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Buddy Cop Show

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"Every police force in the US always contains two officers who are direct polar opposites, but are forced to work together, before eventually getting on quite well."
"Hollywood Rule Book," Vanity Fair

A Cop Show which focuses on a partnership, usually (but not exclusively) of two males, as opposed to a Cop Show which focuses on a single officer/detective or an entire squad, or Lovely Angels, the Distaff Counterpart. If the primary officers are a man and a woman, it's nearly always Strictly Professional Relationship.

Buddy cop shows often give a good deal of focus to the emotional lives and relationship of the two Main Characters. Because of this, two tropes that this genre is strongly associated with are The Not-Love Interest (where the plot focuses on the initial development of their relationship, typical of movies), and Heterosexual Life-Partners or Platonic Life-Partners (where the plot focuses on a pre-existing relationship, typical of TV series and movie sequels). The buddies are often an Odd Couple, occasionally one black and one white. In terms of personality, they tend to follow a distinct formula-one is a straight-laced stickler for protocol, the other is an unpredictable loose cannon. One By-the-Book Cop, one Cowboy Cop. You get it. The primary thing keeping them together — before Character Development — is that together, they fight crime. And they do it very, very well.


Movie versions abound, or at least they used to: Bad Boys (1995), Lethal Weapon, Die Hard with a Vengeance, etc. It was so common at one point that even making jokes at the expense of the genre became cliche.

Increasingly common variants are partnerships between a cop and a scientist, a cop and a Boxed Crook, a female cop and a snarky guy, or Androids and Detectives.

Subgenre of Buddy Picture. See also: Artistic License – Law Enforcement, Bromantic Comedy, Criminal Procedural, Forensic Drama, Cop Show, Police Procedural, Wunza Plot.



