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Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson)
A reckless LAPD detective and widower with a death wish.
- Anti-Hero: He is an Unscrupulous Hero in the first film, where the only reason he does anything (as well as his primary reason for not going through with suicide) is because he loves being a cop. He changes into a Pragmatic Hero in the sequels, finding more people to care about and reasons to live, but still willing to resort to dirty tactics.
- Ax-Crazy: Primarily in the first film, mellows down in the sequels.
- The Berserker: Even after getting over his suicidal tendencies, he still has a cavalier regard for his own survival.
- Byronic Hero: In the original.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's obsessed with The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes, and very good at his job.
- Cartwright Curse: Until the third film. Although Lorna does get shot in the climax of Lethal Weapon 3, and for a while there it looks like she may not survive.
- Chick Magnet: He tends to draw the female attention. Some but not all include Rianne to Murtaugh's horror, Rika, a group of girls by a pool, and Lorna.
- Cowboy Cop: Has little care for procedure or doing things by-the-book, contrasting Murtaugh. He even wears cowboy boots.
- Deadpan Snarker: Especially around Murtaugh.
- Death Seeker: In the first film.
- Dented Iron: By the fourth film, Riggs is clearly not at his peak, having grown both older and afraid of dying. He admits being aware of the trope and declares an intent to defy it.
- A bit more subtle in the first film's climactic fight, due to sleep deprivation and Electric Torture.
- Disney Death: In the second film, Riggs is shot several times by Rudd, who is killed by Murtaugh in return. It turns out Riggs is fine, though.
- Dramatic Dislocation: In 2, Riggs shows off that he can pop his shoulder out at will due to an injury in Vietnam. It's putting it back in that's painful. It gets used during the 3rd act in 2, as well as during the final battle in 4.
- '80s Hair: In every film except the fourth.
- As seen in his wedding photos from the first film, he had short hair before Vicki passed away. In the fourth, he's been in a stable relationship wtih Lorna for 6 years. He only seems to grow his hair long when he's single.
- Friendly Sniper: Was a sniper in Vietnam, and the only time we see him with his sniper rifle is on a rescue mission.
- The Gadfly: Enjoys teasing ol' Rog to no end.
- Good Is Not Nice: A genuinely good cop, but loves tormenting suspects or messing with his co-workers.
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: He has shorter hair in the fourth installment.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Riggs is rather quick to anger if things don't go in his favor when dealing with criminals, and even moreso if he's inflicted any kind of pain by them. He does, however, overplay the trait to intimidate people.
- Heartbroken Badass: He was a Special Forces sniper in Laos and Vietnam prior to the films, and while we never see him as a soldier, we see him as a cop, both proving and justifying his Improbable Aiming Skills. He's become a Death Seeker in the first film, but begins healing as time goes after partnering with Murtaugh.
- Heroes Love Dogs: For the first three movies, he's got a dog named Sam at home. By 4, he now has the rottweiler from 3 added as a pet.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Once he gets over his Ax-Crazy tendencies and mellows out a bit, his craziness is more Played for Laughs.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Murtaugh, natch. After being partners for so long, it's hard for either of them to imagine life without the other. Riggs articulates it beautifully in the third film:"You're the only family I've got! I got three beautiful kids. I love them and they're yours. Trish does my laundry. I live in your icebox. I live in your life!"
- Hot-Blooded: Nothing seems to light a fire up Riggs' ass like being on a criminal's trail.Riggs: [hitting the insides of Murtaugh's car while screaming excitedly] GOD, I LOVE THIS JOB!
- Informed Ability: He claims to have been one of the top 11 snipers in the world during his prime. He still manages to miss a stationary Mr. Joshua in broad daylight. Potentially justified - the injury in Vietnam that dislocated his shoulder presumably affected his aiming ability, and he's clearly out of practice with a rifle.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As much as he loves tormenting his friends, he does care about them. Best shown near the end of the fourth film, where he has a heartfelt conversation with Leo, who he spends most of the series abusing.
- Keet: Especially in the third and fourth movie.
