Architect Peter Mitchell (Tom Selleck), cartoonist Michael Kellam (Steve Guttenberg), and actor Jack Holden (Ted Danson) are happy living their lives as bachelors in their lofty New York City apartment where they have frequent parties and flings with different women. Their lives are suddenly disrupted when a baby named Mary arrives on their doorstep one day. A note with her, written by a lady named Sylvia, indicates that she is Jack’s, the result of a tryst between the actor and actress when they were both in a Shakespeare in the Park production of The Taming of the Shrew a year prior. Mary arrives in his absence – he is in Turkey shooting a B movie, leaving Peter and Michael to fend for themselves in taking care of her. Prior to leaving, Jack had made arrangements with a director friend to have a “package” delivered to the apartment as a favor. Before Mary’s arrival, Jack calls and leaves a voice message with Peter and Michael informing them of it and to keep it a secret per the director friend’s wishes. When Mary arrives, they mistakenly believe she is “the package”, even though there is a note from her mother.
Peter and Michael are totally befuddled on how to care for Mary, and Peter leaves to go buy whatever supplies are needed. While he is gone, Mrs. Hathaway (Cynthia Harris), the landlady, delivers a small box (which is the actual “package” containing heroin) to the apartment and Michael tosses it aside while trying to keep Mary under control. After Peter returns, they eventually figure out her proper care, right down to diaper changes, baths, and feedings.
The next day, two men (who are drug dealers) arrive at the apartment to pick up the package. Peter and Michael mistakenly give Mary to them instead, along with a can the men believe is the package, but is actually powdered milk. Shortly after they leave, Peter discovers the actual package hiding behind a pillow. He then questions Michael what he found, saying that it’s the package the men were supposed to pick up. Realizing what they did, Peter runs downstairs to intercept them, but trips and stumbles, and the package’s contents spill. He quickly gathers it and runs outside to stop the men and give them the package. Peter tries to talk to the man who has Mary but stops mid-sentence and demands her back, thus causing a scuffle. A nearby police officer arrives on a horse to break them up and questions what’s going on. The man then gives Mary back to Peter and takes the can from inside the carriage. After the exchange, the police officer attempts to ticket the men for illegal parking, but they quickly escape. He then accosts Peter and detains him in the apartment until Sgt. Melkowitz (Philip Bosco), a narcotics officer, arrives to question him and Michael about the drugs. The phone rings and Peter rushes to answer, which is Jack, who is calling from Turkey. Peter tells Jack that he and Michael need to talk to him, but refuses to talk on the phone as the phone conversation is being recorded. Peter and Michael successfully hides the drugs, in which they soon learn that Jack’s friend, Paul Milner, is a drug dealer as well. Melkowitz leaves with suspicions and puts them and the apartment under surveillance.
Mrs. Hathaway shortly arrives to the apartment, and Peter and Michael are able to persuade her to babysit Mary while they work. Once they get home, they find her bound and gagged and the apartment ransacked, apparently by the dealers (who soon realized the can they took was powdered milk), demanding the heroin. Mary is safe, however, but a note is left behind saying, “Next time we’ll take the baby”. They continue with their care of her, adjusting to surrogate fatherhood and growing attached to her, until Jack returns.
After Peter is settled next to Mary on the bed, a person enters the apartment. He gets up to find out who it is, thinking it could be one of the dealers attempting to kidnap Mary from the note left behind. He quietly approaches the person, throws a basketball and tackles the person to the ground, who happens to be Jack, returning early after his part of the movie he was shooting got cut. Peter and Michael are furious at Jack and begins questioning him about the entire drug deal and Mary. He replies that he knew nothing about the heroin and initially denies everything about Mary until he reads the note from Sylvia. He then recalls the tryst that eventually led to her being born. Peter and Michael do not hesitate in taking their revenge and passing all responsibility of looking after Mary to Jack, but he quickly grows to love her.
Later, Peter discovers a news clipping in the mail of Jack’s director friend being hospitalized after a mugging (presumably by the drug dealers), with a handwritten note saying, ‘Don’t let this happen to you!’. Peter, Michael and Jack formulate a plan to meet and trap the men when they negotiate a deal to deliver the illicit goods. That night, Jack exits the building, disguised as a pregnant woman, with Mary in his possession. Soon after, Peter and Michael exits the building and hitches a ride in a taxi cab. A pair of undercover police officers follow the cab with them in it. The cab then stops, and Peter and Michael rush to another cab nearby with Jack driving. They meet the dealers at the top floor of a construction site, with Michael hiding behind a vent, recording the conversation between Peter and the men about the deal. Michael then falls over from inside the vent and the men try to catch up to him. They are knocked down with pipes and Peter and Michael rushes down the elevator with the recording in their possession, but is stopped when Jack accidentally pulls a lever that operates the car that they are in. The dealers catch up to them but is then stopped and trapped in the elevator by Jack. Peter and Michael successfully gets away and law enforcement arrives. With a recording of the conversation, they prove their innocence to Melkowitz and the dealers are arrested.
By now, they have fully embraced their role as Mary’s guardians. However, one morning, Sylvia (Nancy Travis) arrives, asking for her back intending to take her to London to live with her family. Handing her over, they quickly find themselves miserable and desperately missing her. Deciding to stop her and Sylvia from leaving, they rush to the airport to try and persuade the latter to stay, but they arrive just as her plane is backing up from the gate. Defeated, they return home, where they find both Sylvia and Mary sitting by the door, who did not go to London after all. Sylvia tearfully explains she doesn’t want to give up her acting career but can’t do so if she has to raise Mary alone. They tell her that they would be willing to help, so Peter quickly invites her and Mary to move in with them with Jack and Michael’s agreement, and she agrees.
Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 American comedy film directed by Leonard Nimoy and starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, Ted Danson and Nancy Travis. It follows the mishaps and adventures of three bachelors as they attempt to adapt their lives to pseudo-fatherhood with the arrival of the love child of one of them. 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. The film won the 1988 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture.