Police Academy (film)

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Police Academy
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byHugh Wilson
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Neal Israel
  • Pat Proft
Produced byPaul Maslansky
CinematographyMichael D. Margulies
Edited by
Music byRobert Folk
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • March 23, 1984 (1984-03-23)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$4.5 million[2]
Box office$149.8 million[3]

Police Academy is a 1984 American comedy film directed by Hugh Wilson in his directorial debut, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.[4] Its storyline follows a new recruitment policy for an unnamed city's police academy to take in any recruit who wishes to apply and study to become a police officer. The film stars Steve Guttenberg, Kim Cattrall, and G.W. Bailey.

The film was produced by The Ladd Company. It premiered on March 23, 1984.[5] It grossed $8.5 million in its opening weekend and more than $149 million worldwide, against a budget of $4.5 million, and remains the most successful film of the series as of 2022.[3] The film spawned six sequels in the Police Academy franchise.


Due to a shortage of police officers, Mary Sue Beal, the mayor of an unnamed, English-speaking, North American metropolis, requires the police department to accept all recruit applications. Easy-going Carey Mahoney, a repeat offender, is given a choice by Police Captain Reed: enroll in the police academy to reform himself, or go directly to prison, since Reed is friends with Mahoney's father who is also a cop. There is a loophole that the academy can throw him out but he cannot quit or he would end up in jail. Mahoney agrees to the demand, but plans to perform badly enough to be expelled for cause. The chief of police, Henry Hurst, outraged by the Mayor's plan, decides to make the experience so bad for all new recruits that they will simply give up and resign.

Lieutenant Thaddeus Harris makes their lives miserable, though Commandant Eric Lassard wants to give the new cadets a chance. Harris appoints Copeland and Blankes as cadet squad leaders to help him secretly execute his plan.

Lassard reveals to Mahoney his deal with Capt. Reed: Mahoney must remain at the police academy for the full term. Mahoney falls in love with cadet Karen Thompson and befriends fellow cadets Larvell Jones, a human beatbox, ladies' man George Martin, gun-obsessed security guard Eugene Tackleberry, cowardly man Leslie Barbara, accident-prone Douglas Fackler and gentle giant Moses Hightower.

Blankes and Copeland investigate a party organized by Mahoney, who tricks them by saying that the party is being held at the Blue Oyster, which they quickly discover is actually a gay biker bar. In revenge, the pair plant a prostitute in Mahoney's dormitory, to be found during final room checks to get him expelled. While smuggling her off campus before this happens, Mahoney is forced to hide with her under a microphoned lectern, just as Commandant Lassard leads a group of fellow officers inside the meeting room. While Mahoney is not looking, the prostitute performs fellatio on Lassard as he speaks at the lectern. Mahoney later steps out from under it only to find Lassard still present, leading him to assume that Mahoney performed the deed.

Hightower reveals to Mahoney that he has not driven a car since he was 12. To help Hightower prepare for his cadet driving test, they steal Copeland's small, two-door Honda after ripping out the front seats so that Hightower can fit inside. After Hightower passes the test, Copeland racially insults cadet Laverne Hooks for causing an accident. Hightower, angered by the racial slur, overturns Copeland's police cruiser with him still inside it. Harris ejects Hightower from the academy, upsetting the other cadets.

Blankes and Copeland fail to trick Mahoney into fighting them after they discover Copeland's destroyed car. Barbara stands up for Mahoney and knocks Copeland out with his metal lunch tray. Blankes retaliates, and Mahoney becomes involved in a brawl. When Harris asks who started the fight, Mahoney takes the blame to protect Barbara's cadet standing, and Mahoney is finally expelled from the academy.

While downtown, Fackler throws an apple from his police car window, which hits a man on the back of the head. This triggers a chain reaction of violence which quickly escalates into a full-blown riot. Mahoney, just about to leave, joins the other cadets to help pacify the growing, angry crowd. The cadets are accidentally transported to the epicenter of the rioting, and one criminal steals Blankes and Copeland's revolvers, whereupon the two hide out in the Blue Oyster Bar as the riot grows in size. A gang and their leader goes on to capture Harris, taking him hostage. Mahoney attempts to rescue Harris but is also taken hostage. Hightower appears, deceives the gang's leader, and easily tosses him down a full flight set of stairs to be arrested by Hooks.

Mahoney and Hightower are both reinstated, and for rescuing Harris and capturing his kidnapper, they receive the academy's highest commendation and medals, after which all the police cadets graduate from the academy.



