“I’m your worst nightmare…a n****r with a badge.”
“The royal penis is clean”
If you’re a fan of comedy, or you grew up in the Eighties, you are likely quite familiar with these lines, all of which come from films starring Eddie Murphy. The biggest new film star of the decade, the most successful Saturday Night Live alumnus, Eddie was one of the ’80s biggest icons. His abrasive and controversial style of stand-up raised hairs, but folks went to see him live as well as on film. His debut in “48 Hrs.” in 1982 signaled that a star was born, and he ramped that star power up with 1983’s “Trading Places.” It exploded by the time 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop” came out.
That star dimmed during the mid Nineties, but came roaring back later in the decade as Eddie switched gears and became a more family-friendly performer. Both “Nutty Professor” movies were successful, as was his remake of “Dr. Dolittle.” He even went animated, with the memorable role as Donkey in the “Shrek” series.
After another lull, Eddie won plaudits and an Oscar nomination playing James Early in “Dreamgirls.” He hasn’t scaled those heights again, but judging from the amount of comebacks he’s made (he’s like the black Cher,) I wouldn’t count Eddie out for long.
A group of us Blerds (and Blerd Pals Bill Bodkin of Pop-break.com and Jon Chattman of A Sides Music) came up with a list of his top 10 movies (conversely, we could do a list of his 10 shittiest movies, but we try to focus on the positive here at Popblerd.) We decided not to include his stand-up films, since in my mind, they would have been no-brainers for the top two spots. Here goes!
10. Boomerang (1992)
In his best film of the early Nineties, Eddie played something of a version of himself. Eddie wasn’t a hotshot ad exec like his character Marcus Graham was, but I’m sure Eddie could relate to Marcus’s chauvinistic and bed-hopping ways. Marcus is forced to consider his lifestyle, however, after falling for Angela (played by Halle Berry in one of her first major film roles.) “Boomerang” was Eddie’s first stab at a romantic comedy, and he’s charming as well as hilarious in the role. He’s joined by a fantastic supporting cast, including Martin Lawrence in his breakout film role. Legends Eartha Kitt and Grace Jones also deliver memorable performances.
Perhaps more memorable? The soundtrack, which spun off smashes from Babyface, A Tribe Called Quest and Johnny Gill, introduced Toni Braxton to the marketplace, and scored two of summer 1992’s biggest hits: P.M. Dawn’s ethereal “I’d Die Without You” and Boyz II Men’s record-breaking ballad “End of the Road.” (Big Money)
9. Dreamgirls (2005)
To me, it’s Eddie’s greatest non-comedic performance. Even though he was nominated for an Oscar, I still think the performance is underrated.
Eddie morphed a James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and Marvin Gaye influence into a one Jimmy Early. There’s a great attention to detail in creating a larger than life character, which I’m guessing, he could relate to based on how he entered show business himself.
It also gave us fans a look at how his singing chops have evolved over the years. While he’ll never have a “Party All The Time” type hit again, he works very well within the framework of the songs.
Jennifer Hudson tore it up. But Eddie’s character is right up there for me. It’s great work. (GG)
Some of Murphy’s best movies have come when Murphy does what he did best when he broke into this business in the early 80’s on Saturday Night Live – play multiple characters and play oddball characters.
One of my favorite Murphy characters is Murphy’s role in the Steve Martin-written, Frank Oz-directed Bowfinger as both Kit Ramsey and Kit’s brother Jiff Ramsey.
Bowfinger is a parody of the movie industry, where Martin’s character Bowfinger is attempting to make a hit movie.
Kit is a spinoff of past Murphy characters. The box-office star, who has some paranoia issues and a weird obsession with the Laker Girls.
Jiff is Kit’s clueless brother, who steals the show in a couple of memorable scenes that are absolutely hilarious, and for my money (which isn’t much) will rival any other Murphy movie scene. That’s sort of saying a lot You since I’d put Coming to America in my top 10 comedies of all-time.(KJ)
7. Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Cue up “Axel F,” because Mr. Foley is back! In the successful follow-up to the film that made Eddie a megastar, his Detroit cop character heads back to Beverly Hills. His buddies Bogomil, Taggart and Rosewood are being clowned by the new police chief, and Axel offers to help his friends out by going undercover to work on a case called “The Alphabet Crimes.” Much hilarity ensues, as do many car chases and a few shootouts. While Eddie is undoubtedly the star of the show, there are great performances from his supporting cast. Most of the main cast from BHC1 returns (minus Bronson Pinchot’s Serge, regrettably) and Brigitte Nielsen is at the height of her Amazonian sexiness as Karla Fry. “BHC2” continued Eddie’s hot streak at the box office, becoming one of the biggest hits of 1987. He probably should’ve stopped here, because when Axel Foley returned in 1995, Eddie was a fallen star and inhabiting his best-known character in what seemed like a desperation move? Probably not the best idea. (Big Money)
6. Shrek (2001)
Hey Eddie? Want to continue with your reinvention as a superstar of family-friendly films? Here, voice a smart-mouthed animated ass!
