Three Men and a Baby

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Three Men and a Baby
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLeonard Nimoy
Screenplay by
Based onTrois hommes et un couffin
by Coline Serreau
Produced by
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byMichael A. Stevenson
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • November 25, 1987 (1987-11-25)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11—15 million[1][2]
Box office$240 million[3]

Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 American comedy film directed by Leonard Nimoy. It stars Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson as three bachelors as they attempt to adapt their lives to de facto fatherhood with the arrival of the love child of one of the men. The script was based on the 1985 French film Trois hommes et un couffin (Three Men and a Cradle).

The film was the biggest American box office hit of that year, surpassing Fatal Attraction and eventually grossing $167 million in the United States and Canada[4] and $240 million worldwide.[3] The film won the 1988 People's Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture.[5] The success of the movie launched a franchise.


Architect Peter Mitchell, cartoonist Michael Kellam, and actor Jack Holden are happy bachelors in their shared NYC penthouse apartment, with frequent parties and flings. The movie opens with Peter celebrating his birthday with a large party. The following day, a baby named Mary arrives on their doorstep with a note revealing she is the result of Jack's tryst with an actress named Sylvia during a Stratford Festival Shakespearean production a year prior.

Jack is in Turkey shooting a B movie, and makes arrangements with a director friend to have a package delivered to the apartment. Jack asks his roommates to keep the delivery a secret per his friend's wishes; when Mary arrives, they believe she is the "package".

Peter and Michael are totally befuddled as to how to care for Mary, and Peter leaves to buy supplies. Their landlady Mrs. Hathaway delivers a small box – the actual "package" of heroin – which Michael tosses aside. They learn to care for Mary, including diaper changes, baths, and feedings. Sleep eludes them as they work to keep the lights and noises of NYC from waking up Mary at night. Peter tries reaching out to his semi-regular girlfriend, Rebecca, who was on a date with a cellist, for aid in taking care of the baby. Rebecca showed no interest as she was on a date with the cellist.

Four days later, two drug dealers, Vince and Satch, arrive at the apartment for the package. Peter and Michael mistakenly give them Mary, along with a can of powdered milk the dealers believe is the heroin. After relinquishing Mary over, both men have a sigh of relief until Peter discovers the actual package in the sofa. Realizing their mix-up, he runs downstairs but trips, spilling the packages' contents. He gathers up the drugs and confronts the men outside, attempting to correct the error but causes a scuffle. A police officer on horseback intervenes; Peter rescues Mary, but the dealers flee with the can of powdered milk. The officer detains Peter and Michael at the apartment until Sgt. Melkowitz, a narcotics officer, arrives to question them. Jack calls from Turkey, but Peter and Michael are unable to talk openly as they are being recorded. They successfully hide the drugs, learning that Jack's friend Paul Milner is a drug dealer. A suspicious Melkowitz puts them under surveillance.

Mrs. Hathaway babysits Mary while Peter and Michael go to work. Returning home, they find Mrs. Hathaway bound and gagged and the apartment ransacked by the dealers, but Mary safe as Peter found her stowed away in a closet crying. A note threatens, "Next time we'll take the baby". Peter and Michael continue to care for Mary, adjusting to 'fatherhood' and growing attached.

In the middle of the night, there is an intruder that sneaks into the apartment. Peter incapacitates the intruder, who turns out to be Jack returning early after his movie role was cut. Michael, seeing it is Jack lunges at him in anger after what he and Peter went through. When confronted about the mess they were in, Jack assured Peter and Michael he knew nothing about the heroin. Peter and Michael then introduced Jack to Mary. Jack initially denies his connection to Mary, but Sylvia's note convinces him he is Mary's father. It clicked into Jack's head as he brought up their initial fling. Peter and Michael pass all parenting responsibility to Jack, who immediately begins having the same trouble Peter and Michael had. Jack reaches out to his mother and asks her to raise Mary until she is a bit older, but his mother refuses, citing that Jack is a grown man and it was his responsibility. Eventually Jack got the hand of fatherhood and began to grow to love her.