- Large Ham: Especially in the first film. More composed in the sequels."Do you really wanna jump?! DO YOU WANNA?!?"
- The Lost Lenore: His late wife, Vicki.
- Lightning Bruiser: In the first film, he takes out a room full of guys before they can react.
- Manchild: He watches Looney Tunes, even while contemplating suicide, as well as The Three Stooges, and is generally adolescent in nature.
- Mr. Fanservice: He spends a lot of time naked or shirtless; is even introduced that way.
- One Last Smoke: Hilariously defied in the second film for a bit of Mood Whiplash.
- One-Note Cook:Riggs: I may have exaggerated a bit about being a gourmet chef. All I know how to make is chili. Do you like your chili with or without crushed Oreos?
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: To Mr. Joshua in the original."Hey Jack, want a shot at the title?"
- Red Oni: To Murtaugh's Blue Oni.
- Salt and Pepper: He's the Salt.
- Sociopathic Hero: In the first film.
- Title Drop: In the first film, Roger refers to him as a "lethal weapon".
- Took a Level in Kindness: Is much kinder and softer in the third and fourth movies.
- Weapon of Choice: A Beretta 92F (later 92FS) pistol.
Roger Murtaugh (played by Danny Glover)
Riggs's older and more cautious partner, a family man with a wife and three kids.
- Badass Grandpa: In the fourth film.
- Badass Normal: He may not be an insane special forces vet like Riggs, but he still kicks a lot of ass.
- Badass Mustache: Has a full beard in his first scene, and ditches it real fast.
- Blue Oni: To Riggs' crazy Red Oni.
- By-the-Book Cop: This is why he gets partnered with Riggs.
- Catch Phrase:
- "I'm too old for this shit." Inverted in the fourth film with "We're not too old for this shit!"
- "Riggs, you crazy sonuva bitch!"
- "Go spit, Riggs!"
- Character Tic: He cracks his neck before shooting people. This is typically followed by a Boom, Headshot.
- Deuteragonist: Murtaugh has virtually the same amount of screentime as Riggs, but he doesn't get the same level of character development or the same kill count. This is done well, since it provides a good contrast to Riggs' journey from a suicidal maniac to a committed family man.
- Drowning My Sorrows: In the third film, after killing an old friend of his son's out of self-defence.
- Feeling Their Age: Murtaugh's Catch Phrase of "I'm too old for this" is appropriate for an older family man who has to deal with a wild card younger partner. Riggs starts saying it too once he reaches is late 40's in 4.
- Friend to All Children: Just watch his interactions with the kids outside Dixie's house in the first film. It goes without saying when you're a father of three.
- Good Parents: His kids still love and respect him throughout high school and college. They're also surprisingly well-adjusted considering all the crap the family goes through.
- Grumpy Old Man: Has his moments, especially in 4.
- Happily Married: With Trish.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: When Rianne is kidnapped in the first film, and when he accidentally kills a teenager in the third.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Played realistically. He's an excellent shot and can hit targets with a revolver at long range, but he needs to take a second to aim down the sights. He also rarely hits moving targets, but that's usually not a problem.
- It's Personal: Doesn't get this as frequently as Riggs, but things get brutal with General McAllister in the first film after Rianne gets kidnapped.
- Nice Guy: He's a little prickly at times, but generally a good cop and a loving family man.
- Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: Tragically in the third film. He kills (in self defence) a gangbanger who turns out to be a close friend of his teenage son.
- Older Sidekick: He's demoted to this in the second film. The third and fourth films go back to a more even partnership.
- Overprotective Dad: Regarding his eldest daughter Rianne, and is always afraid that she gets hooked up with Riggs until the 4th film.
- Papa Wolf: Seriously. Don't mess with his kids.
- Retirony: Subverted in the 3rd film.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: He prefers to carry a Six-Shooter, despite Riggs calling it an "Old Timer's Gun".
- Salt and Pepper: He's the Pepper.
- Weapon of Choice: A Smith & Wesson 19 revolver.
