16 Best Police Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
Directed by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is at times brutal—such is the famous Canadian director's trademark—and operates at a fever pitch of grim violence and revenge. Starring a tattooed, ruthless, and terrifying Viggo Mortensen as a very convincing Russian strong-arm gangster as well as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, it features intense psychological drama and a gritty crime story. Midwife Anna (Watts) delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian prostitute, who dies while giving birth, and later learns that she was forced into prostitution by the Mafia. To keep this knowledge from seeping out, she gets entangled deeper into London's criminal underbelly, whose various factions and languages are aptly showcased by Cronenberg. Add to all this a smart script and Mortensen's daring performance and you have yourself an intense auteur thriller in signature Cronenberg style.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandar Mikic, Aleksander Mikic, Alice Henley, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Papava, Donald Sumpter, Elisa Lasowski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Josef Altin, Mina E. Mina, Naomi Watts, Raza Jaffrey, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Sinead Cusack, Tamer Hassan, Tatiana Maslany, Tereza Srbová, Tony Cook, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

Kathryn Bigelow has a knack for action-packed scenes without compromising on the affective qualities of film style. It is precisely this combination that makes her a rare gem in American cinema, where the values of entertainment soar high. Point Break is one such example of controlled chaos, impeccable framing, and a convincing use of fast-paced editing to really get you as close to the action as possible. But what gives the film its flavour is how developed and synced the characters are and the Reeves-Swayze duo here belongs in the pantheon of equally hot frenemies, providing an apt, but subtle comment on the dangers of toxic masculinity. 

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Kiedis, Anthony Mangano, Betsy Lynn George, Bojesse Christopher, Chris Pedersen, Christopher Pettiet, Daniel Beer, Dave Olson, Debra Lamb, Galyn Görg, Gary Busey, Gary Roberts, Gloria Mann, Jack Kehler, James Le Gros, Jared Chandler, Jeff Imada, John Apicella, John C. McGinley, John Philbin, Julian Reyes, Julie Michaels, Keanu Reeves, Lee Tergesen, Lori Petty, Michael Kopelow, Mike Genovese, Patrick Swayze, Peter Phelps, Ping Wu, Randy Walker, Raymond Forchion, Richard Grove, Sydney Walsh, Tom Sizemore, Vincent Klyn

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rating: R

Four Lions is as black and as dark as a movie can ever get, mixing cultural relevancy with humor and ridiculousness. It is insensitive to Islam, insensitive to terrorism and insensitive to the viewer. But it is hilarious. The director spent three years talking to Imams, terrorism experts and basically everyone. The result? A legit 97 minutes that will dazzle even extremists with its knowledge of Islam and the accuracy of its lines. Needless to say that it will upset quite a few people, but that is always a good sign for black comedy movies, right?

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Adil Mohammed Javed, Alex MacQueen, Arsher Ali, Benedict Cumberbatch, Craig Parkinson, Darren Boyd, Jonathan Maitland, Julia Davis, Kayvan Novak, Kevin Eldon, Marcus Garvey, Nigel Lindsay, Preeya Kalidas, Riz Ahmed, Shameem Ahmad, Waleed Elgadi, Wasim Zakir, Will Adamsdale

Director: Chris Morris, Christopher Morris

Rating: R

From a 1926 play to the iconic 1975 stage musical to Rob Marshall's 2002 extravaganza, Chicag0 has had a strong hold on popular culture. In a way, it's existed almost as long as cinema itself and its transformation across mediums and modes of expression has been well documented. The film carries all the marks of its theatrical predecessors, the expansive sets, the luscious costumes, the sleek characters whose banter and songs alike testify to their great chemistry — there's a lot to admire in such a self-referential spectacle. A black-comedy-fuelled musical about corruption and deceit set during the Jazz Age, Chicago fulfils all its promises. With a stellar ensemble cast featuring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and John C. Reily, in tandem with dazzling camerawork and most exquisite chiaroscuro lighting, this one brings the stage to the movies. I mean it in the best possible way!