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    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 48 Hrs. and its sequel, Another 48 Hrs. The first film is often considered the Ur-Example of the genre, though there are similar precursors.
  • Alien Nation
  • Android Cop
  • Bad Boys (1995)
  • Bad Boys II
  • Bloodmoon has a wisecracking black detective and a haunted white detective trying to find a martial artist serial killer.
  • Bloodsucking Pharaohs In Pittsburgh is a spoof movie that puts two buddy cops in the context of a Religious Horror Slasher Movie.
  • Bon Cop, Bad Cop is the most Canadian version of this imaginable. The By-the-Book Cop is a native English speaker and the Cowboy Cop is a native French speaker (though they're both fluently bilingual), and they're hunting down a hockey-obsessed serial killer.
  • Bright is a buddy cop movie in an alternate Los Angeles where there are elves, orcs, and other fantasy races. Will Smith plays a Noble Bigot with a Badge who's partnered with a Token Heroic Orc.
  • City Heat - of the Teeth-Clenched Teamwork variety.
  • Cop and a Half
  • The Corruptor starring Chow Yun-fat and Mark Wahlberg, is one of the more serious and cynical examples.
  • Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes presents a darker variant, due to the Nordic Noir elements. Carl is washed-up, uptight and cynical, while Assad is eager, laid-back and actually likes his job. Carl's actually the Cowboy Cop, but this is treated as a deep character flaw, since it got his first partner severely injured.
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance... to an extent.
  • A subplot in the first Dirty Harry. Subverted, as Harry's partner quits in the second half of the film, just as it seems like they're becoming a team. The third film did this as well with Moore getting herself killed at the end.
  • Dragnet (1987)
  • End of Watch
  • Freebie and the Bean
  • The Hidden features one such couple, with officer Tom Beck being the emotional and down-to-earth one and FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (really a Puppeteer Parasite inhabiting a human body) being the stoic, logic-minded but awkward one. Interestingly, because Gallagher has a very personal reason to go after the bad guy, he's both The Stoic and the Cowboy Cop of the duo.
  • The Highwaymen follows Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the two Texas Rangers who apprehended and killed Bonnie and Clyde. However, while their partnership forms a large part of the plot, it's more of a quiet western drama and neither man (both of them veteran lawmen who came out of retirement for the job) is in a laughing mood given the murderous crime spree they're charged with stopping.
  • Hot Fuzz is a self-referential one, with the easygoing cop being a huge fan of buddy cop movies and the By-the-Book Cop having never seen one.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang teams up bumbling thief-turned-actor Harry Lockhart with detective Gay Perry for on the job experience for a Film Noir role he's set up for. Naturally, claims of This Is Reality go out the window when things parallel the detective novels he remembers from his childhood and things get very lampshade-y.
  • Parodied in Last Action Hero where the police station in Jack Slater's movie world assigns humorously mismatched partners to every cop except Jack Slater himself, who doesn't work with a partner because he's the bad-ass loner cowboy cop archetype instead.
  • Lethal Weapon. Arguably the Trope Codifier of the subgenre.
  • Loaded Weapon 1 exists simply to parody this.
  • Men in Black staring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Miss Congeniality 2 is a female case of this, with the former cop-undercover-as-beauty-pageant being forced to team up with a grumpy humorless officer.
  • National Security has a slight twist. Neither Steve Zahn's (Hank) nor Martin Lawrence's (Earl) character is a cop. Hank used to be a cop until his partner was killed, and he was filmed supposedly assaulting Earl (he was swatting a bumblebee), causing him to be fired and jailed for 6 months. After getting out, the only job he can get is in security, working for the same company as Earl, who keeps trying to get into the police academy. Hank is trying to find out who killed his partner and track down the warehouse robbers, while Earl is tagging along for the action, which infuriates Hank to no end. Naturally, as the film continues, they resolve their differences and, by the end, both are cops. While neither is really a By-the-Book Cop, Hank uses typical police investigative techniques, while Earl goes for the more "street" approach (e.g. Hank is content to sit on the roof for a night-long stakeout, while Earl gets bored and breaks into the bad guys' apartment).
  • The Nice Guys has a cynical professional thug Healy (Russell Crowe) teaming up with a PI March (Ryan Gosling), setting aside their differences (i.e. when Healy recently snapped his arm for a job) to try and track down a missing girl. Naturally, their Brains and Brawn Odd Couple setup means hijinks to ensue. That is when people aren't dying horribly.
  • The Other Guys
  • The Presidio - Although neither Inspector Austin nor Lt. Colonel Caldwell particularly like each other, they are forced to work together because neither has the jurisdiction to pursue the full case alone.
  • Princess Madam is inspired by the above Yes, Madam, but combined with action scenes inspired by John Woo and Heroic Bloodshed.
  • The Rush Hour movies. Jackie Chan plays a serious cop, skilled martial artist and very competent detective, who wants to follow procedure. Chris Tucker is the complete opposite.
  • Showtime has Robert De Niro, a serious by-the-book detective, and Eddie Murphy, a patrol cop wishing to play a detective on TV, put together as part of a reality show. Understandably, the former hates the idea, while the latter loves it. For bonus points, the studio tries to coach the "buddy cops" using William Shatner, who keeps referring to himself as TJ.
  • Tango and Cash
  • Theodore Rex has Whoopi Goldberg play a cyborg cop who teams up with a man-sized T-rex to stop a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Undeclared War follows the Lethal Weapon formula with the relationship between its leads, a Fish out of Water CIA agent assigned on a mission in Hong K Ong, where he butts heads with the local police senior he's forcibly teamed up with. They end up becoming Fire-Forged Friends by the end of the film.
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets takes this and combines it with a Space Opera.
  • The Way of the Lady Boxers is between a Hong Kong cop and a mainland Chinese officer teaming up to solve a case, much like Yes, Madam.
  • Wild Wild West paired Jim West (an actual Cowboy Cop, played by Will Smith) and Artemus Gordon (a Bungling Inventor and Master of Disguise, played by Kevin Kline) to act as a duo to stop a villain from overthrowing the U.S. Government.
  • Yes, Madam: A Hong Kong action film where both cops in question are Action Girl and asskickers (played by Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock) who took on the mob, Back-to-Back Badasses style.

