Top 10 Cat-and-Mouse Crime Films

cat and mouse

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The Canadian Mounties are famous for "always getting their man," a motto given to them by Hollywood. Hollywood loves a good pursuit, especially when it involves a cop catching a criminal. But sometimes the one pursued is smart and gives the pursuers a run for their money, sometimes even managing to slip away. These kinds of clever cat-and-mouse games sometimes involve a con or a reluctant sense of mutual respect that develops between the opponents. Here is a list of ten of the best cinematic games of cat-and-mouse.

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'French Connection' (1971)

Based on the true exploits of New York City detectives Eddie "Popeye" Egan and Sonny Grosso, this William Friedkin police procedural is tense and gritty. Gene Hackman plays Egan's big screen alter ego Jimmy Doyle who spends the entire film in pursuit of an elusive French drug dealer. Friedkin invests the film with a real feel for Doyle's environment. In one scene, the cops eat out on the street in the cold while their French suspect dines on a gourmet meal in a ritzy restaurant. Plus the film boasts one of the best car chases ever put on film.

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'Se7en' (1995)

Morgan Freeman is a cop about to retire and Brad Pitt is his fresh-faced partner, but neither one is prepared for a serial killer using the seven deadly sins as his MO. The killer always seems two steps ahead of his pursuers in this bleak, disturbing thriller from David Fincher.

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'Manhunter' (1986)

This was the first film to bring Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecktor (in later films spelled Lecter) to the big screen. The film offers director Michael Mann at his best. William Petersen and Dennis Farina are FBI agents in pursuit of a serial killer who seems to pick his victims at random. They enlist the help of imprisoned serial killer Hannibal the Cannibal (here played by Brian Cox). There's a riveting attention to the details as Petersen tracks the killer and tries to force him into making a bad move.

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'Silence of the Lambs' (1991)

Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter appears again here, this time helping FBI cadet Clarice Starling track a serial killer who skins his victims. Lecter, here played to perfection by Anthony Hopkins, toys with young Clarice like a cat with a mouse, while she doggedly pursues her suspect. Jonathon Demme delivers a tense thriller and Jodie Foster's Starling gives the film an unexpected humanity and vulnerability.

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'The Thomas Crown Affair' (1968)

This cat-and-mouse game adds a sexual component as Faye Dunaway's insurance investigator suspects Steve McQueen's rich playboy of absconding with a small fortune from a bank. But how can she prove it? The answer: seduce him. McQueen plays against type, Dunaway looks smashing in the hippest '60s clothes, and the two play a memorable game of chess to the Oscar-winning song "The Windmills of Your Mind." Pursuit has never been sexier.

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'Public Enemy' (2002, South Korea)

South Korea's entry adds some unexpected humor as the cop and his colleagues prove surprisingly inept. While on a stakeout, Detective Kang steps out into the rain to take a massive dump on the side of the road. As he tries to return to the stakeout car, a rude passerby knocks him into his own feces. Unbeknownst to him the man is the serial killer he's been frantically tracking. Kang eventually puts two-and-two together and becomes obsessed with catching the killer who turns out to be a prominent citizen.

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'Inside Man' (2006)

Here's a film in which the cop and the criminal form an odd camaraderie against The Man. Denzel Washington is the cop and Clive Owen is the brains behind a clever heist. Each toys with the other and tries to prompt a mistake. You end up liking both and trying to figure out a way for Owen to escape without Washington looking bad. This is an entertaining and crisply executed cat-and-mouse game from Spike Lee.

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'Zodiac' (2007)

David Fincher makes his second appearance on this list with the fact-based cop drama. It's a pair of detectives, a journalist, and a newspaper cartoonist that try to track down the notorious killer. Fincher delivers a couple of truly chilling scenes involving direct confrontations with people these men think could be the killer. But it's the killer who taunts everyone with his cryptic letters and clues.

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'Black Widow' (1987)

Here's a sexy thriller in which the cat-and-mouse are both women. Debra Winger is a federal agent and Theresa Russell is the Black Widow of the title, marrying and killing off rich husbands. The women engage in a dynamic that transcends the usual hunter/prey relationship. There's a sexual edge to their interaction as well as a sense of each trying to push the other out of her comfort zone. Bob Rafelson makes this a stylish thriller with Winger and Russell generating the heat and tension.

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'Catch Me If You Can' (2002)

Another fact-based tale of a cop pursuing a criminal. In this case the criminal is a young con man who pretends to be different people – a Pan Am pilot, a lawyer, a doctor – and who forges checks in order to scam money. Leonardo DiCaprio is the charming con artist and Tom Hanks is the persistent cop. This cat-and-mouse game goes on for years and takes viewers around the globe.