Due to a critical shortage of police officers, the new female mayor has declared that the local police academy would no longer turn away anyone. Previous standards and criteria such as sex, height, weight, nor sanity could bar anyone from applying. Naturally, all of the biggest misfits and weirdos immediately applied including Eugene Tackleberry, a gung ho, gun-obsessed, trigger happy former security guard; the soft-spoken and meek Laverne Hooks; a gigantic florist Moses Hightower; the accident prone Fackler; the cowardly and incompetent Leslie Barbara; and a dashing ladies' man, modern-day Casanova-like George Martin.
After deliberately wrecking an arrogant customer's car, parking lot attendant Carey Mahoney is given a choice by his late father's old friend Captain Reed. Attend the Police Academy or go directly to jail.
Mahoney elects to join the academy and immediately decides to get himself thrown out thus evading Reed's directives.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Police is outraged by the mayor's lowered requirements and "orders" the staff of the academy to do everything possible to weed out the unfit and Lt. Harris eagerly agrees, determined to make the new cadets' lives so miserable that they all quit.
Despite Mahoney's best attempts to get himself kicked out, he finds that Harris has no intention of making it too easy on him and so begins a contest of wills between the two men. Over his numerous schemes, Mahoney befriends a number of his fellow misfit cadets and develops a crush on fellow cadet Karen Thompson even as he makes enemies out of cadets Copeland and Blankes. Ultimately, Mahoney decides to stick with the academy and graduate.
When another cadet, Chad Copeland makes a racial insult towards the meek Laverne Hooks, he enrages Moses Hightower who disobeys Lt. Harris' orders and wrecks the car that Copeland tried to take refuge inside. Afterwards, Hightower is summarily thrown out of the academy despite the fact that he was one of the best and most promising one of cadets to the dismay of the others.
Flush at the removal of Hightower, both Copeland and Blankes taunt Mahoney only for Barbara to lose his temper and punches Copeland, resulting in a fistfight breaking out. When Harris decides to kick out Barbara for this, Mahoney lies and takes the blame; knowing that Harris would rather throw Mahoney out.
Meanwhile, a riot has broken out downtown and the badly understaffed police force needs assistance resulting in the academy students being drafted to try and maintain order. Learning of the riot, Mahoney elects to join his classmates to help instead of leaving. But the befuddled Commandant Lassard botches up the deployment orders and instead of sending the cadets to the outer peripheral area, they are sent to the epicenter of the riot itself where they all undergo an unexpected trial by fire.
Copeland and Blankes get their weapons seized by one of the rioters who promptly goes on a rampage and takes Lt. Harris hostage. Mahoney attempts to rescue him only to fail. Both men are about to be killed by the rioter when Hightower appears, requesting that he be allowed to watch him kill Harris. Fooled, the rioter agrees and Hightower easily overpowers him. As a result of their heroics, both Hightower and Mahoney are reinstated into the academy and are given special commendations for their efforts as they graduate alongside their classmates as police officers while a humbled Lt. Harris reluctantly salutes them.
- Steve Guttenberg as Carey Mahoney
- Kim Cattrall as Karen Thompson
- Bubba Smith as Moses Hightower
- Donovan Scott as Leslie Barbara
- Michael Winslow as Larvell Jones
- Andrew Rubin as George Martin
- David Graf as Eugene Tackleberry
- Bruce Mahler as Douglas Fackler
- Marion Ramsey as Laverne Hooks
- Brant Von Hoffman as Kyle Blankes
- Scott Thomson as Chad Copeland
- G.W. Bailey as Lt. Thaddeus Harris
- George Gaynes as Commandant Eric Lassard
- Leslie Easterbrook as Debbie Callahan
- George R. Robertson as Chief of Police Henry J. Hurst
- Debralee Scott as Mrs. Fackler
- Ted Ross as Captain Reed
Originally developed from a screenplay written by Neal Israel and Pat Proft, Police Academy was produced by the Ladd Company for Warner Bros. Pictures. Hugh Wilson was hired to rewrite the screenplay and this was also his directorial debut. Most of the movie was shot in Toronto, Canada although certain scenes were also shot in Hamilton, Ontario. The Academy and its grounds were previously the site of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital in Etobicoke which was rebuilt as the Lakeshore campus of Humber College.
Police Academy debuted on March 23, 1984 in 1,063 movie theaters and immediately jumped to the number one movie for three weeks before dropping to the 2nd spot in the fourth week before reclaiming its top slot for two more weeks. The movie remained in the top ten for most of its run and was a huge commercial success, earning $81,198,894 domestically.
It did create a franchise that spawned no less than six sequels films as well as an animated and live action television series. Critically and commercially the first movie however was the most well received and even then has only been able to earn moderately positive reviews with website Rotten Tomatoes having only a measly 44% "Rotten" rating.