20. City on Fire
This is one of the movies that Quentin Tarantino owes his career to, as it was the main inspiration behind Reservoir Dogs. The story follows an undercover cop who takes one last assignment before retiring — and it doesn’t involve giving out parking tickets. His task involves buddying up with a gang of thieves who are being pursued by a special police squad. This puts our hero’s life in danger as neither side knows his true identity.
19. The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji
Japanese maverick Takashi Miike has made a lot of movies in his time. With so much output to his name, it’s sometimes easy to overlook a few gems from time to time. The Mole Song is far from the director’s best, but it’s a silly, over-the-top action-comedy about an inept detective that showcases Miike at his most unabashedly fun. Movies like are an acquired taste, but if you can appreciate some cartoonish energy and weirdness, The Mole Song is well worth a spin.
18. Man of the House
Tommy Lee Jones is no stranger to playing tough law enforcement officers — especially of the cranky Texan variety — but how often do we get to see him pretend to be a cheerleading coach? Not enough is the answer to that question. Thankfully, though, Man of the House exists, which sees Jones play a cranky old Ranger who goes undercover as a coach to protect a high school cheerleading squad from mobsters. What ensues is a lighthearted and surprisingly fun comedy about a grumpy old man in the company of annoying teenagers.
17. The Street with No Name
As a Samuel Fuller die-hard, I was tempted to put his loose remake of this movie on the list as well. House of Bamboo also deserves to be seen and worshipped at the holy alter of hard-boiled crime classics. The Street with No Name, though, is a gritty gem of a flick. Shot with a sense of documentary-esque realism, the story follows an operative who joins a gang and helps them plan a robbery that will lead them into the authorities’ clutches. But there’s an informant in the force, and it’s only a matter of time before the crooks do the math…
16. District 13
This is a prime example of how to take a familiar premise and turn it into something special. On paper this is another tale of a cop who must pose as someone else to prevent a tragedy. In this case it’s a bomb attack in the Paris ghettos. Where District 13 shines, however, is through its use of parkour, which makes for some dazzling action sequences. The film’s protagonist, David Belle, is also regarded as the founder of the discipline. This is legit.
15. Mrs. Doubtfire
The final movie on this list about a man pretending to be a lady is also the most heart-warming of the bunch. Sure, the movie is very silly and features Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” to really hammer the point home. At the same time, Robin Williams is so damn good that you really believe that this is a father who’ll do anything to be with his kids. Even if that means pretending to be their nanny, unbeknownst to them and his ex-wife.
14. House of Flying Daggers
Ancient China provides the backdrop for the next movie on our list. In this visually stunning wuxia epic, two government agents track down a beautiful dancer who’s in business with a rebel group that steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Those bastards. All is going to plan until her charms enrapture them, though, which leads to them helping her escape instead.
13. Eastern Promises
Although David Cronenberg is arguably most known for his body horror pictures, his fascination with garish violence ahas featured in his crime sagas as well. Easter Promises adopts the framework of a mafia drama, but themes that are commonplace in the director’s wackier output are present here. Revealing the undercover element of this movie is too much of a spoiler, but it’s exploration of collective and individual violence makes for a fascinating dissection of the Russian mob. If you’re easily squeamish then there are a couple of scenes in this that will require a sick bag. There is one throat-slicing scene that is particularly grim.
12. White Heat
James Cagney is Cody Jarrett, a violent gang leader with a cunning plan to get off with a daring heist… sort of. After robbing a train, he confesses to a lesser crime so the cops don’t pin the big one on him. The cops want him to go down for life, though, so they place an undercover agent in his cell in the hopes Jarrett spills the beans to him. Together they end up busting out, which leads to Jarrett reaching the top of the world.
11. Infernal Affairs
A cop goes undercover and rises to the top of a Triad society. Meanwhile, a Triad member joins the police force to be a mole for his gang. With both men at the top of their respective hierarchies, it’s only a matter of time before their paths cross.
Related Topics: Drama