Young and reckless Detroit police detective Axel Foley's latest unauthorized sting operation goes sour when two uniformed officers intervene, resulting in a high-speed chase through the city which causes widespread damage. His boss Inspector Douglas Todd reprimands Axel for his behavior and threatens to fire him unless he changes his ways on the force. Axel arrives at his apartment to find it has been broken into by his childhood friend, Mikey Tandino. Mikey did time in prison, but ended up working as a security guard in Beverly Hills, thanks to a mutual friend, Jenny Summers. Mikey shows Axel some German bearer bonds and Axel wonders how he got them, but chooses not to question him about it. After going out to a bar, they return to Axel's apartment, where two men knock Axel unconscious and then confront Mikey about the bearer bonds, assault him, and kill him.
Axel asks to investigate Mikey's murder, but Inspector Todd refuses to allow it because of his close ties to Mikey. Axel uses the guise of taking vacation time to head to Beverly Hills to solve the crime. He finds Jenny working in an art gallery and learns about Mikey's ties to Victor Maitland, the gallery's owner. Posing as a flower deliveryman, Axel goes to Maitland's office and tries to question him about Mikey, but is thrown through a window by Maitland's bodyguards and arrested. At the police station, Lieutenant Andrew Bogomil assigns Sergeant John Taggart and Detective Billy Rosewood to follow Axel. After a series of encounters, including the trio's foiling of a robbery in a striptease bar, the three develop a mutual respect.
On the trail of Mikey's killers, Axel sneaks into one of Maitland's warehouses, where he finds coffee grounds, which he suspects were used to pack drugs. He also discovers that many of Maitland's crates have not gone through customs. After being arrested again, this time after a scuffle at Maitland's country club, Axel admits to Bogomil that Maitland is a smuggler. Police Chief Hubbard, who has learned of Axel's ill-advised investigative actions, orders that Axel be escorted out of town. However, Axel convinces Rosewood to pick up Jenny instead and take her with them to Maitland's warehouse, where a shipment is due to arrive that day.
Axel and Jenny break into the warehouse and discover several bags of cocaine inside a crate. Before Axel can get this new found evidence to Rosewood, Maitland and his associates arrive. Maitland takes Jenny and leaves Axel to be killed, but after some hesitation, Rosewood enters the warehouse and rescues Axel. Taggart tracks Axel and Rosewood to Maitland's estate, where he joins the two in their efforts to rescue Jenny and bring Maitland to justice. After wiping out most of Maitland's men, Axel kills Maitland's right-hand man Zack, identifying him as Mikey's killer. With Bogomil's help, Axel fatally shoots Maitland and rescues Jenny. Bogomil fabricates a story to Hubbard that covers for all the participants without discrediting the Beverly Hills Police force. Realizing that he will be fired in Detroit, Axel asks Bogomil to speak to Inspector Todd and smooth things over for him. Later, Taggart and Rosewood meet Axel as he checks out of his hotel, and pay his bill. Axel invites them to join him for a farewell drink, and they accept.
In 1977, Paramount executive Don Simpson came up with a movie idea about a cop from East L.A. who transferred to Beverly Hills. Screenwriter Danilo Bach was called in to write the screenplay. Bach pitched his idea to Simpson and Paramount in 1981 under the name Beverly Drive, about a cop from Pittsburgh named Elly Axel. However, his script was a straight action film and Bach was forced to make changes to the script, but after a few attempts the project went stale. With the success of Flashdance (1983), Simpson saw the Beverly Hills film as his next big project. Daniel Petrie, Jr. was brought in to rewrite the script and Paramount loved Petrie's humorous approach to the project, with the lead character now called Axel Elly, from Detroit. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer claimed that the role of Axel Foley was first offered to Mickey Rourke, who signed a $400,000 holding contract to do the film. When revisions and other preparations took longer than expected, Rourke left the project to do another film.
