What happened in the Beverly Hills Cop movies

Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley is back on the beat, but what’s his case history?

Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Eddie Murphy in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop. (Paramount/Everett Collection)
Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, and Eddie Murphy in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop. (Paramount/Everett Collection)

It’s been a long 30-year wait but Detective Axel Foley is finally back on active duty with the long-in-development sequel Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F now available to stream on Netflix.

This new instalment sees Eddie Murphy return to a character he first made his own with director Michael Brest’s 1984 franchise starter Beverly Hills Cop and last played for filmmaker John Landis’s Beverly Hills Cop 3 in 1994.

In the intervening 40 years, Axel has proven so popular that he not only shaped the buddy-cop action comedies that flooded the 1980s and beyond but he also helped make Murphy a bona-fide box-office megastar.

Read more: Everything we know about Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

It’s a status he’s held ever since and with Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, we’ll get to see Murphy revive the character that started it all.

So if you’re eager to get back on Axel’s beat, you might want a refresher of his case history first. With that in mind, here’s a quick recap of everything that’s happened in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise so far.

USA. Eddie Murphy, John Ashton and Judge Reinhold  in a scene from the ©Paramount Pictures movie: Beverly Hills Cop (1984). Plot: A freewheeling Detroit cop - Axel Foley , pursuing a murder investigation finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills.  Ref:  LMK110-J6744-170820 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets. pictures@lmkmedia.com
Judge Reinhold, Eddie Murphy, and John Ashton in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop. (LMK/Paramount)

Released in 1984 as a movie that mixed explosive action with laugh-out-loud comedy, Brest’s first Beverly Hills Cop film captured Murphy at the height of his Saturday Night Live and stand-up fame. It was these two factors — along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s knack for creating action epics — that helped make Axel’s first case the highest-grossing movie of the year, beating the likes of Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

It introduced us to Axel Foley, a street-wise Detroit cop who finds himself in Beverly Hills following the death of his friend Mikey who was involved with some stolen goods. With his boss unwilling to transfer him to get to the bottom of what happened, Foley makes his way out to Los Angeles as part of an impromptu vacation but really to crack the case.

Once there, his new Captain Andrew Bogomil (Ronny Cox) puts him under the reluctant watch of LA officers Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton) who try their best to keep up with Foley as he attempts to figure out what happened to his friend Mikey.

His detective search ultimately leads him to cross paths with Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), an art gallery owner who turns out to be smuggling illegal goods into Los Angeles. It’s here where Foley meets Serge (Bronson Pinchot) a flamboyant art gallery salesman who becomes a recurring character in the series.

During an encounter with Maitland’s goons Zack and Casey, Foley learns that the former killed his friend Mikey before a shoot-out results in him shooting Maitland.

By the film’s end, Foley, Rosewood and Taggart have become unlikely friends and it’s hinted that Axel will stay in Los Angeles instead of returning to his Detroit beat. As it stands, Brest’s first Beverly Hills Cop remains the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time in America.

Brigitte Nielsen starred in 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II alongside Eddie Murphy. (Alamy)
Brigitte Nielsen starred in 1987's Beverly Hills Cop II alongside Eddie Murphy. (Alamy)

Action auteur Tony Scott helmed Axel’s second outing which hit cinemas in 1987 and swiftly became the highest-grossing movie of that year in America. We catch up with Foley two years after the event of the first movie when he’s compelled to return to Beverly Hills when he hears that Captain Bogomil has been shot and nearly fatally wounded.

Once back in LA, he finds out that Rosewood and Taggart were investigating the case of the Alphabet Crimes which are linked to high-stakes robberies and ultimately led to Bogomil’s shooting. Foley's snooping leads him to investigate a bullet casing at a gun club and eventually helps him to stop two more Alphabet Crimes before they can take place.

After more investigating, Foley, Rosewood and Taggart learn that business owner Maxwell Dent (Jürgen Prochnow) is behind the Alphabet Crimes and attempting to purchase illegal weapons using stolen money. After a shoot-out at an oil field, the trio manage to stop Maxwell and his team of criminals and the arms deal from happening.

By the time credits on Scott's sequel, Bogomil has not only been reinstated but promoted to Police Chief before Axel makes his way back to Detroit.

Beverly Hills Cop 3 brought Axel Foley to Wonder World. (Alamy)

1994's Beverly Hills Cop 3 saw Murphy reteam with his Trading Places and Coming To America director Landis although the collaboration wasn’t nearly as successful as their previous efforts.

In addition to becoming the pair’s last project together, it was also the first Beverly Hills Cop feature to be made without franchise producers Bruckheimer and Don Simon who bowed out before production began due to budget issues. Fans will be pleased to hear that Bruckheimer has returned for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F.

Beverly Hills Cop 3 didn’t manage to reach the box office heights of its predecessors and over the years, it’s even been acknowledged by Murphy as being the weakest of the first three films. It sees Foley drawn into a new case following the murder of his Detroit boss Inspector Douglas Todd (Gil Hill) at the hands of someone who is the focus of a wider investigation by the federal government.

Doing his own investigating, Foley learns that Todd’s killer has links to a Wonder World, a theme park in Beverly Hills, and once again heads to LA to try and crack the case. Here, he reteams with Rosewood and Serge but discovers that Taggart has since retired and has been replaced by a new partner who leads them inside Wonder World to investigate.

Their search lets them cross paths with the site’s Head of Security DeWald (Timothy Carhart) who Foley identifies as Todd’s killer. Soon, he also learns that the theme park is a cover for a counterfeiting ring but before he can bring DeWald to justice, Foley is framed for shooting the venue’s beloved owner Uncle Dave (Alan Young).

Determined to prove his innocence, Foley tackles DeWald head-on at the park, ultimately killing him while realising that a government agent was involved in the counterfeiting ring too. By the time the dust has settled and the government agent stopped, Uncle Dave has recovered and Foley’s name has been cleared.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is out now on Netflix.