Number 10: No Way to Treat a Lady, 1968. Starring Rod Steiger, Lee Remick, and George Segal. Any movie with a cast like that is a must-see. In this one Steiger shows off his versatile acting talents by playing a murderous psychopath who assumes various disguises to stalk and kill his victims. Segal is the dedicated detective determined to bring him in, and along the way he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Ms. Remick, who is eventually, you guessed it, stalked by the killer.
Number 9:The Detective, 1968. Starring Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Robert Duvall. Based on Roderick Thorp’s novel of the same name, this had to be one of Old Blue Eye’s best non-musical roles. Sinatra, who was a fine actor, played a tough, but conflicted homicide detective who solves a “heater” case, only to subsequently realize he has the wrong man. It’s a very adult film that touches on the seedy side of things in such a way that you’ll be squirming in your seat. There are some excellent performances all around.
Number 8: Fuzz, 1972. Starring Burt Reynolds, Raquel Welch, Yul Brenner, and Jack Weston. This was actually the second teaming of Burt and Raquel, their first being the 60’s western, 100 Rifles. By this time both of them were major stars and each turned in a solid performance in the film version of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel. The ensemble cast brought the 87th alive so well that no one actor stole the show. Yul Brenner gave a deft performance as the Deaf Man, and the various story threads all coalesced to a fantastic ending. The scene in which Reynolds and Jack Weston interrogate a suspect while they’re wearing nun’s habits is so hilarious that you’ll be rolling on the floor laughing.
Number 7: Coogan’s Bluff, 1968. Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan
Clark, and Dan Stroud. This is probably my second favorite Eastwood movie.
Clint hit all the right notes as an Arizona sheriff in the Big Apple trying to
apprehend the prisoner he let escape from his custody. Lee J. Cobb gives a
brilliant performance as the beleaguered NYPD lieutenant who has little regard
and even less patience for the western lawman. It’s a classic “fish out of
water” story, and spawned the popular television series, McCloud.
Number 6: The French Connection, 1971. Starring Gene Hackman, Rob Schneider, Fernando Rey. Real life NYPD copper Eddie Eagan had a role in this tough, gritty film that netted Hackman his Oscar. It’s an excellent portrayal of a couple of dedicated narcotics cops who get caught up in the case of their lives. Aside from the excellent dialogue and brutal depictions, two parts really stand out: the famous car chase through the streets of New York where Hackman purses an el train, and the ending, which shows the degree of obsession that working a case of this magnitude can cause.
Number 5: L.A. Confidential, 1997. Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim
Bassinger, and Guy Pearce. Although Crowe and Pearce are the stars of this one,
Spacey steals the show with his off-beat performance of a sophisticated
detective who moonlights as a Hollywood consultant. It was an arduous task
bringing James Ellroy’s novel to the screen, but this movie does it with aplomb.
The climactic shotgun shootout is magnificent.
Number 4: Dirty Harry, 1971. Starring Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, John Vernon, and Harry Guardino. Director Don Siegel teamed with Eastwood again in this remake of Siegel’s previous cop thriller, Madigan. This time Eastwood struck gold as Dirty Harry Calahan, the cop who hates everybody, and consequently gets “every dirty job that comes along.” Andrew Robinson’s portrayal as a psychopathic killer will have you writing your congressman to repeal the Miranda Rights decision, and John Vernon’s performance as the condescending big city mayor is a classic. This is my favorite Eastwood movie and set the stage for one of the most successful movie series of all time. In the final scene Eastwood pays homage to Gary Cooper and the ending of High Noon.
Number 3: In The Heat of the Night, 1967. Starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant. This one had two of the greatest actors of their generation playing in one of the best movies of the era. Set in the Deep South in the 1960s, Philadelphia police detective Poitier must assist racist police chief Steiger investigate a murder in the small town of Sparta, Georgia. The movie was actually filmed in Sparta, Illinois, and some of the buildings used in the film are still considered local landmarks. Based on John Ball’s Vigil Tibbs character, this movie showed that the mystery genre could produce not only an engrossing story, but inject a theme of social consciousness as well.
Number 2: Heat, 1995. Starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Amy Brenneman,
Ashley Judd. Director Michael Mann hit all the right notes in this gritty, yet
stylistic face-off between cop Pacino and bank robber DeNiro. Each plays a man
at the top of his game, and they happen to be on opposite sides of the track
and on a collision course. The movie was so realistic that a couple of
real-life bank robbers tried subsequently tried to emulate the bad guys M.O. and
found out that it wasn’t so easy going up against the real LAPD. Despite being
a tad too long, and having one too many domestic unrest scenes between Pacino
and his unfaithful wife, the movie is as smooth as silk gliding over glass.
Number 1: Bullit, 1968. Starring Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bissett,
Robert Vaughn, Robert Duval. Besides being one of the best cop movies of the
turbulent 60’s, and having the grand daddy of all car chases (in which McQueen
did much of his own driving), this one also reunited Magnificent Seven co-stars Robert Vaughn and Steve McQueen. Vaughn,
branching into movies after portraying Napoleon Solo on The Man from UNCLE, gives a standout performance as a politically
ambitious prosecutor with his own agenda, and McQueen is a superb as Frank Bullit,
San Francisco’s finest detective and rule-breaker. One of the greatest moments
in movie history also occurs when McQueen and Vaughn face off in the airport
finale. McQueen sums up his disdain for the duplicitous prosecutor with one,
eight letter word: “Bullsh*t.”
Well, there you have them. My favorite, all-time crime flicks. Do yourself a favor and rent the ones you haven’t seen. You won’t be disappointed.