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  1. Captain Louis Renault from Casablanca

    Name and rank
    Captain Louis Renault from Casablanca (1942), police chief of the Vichy-controlled Moroccan capital, played with urbane charm by Claude Rains.

    Worst offense
    He shamelessly cosies up to the Nazis, inveigles young immigrants into his bed, takes bribes and deports political refugees back to near-certain death in Europe. It was unusual in those days for Hollywood to depict an officer of the law in such unforgiving light, but then again, he was French.

    Mitigating behavior
    Turning a blind eye to the shooting of a top Nazi and showing impeccable taste by initiating a “beautiful friendship” with Humphrey Bogart.

  2. Hank Quinian from Touch of Evil

    Name and rank
    Grandiose, amoral powerhouse Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) from the Texas police department in Welles’s own Touch of Evil (1958).

    Worst offense
    You name it. Planting evidence, anti-Mexican bigotry, kidnapping and murder, Quinlan was the most bloated example of film noir’s obsession with the wrong arm of the law.

    Mitigating behavior
    He might have been a lousy cop, but in the eyes of Marlene Dietrich, or at least the woman she played, he was also “some kind of man”—which is praise enough for us.

  3. Captain McCluskey from The Godfather

    Name and rank
    Bent Irish mob patsy Captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) of the NYPD, in The Godfather (1972).

    Worst offense
    Apart from being irredeemably corrupt, he assaults that nice young man Michael Corleone and breaks his jaw.

    Mitigating behavior
    None! And he’s punished accordingly, popped in the head by Al Pacino in an Italian restaurant before he even gets a chance to order a macchiato.

  4. John Davis in Magnum Force

    Name and rank
    Before he was Hutch (and a swoon-inducing pop star to boot), David Soul made a splash as eerie Aryan psycho-cop John Davis in the first and best Dirty Harry sequel, Magnum Force (1973).

    Worst offense
    It takes a fair amount of filthy behavior to make Dirty Harry look squeaky clean, but Davis is up to the task: With his similarly inclined rookie pals, the Death Squad, he embarks on a campaign of violence intended to scare L.A.’s criminal community into obeying the law.

    Mitigating behavior
    None, as such. Despite a severe dressing down from his hero, he fails to see the error of his ways and ends up on the sharp end of Harry’s own brand of justice.

  5. Detective-Sergeant Johnson in The Offence

    Name and rank
    Detective-Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery), a long-serving officer in an unidentifiably grim part of 1970s provincial England, in Sidney Lumet’s unremittingly bleak The Offence (1972).

    Worst offense
    After years of by-the-book service, Johnson beats up and kills a suspected rapist of children in his custody. And the violence continues with a savage, unrelenting verbal attack on his wife.

    Mitigating behavior
    In one of his most nuanced performances, Connery helps to humanize Johnson, his explosive rage the result of years of dutiful repression. But nothing excuses those mutton-chop sideburns.

  6. Detective Azuma in The Violent Cop

    Name and rank
    Detective Azuma (Takeshi Kitano) of the Tokyo Police Department, in the Kitano-directed The Violent Cop (1989).

    Worst offense
    As you might surmise from the title, Azuma isn’t the kind of cop you’d meet at anger-management workshops. A graduate of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later school of law enforcement, Azuma takes a baton to police ethics following the suicide of his colleague, battering them into a lifeless pulp, much like his suspects.

    Mitigating behavior
    Azuma’s tactics are indefensible, but—as played by director-star Takeshi Kitano—he perpetrates them with a certain deadpan cool.

  7. Unnamed cop in Bad Lieutenant

    Name and rank
    An unnamed gamblaholic NYPD lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) in Abel Ferrara’s 1992 Bad Lieutenant.

    Worst offense
    Taking bribes? Or perhaps smoking crack while on duty and stealing from the drug dealers? Or hang on, maybe it’s the time he masturbates in the presence of a couple of teenage girls? All in all, the guy lives up—or down—to the title, and yet, he’s much more of a badass than Nic Cage’s 2009 take on the role.

    Mitigating behavior
    Incredibly—thanks to the pulpy Catholicism of director Abel Ferrara’s vision—there is a kind of redemption here. We won’t spoil things by revealing too much, but let’s just say Jesus makes a cameo for some last-act plea-bargaining.

  8. Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential

    Name and rank
    Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) of the LAPD in Hollywood expose L.A. Confidential (1997).

    Worst offense
    You don’t consult crime novelist James Ellroy for examples of police probity, and so it is with this stunning adaptation of his account of corruption in the City of Angels. All the men in blue are rotten by varying degrees, but the medal of shame must go to the scheming, ruthless cop-killer Captain Smith.

    Mitigating behavior
    Are you kidding?

  9. Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day

    Name and rank
    Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), from the narcotics department of the LAPD in Training Day (2001).

    Worst offense
    Murdering drug dealers, then divvying up their stash with his equally corrupt colleagues. And being horrible to Ethan Hawke, who is used to much more pleasant partnerships, like hanging out with Julie Delpy in Before Sunset, discussing stuff.

    Mitigating behavior
    Not really, but Denzel made such a ferociously good job of being bad, he was rewarded with an Oscar.

  10. Chan Wing-yan in Infernal Affairs

    Name and rank
    Chan Wing-yan (Tony Leung), of the Hong Kong Police Department in rip-roaring 2003 thriller Infernal Affairs.

    Worst offense
    Working deep undercover as a Triad member, Chan does some pretty naughty things to impress his kingpin boss.

    Mitigating behavior
    Is Chan just acting a role or is he as bad as the mobsters he’s working alongside? And is this a straight-up cop thriller or a teasing exploration of identity that takes inspiration from the Buddhist associations of its Chinese title—the lowest circle of hell, apparently? It’s all a bit too complicated, but one definite virtue is that it inspired a damn fine Martin Scorsese picture when he remade it as The Departed.

Ten bad cops: Hollywood's meanest law enforcers

We honor the nastiest and most crooked movie cops

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“Every cop is a criminal” according to Mick Jagger’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” and as the victim of a dubious drug bust, he knew of what he sang. In the explosive movie Rampart, Woody Harrelson takes the classic cinematic archetype of the corrupt policeman to new heights with his portrayal of violent, womanizing, borderline-racist ghetto patrolman, “Date Rape” Dave Brown. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to dig through the criminal records and come up with a list of our favorite felonious flatfoots. Is there anyone we’ve missed? Or do you think some of these guys are just misunderstood?

Take a closer look at the world of action...

The 100 best action movies

We polled over 50 experts in the field, from essential directors like Die Hard’s John McTiernan to the actual folks in the line of fire, such as Tarantino favorite Zoë Bell (the fearless stuntwoman behind Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies). The result: The 100 best action movies, a definitive look at the genre from the earliest silent classic short film of 1896's “Arrival of Train at La Ciotat” to Marvel's big-screen fighting force of 2012's The Avengers.

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