Sure enough, “Shrek” became a powerhouse, spawned about 600 sequels and earned Eddie a crapton of money. It also kept his name viable into the 21st century. Mike Myers may have had the main role as the ogre with a Scottish burr, but Eddie held Myers down as Shrek’s sidekick, Donkey. Not only did Eddie/Donkey create laughs in a manner very unlike his stand-up days, but Eddie got to flex his singing chops once again, most notably with his version of The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.” Thankfully, this development didn’t cause Eddie to return to the studio for another album. (Big Money)
5. The Nutty Professor (1996)
4. 48 Hrs. (1982)
Eddie Murphy’s film debut turned the young comedian into a breakout success and spawned an entire genre (the “buddy cop” movie.) In this 1982 classic, Eddie plays Reggie Hammond, a convict who is given two days (hence the film title) to help a young cop (Nick Nolte) solve a crime. In a film with plenty of memorable scenes, the most impressive was Reggie’s appearance in a redneck biker bar, proclaiming “I’m your worst fuckin’ nightmare-a n***er with a badge!” It arguably Eddie’s most quotable line in any of his films. The action is impressive, the acting is great (Eddie received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance,) Eddie even manages to make use of his singing talent by delivering a few bars of The Police’s “Roxanne,” and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover should thank Eddie and Nick every day for the inspiration. ‘Cause there would’ve been no “Lethal Weapon” without “48 Hrs.” (Big Money)
3. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
In perhaps his most popular role, Eddie Murphy plays Axel Foley, a Detroit detective who takes a leave of absence in Beverly Hills, so that he can investigate the murder of his troubled childhood buddy. What Foley finds is a culture (and police force) very different than he’s used to in Detroit, and a few shady rich people trying to cover up a murder.
Murphy is hilarious as the fish-out-of-water, old school detective and his teaming with co-stars Judge Reinhold (Detective Rosewood) and John Ashton (Detective Taggart) as his Beverly Hills counterparts is perfect.
There’s the memorable “Bananas in the Tailpipe” scene but my personal favorite is his interaction with Serge (Bronson Pinchot) at an art gallery in Beverly Hills.
Oh and the soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, featuring the song Axel F, is pretty sweet too! (KJ)
2. Trading Places (1983)
The Duke Brothers are successful commodity brokers with apparently too much time on their hands. After placing a bet, the brothers construct an elaborate scheme which turns their star employee, Louis Winthorpe (played by Dan Aykroyd) into a penniless bum, and turns penniless bum Billy Ray Valentine (played by Murphy) into a…well, you get the idea.
What the Duke brothers probably weren’t counting on is that both Winthorpe and Valentine get wind of the scheme, and join forces to raise hell. And what hell they raise. I was 6 when this movie came out, knew nothing about the stock market, and still found this movie funny as hell. Joining two of Saturday Night Live‘s most talented alumni (although Eddie was still on the show at this time) was a masterstroke. Aykroyd and Murphy had an undeniable chemistry, and this-as most of Eddie’s early movies are-is full of classic one-liners and gags. (Big Money)
1. Coming to America (1988)
Let your SOOOOOOOULLLLL GLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Eddie’s finest hour (and a half) came with this 1988 film, which he also had a hand in writing. The story is simple-Eddie plays Akeem, an African prince (from the fictional land of Zamunda) who travels to New York to find himself a queen. His parents have chosen a wife for him already, but Akeem wants someone who loves him for himself, not because of his royal status. With his best friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in tow, Akeem heads to (of course) Queens, where the two rent an apartment and pass themselves off as poor students. Working at a fast food restaurant called McDowell’s, Akeem meets the owner’s daughter (played by unknown Shari Headley) and immediately falls in love. As you would imagine, hilarity ensues. Actually, hilarity ensues before a romantic interest even enters the picture.
Murphy and Hall are brilliant in this film. Both play multiple roles, and Eddie appears as everything from a church parishioner to a barber. Of course, his most memorable “other” role was as Jheri-curled performer Randy Watson, leading to one of the most classic film performances of all time. Everything is a win here-McDowell’s, Soul Glo, “my name is Peaches, and I’m the best! All the DJs want to feel my breasts.” Classic, classic, classic.
(mic drop) (Big Money)