7 films and series, from HK cinema to Netflix and Hollywood, for aspiring police officers

By Edmund Ho

We present seven top picks that highlight the thrills and spills of films and TV shows revolving around police work – along with a good dose of realism and comedy that helps to grab the viewers’ attention

By Edmund Ho |

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Infernal Affairs is a Hong Kong cop movie classic.

Infernal Affairs (2003)

This Hong Kong cop movie, starring Andy Lau Tak-wah and Tony Leung Chiu-wai, was acclaimed both at home and abroad. While there were many illustrious locally made crime thrillers before Infernal Affairs, such as The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, and Hard Boiled, none can boast a remake by famed Hollywood director Martin Scorsese (The Departed, which went on to win an Academy Award). While most Hong Kong cop films tend to feature over-the-top gunfights and fisticuffs, Infernal Affairs’ simple story about a mole in the police department and an undercover cop among the triads is given gritty, realistic treatment with a great script and a great cast.

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Line of Duty (2012-present)

This TV series focuses on investigations conducted by British police’s Anti-Corruption Unit. The unit probes police officers who may be involved in any wrongdoing or corruption. While the series has become famous for its superb plots and acting, it also takes a closer look at a less well-known department within the police force.

Seven Seconds (2018-present)

In the wake of police brutality and racism allegations in America comes the Netflix series Seven Seconds, which looks into the explosive relationship between the country’s blacks and white police officers. A white policeman has just run over a black teenager; thinking he is dead, the officer tries to cover it up with the help of his friends in the police force. However, this sets off racial tensions in the city of New Jersey as officials try to uncover the truth.

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Miami Vice (1984-1990)

Heat sees director Michael Mann at the top of his game, but when he was just establishing himself in Hollywood, he took on the role of executive producer of the now legendary TV series Miami Vice. Set in sun-soaked Florida, the show gets rid of the typical detective and puts crime solving in the hands of two fashionable, undercover cops. Along with a soundtrack featuring artists such as Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd, the duo take on drug dealers and murderers on the mean streets of Miami.

Heat (1995)

A skilled detective (Al Pacino) and a master criminal (Robert de Niro) are involved in a cat-and-mouse chase after a robbery goes badly wrong and three people die. As the net closes on the gang of thieves, the tension ratchets up. While not as realistic as other cop films, Heat more than makes up for it with its panache and the stylised battle between cops and robbers.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-present)

It is easy to criticise Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a cheap comedy rip-off of real cop shows like Cops, but it wouldn’t be very accurate. While there are one-liners and visual gags galore, there is no other show on television currently that so concisely (each episode is about 20 minutes long) captures the camaraderie and teamwork in a police department. But while other shows may falter when juggling both comedy and crime, Brooklyn Nine-Nine manages to make a decent job of it.

Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999)

This show does not hold your hand. Sometimes interweaving as many as four storylines in one episode, Homicide puts you right in the middle of a gritty police precinct in the US city of Baltimore. The series follows a crack team of police detectives as they go about their work. Filmed entirely with handheld cameras, the show became famous for its realism and its unbiased stories about crime and police officers.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne