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Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan)
- All Asians Know Martial Arts: As expected by any character played by Chan.
- Apologetic Attacker: Apologizes to the black bar patrons after starting a fight for being innocently insensitive.
- Beware the Nice Ones: He's generally nice, but don't push him too far.
- Disappeared Dad: He grew up in an orphanage and his adopted father was killed by Ricky Tan.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Good Cop to Carter's Bad Cop.
- Good Is Not Soft: As is typical with Chan.
- It's Personal: He has some personal connection to the main antagonists in each film.
- In the first one, Juntao/ Thomas Griffin had killed his last partner and kidnapped the Consul Han's daughter, whom Lee had befriended.
- The second film has Ricky Tan, his father's ex partner and, later revealed, his father's killer.
- Kenji in the third film is Lee's childhood friend from an orphanage he grew up in, who was inadvertently abandoned by Lee when the latter was adopted. He became involved with the Triads and uses his connection with Lee to further his goals, since he knows Lee is unwilling to kill him.
- N-Word Privileges: The first movie shows that he does not have them.
- One-Man Army: He is able to defeat many people at once due to his kungfu skills, despite him trying to avoid a fight.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Carter's red.
- Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Knows Japanese, likely due to his ties with Kenji.
Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker)
- Big Brother Instinct: Towards Soo Yung in the third film.
- Casanova Wannabe: Tries to be a Casanova in the second film.
- Cool Car: His black Corvette that appears in all the films.
- Cowboy Cop: Deconstructed in both the first and third films.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He's immediately abraisive and uncooperative to almost everyone he comes across (except for a nun), won't shut up, and has been put on a demotion assignment at the start of two of the films... but he's almost always right about his instincts, recognizes talent in others, will not give up on a case, and is an absurdly fast draw.
- Disappeared Dad: His father was shot during a traffic stop.
- Freudian Excuse: The reason he wanted no partner in the first Rush Hour. His father was killed on duty over a mere parking ticket. His partner did nothing to help him which lead to his death.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Bad Cop to Lee's Good Cop.
- Guns Akimbo: Does this in the first and third films
- I Work Alone: Never wanted a partner initially. Mainly due to his dad's partner not backing him up to confront a punk who shot Carter's dad over a ticket.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Becomes one by the end of the first movie.
- Pop-Cultured Badass: He loves his R&B, particularly Michael Jackson.
- Quick Draw: In the first movie, he is able to drop from a standing position, fire an ankle-holstered gun, stabilize his aim with his off-hand, and get a kill shot, in the time it takes an assassin to reach for and pull the trigger on a waist-holstered gun. In the second film, in the time Kenny takes to assume his fighting stance, Carter has his gun out and aimed at Kenny's head. Because of the over the shoulder camera shot, viewers can see Lee visibly startled by the speed of the two of them.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Lee's blue.
- Soul Brotha: Especially in the first film.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Everyone of those 3 things.
- Took a Level in Badass: While always a somewhat competent fighter, he was unable to take on the gangsters by himself in the first two films. In the third film, he beat up a majority of the Triad mooks by himself.
- Uncle Tom Foolery: He turned into this type of character in the second film where he took almost nothing seriously and he seemed to annoy Lee more than he helped him and he would make a joke out of almost every situation, and would try to avoid the action the best way he could. That still didn't stop him from doing his job, though.
Thomas Griffin aka Juntao (Tom Wilkinson)
- Big Bad: Of the first film.
- Big Bad Friend: To Consul Han, kidnapping his daughter as payback for his criminal empire being squandered.
- The Danza: Played by Tom Wilkinson.
- Disney Villain Death: falls to his death while fighting Lee.
- Evil Brit: He's British and Happens to be one of China's most wanted crime lords.
- Faux Affably Evil: Politely informs Han that he has six blocks of C4 wired to Soo Yung.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He falls to his death when the bomb vest he'd originally strapped to Soo Yung tears.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Until the end.
- Walking Spoiler: Look at all those spoiler spaces.
- Wicked Cultured: He kidnapped Soo Yung as vengeance over his art collection being confiscated.
Sang (Ken Leung)
- Creepy Monotone: Has a chilly voice in some parts of the film.
- The Dragon: He's Juntao's second in command.