The trio later receive a news clipping in the mail showing that Milner was attacked by the drug dealers and hospitalized – with another threat: "Don't let this happen to you!" Peter, Michael, and Jack formulate a plan to not only trap the dealers but get the NYPD off their backs by arranging a meeting. Jack, disguised as a pregnant woman, leaves the building with Mary, while Peter and Michael leave in a cab, followed by undercover officers, but manage to lose them in another cab driven by Jack. Peter chooses to meet the dealers at the top floor of a construction site. Jack is in the alleyway keeping watch while manning the elevator switches, but his attention is turned to Mary, who was in need of a diaper change. Michael is hidden in the vents and records Peter's conversation with the dealers as Peter stated they had no role in any of their dealings, and Vince and Satch acknowledged him. While filming, Michael tumbles over in the ductwork, and a chase ensues. Peter and Michael reach one of the elevators while Vince and Satch take the other. Jack accidentally hits the wrong switch, trapping Peter and Michael. Jack then corrects his mistake by hitting the right switch and the trio manage to trap the dealers in an elevator as the police arrive. With the recording Michael made, they prove their innocence to Melkowitz, and the dealers are arrested.

Peter, Michael, and Jack fully embrace their role as Mary's guardians, from taking her to the park, to even singing "Goodnight Sweetheart" as a lullaby, until Sylvia arrives to take Mary with her to London. Peter revealed to her that Mary was teething and Sylvia was astonished to see her daughter growing. After she leaves with Mary, the three realize how desperately they miss the baby. Racing to the airport, they just miss Sylvia's plane for London. Defeated and depressed, they return home to find Sylvia and Mary at the door. Sylvia tearfully says she does not want to give up acting but must if she has to raise Mary alone. They invite her and Mary to move in, with Peter stating he would build Sylvia a room. Sylvia accepts, and the four live happily with the baby. The movie closes showing that the mural that had adorned their entryway now depicts the three men and Sylvia pushing Mary in a stroller.


  • Tom Selleck as Peter Mitchell, one of the 3 roommates, an architect and the center figure of the trio
  • Steve Guttenberg as Michael Kellam, the youngest of the three roommates and a cartoonist
  • Ted Danson as Jack Holden, one of the 3 roommates, a skilled actor and Mary's birth father
  • Lisa and Michelle Blair as Mary, the baby and Jack's legitimate daughter
  • Margaret Colin as Rebecca, Peter's old flame
  • Celeste Holm as Mrs. Holden, Jacks mother
  • Nancy Travis as Sylvia Bennington, Mary's mother, an actress with whom Jack had a fling
  • Alexandra Amini as Patty
  • Peter Brown as Store Clerk
  • Francine Beers as Woman at Gift Shop
  • Philip Bosco as Sgt. Melkowitz, an NYPD narcotics detective
  • John Gould Rubin as Paul Milner, a TV commercial director and Jack's friend
  • Paul Guilfoyle as Vince, one of the drug dealers Milner had dealings with
  • Earl Hindman as Satch, one of the drug dealers Milner had dealings with
  • Barbara Budd as Actress
  • Michael Burgess as Man at Party
  • Claire Cellucci as Angelyne
  • Eugene Clark as Man #2 at Party
  • Derek de Lint as Jan Clopatz, Rebecca's new beau and a concert cellist
  • Dave Foley as Grocery Store Clerk
  • Jackie Richardson as Edna
  • Cynthia Harris as Mrs. Hathaway, the landlady of the apartment complex the three men reside in
  • Colin Quinn as Gift Shop Clerk
  • Mario Joyner as taxi driver


Mary was played by twins Lisa and Michelle Blair.[6]

The soundtrack included the Peter Cetera song "Daddy's Girl", which was used for the movie's big music montage sequence, the Miami Sound Machine song "Bad Boy", which opened it, and the John Parr song "The Minute I Saw You", which ended the film.

Urban legend[edit]

Shots from the film showing what some believe are a shotgun and a young boy.

Just over an hour into the final cut of the film, there is a scene that shows Jack and his mother (played by Celeste Holm) walking through the house with Mary. As they do so, they pass a background window on the left-hand side of the screen, and a black outline that appears to resemble a rifle pointed downward can be seen behind the curtains. As they walk back past the window 40 seconds later, a human figure can be seen in that window. A persistent urban legend began circulating August 1990 (shortly before the sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady, premiered) that this was the ghost of a boy who had been killed in the house where the film (or this scene) was filmed. The most common version of this myth was that a nine-year-old boy committed suicide with a shotgun there, explaining why it was vacant: because the grieving family left. This notion was discussed on the first episode of TV Land: Myths and Legends in January 2007, and was referenced in "Hollywood Babylon", a second-season episode of the TV series Supernatural.

Danson's character standing next to a cardboard cutout of himself.

