by Aaron Peck
The 80s classic 'Beverly Hills Cop' hits store shelves this week, so we thought it would be a great time to look over the extensive filmography of Eddie Murphy and determine which films are his best, and which of his movies still make us throw up a little whenever we hear them mentioned.
After hitting the bigtime on SNL, Murphy started doing some smart comedies interspersed with edgy stand-up tours. He became famous quickly and soon everyone wanted him in their movies. After a few critical and box office successes Murphy's career fell into a pattern of decline, recovery, decline, recovery. By the late 90s he was raking in the money as he committed to one repetitive fat suit movie after another. It's too bad though, because as we saw in his early years, and even as recently as 2006 with 'Dreamgirls,' when Murphy is good, he is very, verygood. Unfortunately, soon after his eye-opening performance in 'Dreamgirls,' he fell right back into his bad habits with 'Norbit.' It's hard to pin Murphy down, and with his recent run of disastrous payday films, it's easy to write him off altogether, but all you have to do is travel back a good decade and a half, when Murphy was still making good movies, and you'll find some really fantastic films.
Murphy became a household name during his run on 'Saturday Night Live'. After he'd been noticed he soon started getting pegged for movies. His first was '48 Hrs.' A buddy cop movie that had him starring alongside Nick Nolte. This was his first feature film and still, to this day, remains one of his best. Sure, buddy cop movies are a dime a dozen now, but back in the early 80s this was a somewhat new genre still trying to find its footing. Murphy's performance here is some of the best work he's done in the movies. Period. He still had that edgy side to him. He hadn't been corrupted by Hollywood money and fat suits yet.
Is it okay to call the first 'Beverly Hills Cop' Murphy's opus (of sorts)? No you won't find this movie on AFI's Top 100 list, but this is certainly one of the most memorable movies of the 80s and one of Eddie Murphy's very best roles. Murphy has something here that say, Chris Tucker in the 'Rush Hour' movies does not. He makes this movie fun and enjoyable even though at its heart it's a pretty formulaic cop movie.
This oddball comedy is often overlooked, but it shouldn't be. Murphy and Steve Martin, another honorary 'SNL' alum, team up for a hilarious rip of the Hollywood movie scene. Like many of his other films in the Worst section, Murphy actually plays two people here. He simultaneously plays the world's biggest movie star and the world's weirdest nerd. Even though he's totally overacting in the part of Jefferson Ramsey it's strangely okay. It's genuinely funny, and so is the movie.
I didn't include number three for a reason (it stinks). The fourth film is also a good one, so let's just include that in here too. The first two 'Shrek' films were a huge success both at the box office and with critics helped in a large part by the voice of Eddie Murphy. Donkey is consistently one of the funniest parts of these movies. It helps that the first two films are very well written and they hadn't blown through all their jokes yet, but Murphy's high-strung presence in the films really brought them up a notch. Plus Donkey has some of the most quotable lines of the movies. ”We're having waffles!”.
Man, I just love this movie. Murphy and Aykroyd together was a match made in comedic heaven. Another 80s movie that lives on in our hearts and collective cinematic minds. The story is simple enough, a rich man and a poor man switch lives because of a bet placed by two greedy fat cats who have nothing better to do. After that, hilarity ensues. While the premise isn't all that engaging, the acting from Aykroyd and a young Murphy carry the movie.
'The Adventures of Pluto Nash'
How far the mighty have fallen. 'Pluto Nash' was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. With a swollen budget of $100 million, this movie only managed to pull in a little over $4 million domestically and not that much more worldwide. It's considered one of the biggest flops in box office history. I think those figures speak for themselves. Even though Murphy was riding a peak of fame from the 'Shrek,' 'Dr. Dolittle,' and the 'Nutty Professor' movies, no one wanted to see this crap.
I shudder to even think about this cancer of a movie. That's right, that's how horribly bad 'Norbit' is. Right after 'Dreamgirls,' Murphy donned yet another fat suit and set about destroying everything we value about cinema. For the life of me I can't understand why this movie made almost $100 million domestically. That completely befuddles me. The same people who didn't want to go see the trash that was 'Pluto Nash', plunked down their hard-earned money to see this! Oh, and 'Norbit' was actually nominated for an Academy Award for best makeup. Come on people. It's a fat suit, what's so special about that? Yeesh! Please purge this movie from my memory.
Another one of Murphy's movies that reminds me of the generic movie posters that line the walls of Tracy Morgan's hangout in '30 Rock.' Just another money-grubbing schlock-fest featuring Murphy raking in the dough while he produces more movie muck. It's true that 'Meet Dave' was a step up from 'Norbit', but that's just not saying much.
I'll never forgive Disney for this blunder. One of my favorite rides at Disneyland was loosely used as the idea for another Eddie Murphy movie that made me cringe. It troubles me to think that this movie was in anyway involved or related to the masterful ride at Disneyland. Johnny Depp turned 'Pirates of the Caribbean' into gold. Eddie Murphy and his team turned the Haunted Mansion into, well, this...
'Daddy Day Care'
Let's see… Let's take a bunch of moronic guys and put them in charge of infants. That's going to be funny right? No? Well, let's get a recognizable face in there. I know, let's cast Eddie Murphy. Alright, now we've got a movie! Sorry, guys, but it doesn't work like that. If your movie is a piece of junk, throwing in a well-known comedy staple won't keep it from being crappy. On a sidenote, a fun drinking game for 'Daddy Day Care' is taking a swig every time Eddie Murphy pulls his go-to bug-eyed stare whenever some kid is doing something he's not supposed to. Believe me, you'll be having your stomach pumped by the time the movie is over.
Murphy has made some great movies, and even nowadays he has found a way to fit in good movies between his not-so-good ones. His filmography is loaded with films, so it was near impossible to put together a list everyone would agree on. I'd say that 'Dreamgirls', 'Mulan', and 'Coming to America' are easily knocking on the door of his best, while movies like 'Vampire in Brooklyn,' 'Boomerang,' 'The Golden Child,' and 'Holy Man' are right there in line for his worst.
There's a ton to pick from, so head on over to the High-Def Digest forums and let us know your personal Top 5/Bottom 5 for Eddie Murphy.