Revealed: The 25 Greatest Movie Cops - Part I

Team HCC picks the very best boys in blue. And robots. And dogs...

25: John 'Scottie' Ferguson (Vertigo)

Tenacity and perseverance are key strengths in any cop – traits that James Stewart's detective 'Scottie' Ferguson displays both before and after retirement in Hitchcock's thriller. As Vertigo opens, even latent acrophobia can't stop Ferguson pursuing a criminal in a rooftop chase (although, sadly, it does prevent him stopping a fellow officer falling to his death). Later, an old friend's suicide leads to the kind of obsessive behaviour that's necessary to solve even the most complicated cases – but also causes Ferguson to have a nervous breakdown. Still, imagine what he would be capable of if he was working on a case he was less personally involved with. And which didn't involve heights…

Get the disc: The only way to get this film in HD is as part of Universal's hit-and miss Hitchcock boxset. Thankfully, Vertigo is one of the best of the transfers

24: Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon)

While we want our policemen and women to be courageous and committed to the job, Mel Gibson's mullet-wearing ex-army copper in the Lethal Weapon franchise takes things up a notch by being suicidal (it doesn't help that evil South Africans keep killing his girlfriends). This brings an unpredictable edge to his working life, but Riggs' ability to escape from a straitjacket, handle a sniper rifle and kill someone with his bare hands just about makes up for all the mood swings. Unfortunately, as he overcomes his depression and becomes a family man, the movies get worse. 

Get the disc: Warner Home Video released all four films in a Blu-ray box set in 2010, with a fifth disc of bonus goodies

23: Larvell Jones (Police Academy)

Crime-fighters need any edge they can get, and in the shape of Police Academy's Larvell Jones that means being able to replicate a multitude of noises using nothing more than his own larynx. During the original film's training sequences, Jones' talent is mainly deployed to wind up irritable authority figure Lt. Harris, but once the cadets are finally allowed onto the mean streets of Los Angeles he proves his worth by imitating the sound of a machine gun to disperse a crowd of rioters. Jones, played by US comedian Michael Winslow, appeared in each of the movie's six sequels and should return for the rumoured seventh.

Get the disc: Only the first two are available on Blu-ray. There's a Police Academy: The Complete Collection DVD boxset available for devotees

22: Jim Malone (The Untouchables)

Before Bureau of Investigations agent Elliot Ness decides the best way to bring down Chicago gangster Al Capone is by poking around in his tax returns, he takes some fatherly advice from beat cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery). Malone is the team's secret weapon – street-savvy, hard as nails and not against blowing someone's brains out if it will help the cause – and it's his pep talk – 'they pull a knife, you pull a gun...' – that turns Ness from lily-livered pen-pusher to successful crime fighter. His worldly knowledge doesn't stop him getting assassinated by Frank Nitti, though, in one of the film's bloodiest scenes.

Get the disc: Paramount's 2007 Blu-ray release looks good, but doesn't offer a lossless audio mix

21: Frank Bullitt (Bullitt)

Steve McQueen took inspiration for Frank Bullitt from real-life San Francisco cop Dave Toschi (later played onscreen by Mark Ruffalo in Zodiac) – particularly the upside-down gun holster. Even so, we're not sure any non-fictional cop could be quite as cool as McQueen's 60s icon. Bullitt is the epitome of ice-cold composure, strutting his way through Peter Yates' downbeat thriller without breaking a sweat. He doesn't even look particularly bothered thrashing a Ford Mustang GT around the city streets.

Get the disc: This 1968 movie looks okay on Warner's 2007 Blu-ray, but you might want more than a stereo audio track

20: Danson & Highsmith (The Other Guys)

Before focusing on Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's accidental heroes, this 2010 comedy hit introduces Chris Danson (The Rock) and P.K. Highsmith (Samuel L Jackson), a duo of overblown, arrogant detectives in the habit of creating mayhem and destruction just to collar a petty crim. Hanging from car roofs, crashing through shop windows and uttering one-liners ('You have the right to remain silent... but I wanna hear you scream!') is their forte. They bow out in style in the first act, but we'd happily watch an entire 90 minutes of their clichéd exploits.

