Top 10 Corrupt Cops

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In anticipation of Brooklyn’s Finest being released in the UK on Momentum Pictures Blu-ray and DVD October 18th, Top 10 Films presents the best Corrupt Cops on Film.

When the boys in blue can’t decide between good and bad, right from wrong, those caught in the middle find themselves with a problem on their hands. Corrupt cops has been a theme prevalent in so many Hollywood movies over the years it has taken some very skillful writing just to avoid the usual cliches. Frequently, those cliches just get re-cooked and repackaged. But from time to time there’s still some unique blood in the characters that choose a job with the police and decide to operate above the law.

10. Brooklyn’s Finest – Ethan Hawke (Sal Prodica)

etha hawke, brooklyn's finest, film, corrupt cops,

9. Leon – Gary Oldman (Norman “Stan” Stansfield)

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8. Training Day – Denzel Washington (Alonzo Harris)

denzel washington, corrupts cops, training day

7. Street Kings – Forest Whitaker (Captain Jack Wander)

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6. LA Confidential – James Cromwell (Captain Dudley Smith)

cromwell, best corrupt cops, la confidential,

5. The Godfather – Sterling Hayden (Officer McCluskey)

sterling haryden, corrupt cops, godfather,

4. Unlawful Entry – Ray Liotta (Officer Pete Davis)

unlawful entry, film, ray liotta, corrupt cops,

3. The Departed – Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan)

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2. Internal Affairs – Richard Gere (Dennis Peck)

richard gere, interal affairs, film

1. Bad Lieutenant – Harvey Keitel (The Lieutenant)

The Bad Lieutenant - Harvey Keitel (The Lieutenant)


Brooklyn’s Finest stars Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and is directed by Antoine Fuqua. Buy it on DVD/Blu-ray from: DVD | Blu-ray DVD | Blu-ray

Directed by Antione Fuqua (Shooter, Training Day), this gritty, edge-of-your-seat urban cop drama is a must own for fans of The Wire, as it also stars Michael K. Williams (Omar Little) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Clay Davis) from the hit HBO show.

Burnt out veteran Eddie Dugan (Gere) is just one week away from his pension and a fishing cabin in Connecticut. Narcotics officer Sal Procida (Hawke) has discovered there‟s no line he won‟t cross to provide a better life for his long-suffering wife and seven children. “Tango” Butler (Cheadle) has been undercover so long his loyalties have started to shift from his fellow police officers to his prison buddy Caz (Snipes), one of Brooklyn‟s most infamous drug dealers.

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    Awesome awesome list Dan, glad to see most of my favorite bad cops in that top 10, from Stansfield to Alonzo Harris and Dudley Smith. I probably would have put Gary Oldman in my top 5.

  2. Avatar
    Shubhajit Lahiri Reply

    Great list!!! I would have changed the places for a few of the films, but then, this is your list, not mine 🙂 Keep more such lists coming!

  3. Avatar
    MorganC Reply

    Great list…love Liotta in Unlawful Entry. His performance in that is similar to his psychotic role in Something Wild, which is an 80s classic.

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    Aiden R. Reply

    Haha. Knew Keitel was gonna top this. Never seen Bad Lieutenant, but just from what I’ve heard, I’ll just agree with the #1 slot. LOVE Stanstead though.

  5. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    I gotta agree with Castor on that one, I’d have had Gary Oldman up higher in the list, but a great list nonetheless. What was the criteria for your judgement, Dan?

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Rodney: This list was a contribution so I can’t answer that one, but I was thinking when I was putting the pics together that I’d have Gary Oldman a bit higher.

    @Aiden: Just looking at some of the pics dotted around the internet from Bad Lieutenant is enough to know that is the top “dirty” cop film. Although it does have more redemptive qualities than some of the others in this list.

    @MorganC: I’m a big fan of Unlawful Entry too. Liotta’s cra-zeeee!

  7. Avatar
    Heather Reply

    Great list and so many that I had forgotten about or didn’t think of! Immediately my brain went to Ray Liotta and Matt Damon, but I had forgotten about Harvey Keitel. EXCELLENT number one.

    But I wonder…………does the Sheriff of Nottingham count? Cuz he was one corrupt bad dude.

    I’d give an honorable mention to Kevin Bacon in Wild Things.

  8. Avatar
    Peter E. Reply

    Great idea for a list, Dan-O!!! And not a bad one in the bunch. Very well done, sir. Love the inclusions of Dennis Peck, that shit McClusky and Sal Prodica. Good work!!!

  9. Avatar
    Richard Reply

    Great list, Dan. Maybe missing Officer Dibble from Topcat, but I’ll forgive you. 😉

    I tagged you in a 15 Directors Meme. Not sure if you’ve already done it or not, so apologies if you’ve already been tagged.

  10. Avatar
    Luke Reply

    Oh McCluskey. What a tool. Excellent choice, there. May not have thought of it myself. And can we bloggers just figure out a way to get Gary Oldman into a good role again so he can get some recognition from the academy? He’s such a talent, and he’s typically wasted in most everything he does…

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    Ronan Reply

    Haven’t seen Brooklyn’s Finest, Unlawful Entry, Inernal Affairs or Street Kings. But the other entries are some seriously bad good guys. I would probably put Gary Oldman’s ‘Stan’ at number one as he seemed to get a sick pleasure from killing innocent people and showed no sign of remorse whereas Keital’s Bad Lieutenant, although doing some really bad stuff, is eventually sorry for what he has done and opens himself to the possibility of redemption. Great idea for a list Dan.

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    mark Reply

    How about Orson Welles in Touch of Evil?

    Also, Jim Belushi in Gang Related (a truly detestable character)…

    I was going to say Nic Cage in the Herzog version of Bad Lieutenant before deciding he could never top Keitel (and let’s face it, who could?)… but maybe cage deserves a nod for his turn in De Palma’s Snake Eyes (although he does turn out to be the good guy).

    Outside of the good old box, how about Spencer Tracey in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, who starts off good but gets greedy in the final act?

    And, on that note, a more legit entry via Gene Hackman in Cisco Pike, who, like Tracey, is looking for a way to fund his imminent (albeit forced) retirement by getting Kris Kristofferson to sell a bunch of pot.

  13. Avatar
    mark Reply

    Also, Oldman in Romeo is Bleeding …. strange movie – starts off as if it will be a twisted masterpiece but gets too convaluted after the first third.

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