Since the inception of cinema, genres have begun to take shape and transform, starting with such basics as drama, romance, and comedy. With an oversaturated film market, the industry is constantly evolving and inventing new niche genres. As a sub-genre of crime films, crime films have gained great popularity over the years, with the buddy cop genre proving popular with films such as Via Salto 21 And Run across, which made the audience laugh at the jokes and get excited about the action at the same time. That said, not all crime films are comedies.

The best art imitates life, and what better way to imitate life than by showcasing every aspect of it. Not all police are law-abiding, and more often than not, there is corruption within every police department. Dirty crime films make up a category all their own, focusing on the corruption within the police department and the righteous’ attempt to stamp out that corruption. Many films have explored this subject in unique ways. Here are the best dirty cop movies, ranked.


7/7 Land of the cops


Set in New York City, Land of the cops revolves around the cover-up of a racially motivated crime by the nephew of city cop Ray Donlan. When the plan goes awry, Internal Affairs officers Moe Tilden and local sheriff Freddy Heflin get involved, hoping to expose Donlan and his men for their corruption and bring them down in the process. Based on a true story, according to Vulture, Land of the cops marks the return of Sylvester Stallone to the cinema after many years off the screen. Starring alongside big names like Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, Stallone’s performance reminded audiences of the star’s talent.

Related: Best small-town crime movies, ranked

6/7 King of the road

3 Artistic entertainment

With Keanu Reeves, Chris Evans and Forest Whitaker, King of the road tells the story of Tom Ludlow, a member of the LAPD who hit the bottle to mourn the loss of his wife. When Ludlow’s presence at a crime scene implicates him in the death of a colleague, he tries to uncover the truth behind the incident, uncovering a great deal of corruption and greed within the LAPD. While the answer to King of the road was pretty average, this is a film that fell under the radar and went relatively unnoticed despite the film’s powerful cast and strong storyline.

5/7 Policy

Saban Capital Group

Policy is one of the more recent films on this list, starring Aaron Eckhart and Courtney Eaton. The film follows Frank Penny, a disgraced police officer who seeks redemption by attempting to rescue the police chief’s kidnapped daughter. To find the little girl, he enlists the help of Ava Brooks, a live-streaming news broadcaster who is covering Frank’s actions. The film was met with mixed reviews, but despite the film’s flaws, Steven C. Miller’s careful direction overcame most of them. Similar to King of the roadit would seem that Policy has fallen by the wayside, not getting the attention it deserves.

gang bound (1)
Images of Orion

Also known by its alternative title Criminal intent, Band bound revolves around corrupt cops Divinci and Rodriguez, who frame a homeless man for a murder they were responsible for. On the occasion of Tupac Shakur’s latest film, Band bound it finished filming two weeks before his death and was released a year later (via LA Times). The unique location of the film and the way it turns the main characters into villains Band bound a truly unique cinematic experience, considering the crooked cops’ underhanded actions make them nearly impossible to like and even harder for audiences to root for.

Related: Denzel Washington’s Best Law Enforcement Roles, Ranked

3/7 American gangster

American gangster cast
Imagine the entertainment

Based on real life Harlem drug dealer Frank Lucas, American gangster tells the story of Lucas in 1970s New York as he rises to power, using corruption within the city to his advantage and famously smuggling heroin into the United States in coffins for American soldiers killed in Vietnam. Lucas even manages to elude Richie Roberts, who won’t stop until Lucas is brought to justice. With Denzel Washington, Ruby Dee and Russell Crowe, American gangster was the subject of near-universal praise and garnered two Academy Award nominations among many other accolades, including the Screen Actors’ Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress (for Dee).

2/7 The departure

Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon in The Departed
Plan B Entertainment

Directed by Martin Scorsese, The departure, a British remake of the Hong Kong film Internal affairs, follows Billy Costigan, a Boston cop who goes undercover to get close to local underworld boss Frank Costello. Once Billy has infiltrated, career criminal Colin infiltrates the police department and exposes Billy’s activities. With a mole on either side, Billy and Colin must discover each other’s identities or face the cold hand of death. The film was both a critical and commercial success, winning numerous awards, including a total of four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. The film made numerous top ten hits, with many critics considering it one of the best films of 2006.

1/7 Training day

training day
Images from Warner Bros

Of course, at the top of our list is the iconic Training day. When veteran cop Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) takes rookie Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) under his wing on Hoyt’s first day in the LAPD’s narcotics unit, Hoyt soon discovers the realities of the streets as Alonzo’s ways they teach him that justice is not always law-abiding. Considered one of the best crime films of all time, Training day was both a commercial and critical success, with special praise for Washington’s performance, earning him the Academy Award for Best Actor, while Hawke received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film’s popularity has led to several attempted reboots and most recently a prequel, Training day: Day of the uprisingbegan production in February 2022.

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