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Every Maniac Cop Movie, Ranked Worst to Best


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An honest but brutal cop became a vengeful murderer in the Maniac Cop horror franchise, and here’s how all three movies stack up, worst to best.

An honest but brutal cop became a vengeful murderer in the Maniac Cop horror franchise, and here’s how all three movies stack up, worst to best. Perhaps the most famous film to be directed by B-movie stalwart William Lustig – who would go on to found the horror disc label Blue Underground – Maniac Cop was kind of an odd choice to spin into a franchise. Not only was it a critical dud and box office flop, but it’s story didn’t exactly beg for a sequel.

Like many horror films though, Maniac Cop found its audience on home video, leading to two follow-up movies, all starring the late Robert Z’Dar as the titular zombie lawman Matt Cordell. Nicolas Winding Refn, of all people, is currently prepping a Maniac Cop reboot TV series for HBO, which from the sound of things will be very, very different from Lustig’s original film. Considering how much the overall American view of violent police has changed since 1988 though, a creative makeover is understandable.

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Currently, all three Maniac Cop films are available to stream on Shudder, so from an accessibility standpoint, there’s never been a better time for those uninitiated to check them out. Without any further ado, here’s the Maniac Cop movies, ranked worst to best.

3. Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)

Maniac Cop 3 Poster Crop

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Maniac Cop is one of those rare horror franchises in which all the entries were written and directed by the same people. William Lustig directed all three films, while Larry Cohen wrote them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the quality remains consistent. Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence is the clear worst film in the series, featuring a groan-worthy voodoo subplot, which itself leads into an equally groan-worthy twist where Matt Cordell is pining over a comatose police officer. It’s far from unwatchable, and Z’Dar is still good as Cordell, while Robert Davi does well reprising his role of Sean McKinney from part 2. The script is just too out there, and doesn’t fit with the prior films.

3. Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Maniac Cop 2 - Matt Cordell

Unlike most horror franchises, in which the original is the clear standout entry, Maniac Cop 2 comes very close to being better than the first film. Despite a small budget, Maniac Cop 2 features some excellent action sequences, as well as good practical effects work on Cordell’s murders. While Maniac Cop 2 isn’t exactly scary, it’s very thrilling, and rarely lets up on the pace. Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon return from the first movie, while Davi and Claudia Christian enter the fray as new main characters, and blend in well. This sequel also firmly establishes Cordell as a zombie, after keeping it a bit murky in the original.

1. Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop 1988 poster

As mentioned, for much of the original Maniac Cop, it’s not quite clear if Matt Cordell is a supernatural killer returned for vengeance from beyond the grave or simply a man who managed to survive his presumed death. Cordell was a no-nonsense cop ultimately framed for crimes by corrupt officers, then seemingly murdered in prison. He’s not quite a sympathetic figure though, as he had a tendency to brutalize suspects in custody. In addition to its great villain, Maniac Cop benefits from genre icons Campbell and Tom Atkins being front and center, and a genuinely creepy atmosphere.

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Updated: November 17, 2020 — 5:30 pm

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