The trademark chuckle, his wide-eyed smile, and Murphy's endless wisecracks and impersonations made him (at least in his heyday) the biggest movie star in the world. While we're not sure yet where A Thousand Words belongs in the overall Murphy canon, here's a look back at our top 10 favorite Eddie Murphy movies.
Ok, Dreamgirls isn't really an "Eddie Murphy movie," but it is the only one that garnered him an Oscar nomination. As singer James "Thunder" Early, Murphy dazzled audiences as a performer who's as affable as he is flawed. Once known as a comic who riffed on legends like James Brown, and sang novelty pop tunes like "Party All the Time," here, Murphy proved that he can sing, dance and act.
9. The Nutty Professor
For a lot of his fans, there's pre-N.P. Murphy and post-N.P. Murphy. The post-Nutty Professor is the family guy who minds his P's and Q's and appeals to the kiddies in strictly G to PG, broad comedy fare like Doctor Dolittle, Daddy Day Care and Norbit. The pre-Nutty Murphy
liked to use the F word, and other colorful phrases, in adult comedy classics like 48 Hrs.
and Beverly Hills Cop. Choose your potion, but in the actual Nutty Professor, Murphy showed his gift for taking on multiple performances and was completely charming as Professor Klump.
8. Beverly Hills Cop II
It's slick, fast, completely implausible, and highly entertaining. In 1987, Eddie Murphy was at the top of his game, and it showed in his second outing as Detroit cop Axel Foley. This time, Top Gun director Tony Scott adds his distinctive razzle dazzle, and Axel's whole schtick (down to the cool jacket, sunglasses and niftier haircut) seems a bit more polished. No matter. It's still a kick to see him having fun in his usual relaxed, street saavy way, especially when paired with that '80s Laurel & Hardy - Detectives Billy Roseweed, er, wood, and Sergeant Taggart.
7. Eddie Murphy: Delirious
Coming in at #7 is one of the all-time great stand-up comedy concerts, the rude, crude, ultra-un-p.c. and over-the-top raunchy Delirious. Some might deem a lot of what's here fairly offensive, and they'd be right. But, Murphy's impersonations of everyone from Michael Jackson to Stevie Wonder to Mr. T and Ralph Kramden are spot on, and the whole family BBQ bit, especially the drunk uncle, Big Foot and "Gooney Goo" routines, are classic. It's Murphy as a young artist, fearless and ready and willing to say and do whatever he wants.
At the opposite end of the Delirious spectrum is Shrek, a fun animated adventure that rivals Pixar's creations, and teamed up first-rate SNL alums Mike Myers as the ogre Shrek and Eddie Murphy as his pal Donkey. While Shrek's the star, and we love Myers whenever he sports that cool, unruly Scottish brogue (especially as the dad in So I Married an Axe
Murderer), we also get a huge kick out of Murphy's overexcited sidekick. Throw in some pop
culture references and tunes, and voila, a royally funny cartoon fit for two more sequels.
5. Coming to America
Murphy's tale of a royal prince coming to America to find his bride has been somewhat overlooked over the years. It's got a lot of funny bits (anything in the barbershop, with Murphy and Arsenio Hall playing various patrons and barbers, is comedy gold). Director Landis spares no expense on production value, and this was one of the first times we saw Murphy playing a clean-cut character, less foul-mouthed and street smart, but equally likeable.
4. Trading Places
This John Landis comedy stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd as, respectively, a street hustler and a commodities broker who unknowingly "trade places" as part of a bet between tycoon brothers Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy. Murphy, in only his second big screen role, couldn't be more hilarious. The role fits him like a glove, and it was evident to everyone watching (and a lot were watching at this point), that Murphy had arrived, fully
formed, ready to rule the entertainment world.
Some might think that Trading Places deserves to be higher than Bowfinger, but, to quote another 1999 movie, "Take a closer look." The Frank Oz comedy, pairing comedic geniuses Murphy and Steve Martin in a tale of small-time movie-making, is extremely witty and entertaining. It's also the best movie starring Eddie Murphy in two captivating roles: 'Jiff' Ramsey, an employee at Blockbuster who has a special way of saying "Awesome"; and his brother Kit Ramsey, the biggest action movie star on the planet. Martin co-stars as the title character, and also wrote the deft script, but it's Murphy who's unforgettable as these two oddball, winning comic creations.
2. 48 Hrs.
In 1982, the buddy cop comedy was born. Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Tango & Cash, Bad Boys, etc. All of those movies owe a debt to the comedy-thriller that set the bar for classic love-hate partnerships born out of necessity and bullets. Nick Nolte is the tough-as-nails cop forced to team up with Eddie Murphy's slick convict to take down some nasty cop killers. Their banter is hilarious, but watch especially for Murphy's legendary scene shaking down the locals in a redneck bar. There was a "new
sheriff" in town, and his name was Eddie Murphy.
1. Beverly Hills Cop
It's hard to believe Sylvester Stallone was once considered for the title role. One of moviedom's most classic comedy characters arrived in 1984 by the name of Axel Foley ("Acquel? Ackmel?" asks Bronson's Pinchot's hilarious, near-undecipherable art gallery assistant..."No, that's Ax-el Foley"). The movie is one of the greatest action comedies, and Murphy was forever immortalized as the silly, endearing police officer who turns Beverly
Hills and the world on its head, sticking bananas in tail pipes, ruining buffets at the country club, and doing whatever he can to solve the crime, have a
good time and make sure everyone in shouting distance has as much fun as he does. Mission
accomplished. Cue theme music.