Get the disc: Sony Pictures' all-region Blu-ray is hard to fault and packed with extras

19: Marge Gunderson (Fargo)

An Oscar-winning turn from Frances McDormand introduced movie fans to pregnant Minnesota detective Marge Gunderson in the Coen brothers' celebrated crime drama. Gunderson's local traits – saying 'you betcha' a lot, being unfathomably nice all the time – don't exactly mark her out as a criminal's worst nightmare, but she succeeds in piecing together the clues and apprehending Peter Stormare's psychotic kidnapper, before giving him a lecture on morality in the car on the drive to the station. Class.

Get the disc: Fox's region-free BD includes a few decent extras and a solid transfer

18: Matt Cordell (Maniac Cop)

Matt Cordell isn't like the other policemen here. While some of the others present may veer close to vigilantism in their pursuit of a criminal, they mainly stay on the right side of the law. Cordell, on the other hand, is a chap just as likely to kill the victim of a crime as those responsible for it. 

And on top of that, he's a zombie – which makes him incredibly hard to put out of action. So, while it's a shame that he operates on the wrong side of the law, this undead cop makes a big impression on those unlucky enough to cross his path.

Get the disc: This B-movie scrubs up surprisingly well on Arrow's 2011 Blu-ray and offers a smattering of arresting extras

17: Jerry Lee (K-9)

Jerry Lee is the only quadruped to sneak into our Top 25 – yet what he lacks in opposable thumbs he makes up for in good, old-fashioned loyalty. 

As the partner to James Belushi's San Diego detective in the 1989 comedy-thriller, sniffer dog Lee provides most of the movie's gentle gags, initially making his owner's life even more of a misery than it had should be considering there's a contract out on his head. But, when it matters, the cop-dog leaps into action and takes a bullet for his beleaguered boss – it's a pity JFK didn't have him around... 

Get the disc: Not available on Blu-ray, but the entire K-9 trilogy can be bought on DVD for as little as £6

16: Johnny Utah (Point Break)

At first, FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) comes across as a bit of a prat. Arrogant and naive, it's remarkable that his grizzled partner (played by Gary Busey) doesn't slap him around. Yet during the course of Kathryn Bigelow's superior thriller, Utah undergoes a transformation from desk jockey to surf-crazed adrenaline junkie, who'll do anything – including robbing banks and jumping out of aeroplanes without a parachute – to get the bad guy and rescue the girl. Then he grows his hair long and quits. Shame.

Get the disc: Warner's back-catalogue 2011 Blu-ray release is rated 18 – despite all the elements being passed by the BBFC as 15... Odd.

15: Doug Carlin (Deja Vu)

At the beginning of the day, ATF agent Carlin (Denzel Washington) is investigating what could be an accidental explosion on a New Orleans ferry. By lunchtime he's deduced it's the work of a terrorist and by mid-afternoon he's exposed the existence of a government time-bending programme. Soon he's travelled back in time to halt the murder of a woman he's never met, saving her life but trapping himself in a paradox for all eternity. All impressive, and that's before we get to his talent for driving cars in the present while chasing the past. Or something.

Get the disc: Tony Scott's illogical sci-fi was an early Blu-ray release for Disney – the 2007 platter offers PCM 5.1 audio

14: Inspector Bun (Mad Detective)

Chain Kawi-Bun (Lau Ching-Wan) was one of the best cops around. Unfortunately, he was also completely mad – and forced to quit after cutting off his ear and presenting it to a superior officer. Five years later Bun is called out of retirement (which he shares with an imaginary wife) to employ his unique talents on a baffling murder case. Insanely inventive and utterly unpredictable, this Asian cop flick has more in common with the films of David Lynch than John Woo, but is none the worse for it. 

Get the disc: As the first release from Eureka's acclaimed Masters of Cinema range (although it's actually #2 in collection), the UK BD impresses

13: Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs)

Plucked from her studies at Quantico to interview incarcerated cannibal Hannibal Lecter, FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) eventually becomes a key player in the investigation into serial killer Buffalo Bill. However, it's her verbal sparring with Lecter that shows her true grit and netted her sixth spot on the American Film Institute's list of cinema's 100 greatest heroes and villains. 

That's enough reason to ignore her eventual fate in the ludicrous follow-up, Hannibal.

Get the disc: While Fox's MPEG-2 encode shows its age, the Blu-ray can be found for less than a tenner in a boxset with Red Dragon and Hannibal

Come back tomorrow for Part II of our 25 Greatest Movie Cops...