  • Discworld partners Cuddy, a dwarf, and Detritus, a troll. Of course, Discworld being a narrative universe, they eventually become best friends. The trope is subverted when Cuddy is killed suddenly. Detritus has gone on to become arguably the fourth most powerful cop in the city, behind Angua, Carrot, and Vimes.
  • Isaac Asimov's Robot Novels are an early novel example version of the trope. Gregory Powell and Mike Donovan are field specialists for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, and are employed mainly on testing new or experimental robots in practical situations — either on planets or space stations. They regularly get into complex and potentially dangerous situations when trying to solve robot issues in the field. The issues typically involve the Three Laws of Robotics.
  • A subplot of Tad Williams' Otherland features Australian detectives Calliope Skouros and her partner Stan as they investigate a long-unsolved murder believed to be the work of a Serial Killer named John Wulgaru, who ends up being the series' Big Bad. The subplot uses all the standard Buddy Cop tropes and spends a fair bit of time lampshading them.
  • In "Prom Night" by Libba Bray (in the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns), the kids are running the (now barricaded) town they live in because of a Zombie Apocalypse that was Only Fatal to Adults. Tahmina and Jeff play the role of cops, keeping down crime and shooting any zombies that pop up. The story mostly focuses on their interactions with each other and their (mis)adventures as teenaged cops, and there's a bit of a Running Gag where Jeff constantly jokes about how stuff would be good material for when they get their own TV show.
  • Since this trope is so universically recognized, Matt Ruff needs only 9 words for an epic in-universe (fictive cop show) gag: "Shafiq: He's Sunni. Hassan: He's Shia. They fight crime."
  • Dark Sacred Night: In this novel author Michael Connelly teams up his long-time protagonist Detective Harry Bosch and his new protagonist Renee Ballard. Bosch and Ballard recognize each other as kindred spirts and agree to work cases together.

    Live-Action TV 


  • Community parodies this in "The Science of Illusion" when Annie and Shirley become temporary campus security guards. They end up getting into an argument about which one of them should be the By-the-Book Cop and which one should be the Cowboy Cop despite the fact that both of them are equally suited to both roles, and Abed, who is following them around, ends up invoking a whole load of tropes based on this.
  • Spoofed in a Conan O'Brien sketch, which paired the extremely tall Conan with the extremely short Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich as buddy cops. Reich informing a perp "You have the right... to be my bitch!"
  • Also parodied on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson—Geoff often refers to his idea for a cop show called Bone Patrol with G.P. and the Fergs.
  • Spoofed in the Les Nuls sketch "Magnum Choucroute." Talk about mismatched: one of the cops is actually a jar of sauerkraut.
  • Parodied on Mad TV with the "Seven Buddy Cops" sketch, which is a massive crossover starring Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy, Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Tommy Lee Jones, and Will Smith giving shout outs to all the buddy cop movies they starred in while trying to solve the case of the dead prostitutes on the orders of Da Chief. Even Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (aka Lethal Weapon's Murtaugh and Riggs) make a cameo.
  • In Noah's Arc, the movie Wade had written appears to be one of these (based on the lines we overhear and what Wade and Noah discuss).

    Tabletop Games 
  • It's not uncommon for players of Feng Shui to design Karate and Maverick Cop characters to fit this mold, with the Karate Cop being the By-the-Book Cop type, and the Maverick Cop being the rule-breaker. The 2056 juncture has its own little twist on this particular genre, the "buddy cop romance". These movies basically take the homoerotic elements that Buddy Cop movies often have and carry them to their logical conclusion.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Prosecutors are the direct partners of their detective counterparts in the series, which makes Gumshoe and Edgeworth fill this trope during their cases in Investigations.
    • There's also an unnamed Show Within a Show that Gumshoe likes featuring a strong prosecutor/detective bond that's almost as good as the one Gumshoe (thinks that he) shares with Edgeworth.
  • The arcade game Chase HQ, while not a straight example, has a Shout-Out to the Buddy Cop genre.
    • It's Rolling Thunder-like spinoff game Crime City is a straighter example.
  • Crime City is a Buddy Cop Run-and-Gun actioner.
  • Detroit: Become Human has anti-Android Cowboy Cop Hank Anderson forced to work alongside Android detective Connor to solve a series of Androids going Deviant, and they quickly develop this dynamic.
  • In Disco Elysium, the Player Character's partner, Kim Kitsuragi, is very fleshed out, frequently chimes in during conversations, and while he generally follows the player's lead, preferring to disappear into the background, he will take over from the main character if he feels strongly that the player is hindering the investigation. Whether him and the player character become True Companions or only stick it out for the sake of the case is once again down to the player and their choices.
  • The House of the Dead: OVERKILL is all about this sort of relationship between Isaac Washington (foul-mouthed Cowboy Cop) and Agent G (enigmatic professional secret agent).
  • Namco's arcade game Lucky & Wild, a combination of a driving game and light gun game where player one drives and shoots while player 2 just shoots.
  • League of Legends's crime fighting duo Caitlyn and Vi are a uncommon example of this trope, being that they are both women.
  • Policenauts, essentially a Sci-Fi version of Lethal Weapon.