Sylvester Stallone was originally considered for the part of Foley. Stallone gave the script a dramatic rewrite and made it into a straight action film. In one of the previous drafts written for Stallone, the character of Billy Rosewood was called "Siddons" and was killed off half-way through the script during one of the action scenes. Stallone had renamed the lead character to Axel Cobretti, with the character of Michael Tandino being his brother and Jenny Summers playing his love interest. Stallone has said that his script for Beverly Hills Cop would have "looked like the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy. Believe it or not, the finale was me in a stolen Lamborghini playing chicken with an oncoming freight train being driven by the ultra-slimy bad guy." However, Stallone's ideas were deemed "too expensive" for Paramount to produce and Stallone ultimately pulled out two weeks before filming was to start. Two days later, the film's producers, Simpson and Bruckheimer, convinced Eddie Murphy to replace Stallone in the film, prompting more rewrites. Besides Stallone and Rourke, other actors who were considered for the role of Axel Foley included Richard Pryor, Al Pacino, and James Caan.
Beverly Hills Cop received critical acclaim upon its release, and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1984. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote "Beverly Hills Cop finds Eddie Murphy doing what he does best: playing the shrewdest, hippest, fastest-talking underdog in a rich man's world. Eddie Murphy knows exactly what he's doing, and he wins at every turn". Richard Schickel of Time magazine wrote that "Eddie Murphy exuded the kind of cheeky, cocky charm that has been missing from the screen since Cagney was a pup, snarling his way out of the ghetto". Axel Foley became Murphy's signature role and was ranked No. 78 on Empire magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. Also, Entertainment Weekly magazine ranked Beverly Hills Cop as the third best comedy film of the last 25 years. According to Christopher Hitchens, the British novelist and poet Kingsley Amis considered the film "a flawless masterpiece."
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 43 critics to give the film a score of 84%, with an average score of 7.1 out of 10. In 2003, the film was picked as one of the 1000 Best Movies Ever Made by The New York Times.
The film was released on December 5, 1984, and played in 2,006 theaters. It debuted first at box office, making $15,214,805 in its first five days of release. Thanks to word of mouth, the film generated higher revenue in the weeks following the first week, with the highest one being in its fourth week of release, when it grossed $20,064,790 in five days. It stayed #1 for 14 non-consecutive weeks and tied Tootsie for the films with the second most weeks at #1. (The first is Titanic.) The film earned approximately $234,760,478 domestically and became the highest-grossing film of 1984. It also became the highest-grossing R rated film of all-time, a rank it would hold until The Matrix Reloaded in 2003. (Adjusted for inflation, Beverly Hills Cop is the third highest-grossing R rated film of all-time behind The Exorcist and The Godfather.) The film was also the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1984, behind Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 67 million tickets in the US.
The soundtrack was released on MCA Records and won the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (1986). The instrumental title tune, "Axel F", is a cultural touchstone and has since been covered by numerous artists.Academy Award
Nominated for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) - Danilo Bach and Daniel Petrie, Jr.
British Academy Film Awards
Nominated for Best Score - Harold Faltermeyer
Edgar Allan Poe Award
Nominated for Best Motion Picture - Daniel Petrie, Jr.
Golden Globe Award
Nominated for Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical
Nominated for Best Motion Picture Actor - Comedy/Musical - Eddie Murphy
Won for Best Score Soundtrack Album - Marc Benno, Harold Faltermeyer, Keith Forsey, Micki Free, Jon Gilutin, Howard Hewett, Bunny Hull, Howie Rice, Sharon Robinson, Danny Sembello, Sue Sheridan, Richard Theisen, Allee Willis
People's Choice Award
Won for Favorite Motion Picture
Won for Best Vehicular Stunt (Motion Picture) - Eddy Donno
This film is No. 22 on Bravo's list of the 100 funniest films.
American Film Institute ListsAFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies - Nominated
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs - #63
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
Detective Axel Foley - Nominated Hero
The film spawned a franchise with two sequels, Beverly Hills Cop II and Beverly Hills Cop III, both starring Eddie Murphy, in 1987 and 1994, respectively. Judge Reinhold reprised his role for the sequels. The second film met with mixed reviews but was a box office success, while the third film was unsuccessful both critically and commercially.
In 2013, a television series was reported to be in the works for CBS. The pilot was written by Shawn Ryan and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Brandon T. Jackson was cast as Axel Foley's son. The series was not picked up, but Ryan reported that it tested well enough for Paramount to put a fourth film into production.