- Dirty Coward: He tells Carter to "fight like a man" and drop his gun, but when he does he whips out another gun, only to get shot by Carter
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: He gets scarred by Soo Yung while kidnapping her.
- More Dakka: Wields a MAC-10 at the end of the film.
- Title Drop: "No, just rush hour."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Attempts this at the end by taking all the money left behind by his boss.
Consul Solon Han (Tzi Ma)
Detective Tania Johnson (Elizabeth Peña)
- Chekhov's Skill: Her bomb-defusing training pays off towards the end.
Soo-Yung Han (Julia Hsu in the first film, Zhang Jingchu in the third film)
Rush Hour 2
Ricky Tan (John Lone)
- Anti-Villain: Subverted big-time. He seemingly wants to become The Atoner for betraying Lee's father and invokes Even Evil Has Standards (or at least Pragmatic Villainy) against the Triad splinter-faction allegedly responsible for bombing China's U.S. embassy. He's full of crap, having indeed orchestrated said bombing and faked said splinter-faction all along — to distract the authorities from his true plan. And he doesn't just lack remorse for betraying Lee's father; he's the one who killed him.
- Badass Creed: He is not the least bit intimidated by Carter.Ricky: "You Americans are so funny."
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Stephen Reign.
- Dirty Cop: He used to be part of Hong Kong police, until he became a Triad boss.
- Faking the Dead: He's seemingly shot and killed by Hu Li aboard his yacht, only to turn up alive at the Red Dragon casino.
- Faux Affably Evil: Does not drop his polite demeanor while having a bomb planted in Lee's mouth, or goading Lee into shooting him.
- The Starscream: He kills Steven Reign when he attempts to leave with the counterfeiting plates.
- The Triads and the Tongs: He's a Triad leader.
- You Killed My Father: He sold out Lee's father to the Triads when he discovered he was a Dirty Cop.
Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi)
- Dark Action Girl / Dark Chick: Creates sexual tension with one of the heroes, and is one of the higher up and more dangerous fighters on the baddies side.
- Dark Is Evil: She usually wears an all-black pantsuit.
- The Dragon/Dragon Lady: Ricky Tan's right-hand woman, who often dresses in traditional garb, and is extremely dangerous.
- Dragon Their Feet: Seemingly killed by a polearm to her chest, but shows up right after Ricky Tan falls to his death.
- Gratuitous English: She has only 2 lines in English: "Some apple?" and "Out!" This was due to Zhang Ziyi's limited fluency in English.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: She wears a wig and sunglasses when she's disguised as a delivery person, leading Carter and Lee to recognize her when she delivers a package to Isabella.
- The Starscream: Subverted. She seemingly shoots and kills Ricky Tan, though it's actually a ruse.
- Taking You with Me: After they defeat Ricky Tan, she tries to kill Lee and Carter with a bomb. They barely escape before it goes off.
- Torture Technician: Implied.Hu Li: (to Lee) After I'm done with you, you'll be begging me to press this button.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Subverted. Carter tries to fight Hu Li, but is KO-ed in every encounter. Towards the end, Carter tells her:Carter: I ain't holding back this time because you're a woman. I'm gonna pretend you're a man... a very beautiful man with a great body that I'd like to take to the movies...
Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sánchez)
- Love Interest: In a Love Triangle between Lee and Carter, ultimately falling for Lee.
- Ms. Fanservice: Spends a lengthy scene in black underwear and an open bathrobe.
- Noodle Incident: The reason for her absence in the third movie: she was somehow accidentally shot in the neck by Carter.
- Only a Flesh Wound: She gets shot by Hu Li during their Designated Girl Fight, but she gets better.
- Reverse Mole: She's pretending to be a crooked Customs agent and Steven Reign's girlfriend, but is actually an undercover secret service agent.
Steven Reign (Alan King)
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Ricky Tan.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: A hotel billionaire who's in league with the Triads.
- Death by Materialism: He gets stabbed by Ricky Tan when he tries to walk away with the counterfeiting plates.
- Too Dumb to Live: While he's smart enough to carry a hidden gun for self-defense when trying to leave with the plates, he still not only reveals it while it's still holstered, but also gets too close to Tan to draw it effectively and fast enough, leading to the aforementioned Death by Materialism example.
Rush Hour 3