48 Hrs. is a 1982 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by Walter Hill. It is Joel Silver's first film as a film producer. The screenplay was written by Hill, Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross and Steven E. de Souza.
The film stars Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy (in his film debut and Golden Globe Award-nominated role) as a cop and convict, respectively, who team up to catch two cop-killers, Albert Ganz and Billy Bear, played respectively by James Remar and Sonny Landham. The title refers to the amount of time they have to solve the crime.
Though it is predated by Richard Rush's Freebie and the Bean, the film is often credited as being the first in the "buddy cop" genre that included Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys and Rush Hour. A sequel, Another 48 Hrs., was released on June 8, 1990.
While convicted career criminal Albert Ganz is working as part of a road gang in California, a tall Native American man named Billy Bear drives up in a pickup truck and asks for water to cool off his truck's overheating radiator. Ganz and Billy exchange insults and proceed to stage a fight with each other, wrestling in a river, and when the guards try to break up the fight, Billy gives a gun to Ganz, and the pair kill two of the three guards and flee the scene. Two days later, Ganz and Billy kill Henry Wong (John Hauk), their associate. Later that same day, Inspector Jack Cates of the San Francisco Police Department's criminal investigation bureau joins two of his friends and co-workers Detective Algren and Detective Van Zant at the Walden Hotel to check out a man named G.P. Polson, who is in room 27. Jack waits downstairs while Algren and Van Zant head to room 27, where it turns out that G.P. Polson is Ganz. In the ensuing shootout, Ganz kills Algren and Van Zant, and escapes with Billy, taking Jack's revolver.
Jack is issued a replacement service M1911 pistol and fellow cop Ben Kehoe tells Jack about Ganz's former partner Reggie Hammond, who is in prison with six months to go on a three-year sentence for armed robbery. After a memorable first meeting in prison, Jack manages to get Reggie a 48-hour release in to his custody so that Reggie can help Jack find Ganz and Billy. Reggie leads Jack to an apartment where Ganz's last remaining associate Luther Kelly lives. When Jack looks around, Luther shoots at him and refuses to be interrogated, so Jack puts him in jail. That night, Reggie leads Jack to Torchy's, a redneck hangout where Billy used to be a bartender. Reggie, on a challenge from Jack, shakes the bar down, single-handedly bringing the crowd under his control. They get a lead on Billy's old girlfriend, but this also leads nowhere, as the girlfriend says she threw Billy out. Reggie confesses that he, Ganz, Billy Bear, Luther and Wong had robbed a drug dealer of $500,000 some years earlier and that the money was (and remains) stashed in the trunk of Reggie's car in a downtown parking garage. Instead of splitting the cash, Ganz sold Reggie out, resulting in his incarceration. It was also the reason why Ganz and Billy took Luther's girlfriend Rosalie: they wanted Luther to get Reggie's money in exchange for her safe return.
However, Luther goes and gets the car, and Jack and Reggie tail him to a Muni station where Ganz comes to get the money. Luther, however, recognizes Jack, and Ganz and Billy escape, while Reggie chases after Luther. Left with nothing, Jack ends up going back to the police station and waits for Reggie to call. Jack goes to Vroman's, in the Fillmore district, to find Reggie, who has tracked Luther to a hotel across the street. Jack, humbled, apologizes for continuously berating and insulting Reggie. He lends Reggie some money to pay for a hotel room to have sex with a girl he's met, but as Reggie leaves the club with her, he sees Luther leave the hotel. Luther gets onto a stolen bus driven by Billy and hands over the money to Ganz, who shoots Luther and presumably Rosalie. Ganz spots Jack and Reggie following them, and a car chase/gunfight ensues, which ends when Billy forces Jack's Cadillac through the window of a Cadillac showroom. At this point following a heated verbal thrashing from Jack's superior Haden, Jack and Reggie are ready to resign themselves to the fact that they failed to catch Ganz.
At a local bar, Jack wonders if Billy might go back to see his girl and use her place as a hideout. Jack and Reggie force their way inside and after a brief confrontation Reggie shoots Billy. Ganz escapes into a maze of alleyways, capturing Reggie, before being killed by Jack. Finally, Jack takes Reggie to go see the girl he had met earlier at Vroman's. Jack leaves the money in Reggie's car, but asks for a loan to buy a convertible when Reggie is released, to which Reggie agrees. Jack gives Reggie a stern warning about changing his ways once he's released, and Reggie agrees to do so, while half attempting to steal Jack's lighter. The two men share a laugh before driving back to the prison.
Lawrence Gordon came up with the original idea for the film. The premise had the Governor of Louisiana's daughter kidnapped by a criminal, who strapped dynamite to her head and threatened to blow her up in 48 hours if the ransom was not met. The meanest cop goes to the worst prison in the state and gets out the most vicious criminal for his knowledge of the kidnapper who was his cellmate. Walter Hill says Gordon may have had the idea as far back as 1971 and a few writers worked on the project. In 1975 Gordon was making Hard Times with writer-director Walter Hill and editor Roger Spottiswoode. Spottiswoode wanted to direct and Hill suggested he break in by writing a script. He did a draft of 48 Hours supervised by Hill for Columbia Pictures, who had financed 48 Hours. Later Tracy Keenan Wynn worked on the script 
The film moved from Columbia to Paramount, who wanted to do a draft for Clint Eastwood. They hired Hill to rewrite the script with Eastwood as the criminal. He did so "but when I turned it in I said that I didn't think it would work," Hill said, adding "that the best idea would be to make Richard Pryor the criminal and have someone like Eastwood play the cop. Back in '78 or '79 no one seemed to think this was such a good idea." Eastwood ended up playing a criminal in Escape from Alcatraz instead. As a result, 48 Hrs. went into limbo for two years. However Gordon and his co-producer Joel Silver did not forget the project. Gordon called Hill and asked him if he would make the film with Nick Nolte as Cates. "Paramount felt that the combination of Nick Nolte and a good black actor would be commercial," said Hill. "What happened is very simple: Richard Pryor is now an enormous movie star, and that's changed everybody's mind about black lead players."