- Younger Than They Look: Danny Glover was only 40 years old when he filmed the first film despite supposedly being "too old for this shit". Murtaugh was written as an older character (50 in the first film).
Leo Getz (played by Joe Pesci)
A former accountant and federal witness Riggs and Murtaugh are assigned to protect in 2. Becomes a real estate broker in 3 and a private detective in 4, and uses his numerous connections to help solve Riggs and Murtaugh's cases.
- The Artifact: He's only plot relevant in the second film. The fourth film rectifies this by making him a PI and having him join in on the case.
- Butt-Monkey: He cops a lot of abuse from Riggs and Murtaugh.
- Catch Phrase: "They fuck you with/at..." and "Okay, okay, okay..."
- Chew Toy: He goes through a lot of crap throughout the series, and it's all played for laughs.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Lampshaded when he asks a reporter in the fourth film if he can say "fuck" on air.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's slimy and abrasive, but still a good guy.
- Motor Mouth: Seriously, he talks really fast.
- Nice Hat: In the fourth film.
- Non-Action Guy: Despite wanting to carry a gun, he never gets involved in a single fight scene.
- Plucky Comic Relief: This is his main role in the third and fourth films.
- Punny Name: Attempts this in his first appearance "Whatever you need, Leo 'Getz."
- Out of Focus: In 3, which is surprising since he’s given third billing on the poster.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: He curses. A lot.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: He and Lee get along well when they connect over things that screw people over.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: He spends a lot of time with Riggs and the Murtaughs. No one's quite sure why.
Lorna Cole (played by Rene Russo)
Introduced in 3, an Internal Affairs detective who help Riggs and Murtaugh against Jack Travis.
- Action Girl: Kicks some major ass.
- Cowboy Cop: Almost as much as Riggs.
- Disney Death: She is shot several times by Travis with the armor-piercing bullets in the climax, but it turns out she was wearing two bulletproof vests.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Riggs.
- Groin Attack: In the 3rd film, she delivers a harsh kick in the family jewels towards a random thug from within a warehouse. Later on, she crushes one thug's testicles BARE-HANDED in a fight scene!
- Internal Affairs: Which masks her Cowboy Cop nature.
- The Lad-ette: Kicks serious ass, cusses like a sailor, wrestled with her brothers, read MAD magazine, plays the Three Stooges on her computer. Yep!
- Pregnant Badass: Kicks the asses of Wah Sing Ku's goons in the 4th film.
- Tsundere: To Riggs.
Lee Butters (played by Chris Rock)
A brash younger detective introduced in 4. Secretly married to Rianne and the father of her child.
- Accidental Misnaming: Riggs and Murtaugh have major difficulty in getting his name right. Ironically, the one time they did, he was injured.
- Genius Bruiser: He has a psychology degree.
- Hot-Blooded: Oh yeah.
- Meaningful Name: He constantly tries to "butter" his father-in-law up.
- Mistaken for Gay: Thanks to Riggs, poor Roger believes Lee swings that way.
- Motor Mouth: It's Chris Rock.
- Wretched Hive: Where he had grown up in, and the reason he joined the police force.
Ed Murphy (played by Steve Kahan)Riggs and Murtaugh's beleagured commanding officer.
- Da Chief: One of the classic examples. How he puts up with the antics of Riggs and Murtaugh for so long is anyone's guess.
- Deadpan Snarker: When you're Riggs and Murtaugh's boss, this comes naturally.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Riggs and Murtaugh can be a pain in the ass to him, but he knows how to handle them exceptionally well.
- We Used to Be Friends: He laments what happened to Jack Travis.
General Peter Mc Allister
General Peter McAllister (played by Mitchell Ryan)
A Vietnam war veteran who was part of a special team that turned into heroin-smuggling mercenaries.
- Big Bad: Of the first film.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: He runs a successful club and must be on a good fund from his military career. Why does he need to run a heroin shipping operation?
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Inverted. The credits and script just refer to him as "The General," even though he's called by name more than once.
- Evil Old Folks: He calls everyone "son" a lot.
