Ah, the action comedy. The magic of the movies makes “cracking jokes while waving a gun” hilarious instead of terrifying. With Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. airing this month on IFC, we raise our coffee and doughnut to the law-enforcement officers who never fail to make us laugh.
10. John McClane, Die Hard series
Whether it’s through his own suffering, his action-packed one-liners, or the way he scribbles “HOHOHO NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN” on dead bad guys, John McClane is the only cop we want to be stuck in a building full of terrorists with.
9. Martin Riggs, Lethal Weapon series
The Lethal Weapon films were Mel Gibson’s most famous (fictional) encounter with the law. A suicidal ex-Special Forces soldier-turned-loose-cannon-cop, Riggs is only held together by his dedication to the law, his hatred of criminals, and his incredibly long-suffering partner Sgt. Murtaugh. Speaking of…
8. Roger Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon series
Riggs is famous for being the unpredictable, madcap comedy character, but he’s only hilarious thanks to the heavy sighs of his straitlaced partner Murtaugh. Without Danny Glover’s comic reactions Riggs would just be a lunatic running around with a gun screaming at people.
7. Det. Inspector Lee and Det. Carter, Rush Hour series
The pairing of Chris Tucker’s motormouth wisecracker and Jackie Chan’s cool, high-kicking martial artist was such a potent combination, it went on to inspire several sequels and imitators. (Kevin Hart should send Tucker residual checks from those Ride Along movies.)
6. Schmidt and Jenko, 21 Jump Street series
The Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill reboot of the classic ’80s TV series redefined the buddy comedy by going meta and flipping the genre’s cliches on its head. We never thought we’d say this, but we’re actually looking forward to 23 Jump Street.
5. Jack Cates and Reggie Hammond, 48 Hours
To be fair, with Eddie Murphy’s hilarious felon hauled around by Nick Nolte’s police officer, there’s technically only one “funny cop” between the two of them. But getting away with ridiculous abuses of regulations in service of doing the right (and funniest) thing is what 48 Hours is all about. We wouldn’t have the buddy cop comedy genre without these two. Click here to see all airings of 48 Hrs. on IFC this month.
4. Nicholas Angel, Hot Fuzz
In Edgar Wright’s hilarious take on action movie tropes, Simon Pegg’s supercop is sent to cool his heels in the sleepy town of Sandford. It’s hard to say what’s funnier: how he reacts when he realizes a small town doesn’t need him to deal with vast murder conspiracies and explosive action scenes, or how he reacts when it does.
3. Marge Gunderson, Fargo
Frances McDormand’s inimitable Marge Gunderson chases down incredibly inept criminals while heavily pregnant. Her down-to-earth demeanor is funnier in context than any action hero’s murderous puns ever were. We still laugh when we think about Marge yelling “He’s fleeing the interview! He’s fleeing the interview!” as William H. Macy’s lowlife Jerry Lundegaard makes a break for it.
2. Frank Drebin, Naked Gun series
Leslie Nielsen began his spot-on parody of stiff cops way back in the Police Squad! days. He took his act to the big screen, with a film series that managed to make even O.J. Simpson funny. Heck, Frank Drebin could make your own murder conviction sound hilarious.
1. Axel Foley, Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy is the unquestioned star of ’80s cop comedies. Beverly Hills itself is barely big enough to contain his charisma. If this is a fish-out-of-water comedy, he’s a blue whale and the water is a crystal decanter of Perrier. Fun fact: Beverly Hills Cop was originally a Stallone film. Eddie made it a major comedy smash pretty much single-mouthed. Click here to see all airings of Beverly Hills Cop this month on IFC.