    Web Animation 
  • Civil Protection, which stars two Civil Protection agents, Mike and Dave, from Half-Life 2.
  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue during the trailer for Sarge 2: Sarge Harder where the serious and gruff Sarge is partnered with the upbeat and lax Tucker.

  • Chainsawsuit: Parodied with Two Cops, who accidentally enrolled in the police academy twice, and is therefore buddies with himself.
  • DOUBLE K, an AU Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann webcomic based off of what the show would be like if Kamina and Kittan were two cops partnered up Starsky & Hutch-style.
  • Matchu has its Space Cops subplot, starring two aliens coming to Earth looking for an escaped fugitive from their homeworld and running afowl of one of the main characters. Complete with title sequence, episode card and commercial break.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad! has done this a few times with Steve and Roger. The two of them enjoy watching buddy cop shows, and decide to form their own duo, and they eventually settle on Wheels and the Legman, the gimmick being that one of them is in a wheelchair and the other isn't. The two of them argue over which of them gets to be Wheels, which leads to them splitting up, both in wheelchairs, and getting their own partners. Steve gets Bill Elliot (Who's catchphrase is "You're on a roll, Wheels) and Roger gets a fat black girl dressed as an angel (Who's catchphrase is "You gonna finish that?"). After Steve deduces that Roger's partner isn't a real angel because she eats devil's food cake, Roger concedes and the two get back together with Steve as Wheels and Roger as the Legman.
  • Clone High did this in-universe with Gandhi and George Washington Carver. Their submission (Gandhi's idea, really) for a film festival was a buddy cop film called "Black and Tan".
  • Bonkers has the titular character (a washed-up cartoon star in the form of a Funny Animal bobcat who operates on Toon physics/logic) and Lucky, who is an ordinary human.note 
  • Cosmic Cowboys, a Space Western featuring the Funny Animal duo Curtis and Dook.
  • The Critic, in the episode "Sherman of Arabia," heavily mocked this genre with Beverly Hills Robo K9 Cop and a Half 2, wherein Cowboy Cop Dirty Harry is partnered with, to quote the IMDb...
    Da Chief: ...a woman, a cute little kid, an ugly old dog, a dinosaur, and a leprechaun.
    Leprechaun: I'll be your lucky charm!
    [leprechaun explodes]
    Not Schwarzenegger: You think you've got problems? I'm partnered with a pig, an alien, Siamese twins, a sofa, and a second rate mime.
    (The mime also exploded.)
  • Fillmore!: A Buddy Hall Monitor Show.
  • The Flintstones: Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble in the Bedrock Cops segments on The Flintstone Comedy Show.note 
  • Funky Cops
  • Llan-ar-goll-en follows the detective pursuits of clumsy man Prys ar Frys, and his female Detective Animal friend Ceri, both of them being complete opposites from each other, as they attempt to crack any case that occurs in their village. The show has a more lighthearted feel than usual, as it is a Preschool Show after all.
  • Ozzy & Drix, which takes place inside a boy's body, and is based on the much-maligned movie Osmosis Jones.
  • Adult Swim's Stroker and Hoop

Alternative Title(s): Buddy Cops