I happened to catch a television rerun the other day of the terrific 1967 movie “In The Heat of the Night” starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. The film won five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Steiger). Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a black Homicide Detective from Philadelphia who becomes involved in a murder investigation in a racist small town in Mississippi. It got me thinking about other outstanding detective movies I’ve seen (as opposed to crime or mystery movies). For those of you who are interested in this genre, here are nine more highly recommended detective movies you might want to rent or purchase.

“Bullitt”, a 1968 film, stars Steve McQueen as maverick San Francisco Detective Frank Bullitt. The movie features the most popular car chase scene in Hollywood history as McQueen, driving a Ford Mustang, pursues a hit man through the streets of San Francisco. The film won an Oscar for Best Film Editing and the screenplay won an Edgar.

“Chinatown”, the 1974 movie features Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston. The movie appears on numerous “best” lists and won six Oscars including Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress (Dunaway) and Best Screenplay.

“Heaven’s Prisoners” is a 1996 movie based on the James Lee Burke novel. The movie stars Alec Baldwin as New Orleans detective Dave Robicheaux. Whenever I read a Burke novel featuring Robicheaux, I think of Baldwin’s terrific performance. The move also features Teri Hatcher, Mary Stuart Masterson and Eric Roberts in outstanding roles. Tommy Lee Jones has recently completed filming “In the Electric Mist” based on one of Burke’s novels. I like Jones and think he’s a great actor, but Baldwin performance as Dave Robicheaux is hard to beat.

1997’s “LA Confidential” based on James McEllroy’s novel is another outstanding movie featuring wonderful performances from Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce James Cromwell, Danny Devito and Kim Basinger. The movie won Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting actress (Basinger).

“The French Connection”, based on a true story, was released in 1971 and stars Gene Hackman as Detective Popeye Doyle and Roy Scheider as Detective Buddy Russo. The film won five Oscars including Best Actor for Hackman, Best Director for William Friedkin, Best Screenplay and Best Picture. The police drama portrays two tough New York City cops trying to intercept a huge heroin shipment coming from France and features probably the second best car chase in Hollywood history.

“Seven” was released in 1995 and features Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two detectives on the trail of a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.

“The General’s Daughter”, based on Nelson DeMille’s novel and released in 1999, stars John Travolta and Madeleine Stowe as Army CID detectives and ex-lovers Paul Brenner and Sara Sunhill. The detectives are called in to investigate the ritualistic murder of a woman Psych-Ops officer who also happens to be the daughter of the Commanding General.

Any list of highly recommended detective movies has to include two film noir classics, “The Maltese Falcon”, the 1941 movie based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, and the 1946 movie, “The Big Sleep”, based on Raymond Chandler’s first novel. Both films star the great Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe respectively.

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Comment by Christopher Valen on December 19, 2008 at 9:17am
Good to hear you're going to view the movie. Let me know what you think of it. Tommy Lee is a great actor, and since Robicheaux has aged, he'll no doubt be excellent in the role.
Comment by Dana King on December 19, 2008 at 6:14am
NetFlix rules. I already added it to my queue. BTW, I'm very much looking forwards to In The Electric Mist with Tommy Lee Jones. I'm interested to see how Baldwin plays a younger Robicheaux--I expect he'll be good--but I have thought for some time TLJ would be a kick ass Robicheaux.
Comment by Christopher Valen on December 19, 2008 at 2:50am
Dana,
Thanks. I don't know if you can find Heaven's Prisoners in your local video store, but Amazon has the DVD version. It's shown once in awhile on cable. I think it's well worth seeing. Baldwin plays Robicheaux as he is in the Burke books. Tough, determined and struggling with his alcohol
addiction. The supporting cast is also terrific. Not a bad performance in the bunch, in my humble
opinion, particularly Mary Stuart Masterson as a hooker in love with Robicheaux.
Comment by Dana King on December 19, 2008 at 12:16am
I've seen everything on your list except for Heaven's Prisoners, which somehow always seems to slide past me, though I like Baldwin's work and love Burke's writing. As for the rest, not a bad one in the bunch. This is an excellent list for someone looking for a good overview of detective movies.

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