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bill Corsair, Blake McGrath, Brendan Wall, Brittany Gray, Bruce Beaton, Capathia Jenkins, Catherine Chiarelli, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chita Rivera, Christine Baranski, Cliff Saunders, Colm Feore, Conrad Dunn, Cynthia Onrubia, Danielle Rueda-Watts, Darren Lee, Deidre Goodwin, Deirdre Goodwin, Denise Faye, Dominic West, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, Eve Crawford, Faye Rauw, Gregory Mitchell, Jayne Eastwood, Jeff Clarke, Jeff Pustil, John C. Reilly, Jonathan Whittaker, Joseph Scoren, Karen Holness, Karine Plantadit, Kathryn Zenna, Ken Ard, Laura Dean, Lucy Liu, Marty Moreau, Michelle Johnston, Monique Ganderton, Mya, Nicki Richards, Paul Becker, Queen Latifah, Rebecca Leonard, Renée Zellweger, Rhonda Roberts, Richard Gere, Rick Negron, Rob Smith, Robbie Rox, Robert Montano, Roman Podhora, Roxane Barlow, Sara Ramirez, Sean McCann, Sean Palmer, Sebastian La Cause, Sergio Trujillo, Sheri Godfrey, Steve Behal, Susan Misner, Tara Nicole Hughes, Taye Diggs, Timothy Shew, Vicky Lambert

Director: Rob Marshall

Rating: PG-13

David O. Russel (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) is one of those directors who the more you dig into his past, the more you are rewarded. I Heart Huckabees is a great example of this, as is The Fighter (both are must-watch if you haven't seen them). But it is Three Kings that truly presented him as someone who can give great substance to big-budget movies. It stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and even director Spike Jonze (Her, Adaptation), in other words, a festival of talent at its peak. And it follows three soldiers who want use the end of the Gulf War as an opportunity to get rich. Their journey through a devastated and uncertain Iraq is a thrilling one, as Three Kings is action-packed. But the purpose of this movie lies somewhere between political satire around American interventionism and social criticism of the main characters. However, none of that stands in the way of this movie being an entertaining and exhilarating movie.

Genre: Action, Comedy, War

Actor: Ali Afshar, Alia Shawkat, Brian Bosworth, Cliff Curtis, David O. Russell, Doug Jones, Dylan Brown, George Clooney, Holt McCallany, Ice Cube, Jamie Kennedy, Jim Gaffigan, Jon Sklaroff, Judy Greer, Liz Stauber, Mark Wahlberg, Mykelti Williamson, Nora Dunn, Rick Shuster, SaÁ¯d Taghmaoui, Saïd Taghmaoui, Sayed Badreya, Spike Jonze

Director: David O. Russell

Rating: R

A foreign film on par with City of God, and carrying its heritage of naturalistic performances and raw stories. Sin Nombre will take you into a world filled with gut wrenching violence, heart-breaking loss, and non-stop suspense. And while definitely a tough watch, it reports the horrors of immigration with humane and sometimes hopeful outlook. The profound and epic redemption in this movie will leave you thinking about it for days.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Édgar Flores, Benny Emmanuel, Catalina López, Damayanti Quintanar, Diana García, Diana García, Edgar Flores, Felipe Castro, Gabino Rodríguez, Gerardo Taracena, Guillermo Villegas, Héctor Jiménez, Harold Torres, Héctor Jiménez, Juan Pablo Arias Barron, Karla Cecilia Alvarado, Kristian Ferrer, Kristyan Ferrer, Leonardo Alonso, Lilibeth Flores, Luis Fernando Peña, Luis Fernando Peña, Marcela Feregrino, Marcela Macias, Marco Antonio Aguirre, Noé Hernández, Paulina Gaitán, Paulina Gaitan, Tenoch Huerta, Tenoch Huerta Mejía

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: R

This movie is like thriller-candy. It is full of twists, it is very atmospheric, and in nicely predictable fashion it will deliver that excitement rush we (most of us) love. Accused of murder, a wealthy entrepreneur hires the best witness preparation expert he can find. They have three hours before the trial to come up with the most solid, plausible defence. But ?, a new witness surfaces. Don’t expect anything overly original, but expect to be entertained.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ana Wagener, Annick Weerts, Barbara Lennie, Betsy Túrnez, Blanca Martínez, Cristian Valencia, David Selvas, Francesc Orella, Iñigo Gastesi, Jordi Brunet, Jordi Llordella, José Coronado, Laia Alberch, Manel Dueso, Mario Casas, Oriol Paulo, Paco Tous, Pere Brasó, Ruth Llopis, San Yélamos, Sandra Golpe