The figure is actually a cardboard cutout "standee" of Jack, wearing a tuxedo and top hat, that was left on the set. It was created as part of the storyline, in which he, an actor, appears in a dog food commercial, but this portion was cut from the final version of the film. The standee does show up later in the film, when Jack stands next to it as Sylvia comes to reclaim Mary. contends that the one in the first scene looks smaller than it does in the later scene because of the distance and angle of the shot, and because the curtains obscure its outstretched arms. As for the contention that a boy died in the house, all the indoor scenes were shot on a Toronto sound stage, and no kind of residential dwellings were used for interior filming.[7][8]


Critical response[edit]

The critical response to Three Men and a Baby was generally positive. On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 67% based on reviews from 70 critics, and an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "Like the French farce it's based on, Three Men and a Baby is too self-satisfied with scatalogical humor to qualify as a bundle of joy, but the role of makeshift daddy brings out the best in Tom Selleck".[9] Metacritic gave the film a score of 61 based on 16 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[11]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, despite noting several aspects he saw as flaws, praised the film, remarking: "Because of Selleck and his co-stars... the movie becomes a heartwarming entertainment". He gave it 3 (out of four) stars.[12] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote "this story is about four babies, not just one" and "the film bubbles along in a funny if predictable way, with a lot more gags than the earlier film managed".[6]

Box office[edit]

The film opened in theaters on Wednesday, November 25, 1987. It grossed $168 million in the United States and Canada[1][13][14] and $72 million internationally for a worldwide gross of $240 million.[3] It was notable for the Walt Disney Studios since it was the first production from the studio to gross over $100 million domestically in its initial run and its highest-grossing film at the time until surpassed in 1990 by Pretty Woman.[15][16] It was the highest-grossing film of 1987 domestically, with an estimated 42 million tickets sold in the US.[citation needed]


The film was followed by a 1990 sequel titled, Three Men and a Little Lady.


In 2010, a third film titled Three Men and a Bride was in development.[17] The sequel project entered development hell and was eventually abandoned in favor of a reboot.


In December 2020, the as-of-yet untitled reboot was announced to be in development, with Zac Efron cast in a starring role. The film is intended to be a streaming exclusive film, for Disney+.[18] Maurice "Mo" Marable was chosen to direct the reboot.[19] By April 2022, Marable stated that the script is nearing completion. The filmmaker said that the project will pay homage to the originals, while introducing a mixed-race cast. He also intends for the stars of the original films to appear in the movie, with a cameo role at minimum.[20]


The TV show Baby Daddy, an American sitcom that premiered in 2012 on ABC Family, was inspired by the film. The series follows Ben, living with his elder brother Danny and close friend Tucker, who raise a baby left at their door. Six seasons were produced, with the final episode airing in 2017.

This film also served as inspiration for other adaptations, and was remade in several regions:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Three Men and a Baby (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  2. ^ Klady, Leonard (January 1, 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps: The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi'". Los Angeles Times. p. 2. Retrieved December 31, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "'Three Men' Costars Return For Sequel". Daily Variety. February 14, 1990. p. 2.
  4. ^ "1987 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ "1988 -Nominees & Winners". Archived from the original on June 17, 2016. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (November 25, 1987). "Film Review: Three Men and a Baby". The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  7. ^ Mikkelson, David (June 2, 1997). "Does a Ghost Boy Appear in Three Men and a Baby?". Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 6, 2008). "The Questions That Will Not Die". Retrieved July 26, 2018 – via
  9. ^ "Three Men and a Baby". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  10. ^ "Three Men and a Baby Reviews". Metacritic.
  11. ^ "Cinemascore :: Movie Title Search". December 20, 2018. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 25, 1987). "Three Men and a Baby". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  13. ^ "Three Men and a Baby Is Top Box-Office Film". The New York Times. January 14, 1988. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
  14. ^ Mathews, Jack (December 29, 1987). "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  15. ^ "'3 Men' Tops At Disney". Variety. January 13, 1988. p. 4.
  16. ^ "'Pretty Woman' now top Disney grosser". Variety. September 3, 1990. p. 4.
  17. ^ Reynolds, Simon (June 3, 2010). "Selleck confirms Three Men sequel plans". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (August 10, 2020). "Zac Efron to Star in 'Three Men and a Baby' Remake for Disney+ (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  19. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 29, 2021). "'Woke' Director Mo Marable To Helm Disney+ 'Three Men And A Baby' Reboot Starring Zac Efron". Deadline. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  20. ^ O'Connell, Mikey (April 19, 2022). "Director Mo Marable Talks 'Woke', 'Killing It' and Working With Michelle Obama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 10, 2022.

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