- Face Death with Dignity: Averted, he dies screaming like a little girl.
- Faux Affably Evil: Always pleasant and amiable, even when he's having people tortured.
- General Ripper: Used to be this.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Spends most of the film in a seriously nice white turtleneck and sports coat combo.
- Non-Action Big Bad: He's able to sneak up on Riggs without the latter noticing, and is clearly proficient with firearms. He just chooses not to get his hands dirty.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Murtaugh kills his getaway driver, causing a massive car crash. McAllister himself is blown sky-high when the flames from the crash reach a crate of live grenades in his car.
- Villainous Breakdown: Near the end of the film.
Mr. Joshua (played by Gary Busey)
Mc Allister's Number Two, an insane soldier who carries out most of Shadow Company's dirty work.
- Backstab Backfire: How he meets his end.
- Blown Across the Room: Uses a shotgun to blast Riggs off the sidewalk and into the storefront behind him. It doesn't work.
- Cold Sniper: From a helicopter no less.
- Defiant to the End: Doesn't go down without a fight. And shows defiance even after losing said fight.
- The Dragon: To McAllister.
- Dragon Their Feet: He survives the confrontation that kills his boss, and attempts to kill Riggs and Murtaugh.
- Establishing Character Moment: Allowing General McAllister to burn his arm with a lighter, clenching his teeth and taking it, establishing Joshua's loyalty (and insanity).
- Evil Counterpart: To Riggs: both were in Special Forces, but whereas Riggs chose to work as a cop, Mr. Joshua chose a less legal profession.
- Fisticuffs Boss: Riggs offers him a fair fight before his arrest.
- The Heavy: As General McAllister's Dragon, his actions drive the plot of the first film.
- He Knows Too Much: His first few scenes are him killing off anyone outside of Shadow Company who is connected with Shadow Company, such as Dixie and Hunsaker. The second is from a helicopter. Then he tries to kill Riggs.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Being well-dressed seems to be a prerequisite for Shadow Company.
- Psycho for Hire: Big time.
- The Rival: To Riggs.
- Undying Loyalty: To McAllister. He demonstrates by allowing his boss to burn him with a lighter.
- Worthy Opponent: He and Riggs are almost cordial.
Arjen Rudd (played by Joss Ackland)
A South African diplomat who abuses his power and runs a profitable drug-smuggling ring.
- Big Bad: Of the second film.
- Diplomatic Impunity: And he's not even a consul or ambassador. Works well, until it gets revoked.
- Dirty Old Man: Hits on Rika rather creepily.
- Evil Old Folks: He's getting on in years, and one of the biggest monsters in the series.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Rudd’s voice is very deep and he is very evil.
- Faux Affably Evil: He certainly has a diplomatic and gentlemanly air about him, but everyone knows he's up to no good.
- In-Series Nickname: Riggs calls him "Aryan."
- No Kill Like Overkill: Puts every bullet he has into Riggs at the end of the Final Battle. But subverted after Riggs still survives.
- Non-Action Big Bad: The only time he takes direct action is at the very end when he empties a clip into Riggs.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: As above.
- Smug Snake: Didn't realise his diplomatic immunity had been revoked.
- Too Dumb to Live: Flashing your immunity when you've killed cop friends of main characters. Surely he'll be more than willing to let you go.
- You Have Failed Me: Hilariously, during his Establishing Character Moment. He has one of his henchmen brough to his office where the floors are covered in plastic, saying that he's having his walls painted. Then Vorstedt shoots the henchman and wraps his body in the plastic to contain the blood flow.
Pieter Vorstedt (played by Derrick O'Conner)
Rudd's right hand man.
- Backstab Backfire: Tries to shoot Riggs in the back. Riggs responds by crushing him under a shipping container.
- Deadpan Snarker: Tosses out a few sardonic barbs.
- The Dragon: He's Rudd's top enforcer and right-hand man.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Literally, Riggs kills him by dropping a container on him.
- Faux Affably Evil: He acts polite, but he doesn't think twice about murdering anybody or anything.
