Jason LaPier (author of the fantastic murder mystery sci-fi – with cops, of course – UNEXPECTED RAIN) has shared his ratings of the worst-to-the-best sci-fi films featuring cops.
I love sci-fi no matter what the subject – interstellar flight, alien encounters, cyberspace hacking, technology gone horribly wrong – but I wanted to take a moment and celebrate one of my favorite mash-ups: cops in sci-fi films. I’ve wracked my movie-addled brain to come up with ten motion pictures that feature cops as significant characters. A few of these are some of my favorite movies of all time, and a few of these are just – well, not great. So I’ve pulled a rating system out of my hat and ranked them.
Here’s my rating scale (5 being the best):
1-5 badges for police/detective work
1-5 guns for putting away bad guys
Bonus points for arbitrary qualities
10. Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Known for being a giant bundle of potentially awesome sci-fi concepts haphazardly thrown together with the most tenuous of connections. The Aegis, an intergalactic police force, are represented on Earth by a marshal named Stinger Apini (Sean Bean). Not that it makes him a better cop, but Stinger’s DNA has been spliced with that of a bee. Because, why not?
1 badge for showing up whenever the plot needs a nudge in another direction
4 guns for gratuitous violence against alien snobs
Bonus: 0 points for being a character played by Sean Bean who doesn’t get killed
9. I, Robot (2004)
Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) is the robophobic cop on the case when the leading roboticist famous for creating The Three Laws is murdered.
2 badges for getting clues from Sonny the robot and Susan Calvin the roboticist
4 guns for all kinds of CGI-choreographed thrill rides
Bonus: 0 points for putting action before Asimov
8. Demolition Man (1993)
Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is on a mission to rescue hostages from master criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). When it all goes wrong and hostages die, both are plunked into a freezer-prison, to be thawed out in 2032’s utopian San Angeles, where Spartan must once again put a stop to Phoenix’s rampages.
2 badges for cracking obvious conspiracies
5 guns for demolishing utopian constructs and defeating the excessively-combative Phoenix
Bonus: 1 point for three seashells
7. Alien Nation (1988)
Aliens have landed and they’re almost like humans, so they move to Los Angeles. Detective Matthew Sykes (James Caan) has lost his partner in a shootout between ‘Newcomers’. He’s forced to work with Newcomer detective Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin), and they secretly pursue the case he’s been ordered to stay away from.
4 badges for tracking down alien drug dealers
3 guns for climactic fight with super-drugged Newcomer
Bonus: 2 points for crowds of aliens (a challenge in 1988)
6. Outland (1981)
Sean Connery is Federal Marshal William O’Niel, assigned to keep the peace at a mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons. He investigates some drug-induced suicides, earning the wrath of the local crime boss.
4 badges for cracking the Io drug trade
4 guns for fighting off his would-be assassins, High Noon/classic western style
Bonus: 4 points for four explosive decompressions
Bonus: -2 points because decompression shouldn’t literally be explosive
5. Robocop (1987)
Officer Alex Murphy is the new guy in the underfunded police department of near-future Detroit. Shot-up and left for dead, corporate go-getters transplant his brain into a robotic body, and, well . . . you know the rest.
3 badges for unrelenting policing and making use of video evidence
5 guns for killing twenty bad humans and two bad robots
Bonus: 3 points for absurd commercials
4. Mad Max (1979)
An energy crisis has plunged future Australia into chaos, and only Main Force Patrol can keep the motorcycle gangs in check. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) spars with baddies, losing friends and family in a spiral of revenge.
2 badges for minimal police work, mostly highway patrol
5 guns for killing six bloodthirsty marauders, including their leader Toecutter
Bonus: 5 points for kicking off a dystopian franchise
3. Minority Report (2002)
In 2054, Captain John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is chief of the PreCrime division, where immobile psychics are used to see hard crimes before they happen. But what will he do when one of their visions implicates himself?
5 badges for combining real-world detective work with brilliant technology and psychic powers
3 guns for braving the seedy underground of black market surgery to have his eyeballs replaced
Bonus: 5 points for user interfaces we still dream about
2. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
A potent and dangerous drug has addicted one fifth of the population of the near future, and undercover agent Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is part of a big-brothery initiative that involves infiltrating paranoid drug users and pushers, including Arctor’s own housemates.
3 badges for going undercover (and confusingly spying on himself)
2 guns for high-tech surveillance gear and scramble suits
Bonus: 5 points for sacrificing his own sanity to break a drug distribution ring, and 5 more points for the film’s amazing rotoscoped animation
1. Blade Runner (1982)
Near-future Los Angeles police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced out of retirement when four replicants – bioengineered humanoids – have made their way to Earth and started murdering people. Deckard is a loner, a drunk, and the best goddamn Blade Runner there is, so it’s up to him to track down the replicants and ‘retire’ them.
5 badges for finding cool clues, including serial numbers on artificial snake scales and images in mirrors just out of frame on photographs
3 guns for wasting two of four replicants and witnessing the demise of the other two
Bonus: 10 points for delicious noir atmosphere, phenomenal sets and costumes, and perfect dialogue
So there you have it. I honestly didn’t intend for the highest three scores to be films that were based on Philip K. Dick stories, but it’s not surprising – he is one of my favorite authors. Just writing this post puts me in the mood to re-watch some of these, so I’m off to thumb through my DVD collection!