angelo Pappas? Jake Hoyt? Not nearly as compelling as Johnny Utah & Alonzo Harris.

    Posted by Bobby Digital | May 29, 2011, 8:41 pm

    “Full Disclosure, Walker made the field just to get Jean-Claude Van Damme back onto the scene. Kujan was a much better cop and didn’t have to wear neon spandex to prove it. Walker Wins”

    KUJAN wins….Flawless Victory!

    Posted by Bobby Digital | May 29, 2011, 8:46 pm
  3. “but as they say when deciding the movie cop hierarchy, to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

    THAT IS EXACTLY what they say!

    Posted by Bobby Digital | May 29, 2011, 8:47 pm
  4. “Dignam is the truth!”

    Posted by Bobby Digital | May 29, 2011, 8:53 pm
  5. One of the greatest nights, and greatest articles of all time. I think the final sentence really says it all….hilariously…That Johnny Utah reigns supreme as the greatest movie cop of all-time. Some outsiders might say that is an upset. Some within our group would say that was a foregone conclusion before we even created this bracket. But when Utah took out Dignam, I think we all knew Utah was taking the gold. But now that the big questions have been answered, let me just flat out say what my final four would be. 1) Johnny Utah, 2) Dignam, 3) Officer Doofy, and 4) John Kimble.

    Posted by Kevin Hocevar | May 29, 2011, 9:03 pm

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