- Fisticuffs Boss: After a series of verbal confrontations throughout the film, his last fight with Riggs is a martial arts match without a word said.
- Hero Killer: Murders six police officers throughout the film, as well as Rika.
- In-Series Nickname: After being unable to pronounce his name, Riggs says, "Ah, fuck, I'll just call you Adolf."
- It's Personal: Of all the adversaries Riggs and Murtaugh faced, he cuts the deepest, responsible for the deaths of six of their colleagues, Rika, and Riggs' wife (though he was trying to kill Riggs).Riggs: I'm not a cop tonight, Roger, it's personal. I'm not a cop.
- Knight of Cerebus: He leaves a very high body count, killing over a half dozen people.
- Lightning Bruiser: Almost matches Riggs in the martial arts department. Almost.
- Pragmatic Villainy: See his quote.
- Sharp Dressed Man: Sports a natty blazer and tie combo.
- You Killed My Father: He's responsible for the death of Riggs's wife.
Jack Travis (played by Stuart Wilson)
An ex-cop turned arms dealer.
- Arms Dealer: Sells armor piercing bullets to criminals.
- Big Bad: Of the third film.
- Bond One-Liner: When disposing of an incompetent Mook that he has drowned in cement, Travis says “Now we have something we can build on.”
- Dirty Cop: He's a retired cop who still has his badge.
- Faux Affably Evil: He'll smile and crack a joke with you... while he's burying his moron colleague alive in cement.
- Evil Counterpart: Like Riggs, he was an incredibly tough cop who bent the rules and got results, and they have many of the same snarky personality quirks. He's essentially a dark "what-if" version of who and what Riggs might've become if he'd continued down the self-destructive path he was on after Vicky died. Naturally, he and Riggs hate each other immediately.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Killed by the same "Cop-killer" bullets he has stolen and smuggled.
- Jerkass: When he means business, he'll drop all pretense of pleasantness and show the true side of his personality.
Man with Flamethrower
Man with Flamethrower (played by Danny Wynands)
A heavily-armored individual who's out to burn and shoot up things while rocking out to Van Halen on his walkman. He's the villain whom Riggs and Murtaugh have to take out at the start of the fourth film.
- Flamethrower Backfire: When he is momentarily distracted by Murtaugh dancing like a chicken in his underwear, Riggs shoots the vent on his flamethrower's gas tank and he dies in an explosion.
- Generic Doomsday Villain: He simply exists to provide an exciting Action Prologue filled with gunfire and explosions.
- Guns Akimbo: On other hand, he has a sub-machinegun. On the other, he wields a flamethrower.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Courtesy of his makeshift Powered Armor — the cops' bullets just clang off of him (until Riggs finally shoots his Achilles' Heel (see Flamethrower Backfire)).
- No Name Given: Nothing is given on this guy's backstory or motivation. He is simply a "man with flamethrower".
- Starter Villain: The first villain encountered in the fourth movie.
- The Voiceless: He never says a thing. He only lets out a Wilhelm Scream when sent flying and a grunt when he lands under a tanker truck.
Wah Sing Ku
Wah Sing Ku (played by Jet Li)
A member of the Chinese triad and human trafficker who employs martial arts on his enemies.
- Big Bad: Of the fourth film.
- Big Brother Instinct: Inverted; he spends the whole film working to buy the release of his older brother, then tries to avenge him once Murtaugh kills him.
- Catchphrase: "In Hong Kong, you'd be dead".
- Dragon-in-Chief: He is technically working to free his bosses, The Four Fathers, one of whom is his brother. But since they are all in prison he's the one who actually drives the plot.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His brother.
- Fisticuffs Boss: He takes Riggs and Murtaugh on in a two-on-one fight near the end.
- Implacable Man: Nothing slows him down.
- Lightning Bruiser: He beats Riggs and Murtaugh. At the same time.
- Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: The younger villain who comes closer to killing Riggs and Murtaugh than anyone else in the series.
- The Triads and the Tongs: One of these guys.