Which Movie Stars Have Played Cops the Most Times?

According to Kevin Smith, it wasn't easy to direct Bruce Willis while making Cop Out, since Willis had played the smirking cop so often in his career that he felt he knew the character (and his own movie star persona) better than Smith did. Certainly, Willis has worked in cinematic law enforcement a number of times, but has he played more cop roles than all his peers? Movieline decided to find out by doing a little bit of resume-skimming for some of today's top actors.

The rules? The star has to be alive, sequels count (since they contribute to the perception that the actor often plays a cop), and we're focusing on regular cop cops, not military men or federal employees like ATF or CIA agents. Here's what we found:

Bruce Willis

Die Hard (1988) .... John McClane

Die Hard 2 (1990) .... John McClane

The Last Boy Scout (1991) .... Joe Hallenbeck

Striking Distance (1993) .... Det. Tom Hardy

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) .... John McClane

Sin City (2005) .... Hartigan

Hostage (2005) .... Jeff Talley

16 Blocks (2006) .... Det. Jack Mosley

Live Free or Die Hard (2007) .... John McClane

Surrogates (2009) .... Tom Greer

Cop Out (2010) .... Jimmy Monroe

It's hard to argue that Willis has a lock on the top spot here, having played a police officer 11 times, although four of his cop claims to fame are from the Die Hard franchise. Take those out, though, and Willis still has a fairly impressive resume.

Clint Eastwood

Coogan's Bluff (1968) .... Coogan

Dirty Harry (1971) .... Harry Callahan

Magnum Force (1973) .... Harry Callahan

The Enforcer (1976/I) .... Harry Callahan

The Gauntlet (1977) .... Ben Shockley

Sudden Impact (1983) .... Harry Callahan

City Heat (1984) .... Lieutenant Speer

Tightrope (1984) .... Capt. Wes Block

The Dead Pool (1988) .... Harry Callahan

The Rookie (1990) .... Nick Pulovski

Like Willis, Eastwood's cop career is somewhat inflated by five Dirty Harry movies. Of course, if we're talking about who's played the most gunslinging roles, Eastwood would have this locked up.

Mel Gibson

Mad Max (1979) .... Max

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) .... Max

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) .... Max

Lethal Weapon (1987) .... Sergeant Martin Riggs

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) .... Martin Riggs

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) .... Martin Riggs

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) .... Martin Riggs

The Million Dollar Hotel (2000) .... Detective Skinner

Complete Savages (2004) .... Officer Cox

Edge of Darkness (2010) .... Thomas Craven

Mel Gibson's recent role in Edge of Darkness was actually an exception for him, since he's actually played very few cop roles outside of the Lethal Weapon and Mad Max franchises. If you haven't seen The Million Dollar Hotel, or happened to catch a few stray episodes of the Gibson-produced sitcom Complete Savages, you've missed most of them.

Sylvester Stallone

Nighthawks (1981) .... Det. Sgt. Deke DaSilva

Cobra (1986) .... Lieutenant Marion 'Cobra' Cobretti

Tango & Cash (1989) .... Lt. Raymond Tango

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) .... Sgt. Joe Bomowski

Demolition Man (1993) .... John Spartan

Judge Dredd (1995) .... Judge Dredd

Cop Land (1997) .... Freddy Heflin

D-Tox (2002) .... Jake Malloy

Tough guy Stallone has played an onscreen cop eight times, and none of those were sequels. If you're looking for the actor who's played the most cops, he's your man.

Harrison Ford

The Mod Squad (1968) .... Beach Patrol Cop

More American Graffiti (1979) .... Officer Bob Falfa

Blade Runner (1982) .... Rick Deckard

Witness (1985) .... Det. Capt. John Book

The Devil's Own (1997) .... Tom O'Meara

Random Hearts (1999) .... Dutch Van Den Broeck

Hollywood Homicide (2003) .... Sgt. Joe Gavilan

Ford's two earliest credit on the list were minor ones: an episode of The Mod Squad and an uncredited role in More American Graffiti. Still, the actor's gruff demeanor makes him an ideal onscreen law enforcer.

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  • VoV says:

    He is a PI in LBS. It's kind of integral to the story that he's a PI and not a Cop in the film too ...
    He's not really even a former cop. He's a former Secret Service agent. And while SSA's are responsible for a few major crimes in America, especially anti-counterfeiting, they are basically a paramilitary force, not a police force.

  • BlueThunder says:

    Where are Clarles Bronson and Tommy Lee Jones in this list?
    In my opinion, one of "three best" actors cops (Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Tommy Lee Jones).
    Best Regards

  • wolfe says:

    Dennis Franz on the little screen and the big screen.

  • mancla says:

    I would dispute that Mel Gibson plays a cop in Road Warrior or Beyond Thunderdome. Sure he was a cop in Mad Max but in the 2 sequels civilization has broken down and there is more or less no governing authority or law for the Gibson character to enforce. He should more correctly be considered an ex-cop for those 2 films. Oh and by the way since I have your attention: why is your list confined to only living actors?

  • bitterghettogirl says:

    What about Jackie Chan? He's always a cop. Off the top of my head he's played a cop in all the Police Stories, New Police Stories, Rush Hour etc. He must be top of the list.

  • Lucas says:

    Damon's character in the Departed very much was a cop. He was just a cop that was on the take even before he entered the Academy, something he did just so he could spy on the cops for the Mob.
    dirty as hell, but he was a cop.

  • Lucas says:

    by the rules, the CIA doesn't count. No CIA, no NSA, no FBI etc.

  • Lucas says:

    okay lets change up/clarify the rules a little. just for fun
    1. character has to be a cop during the course of the action. not a former cop
    2. Police, any level (uniform, detective, etc) but no FBI, CIA, NSA, Navy Seals, Rangers, PI's, Bodyguards.
    3. All TV shows, franchises etc. count as 1 character
    Now who wins.
    For fun, lets have one list for living actors and one for no longer living.
    And let's not forget that Movie Stars doesn't mean only men, shall we

  • Murtaugh says:

    ... And 'Witness'!

  • Ritchie says:

    Steven Seagal, on closer inspection, tends to play black-ops Special Forces (often ex, surprise, surprise!) more often than not... but for completion's sake -
    Born to Raise Hell (2010) .... Bobby
    The Keeper (2009/I) .... Roland
    Kill Switch (2008) (V) .... Det. Jacob King
    Ticker (2001) .... Frank Glass
    Exit Wounds (2001) .... Orin Boyd
    The Glimmer Man (1996) .... Lt. Jack Cole
    Out for Justice (1991) .... Det. Gino Felino
    Hard to Kill (1990) .... Mason Storm
    Above the Law (1988) .... Nico Toscani
    Is 9 respectable?

  • Murtaugh says:

    ... And 'Witness'!

  • Johnny Nash says:

    You can't knock Johnny Nash Ross. Alas dad thinks he's that bloke in black that sang "Walk the Line".

  • Bobby says:

    Al Pacino has done some of cop movies.

    Serpico (1973)
    Sea of Love (1989)
    Heat (1995)
    Righteous Kill (2008)

  • Damon says:

    Andy Garcia holds the record. How is it you guys don't know this?! Lazy research.