Polo-like kinase-1 (Plk1) performs multiple essential functions during the cell cycle. Here we show that human Plk1-deficient cells are unable to separate their centrosomes, fail to form a bipolar spindle, and undergo a Mad2/BubR1-dependent prometaphase arrest. However, electron microscopy demonstrates that kinetochore-microtubule interactions can be established in cells lacking Plk1. In addition, co-depletion of Plk1 and survivin allows mitotic exit. This indicates that Plk1 depletion does not prevent microtubule attachment, but specifically interferes with the generation of tension, as a consequence of a failure to form a bipolar spindle. Moreover, we find that after silencing of the spindle assembly checkpoint, degradation of cyclin B1 is unaffected in cells lacking Plk1. These data indicate that activation of the anaphase promoting complex or cyclosome (APC/C)-Cdc20 complex that is under control of the spindle assembly checkpoint does not require Plk1 activity. Finally, we find that translocation of chromosome passengers and initiation of cleavage furrow ingression is unaffected in cells depleted of Plk1. Thus, our data confirm an important role of Plk1 in bipolar spindle formation, and also demonstrate that Plk1 is dispensable for APC/C-Cdc20 activation and the initiation of cytokinesis.