In the 1980s, the Police Academy movie franchise became a cultural phenomenon. The seven-film series followed the misadventures of a group of bumbling police recruits and their instructors, and was known for its slapstick humor and irreverent take on law enforcement.
Despite its popularity, the franchise was never critically acclaimed, and the quality of the movies varied widely. In this article, we dive into the Police Academy movies, ranking them from best to worst based on their Rotten Tomatoes scores.
Police Academy (1984)
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
The first Police Academy movie was released in 1984, and introduced audiences to the zany world of the film’s titular police academy. The movie follows a group of misfit recruits as they train to become police officers, with the help of their tough but fair drill instructor, Sergeant Carey Mahoney (played by Steve Guttenberg).
What sets the first Police Academy movie apart from the rest of the series is its smart writing and sharp satire. The movie takes aim at everything from police corruption to government bureaucracy, while still managing to be hilarious. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Guttenberg in particular standing out as the charismatic and lovable Mahoney.
In addition to its humor and social commentary, Police Academy is also notable for being a very inclusive movie. The film features a diverse and fantastic cast of characters, including women and people of color, and treats them all with respect and dignity. This was a rarity in 1984, and makes Police Academy an important movie in terms of representation and diversity.
Overall, Police Academy is the best movie in the franchise, and its 64% score on Rotten Tomatoes is well-deserved.
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Police Academy 3: Back in Training was released in 1986, and picks up where the first movie left off. Mahoney and his fellow misfit recruits have graduated from the academy, and are now out on the streets as full-fledged police officers. The movie sees the gang return to the academy to help train a new group of recruits, while also dealing with a rival police academy that is trying to shut them down.
While not as good as the first movie, Police Academy 3 is still a fun and entertaining ride. The humor is as broad and silly as ever, but there are also some moments of genuine heart and emotion. Guttenberg is once again excellent as Mahoney, and the supporting cast is also strong.
One of the things that makes Police Academy 3 stand out is its focus on teamwork and camaraderie. The movie is all about the bonds that form between the police officers, and how they work together to overcome obstacles. This makes the movie feel more like a family comedy than a cop movie, which is a refreshing change of pace.
While its 40% score on Rotten Tomatoes is lower than the first movie’s, Police Academy 3 is still a solid entry in the franchise.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985)
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment was in theaters in 1985, and is a direct sequel to the first movie. The film sees Mahoney and his fellow recruits returning to the academy as instructors, where they clash with the new batch of recruits.
While Police Academy 2 has some funny moments, it is typically regarded as one of the weaker entries in the franchise. The humor is more crass and less clever than in the first movie, and the characters are less likable. That being said, the movie does have its moments, and it is still an entertaining watch.
One of the things that sets Police Academy 2 apart from the rest of the series is its emphasis on slapstick humor. While the first movie had a mix of clever satire and physical comedy, Police Academy 2 leans more heavily on the latter. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the physical comedy can be very funny, but it does make the movie feel more one-dimensional than the first.
Another issue with Police Academy 2 is that the plot feels somewhat contrived. The rivalry between Mahoney’s team and the new recruits is never fully fleshed out, and the conflict between the two groups feels forced. The movie also features some unnecessary subplots, such as a love triangle between Mahoney, his ex-girlfriend, and a new character played by Bobcat Goldthwait.
Despite its flaws, Police Academy 2 is still a decent comedy that is worth a watch for fans of the franchise. Its 31% score on Rotten Tomatoes is a fair reflection of its quality.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol is often considered the low point of the Police Academy franchise. However, there are some redeeming qualities to the movie that make it worth watching for fans of the series.
Something that stands out about Police Academy 4 is its focus on community involvement in law enforcement. The movie sees Mahoney and his team training a group of civilian volunteers to help fight crime in their neighborhood. This emphasis on citizen involvement is a refreshing change of pace from the previous movies, which were more focused on the antics of the police officers themselves.
Another highlight of Police Academy 4 is the performance of Bobcat Goldthwait, who plays the enthusiastic but bumbling volunteer Zed. Goldthwait brings a manic energy to the role that is both funny and endearing, and his scenes provide some of the biggest laughs in the movie.
The movie also features some impressive action set-pieces, including a chase scene involving a remote-controlled helicopter and a climax set in a hot air balloon. These sequences are well-shot and provide a nice change of pace from the usual slapstick humor.
While Police Academy 4 may not be as clever or well-written as the first movie, it still has its moments of genuine humor and heart. The emphasis on community involvement and the strong performance of Bobcat Goldthwait make it a movie that is worth revisiting for fans of the franchise.
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach was released in 1988, and is another low point in the franchise. The movie sees Mahoney and his team traveling to Miami Beach to help solve a string of burglaries.
Like Police Academy 4, Assignment Miami Beach feels like a rehash of the first movie, with the characters going through the same motions and the humor feeling stale. The movie also features a bizarre subplot involving a talking parrot, which adds nothing to the overall story and is more annoying than funny.
One of the few bright spots in Police Academy 5 is the performance of G.W. Bailey, who plays Captain Harris. Bailey is always entertaining to watch, and his scenes provide some much-needed humor.
Overall, Police Academy 5 is a forgettable movie that is not worth watching once, maybe twice, and then shelved. Its 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes is harsh but almost understandable.
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege was released in 1989, and is another forgettable entry in the franchise. The movie sees Mahoney and his team investigating a string of robberies in their city, while also dealing with the return of Captain Harris.
One of the problems with Police Academy 6 is that it feels like a retread of the previous movies, with the same jokes and gags being recycled. The characters are also more annoying than funny, and the humor feels forced.
Another issue with Police Academy 6 is that the movie is too chaotic. There are too many characters and subplots, which makes the movie feel unfocused and confusing. The plot is also convoluted, with too many twists and turns that don’t add up to anything substantial.
One of the few highlights of Police Academy 6 is the performance of Bubba Smith, who plays the lovable Hightower. Smith brings a warmth and charm to the character that is missing from the rest of the movie.
Overall, Police Academy 6 is a forgettable movie that is not worth anyone’s time. Its 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes is a fair reflection of its quality.
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Police Academy: Mission to Moscow was released in 1994, and is widely considered to be the worst movie in the franchise. The movie sees the gang traveling to Russia to help stop an international crime ring.
One of the problems with this film is that it feels like a cheap knockoff of the previous movies. The humor is even more forced and contrived than in the earlier movies, and the characters are even more one-dimensional.
Another issue with Police Academy: Mission to Moscow is that the movie is poorly made. The pacing is sluggish, the action is poorly choreographed, and the special effects are laughable. The movie also features some cringe-worthy attempts at topical humor, such as a scene in which the characters sing a song about McDonald’s.
It is not surprising that it received a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It is easily the worst movie in the franchise, and is best avoided by anyone looking for a decent comedy.
The Police Academy movie franchise may not have been critically acclaimed, but it has certainly left its mark on pop culture. The series is beloved by many for its silly humor and lovable characters, and has spawned countless imitators over the years.