50 Coolest Movie Detectives

Mystery, Inc.

The Detectives: Talk about the ‘spirit’ of the 1960s – four kids and their talking Great Dane drive around in a psychedelic Chevrolet Sportvan unmasking crooks disguised as monsters.

Why They’re Cool: Regardless of the specific merits of the live-action Scooby-Doo (2002) and its sequel, be honest – when you were a kid, you wanted to join the adventures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby aboard the Mystery Machine.

Quintessential Quote: “Scooby-dooby-Doo!”

John Klute

The Detective: The eponymous anti-hero of Klute (1971) is a police officer who becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy after he’s hired privately to investigate call girl Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda).

Why They’re Cool: Donald Sutherland’s shiftiness is well used to portray a ‘tec whose surveillance tips over into stalking.

Quintessential Quote: “The next few weeks I would like to know where you are all the time.”

Daryl Zero

The Detective: Bill Pullman played this reclusive private eye in Zero Effect (1998), who has built his mystique by only doing business through lawyer Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller).

Why They’re Cool: A novel blend of Sherlock Holmes and Howard Hughes, Zero insists on never directly meeting his clients.

Quintessential Quote: “I have mastered the fine art of detachment. And while it comes at some cost, this supreme objectivity is what makes me, I dare say, the greatest observer the world has ever known.”

Benjamn Espsito

The Detective: A retired Argentinian federal agent, played by Ricardo Darin in The Secret In Their Eyes (2009), who can’t shake off the unfinished business of a case from the 1970s he never solved to his satisfaction.

Why They’re Cool: The best detectives never let go of their instincts.

Quintessential Quote: Esposito is warned that “if you keep going over the past, you’re going to end up with a thousand pasts and no future.”

Claude Lebel

The Detective: When the French authorities get wind of a planned attempt on the life of Charles De Gaulle, they recommend deputy commissioner Lebel (played by future Bond villain Michael Lonsdale) as the best man to stop the assassination.

Why They’re Cool: Given how cool Edward Fox’s Jackal is, it takes a tenacious detective to prevent The Day Of The Jackal (1973) from taking place.

Quintessential Quote: “I’ve been given a job to do, so we’ll just have to do it.”

John Anderton

The Detective: Tom Cruise’s PreCrime cop has it easy in Minority Report (2002), given that the deduction is handed to him on a plate. But what happens when the system is rigged and he becomes a suspect?

Why They’re Cool: A very clever spin on the genre, as Anderton suddenly has to dispense with sci-fi gimmicks and go old-school by working things out for himself.

Quintessential Quote: “There hasn’t been a murder in 6 years. There’s nothing wrong with the system, it is perfect.”

Karl Lohmann

The Detective: Berlin Inspector played by Otto Wernicke in two otherwise unconnected Fritz Lang thrillers, M (1931) and The Testament Of Doctor Mabuse (1933).

Why They’re Cool: Lohmann’s shambolic appearance hides a keen mind a la Columbo, but he’s powerless against the rising psychosis of criminals in the pre-Nazi period.

Quintessential Quote: After being shot at yet again, “I’m getting fed up with this!”

Ace Ventura

The Detective: Miami-based pet detective played by Jim Carrey in two movies – the leader in his field, possibly because it’s a career few others would even think of.

Why They’re Cool: Ace gets by on sheer flamboyance, talking and walking as if he’s some kind of animal himself.

Quintessential Quote: “If I’m not back in five minutes… just wait longer.”

Richard Chance

The Detective: Secret Service investigator in To Live And Die in L.A. (1985) who becomes so obsessed with tracking down counterfeiter Rick Masters he’s prepared to pull off his own heist.

Why They’re Cool: Career screen cop William Petersen got his first lead role as Chance, showcasing the ‘beyond the call of duty’ determination that bagged him similar roles in Manhunter and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation .

Quintessential Quote: “Guess what? Uncle Sam don’t give a shit about your expenses. You want bread, fuck a baker.”

Nicholas Angel

The Detective: Simon Pegg’s cop in Hot Fuzz (2007) is so good he is resented by his London colleagues, who farm him out to rural backwater Sandford on ‘swan finding’ duty with action-movie buff Danny Butterman.

Why They’re Cool: Angel earns his wings by realising that a hideous conspiracy has turned Sandford into the country’s murder capital.

Quintessential Quote: “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a police officer… apart from the summer of 1979 when I wanted to be Kermit the Frog.”

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