Director: Oriol Paulo

Rating: N/A

The Guard played by Brendan Gleeson is a new character in cinema that appeals to the funny bone inside all of us. A character like this can make any movie lovable. It also features Don Cheadle playing an FBI agent who is in town to solve a crime under Gleeson's jurisdiction. An overall great movie with great writing. Please note, for those who have a hard time understanding different accents, subtitles are advised.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Conor Moloney, Darren Healy, David Pearse, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligott, Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Gary Lydon, John Patrick Beirne, Katarina Čas, Laura Hitchings, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Cunningham, Liam O'Conghaile, Mark O'Halloran, Mark Strong, Mícheál Óg Lane, Owen Sharpe, Paraic Nialand, Pat Shortt, Ronan Collins, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Wale Ojo

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

Happy Valley and Line of Duty to Luther and Sherwood, the BBC has produced some of the finest police dramas in recent TV history, and Better is a worthy addition to the roster. It’s not as refined as the mentioned shows, but it’s grounded by a riveting, morally conflicted performance by Fazard. The breakdown of her conscience, the constant negotiation between obligation and survival, the road toward redemption—Fazard embodies it all with rugged grace. It’s not often we get the point of view of a corrupt cop, and when we do, we rarely see them with this much screen time and backstory. Better is an okay crime thriller, but it’s even better as a character study of the well-meaning, desperate, and brilliant Lou. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Buchan, Carolin Stoltz, Garry Cooper, Gavin Spokes, Leila Farzad, Lucy Black, Olivia Nakintu, Samuel Edward-Cook, Zak Ford-Williams

A classic text of English literature classes is handsomely brought to life in this screen translation of the still-radical play An Inspector Calls. The Birlings, a wealthy industrialist family thriving in 1912 England, have a cozy family celebration shattered by the arrival of a police inspector investigating the suicide of a young working-class woman. But that’s not the only bubble that’s burst: as Inspector Goole (David Thewlis) interviews the family — gradually revealing the part each played in forcing the woman to such a desperate state — he holds a mirror up to the casual cruelty and entitlement with which the Birlings move through the world. Part of what makes JB Priestley’s original play so enduring is how these characters are used as a wider metaphor for their social classes, and that translates with delicate but undeniable force here. A damning indictment of individualism and blind privilege on original publication in 1945, this is a story that retains the same relevance and power today.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, TV Movie

Actor: Chloe Pirrie, Chrissie Chow, David Thewlis, Donnie Yen, Eric Tsang, Finn Cole, Flora Nicholson, Hans Zhang, Herman Yau, Karena Ng, Ken Stott, Kyle Soller, Lam Ka-tung, Liu Yan, Louis Koo, Lucy Chappell, Miranda Richardson, Raymond Wong, Sophie Rundle, Teresa Mo, Wanda Opalinska

Director: Aisling Walsh, Herman Yau, Raymond Wong

Rating: TV-PG

If you like any of the following: Irish accents, Woody Harrelson, Pulp Fiction, or dark comedy;  then this is the movie for you. This mix of violence, mafia, existential talk, and painfully comical situations might not be for everyone, but it has every component to make its target audience very pleased. And given how chaotic and crazy it can get, it should be enjoyed one take at a time, focusing on each delightful scene rather than the overall plot. Directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths makes a perfect comeback after In Bruges, without veering very much from it (consequently if you like this movie make sure you check out In Bruges too).

