1. The Lieutenant, “Bad Lieutenant”
Director Abel Ferrara’s cult classic is less a traditional feature film, and more a long string of heinous crimes committed my Harvey Keitel’s immoral officer over a gut-churning hour and a half runtime. Originally NC-17, an R-rated version was eventually cobbled together for the home video circuit. It had a running time of eight minutes, including credits.
2. Joe Cooper, “Killer Joe”
How many country cops do you know that moonlight as contract killers on the side? If you answered anything other than “none,” then…well, I guess you shouldn’t inform your local law, because that’d be kind of redundant. Either way, just be thankful that unscrupulous officer “Killer” Joe Cooper isn’t roaming the dusty backroads of your town. This cucumber-cool killer is the meanest of the mean, and never above spilling some blood to get what he’s owed.
3. Alonzo Harris, “Training Day”
Denzel Washington’s PCP-pumping, drug money-stealing, street justice-dealing crooked cop was a rare villainous turn for the charismatic actor, and a far cry from the historical heroics of Malcolm X. That said, it’d be lovely if Denzel would pass up the occasional “I’m gettin’ too old for this” buddy drama in favor of what moviegoers really want: Virtuosity 2.0.
4. Colin Sullivan, “The Departed”
Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning “Tale of Two Moles” made waves for its gritty portrayal of Boston’s seedy criminal underworld, and corrupt cop Colin Sullivan was smack at the center of the city-wide shadiness. It also made waves in making us never want to go to Boston.
5. Terence McDonagh, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”
Part of Nic Cage’s career-long quest to star in every movie ever made, the wide-eyed actor’s turn in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans — no relation, oddly enough, to Keitel’s lieutenant listed above — is the sweat-soaked jewel in the Internet-favorite thespian’s increasingly crazy crown. Now just cast Keitel and Cage as a pair of corrupt buddy cops and we’ll have officially met our “horrifying police officers” quota for about a decade or so.
6. Norman Stansfield, “Leon: The Professional”
You know you’re watching a ’90s movie if you can pause at any given moment and see visible bite-marks left over from Gary Oldman’s unchecked scene-chewing. This psychopathic, pill-popping DEA agent is more monster than man, but we’ll be damned if he isn’t an absolute blast to loathe.
7. David Brown, “Rampart”
Depending on who you ask — or which hard-hitting cop drama you’re currently watching — the LAPD is either an oft-honorable agency with a few bad apples, or the most corrupt law enforcement regime this side of the Galactic Empire. The version that would willfully employ “Date Rape” Dave Brown would probably fall into the latter camp.
8. Dudley Smith, “L.A. Confidential”
It’s unsettling enough to imagine your dime-a-dozen beat cops taking advantage of the power offered up by their badges, but there’s something generally bone-chilling about high-ranking officials conspiring from within the system. One of L.A. Confidential’s most menacing moments comes from its most shocking reveal, which casts the LAPD’s own Captain Dudley Moore at the center of a city-spanning conspiracy.
9. Pete Davis, “Unlawful Entry”
Nothing says, “welcome to the neighborhood” quite like constant late-night creeping, unhealthy spousal obsession, and planting a boat-load of cocaine on your new neighbor’s back patio. A far cry from character actor Ray Liotta’s lovable everyman roles — hahaha, but seriously though — this unstable officer is the last guy we’d want showing up to our block party.
10. Dennis Peck, “Internal Affairs”
Who would’ve though that rom-com go-to Richard Gere would prove one of the silver screen’s most chilling crooked cops? Far from the “golden boy” front he puts up from the public, the LAPD’s own Dennis Peck is one of the seediest, sleaziest officers in a city that — if its Hollywood track record is any indication — is chockfull of seedy, sleazy officers.