If you're Irish (in the movies) and you aren't running a bar or wearing a priest's collar, then you're sure to be walking a beat. The stereotype of the Irish cop is not only alive and well, it includes some of moviedom's most famous policemen. Harry Callahan? Popeye Doyle? Both proudly Irish-American.
Since we're talking stereotypes, we've picked the biggest boozers, brawlers and (of course) brainiest cops as well as a few stand-up officers who actually (gasp) do things by the book for our list.
(Don't fret, classic movie fans, we didn't forget Pat O'Brien: we're saving him for our Most Memorable Irish-American Priests list.)
In keeping with our salty characters, many movie clips contain rampant drinking, fighting and swearing. In other words, they're NSFW, unless your workplace is straight out of 'The Departed.'
Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in 'Dirty Harry' (1971)
We'd call him a "textbook" maverick cop, except Dirty Harry never does anything by the book. Harry answers to a higher power and it sure as hell isn't his bosses, but his own unyielding sense of right and wrong. We admire his take-no-prisoners approach and his fearlessness but we're also really, really afraid of getting on his bad side.
Gene Hackman as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in 'The French Connection' (1971)
This is one dogged cop. He drinks hard, he loves the ladies (and the handcuffs!) and plays by his own rules. He also takes his job so seriously he's pounding that pavement nearly 24/7. Between Harry Callahan in San Francisco and Popeye Doyle in NYC, these two die-hard cops had us covered in the lawless '70s.
Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone in 'The Untouchables' (1987)
He's gruff, he's incorruptible and he's Eliot Ness's ace in the hole in his plan to take down gangster Al Capone. He's also spoiling for a fight, even on his doorstep. He's ready when a thug arrives to take him out, sneering that only an Italian brings a knife to a gunfight. Sadly for Jimmy, the thug's friend brought a Tommy gun to this fight. Happily for Connery, this is the role that finally earned him an Oscar.
Barry Fitzgerald as Lt. Dan Muldoon in 'The Naked City' (1948)
About a minute into this clip, we meet Lt. Muldoon, the quintessential no-nonsense Irish-accented New York cop, complete with a pipe. (Hey, this was 1948.) He's got a lot of puffing on that pipe to go before solving the case of a murdered woman and a jewelry ring and a lot of suspects to sweat. He leaves it to the younger cops to do the actual legwork, like frantic chases, but Muldoon's clearly the brains of this particular precinct.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan in 'The Departed' (2006)
More Irish cops per square screen inch! Leo is appropriately brooding and dark as undercover cop Costigan, while rival Matt Damon is all Irish charm as rising police star Colin Sullivan, Mark Wahlberg is all attitude as Sgt. Dignam and Martin Sheen makes a fine captain. We love the scene where Costigan orders a cranberry juice in a hard-drinking bar and still gets respect, and how he circumvents his shrink's pharmaceutical policy. But mostly, we just love watching all these characters try to get the drop on each other.
Bruce Willis as John McClane in 'Die Hard' (1988)
Our favorite wisecracking cop brings his brash New York City attitude wherever terrorists happen to strike. He describes himself as "one step away from becoming a full blown alcoholic," chain smokes and, we're guessing, should probably cut down on his sodium too. But we're not about to give the guy any kind of advice since, like Jack Bauer, he's always right and always willing to die for his country. Of course, being a smartass, he'd rather make the other poor bastard die for theirs.
Peter Weller as Alex J. Murphy in 'RoboCop' (1987)
Officer Murphy was just another dedicated Detroit cop killed in the line of duty (thanks to a gang of hooligans led by Eric Forman's dad!) until he was brought back to life as RoboCop. As a blend of man and machine, he proceeded to mop up Motor City as only a made-in-Detroit, Irish-American cyborg can.