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Martin Riggs (played by Mel Gibson)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Notably, as seen in a picture of his wedding to his late wife, Victoria Lynn, he had just about the same short hairstyle he has in the fourth film.
- Friendly Sniper: In the first film.
- 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-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 Max 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!
- 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.
- Large Ham: Especially in the first film. More composed in the sequels."Do you really wanna jump?! DO YOU WANNA?!?"
- Lightning Bruiser: In the first film, he takes out a room full of guys before they can react.
- 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?
- Red Oni: To Murtagh'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".
- Weapon of Choice: A Beretta 92FS pistol.
- Worf Had the Flu: 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 having undergone torture.
Roger Murtaugh (played by Danny Glover)
- Badass Grandpa: In the fourth film.
- Badass Mustache: Has a full beard in his first scene, and ditches it real fast.
- Blue Oni: To Rigg's 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.
- "Riggs you crazy sonuva b...." as well
- "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. 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: After killing an old friend of his son's out of self-defence.
- Feeling Their Age: Murtaugh's Catch Phrase was "I'm getting too old for this", appropriate for an older family man who had to deal with a wild card younger partner in Riggs. Nevertheless he continued to say it through all the films and it eventually came around to Riggs in 4, as he started to feel his age too.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: When Rianne is kidnapped in the first film.
- 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.
- Salt and Pepper: He's the Pepper.
- Retirony: Subverted in the 3rd film.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Though, he does carry an automatic as a backup weapon.
- 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)
- 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.
- Out of Focus: In 3.
- 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: His friends like him, but he can be really annoying.
Lorna Cole (played by Rene Russo)
- 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)
- 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.
Mr. Joshua (played by Gary Busey)
- 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 the side of the law, Mr. Joshua chose a less legal lifestyle.
- Fisticuffs Boss: Riggs offers him a shot at him after the villains' plan failed just to settle their score.
- The Heavy: Serving as General McAllister's, his actions drive the plot of the first film.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Being well-dressed seems to be a prerequisite for Shadow Company.
- Psycho for Hire
- The Rival: To Riggs.
- Worthy Opponent: He and Riggs are almost cordial.
General Peter McAllister (played by Mitchell Ryan)
- 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": 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.
- 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.
- Villainous Breakdown: Near the end of the film.
Arjen Rudd (played by Joss Ackland)
- Big Bad: Of the second film.
- Diplomatic Impunity: And he's not even a consul or ambassador. Works well, until it gets revoked.
- In-Series Nickname: Riggs calls him "Aryan."
- Politically Incorrect Villain: As above.
- 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.
- Smug Snake: Didn't realise his diplomatic immunity had been revoked.
Pieter Vorstedt (played by Derrick O'Conner)
- Deadpan Snarker: In one scene while talking with Rudd, Vorstedt is looking down at his feet. When Rudd asks what he's doing, Vorstedt responds he was wondering if he was standing on plastic.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lightning Bruiser: Almost matches Riggs in the martial arts department. Almost.
- 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)
- Big Bad: Of the third film.
- 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.
Man with FlamethrowerA heavily-armored invidual with a perchant for destruction, who has to be stopped by Riggs and Murtaugh at the start of the fourth film.
- Guns Akimbo: On other hand, he has a sub-machinegun. On the other, he wields a flamethrower.
- No Name Given: Nothing is given on this guy's backstory or motivation. He is simply a "man with flamethrower".
Wah Sing Ku (played by Jet Li)
- Big Brother Instinct: Inverted; he spends the whole film working to buy the release of his older brother, then tries to avenge him once Riggs and Murtaugh kill him.
- Catchphrase: "In Hong Kong, you'd be dead".
- Dragon-in-Chief: He is technically working to free his bosses, 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.