Eight Awesome Movie Detectives

I’m not sure how many real life detectives have the lives that movie detectives do.  In fact I would bet that most of the job is boring paperwork.  However I’m sure on occasion they get some amazing cases and it’s those cases that movie detectives are probably based on.

And just to not get too technical, not all the people below have the rank of detective in the movie but I couldn’t title the article best movie cops because it’s too broad.   Trust me.  These guys are detectives anyway.

Here are eight awesome movie detectives…..

Detective Lt. William Somerset – Se7en

One could also argue for Brad Pitt as well but let’s face it, Morgan Freeman is awesome in this movie.  Somerset is basically retiring and taking his last case.  Little did he know it would be the best case of his career taking on the criminal mind of Kevin Spacey’s character.  He’s both a mentor to Pitt and a man who still feels he has much to learn.

Samuel Gerard – The Fugitive

I think this is probably Tommy Lee Jones’ best movie role.   It’s tough to argue against it.  First of all he’s hilarious constantly making light of situations and his team.  But deep down you know he’s a sympathetic man and is only doing his job in trying to catch Richard Kimble.  Best line:  “I don’t care!”

Wendell “Bud” White – L.A. Confidential

White is the quintessential tough guy cop who is a bruiser.  He gets his way by beating the crap out of people and breaking all the rules.   Clearly he’s going to have to do it again to figure out all the corruption in his precinct.

JJ Gittes – Chinatown

Jack Nicholson is the slick , and slightly sleazy divorce detective, who gave up on doing the right thing a long time ago, back when he was a cop in Chinatown.  If you haven’t seen this film then you must.

Patrick Kenzie – Gone Baby Gone

Played very well by Casey Affleck, Kenzie isn’t a detective in the conventional sense.  In fact he works for detectives as sort of a freelancer.  However for the purposes of this article I definitely count him as a detective because he does all the digging and finding in this film.

Billy Costigan – The Departed

You could probably go with Damon here.  Or even Wahlberg.  But I think Dicaprio probably did the best acting performance in this film.   Costigan is a man torn by both his past and present and you can see it the entire movie.

Alonzo Harris – Training Day

You either really liked this performance by Denzel Washington or you hated it.  Obviously the Oscars liked it.

Detective Prendergast – Falling Down

His last day on the job and he’s left to find psychotic Michael Douglas who’s basically terrorizing downtown LA because he’s had it with society.

*Arnold in Kindergarten Cop?

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  1. Excellent list. Especially like that you included Kenzie from Gone Baby Gone, one of my favorite movies of all time.

    Awesome. “And I mean ICE!”

  2. Mark Wahlberg definitely deserves it more than DiCaprio for The Departed. Mainly because Leo was not a detective. He was an undercover cop and did not really do any detective work. He knew Costello was the target the entire time and only found out Damon was the rat because he had the envelope of social security numbers on his desk. While Wahlberg does little detective work on camera, his job implies he had been building a case against Costello for a long time.

    Also, got to throw in Bruce Wayne. Sure there is not a whole lot of detective work in the movies, in fact the bullet analysis scene is all that comes to mind, but we all know he is the world’s greatest detective.

    And just how do you not include any version of Sherlock Holmes?

  3. Couple more:
    Denzel or Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.
    Tom Hanks in Catch Me If You Can.
    Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs.

    * Yes I know Hanks and Foster are FBI agents but it still counts in my book.

    Most glaring ommission:
    Riggs and Murtaugh

    And probably my personal favourite:
    Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) in Kiss The Girls/Along Came A Spider

  4. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Chaser (korean movie) but Joong ho the ex-cop turned pimp out to find his prostitute from a serial killer should be on this list. he was an awesome character in the movie and unlike the police he actually did his job well.

  5. Including detectives/investigators/inspectors. (All of them depending on the force, country and context).

    Detective Lt. John McClane? His investigative work was not the forefront of the films but he is still did it every so often.

    I always found Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan from Rush Hour series) to be enjoyable.

    Sherlock Holmes. The movie is divided among viewers but I liked it.

    Mulder and Scully (Mainly known for the TV show they had two films so their inclusion as investigators is a side note)

    Ace Ventura (Pet detective). Just to add some humor to the list.

    Chow Yun-fat as Inspector “Tequila” Yuen in Hard Boiled.

    Inspector Gadget (Omitted since the movie was god awful).

  6. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Dirty Harry in this line-up. Along with his token lines, Clint played the bad cop role perfectly. He defied the authority of his superiors to always make sure the job was done and a criminal was off the street.

  7. Someone said Sherlock Holmes and Humphrey Bogart, they aren’t police detectives. I think the list is supposed to be about cops.

    But 2 glaring omission I see, Steve McQueen as Det Frank Bullitt in “Bullitt”, and Gene Hackman as Det Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in the “French Connection”

  8. Rick Deckard in _Blade Runner_ — he certainly is a detective and does detecting, and although retired at the beginning of the movie, he is told “You are back on the force”, so presumably that counts.

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