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Amanda Warren, Brendan Sexton III, Christian Barillas, Christine Marzano, Christopher Gehrman, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Crispin Glover, Frank Alvarez, Gabourey Sidibe, Harry Dean Stanton, Helena Mattsson, James Landry Hébert, John Bishop, Johnny Bolton, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kevin Corrigan, Kiran Deol, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Martin McDonagh, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Olga Kurylenko, Patrick O'Connor, Richard Wharton, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sam Rockwell, Samantha Cutaran, Tai Chan Ngo, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek

Director: Martin McDonagh

Rating: R

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam LeFevre, Alan Davidson, Allan Havey, Beeson Carroll, Bill Camp, Brian Anthony Wilson, Charlie Matthes, Chris Messina, David Zayas, Dominic Marcus, Edward Norton, Erik LaRay Harvey, Famke Janssen, Goran Visnjic, Gretchen Mol, Jay Boryea, Joe Zaloom, Joey Vega, John Di Benedetto, John Gallagher Jr., John Malkovich, John Turturro, Johnny Chan, Josh Mostel, Josh Pais, Kerry O'Malley, Kohl Sudduth, Lenny Clarke, Lenny Venito, Lisa Gorlitsky, Mario Mendoza, Martin Landau, Matt Damon, Melina Kanakaredes, Merwin Goldsmith, Michael Arkin, Michael Lombardi, Michael Rispoli, Michael Ryan Segal, Murphy Guyer, Neal Hemphill, Nicole Brier, P.J. Brown, Paul Cicero, Peter Yoshida, Ray Iannicelli, Richard Mawe, Sal Richards, Slava Schoot, Sonny Zito, Tom Aldredge, Tony Hoty

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

One of the many good movies from director Edgar Wright - if you loved Shaun of the Dead, then this Buddy-Cop Homage will make you double over (and question humanity – or lack, thereof) just as much. Sandford is a small English village with the lowest crime and murder rates, so when overachieving police Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets sent there because he was so good he intimidated those around him, he just about loses it. From car-chasing, bone-thrilling, head-blowing action, he graduates to swan-calling, thrill-seeking, sleep-inducing madness. But all that’s about to change – for the worse? For the better? You decide. An obscenely funny flick that has an intriguing plot and an even greater set of characters, Hot Fuzz wasn’t named the best film of the Cornetto trilogy for nothing, clearly cementing Pegg and Nick Frost as the ultimate action duo of the genre.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Actor: Adam Buxton, Alice Lowe, Anne Reid, Ben McKay, Bill Bailey, Bill Nighy, Billie Whitelaw, Cate Blanchett, Chris Waitt, Colin Michael Carmichael, David Bradley, David Threlfall, Edgar Wright, Edward Woodward, Eric Mason, Garth Jennings, Graham Low, Jim Broadbent, Joe Cornish, Julia Deakin, Karl Johnson, Kenneth Cranham, Kevin Eldon, Lorraine Hilton, Lucy Punch, Maria Charles, Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine, Patricia Franklin, Paul Freeman, Peter Jackson, Peter Wight, Rafe Spall, Robert Popper, Ron Cook, Rory McCann, Simon Pegg, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan, Stuart Wilson, Tim Barlow, Timothy Dalton

Director: Edgar Wright

Rating: R

Bryan Cranston, best known for his role as Walter White in the Breaking Bad series, stars as Robert Mazur, a federal agent, who goes undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. With the film based on Mazur’s memoir, Bryan Cranston gives an impressive lead performance that captures the intense distress that deep cover can bring. Besides Cranston, co-stars Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, and an exceptional John Leguizamo are entirely persuasive and make the film experience enjoyable and intense. The Infiltrator is entertaining and maintains a good pace, with a great cast that makes it a true joy to watch, especially for those who enjoy stories based on real criminals. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Amy Ryan, Andy Beckwith, Art Malik, Benjamin Bratt, Brad Furman, Bryan Cranston, Carsten Hayes, Daniel Mays, David Horovitch, Diane Kruger, Dinita Gohil, Ekaterina Zalitko, Elena Anaya, Georgia Braithwaite, Gino Picciano, Jasmine Jardot, Jason Isaacs, John Leguizamo, Jordan Loughran, Joseph Gilgun, Juliet Aubrey, Lara Decaro, Leanne Best, Matthew Stirling, Michael Pare, Natalie Davis, Niall Hayes, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Katz, Rubén Ochandiano, Saïd Taghmaoui, Tim Dutton, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Yul Vazquez

Director: Brad Furman

Rating: R