The producers considered Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks, and Judge Reinhold for the role of Carey Mahoney.[6] Bruce Willis auditioned for the role of Carey Mahoney.[7]



Paul Maslansky says he got the idea for the film when in San Francisco filming The Right Stuff:

I noticed a bunch of ludicrous-looking police cadets being dressed down by a frustrated sergeant. They were an unbelievable bunch, including a lady who must have weighed over 200 pounds and a flabby man well over 50. I asked the sergeant about them, and he explained that the mayor had ordered the department to accept a broad spectrum for the police academy. "We have to take them in,"...[he said] ..."And the only thing we can do is wash them out."[8]

Maslansky said he wondered "But what if they actually made it?"[8] He took the idea to Alan Ladd Jr., who agreed to finance.[8] Neal Israel was hired to write the script with Pat Proft. Israel said:

It's a matter of block comedy scenes. Perhaps the most recognizable was the obvious results of guys eating beans in Blazing Saddles. If you have four or five of these block comedy scenes in a teen-age comedy, you have a hit. If your block comedy scenes are very, very strong ones, you have a blockbuster.[8]

Dom DeLuise was considered to direct the film but he was unavailable.[9] Hugh Wilson was hired as director based on his success with WKRP in Cincinnati, even though he was not familiar with many films of this genre. He then saw a lot of those sort. saying "it was fairly discouraging. This immediately convinced me to cut down on the sleaze. I asked for, and got, the power to refine the Israel-Proft script. Maintaining that 'funny is money,' I wanted to go for real laughter rather than going for the elements such as gratuitous sex and anti-Establishment exploits. I wanted jokes which were rooted in reality."[8]

Maslansky says Wilson "took a lot of the vulgarity out; some of the very things I considered necessary. I worried that it was becoming more homogenized, and I told Hugh, "Let's keep some of the flatulence in."[8]

Wilson says "I found out that the shower scene, the party scene, and the fellatio scene were obligatory; I had to put them in. So I was stuck with trying to make those scenes as artistic as possible."[8]

According to the Los Angeles Times, about "20 of the major elements in the movie" remain from the Israel and Proft version. Israel says that when Wilson and Maslansky turned in their rewrite to the Ladd Company, "it was rejected and the project was almost shelved. Only when they put back in dozens of our gags did the project get the go ahead."[8]

Some of the scenes Wilson was unhappy with included the fellatio scene and the scene where a police sergeant was hurled into the backside of a horse. A compromise was reached where these acts were not actually directly shown.[8]

"I realize that you can carry grossness, rudeness, and crudeness just so far before the audience finds it terribly repetitive and not so funny," said Wilson. "After the enormous success of Police Academy, I no longer believe that you have to show the female breast or make cruel ethnic jokes, not to mention the rampant sexism. And you don't have to reproduce the sounds that an overfed body makes."[8]


Opening scenes were shot in Toronto, Ontario. The camera booth scene was shot on the Cherry Street Bridge in Toronto.[10] The academy itself was previously the site of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital in Etobicoke, and has since become the Lakeshore campus of Humber College.[11] The studio scenes were shot at Lakeshore Film Studios; the city scenes were filmed in various parts of Toronto.[12] The riot scenes was filmed at Kensington Market in Toronto, The Silver Dollar Room on Spadina Avenue is the real name of the bar that was filmed for the Blue Oyster Bar scenes.


In 2013, La-La Land Records issued a limited edition album of Robert Folk's score.[13]

  1. Main Title/Night Rounds (1:52)
  2. Rounds Resume/Tackleberry (1:10)
  3. Barbara (0:51)
  4. Join Up (1:10)
  5. The academy (1:16)
  6. Recruits (1:54)
  7. Pussycat/Uniforms (1:56)
  8. Assignment (1:20)
  9. Formation/Move Out (3:26)
  10. Obstacles (2:15)
  11. Martin and Company (0:46)
  12. Ball Games (0:27)
  13. More Martin (0:28)
  14. Regrets (1:05)
  15. Guns/In Drag (4:01)
  16. Warpath (0:28)
  17. Improvement (1:15)
  18. Jam Up (0:42)
  19. Hightower Drive (1:37)
  20. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town - J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie (0:40)
  21. Need to Talk/Hightower Leaves (1:16)
  22. Riot Starts (1:25)
  23. Riot Gear (2:42)
  24. SOB (0:32)
  25. Match (1:44)
  26. Where's Harris? (2:40)
  27. Straighten Up (1:26)
  28. Police Academy March (1:06)
  29. El Bimbo - Claude Morgan, performed by Jean-Marc Dompierre and His Orchestra (1:49)


Home media[edit]