From the start, Hill envisioned a more improvisational film than he'd ever before created. "The story is traditional urban thriller: two terrible guys are out there and have to be brought down," he said. "But even though I enjoy working in genres, the point is always to explode them or give them a transfusion. So I made a very conscious decision to go with the elements of personality of the two players, rather than be overly genuflective to the narrative. Thrusting a white policeman and a black convict together carries so much gravity that we didn't have to beat the white-black thing to death. If it works, it's because of the actors' personalities." Hill's first choice after Richard Pryor was Gregory Hines. When he was not available, Hill's then-girlfriend Hildy Gottlieb recommended her client, Eddie Murphy, then best known for his work on Saturday Night Live. The character of Reggie Hammond was originally named Willie Biggs, but Eddie Murphy felt that was too stereotypical of a black man's name and changed it to Reggie Hammond.
Steven E. de Souza worked on the script for a few weeks after Eddie Murphy was cast. Critic Michael Sragow says "The producers recommended de Souza to Hill because they thought he'd be good at adding a light touch to the action. Hill didn't find de Souza fast enough or his style of comic writing appropriate to the movie; he thought the writer contributed gags instead of personality touches (very few of which were used), and he just didn't develop the rapport with de Souza that he'd later have with Gross." Hill brought on Larry Gross to work on the script three weeks prior to shooting. He told Gross "I've been working this fella and while I like em I know it's not gonna work out...." and called the film "a shaggy dog story. Defiant Ones plus chuckles."
Sragow says, "Hill has been known throughout his career for defining character through action rather than psychological badinage, but he knew that this movie would be more of a character piece than a plot picture, and he wanted a writer who'd challenge his own habits and assumptions. Throughout filming, Hill joked that he waved the flag called "myth and archetype"-trying to play off the folkloric expectations an audience might have for a big blonde hero like Nick Nolte-while Larry Gross waved a flag called "social and psychological realism." The writers' relationship became so symbiotic that Gross often found Hill coming down on the side of S&PR and Gross defending the prerogatives of M&A."
Gross says his main contributions were: the idea that Reggie Hammond wanted badly to have sex after three years in prison; Nick Nolte having a relationship with his girlfriend that mirrored the frustration Eddie was having; improving "the nuances of the relationships between Nick and his girl, his boss and the killers. The killers were sharpened up and made more interesting... Whenever Walter could invent a monologue for one of the women (all bit parts), he would." Gross thought Hill has received "a bum rap on the woman question." "One of the things I think makes 48 HRS. really more interesting than the average kind of movie like this," says its co-writer, "is that, although women play relatively small roles in the narrative, they kind of haunt everyone's imagination. The film really is sort of a screwball comedy about men and women trying to get together and not getting together, even though it is a very conventional gangster piece. "People had this perception of Walter being melancholy," Gross said. "And now that he's made this film no one thinks he's melancholy any more."
Murphy started a few weeks after principal photography began because he was finishing up a season of Saturday Night Live. The shoot went well but Hill ran into problems with studio executives. Michael Eisner, then head of Paramount, was worried that the film was not funny enough. Hill and his co-screenwriter, Larry Gross wrote more material tailored to Nolte's and Murphy's personalities. By Hill's account, they rewrote Murphy's character right to the very last day of shooting. Executives also found the footage of the gunfight in the hotel to be too violent and were worried that it would kill the film's humor. They told Hill that he would never work for Paramount again as a result. Actor Chris Mulkey, said it was widely known on set that Paramount executives hated what they had seen of Murphy's performance in dailies and wanted to fire him, but Nolte and Hill fought to keep him. Mulkey remembered Murphy as a diligent performer who was open to suggestion and stuck to the script.
In January 2011, Intrada Records released the world-premiere recording of James Horner's score and songs from the movie in a limited-edition run of 5,000 units. This was the first official release of the score; previous pressings from Europe were unofficial bootlegs with music from other James Horner film scores.
48 Hrs. opened in the United States on Wednesday, December 8, 1982, with its first weekend the same as The Toy and Airplane II: The Sequel and finished behind them in third place for the weekend with a gross of $4,369,868 from 850 screens, and had a gross of $5,273,192 from its first 5 days. The film grossed $78,868,508 overall at the U.S. and Canada box office, surpassing their combined box-office, to become the seventh highest-grossing film of 1982.
48 Hrs. received critical acclaim and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1982. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% approval rating, based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Marking an auspicious feature film debut for Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs. is a briskly paced action comedy that succeeds largely due to the outstanding chemistry between its two leads". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 71 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". In 2007, the staff at IGN named the movie the third-greatest buddy cop film.
48 Hrs. was nominated and won several critical awards. Walter Hill won the Grand Prix award at the Cognac Festival du Film Policier. Eddie Murphy was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Acting Debut - Male. The film's screenplay was nominated by the Edgar Allan Poe Awards for Best Motion Picture. James Horner also won an award for his score at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
In 2017, the Safdie brothers announced they would helm a remake and co-write the script with Jerrod Carmichael. In December 2019, the Safdies stated they reworked their script into a separate original idea. The movie had previously been remade in Hindi in 1984 as Andar Baahar, and in Kannada in 1992 as Police File.