When it comes to movies, cops are usually the good guys. Every so often, though, there comes an officer of the law that abuses his (or her) power like it was a red-headed stepchild. With Sabotage coming out this week, we wanted to honor those dirty cops who take what they want and usually leave a trail of trouble in their wake.
I want to be clear that I don’t believe that all cops are corrupt. Some are just power-crazed dickheads (…he said, suspecting that he would never get out of another traffic ticket again). Seriously, though, we’ve got a lot of respect for the vast majority of the men and women who keep us safe at night. However, when it comes to movies, they’re usually not the fun ones. So, prepare yourself for the dirtiest, most corrupt cops that cinema has to offer, and pray that they don’t respond to your 911 call one day.
10. Bobby Monday (Premium Rush)
Before he was General Zod, Michael Shannon was a corrupt cop trying to hunt down a bicycle messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) carrying a mysterious package. Of course, the reason why he’s coming in at No. 10 is because he had trouble catching a bicycle messenger. I’m not trying to knock JGL’s performance, but I would hope a New York City detective would have an easier time than that catching some kid on a bike. Then again, that wouldn’t have made for much of a story. Anyway, Shannon showed off his rage-fueled side as he flipped out every five minutes in this flick. Anger issues do not make for a good cop.
9. Joe Cooper (Killer Joe)
You don’t get much more corrupt than good old Joe. He was a true psychopath that actually worked on the side as a contract killer. And things got interesting when he wound up doing a job for some people who couldn’t pay him and ended up taking a woman as a retainer fee. The normally charming Matthew McConaughey decided that he was going to become a real actor with this role, and he made pretty much everyone uncomfortable in a scene involving some friend chicken. Other than that, though, this movie is a finger-lickin’ good time, filled with more violence than you can shake a cowboy boot at…Or something.
8. Frank Butterman (Hot Fuzz)
Jim Broadbent is typically known for playing delightfully charming old men in movies. That’s why it was so surprising him playing a villain in Hot Fuzz. Now, there was nothing really threatening about the old police inspector, but that doesn’t make him any less of a baddie. You see, he was a little too devoted to maintaining order in his small country town, and he went to some pretty extraordinary lengths to keep the peace. He would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for that meddling Simon Pegg. It just goes to show that all the best villains really are British…
7. Captain McCluskey (The Godfather)
…But then again, the Irish are sort of like the British, when you get down to it. [Editor's note: The author is Irish by heritage, and we can confirm that he is truly evil more often than not.] Coming in at No. 7 is a cop so corrupt that he sat back and did… Well, nothing. He pretty much took payoffs and let the mafia do whatever they wanted in The Godfather. Sometimes evil triumphs when Irish cops do nothing. That might not sound like such a big deal, but that famous restaurant scene wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t a been for old Danny Boy here. Not only was he a corrupt cop, but he was a pretty lousy one to let himself getting taken out by some mobster that was still wet behind the ears. Despite all that, though, he was still one of the most corrupt officers in cinema history.
6. Captain Dudley Smith (L.A. Confidential)
L.A. Confidential was full of corrupt cops, but the ringleader of them all was James Cromwell’s Dudley Smith. First of all, Dudley is a stupid name. However, he managed to overcome his handicap by manipulating members of the police force to do his bidding. Most notable was the thuggish Bud White (Russell Crowe), whom he let loose on unsuspecting drug dealers (these were 1930s drug dealers, so they wore suits and fedoras) in order to run them out of town and control the drug trade himself. Seems like the Irish are starting to take over this list, but then, again the Irish cop is a stereotype for a reason.
5. Colin Sullivan (The Departed)
Another Irish cop? What’s going on here?! Well, The Departed did take place in Boston, and you can’t throw a potato without hitting an Irishman there. All ethnic stereotypes aside, Matt Damon was a pretty impressive corrupt cop. He managed to remain undetected for years, getting placed on the task force that was actually hunting him and steering them all in the wrong direction. Plus, when he finally did get caught, the guy swept all the evidence under the rug and killed the one guy who could have put him away. He was one hell of a dirty cop, and he probably could have even ended up as mayor if no one had stopped him.
4. Terrence McDonagh (Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans)
I still can’t make up my mind when it comes to Nicholas Cage. He does a good movie and then he does a terrible movie. Luckily, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was a pretty damn good movie. Cage plays the titular bad lieutenant, who seems to have it all figured out as he makes his rounds through the city. Of course, there’s a pretty dark side to the guy, who wanders around in a drug-fueled haze due to a back injury. Not only is he addicted to painkillers, but he also smokes pot and snorts cocaine all the time. Despite being a seemingly bad guy who rats on the police for cash, he’s still a good cop at heart, and he stumbles through his duties when he isn’t beating people up and stealing drugs.
3. Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)
Hey, just because a cop is a corrupt piece of garbage doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. Well, the term “bad guy” might be relative. It doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily the worst guy in the movie. A lot of people say that Harry is a racist, sexist pig. I like to think of him as an equal-opportunity prick, though. No matter who a guy was, Harry hated him. With his performance in the role, Clint Eastwood secured his reputation as a curmudgeonly old man, a reputation he maintained for pretty much every role to follow. Still, as much of a dickhole as Harry was, he got the job done, and that’s got to count for something at the end of the day. You don’t have to like him, but he will save your sorry ass.
2. Alonzo Harris (Training Day)
Then again, sometimes corrupt cops are just bad guys. Denzel Washington plays arrogant training office Alonzo Harris, a man who owns the streets of LA and seems to have it all figured out. The only downside is that he’s as dirty as they come, stealing drugs and making back-room deals to keep his head above water. Worst of all, he’s doing a crappy job of it, and he even drags his partner into his shady dealings. Of course, Alonzo’s misconduct catches up with him eventually, as he finds himself in hot water not just with the LAPD but with people who aren’t afraid of his badge. The role won Washington an Oscar, and it stands as one of his most memorable.
1. Norman “Stan” Stansfield (The Professional)
There’s a damn good reason why Gary Oldman is coming in at the top of this list, and that’s because he gives one of the best performances of his career in this Luc Besson classic. He’s absolutely terrifying as the drugged-out DEA agent who takes what he wants and doesn’t respect any of the criminals who live in fear of him. Worst of all, he’s not above killing innocent people, and he and his team gun down an entire family over some drugs. As evil as he is, though, you have to give the guy credit for his taste in music. He definitely leans toward the classics. Although that might be his only redeeming quality. For the most part, he tends to let his gun do the talking. This is one cop you don’t want writing your parking citation.