Top 10 Badass TV Cops from the ’80s

Tuesday is a spectacular day. We’re one day closer to Friday; one day further from Monday. Oh, how to celebrate such a grand occasion… how about with a top 10 list? Each week we’ll be serving up a new one for Top 10 Tuesday.

Our first installation is inspired by a general lack of tactical pants in ’80s television. Instead these Hollywood cops wore pleated pants, white slacks and on occasion (bless their hearts) short shorts. Despite their lack of fashion logic, they managed to kick some major butt and look good all the while.

EDIT: We’ve been getting an onslaught of comments about our definition of “cop.” For the purpose of this list, it does include private eyes, vigilantes and other assorted we-fight-the-bad-guy types.

1. Michael Knight, Knight Rider

While Michael Long (David Hasselhoff) started off as a policeman, he is shot and transforms into the devastatingly handsome Michael Knight, continuing his crime-fighting destiny.

2. Officer Tom Hanson, 21 Jump Street

Officer Tom Hanson (Johnny Depp) not only became a major heartthrob on 21 Jump Street, his boyish looks assisted in undercover operations among high school and college students.

3. Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello, CHiPS

The highways of California offer plenty of opportunities for Officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello (Erik Estrada), a rambunctious motorcycle patrolman, to show us exactly what he’s made out of.

4. Sgt. T.J. Hooker, T.J. Hooker

Even as a veteran law officer, Sgt. T.J. Hooker (William Shatner) is always ready to face the mean streets. So punks, watch out!

5. Thomas Magnum, Magnum P.I.

Known for his magnificent mustache, private detective Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) of Magnum P.I. sure does wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts. And short shorts. Being able to catch bad guys dressed like that is a feat in itself.

6. Christine Cagney, Cagney and Lacey

NYPD detective and tough gal Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) gets paired up with a working mom Mary Beth Lacey. Thus, Cagney and Lacey is born, and plenty of crime fighting ensues.

7. Det. James “Sonny” Crocket, Miami Vice

The fact that Det. James “Sonny” Crocket (Don Johnson) has a pet alligator named Elvis to guard his sailboat/home definitely qualifies him as a badass. And taking on Florida drug world while sporting shoulder pads and snow-white slacks doesn’t hurt.

8. Lieutenant Columbo, Columbo

Underneath the cigar smoke, the trench coat and apparent incompetence lies Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk), homicide detective and resident badass.

9. Bill Gillespie, In the Heat of the Night

There’s nothing quite like being the sheriff in small town USA. Bill Gillespie (Carroll O’Connor) shows that teamwork makes all the difference when upholding the law.

10.  Sgt. Rick Hunter, Hunter

The Los Angeles Police Department has never seen a homicide detective like Sgt. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer). We love him for his gritty attitude and swagger on Hunter.

(Images via and

9 Comments on “Top 10 Badass TV Cops from the ’80s

  1. Magnum and Hunter are the only two that I know of that actually killed the badguy on the show. Magnum killed the nijia and the russian who blew up mack and hunter threw a guy with a bomb strapped to him out a window. Now this is from my foggy memory so let me know if I’m wrong!

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  3. I can’t believe that Sledgehammer didn’t make this list! He was the most Bad-Ass of them all!

  4. Michael Knight wasn’t a cop in this new life. he worked outside the law but doing good.

    what no ROSCOE P COLTRANE? c’mon this is bogus, lol

  5. Kidding. Most people don’t even REMEMBER the Sgt. Sigh. But I do. He was my favorite. Ponch was too flashy for me:)

  6. Point taken, Rebecca. There might have to be some revisions… nobody said this list was finalized :).

  7. WHAAA??? You picked Ponch, but not his sexy, quiet sidekick Jon?! Or his REALLY sexy Sgt Joe Getraer?

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