How Tom Hanks Ruined The Cop Action Movie Genre - Off World Tees

How Saving Private Ryan Ruined The Cop Action Movie Genre

I want to take you on a little journey at the start of this very subjective cinematic analysis.

I have based this analysis on this list of the Best Police Action Movies and TV on IMDB.

To be honest as well at the top, I have held this belief since starting a never ending study into the way Shane Black uses nostalgia as a vehicle in his movies, but I may never finish writing that, so I will get this down now!

After studying the list though, I think that there may be something in this. 

Jim and I have spent many lonely nights in space, alone - not together, otherwise it wouldn't have been lonely.

On those lonely nights, it is amazing what you can ponder. In this case it was whilst watching Saving Private Ryan again that I had this particular realisation. I think that we can collectively agree that Saving Private Ryan added a level of realism to screen violence that just had not been seen by such a wide audience before that point.


 War, What is it good for?

Not just that though, it showed a very grim picture of the the outcome of stepping on a mine. Of being shot in the leg, but severing an artery and bleeding out. The grim reality of the letter home. If there was one thing that the first half an hour of Saving Private Ryan does, it deeply drills into you the grim reality of modern combat.

I would argue that anyone else but Spielberg, would have found it very hard to have such a scene as the first 20 minutes of the film passed by the censors at the time. And possibly, only with having previously made such a huge impact with Schindler's List, reinforcing the message to remember the loss of life, especially to the Jewish communities within Europe during the Second World War.

With Schindler's List turning him into a semi-demi-hemi god of Hollywood, we get the most epic war movie of all time. The war movie to beat all others, and it does it by showing you just how shitty war really is. 

There is clearly a very American view, and some scenes play out as though they were being performed by the robots from Westworld (I'm looking at you Vin Diesel), but it is hard to deny the impact it had, and continues to have on cinema. 



One of the the things that has reinforced the brutality of Saving Private Ryan over the years, is the presence and growth of the internet and social media. It is surprisingly easy now to access a huge amount of documentary information, images, reels etc of the 2nd World War, but also many of the more recent atrocities like the Rwandan Genocide, Myanmar, and many more. 

The point I am trying to make is that real life has, in a very brutal way, reinforced that being shot is absolutely nothing like it is in Commando, or Miami Vice or even Die Hard. It's really nasty as it turns out. 

And this brings me back to where I started. After Saving Private Ryan, action movies couldn't get away with the comedy, semi slapstick approach to bullets and explosions. Hell, even Rambo went hyper gruesome in the name of holding heavy things while brooding.

And that kinda killed the Cop Movie Genre in a weird way. No longer could Riggs shake off a bullet. Jumping out of the window as the car lot explodes, landing on a motorbike and making off into the sunset, just seems absurd.


 Riggs as it turns out, is way nicer than Gibson.

The more provocative side of me would say it killed Bond as well, but I'm not quite there yet. 

As I said at the start, this is a very subjective opinion, but a quick glance at the years of the top cop movies from IMDB, tells me there may be something to this.

Check out the list below, sorted by year and tell me your thoughts in the comments. The impact of one movie, maybe a post 9/11 world and everything else since seems to have destined this genre to a novelty status. 

At least we got Heat though.

The List

The Best Police Action Movies & TV:

1. True Detective (2014– ) 9

2. End of Watch (2012) 7.6

3. Justified (2010–2015) 8.6

4. Rush Hour 3 (2007) 6.2

5. Die Hard 4.0 (2007) 7.1

6. Hot Fuzz (2007) 7.8

7. Miami Vice (2006) 6

8. S.W.A.T. (2003) 6

9. Bad Boys II (2003) 6.6

10. The Shield (2002–2008) 8.7

11. Narc (2002) 7.1

12. Training Day (2001) 7.7

13. Rush Hour 2 (2001) 6.6

14. Shaft (2000) 5.9

----- Saving Private Ryan (1998) -----

15. Rush Hour (1998) 7

16. Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) 6.7

17. U.S. Marshals (1998) 6.6

18. Cop Land (1997) 6.9

19. L.A. Confidential (1997) 8.2

20. First Strike (1996) 6.6

21. Heat (1995) 8.2

22. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) 7.6

23. Bad Boys (1995) 6.9

24. Speed (1994) 7.2

25. The Fugitive (1993) 7.8

26. Supercop (1992) 6.9

27. Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) 6.7

28. Hard Boiled (1992) 7.8

29. Die Hard 2 (1990) 7.2

30. Black Rain (1989) 6.7

31. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) 7.2

32. Police Story 2 (1988) 7.1

33. Die Hard (1988) 8.2

34. Midnight Run (1988) 7.5

35. Red Heat (1988) 6.1

36. Above the Law (1988) 6

37. Stakeout (1987) 6.6

38. RoboCop (1987) 7.5

39. The Untouchables (1987) 7.9

40. Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) 6.5

41. Extreme Prejudice (1987) 6.7

42. 21 Jump Street (1987–1991) 7.3

43. Lethal Weapon (1987) 7.6

44. Running Scared (1986) 6.6

45. Murphy's Law (1986) 6

46. Police Story (1985) 7.6

47. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) 7.3

48. Year of the Dragon (1985) 6.9

49. Code of Silence (1985) 6.1

50. Witness (1985) 7.4

51. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) 7.3

52. Miami Vice (1984–1989) 7.5

53. Sudden Impact (1983) 6.7

54. Blue Thunder (1983) 6.4

55. 48 Hrs. (1982) 6.9

56. Nighthawks (1981) 6.4

57. The Gauntlet (1977) 6.4

58. CHiPs (1977–1983) 6.4

59. The Enforcer (1976) 6.8

60. S.W.A.T. (1975–1976) 6.6

61. The Seven-Ups (1973) 6.9

62. Magnum Force (1973) 7.2

63. Serpico (1973) 7.7

64. Dirty Harry (1971) 7.7

65. The French Connection (1971) 7.7

66. Bullitt (1968) 7.4

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