  • Police Academy (1984) was released on VHS home video in the film's original widescreen aspect ratio. In Europe, it was released on VHS under the expanded title Police Academy: What An Institution!
  • Police Academy: 20th Anniversary Special Edition (1984) was released on DVD around the world in 2004. Special features include a "Making of" documentary, audio commentary by the film's cast, and the film's original theatrical trailer.
  • Police Academy: The Complete Collection [1984-1994] was released on DVD as a box set containing all seven Police Academy films made between 1984 and 1994. Police Academy 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 were in the film's theatrical widescreen 1.85-to-1 aspect ratio, while Police Academy 4 and 5 were in the TV aspect ratio of 1.33-to-1. All seven films have multi-language subtitles and their own featurettes.
  • 4 Film Favorites: Police Academy 1-4 Collection is a DVD set released on September 15, 2009. It contains the first four films in the series on three discs, the first two separately, while the third and fourth films are a single, double-sided disc. Police Academy 5-7 was later released as a DVD set entitled 4 Film Favorites: Cop Comedy Collection, packaged along with the feature film National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993).
  • Police Academy: What an Institution! was released on July 1, 2013, as a Region Free Blu-ray single disc, with special features included.[14]


Box office[edit]

Police Academy opened in the number 1 spot in 1,587 U.S. theaters on March 23, 1984, to a first weekend total gross of $8.6 million. The film went on to gross $81.2 million, becoming the 6th highest-grossing American film of 1984.[15] It grossed $68.6 million overseas for a total worldwide gross of $149.8 million.[3] The film made a profit of $35 million.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Police Academy received mixed reviews from critics.[16] On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 56% based on 32 reviews, with the critical consensus reading: “Police Academy is rude, crude, and proudly sophomoric – which is either a condemnation or a ringing endorsement, depending on your taste in comedy.”[17] On Metacritic the film has a score of 41 out of 100 based on reviews from 6 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18]

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film zero stars out of four, commenting: “It's really something. It's so bad, maybe you should pool your money and draw straws and send one of the guys off to rent it so that in the future, whenever you think you're sitting through a bad comedy, he could shake his head, and chuckle tolerantly, and explain that you don't know what bad is”.[19]

Critic Vincent Canby, of The New York Times, gave a mixed review, saying: “The movie plows through one outrageous sequence to the next with the momentum of a freight train”.[20] Rita Kemply, of The Washington Post, wrote: “Attention, all units: Slapstick in progress in the vicinity of Police Academy. Suspects wanted for mugging the camera [...] with the intent to incite a laugh riot. Please respond to this blues burlesque, a uniformly funny hit sure to have a long run. Its target audience: those who can take their T&A with a grain of assault. Its plot [is] a combo of Animal House and An Officer and a Gentleman. Its stars a rainbow coalition of hot newcomers and dependable, unexpendable pros.”[21]

Producer Paul Maslansky says that original feedback on the film was that it was not gross enough, with one executive reportedly saying: “What are you trying to do, make a damned Tootsie?”; and another claiming: “Paul, it doesn't fit the formula; it needs more flatulence, more slobbishness, more T&A.”[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Police Academy". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  2. ^ WE'RE TALKING GROSS, TACKY AND DUMB Brown, Peter H. Los Angeles Times 20 Jan 1985: 6.
  3. ^ a b c d Block, Alex Ben; Wilson, Lucy Autrey, eds. (2010). George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success. HarperCollins. p. 631. ISBN 9780061778896.
  4. ^ "Police Academy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2020-02-08.
  5. ^ "Home Page". Warnerbros.com. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  6. ^ "The elusive Steve Guttenberg". Entertainment Weekly.
  7. ^ "Bruce Willis's Tragic Mask (washingtonpost.com)". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brown, Peter H. (January 20, 1985). "WE'RE TALKING GROSS, TACKY AND DUMB". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  9. ^ "15 Lawful Facts About the Police Academy Movies". 28 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Fotofast Kiosk Going in River Scene | Police Academy | MovieLocate". movielocate.com. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  11. ^ "Police Academy Grounds Scene | Police Academy | MovieLocate". movielocate.com. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  12. ^ "Police Academy Movie Filming Locations - The 80s Movies Rewind". Fast-rewind.com. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Film music | movie music| film score | Police Academy - Robert Folks - Limited Edition". Archived from the original on 2014-08-21. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  14. ^ "Police Academy Blu-ray". Amazon.co.uk. July 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  15. ^ Police Academy at Box Office Mojo
  16. ^ "Police Academy". Variety. December 31, 1983. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  17. ^ "Police Academy (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 November 2023.
  18. ^ "Police Academy". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-08-08.
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Police Academy". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 26, 2020 – via RogerEbert.com.
  20. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 23, 1984). "'Police Academy' With No Entrance Rules". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  21. ^ Kempley, Rita (23 March 1984). "'Police Academy': Arresting Comedy". Washington Post. p. 23.

External links[edit]