Eddie Murphy, 61, started off 2023 with a bang, winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes on Jan. 10. He’s back this month with the new Netflix comedy You People, directed by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and cowritten by Barris and Jonah Hill. Murphy plays father-of-the-future-bride Akbar Mohammed in a culture-clash comedy that’s something of a 21st century answer to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. How will Akbar stack up against four decades of hilarious creations? Stream the film on Jan. 27, check out our ranking and sound off in the comments below if we’ve missed any of your favorites.
10: Rayford “Ray” Gibson in Life (1999)
The premise: During a bootlegging run to Mississippi in 1932, two New Yorkers — con artist Ray (Murphy) and straitlaced bank teller Claude (Martin Lawrence, 57) — get framed for murder and sentenced to life in prison. The odd couple spend the next 65 years squabbling and reconciling and plotting their escape as they age with the help of Oscar-nominated makeup. With this duo as stars, laughs are to be expected, but the buddy comedy is a surprisingly sentimental look at loss, racism and the passage of time that calls to mind The Shawshank Redemption.
The best part: In a hilarious echo of the famous “I am Spartacus” scene, the prisoners all take turns claiming to have fathered the warden’s daughter’s baby.
9: Kit and Jiff Ramsey in Bowfinger (1999)
The premise: B-movie producer Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin, 77, who also wrote the script) dreams of making a sci-fi blockbuster, and studio execs will only distribute it if he can convince action star Kit Ramsey (Murphy) to play the lead. But the wannabe director devises a different scheme: Shoot the movie around Kit without ever telling him he’s in it. Murphy pulls double duty as both the paranoid and pretentious A-lister and Jiff, the nerdy but sweet lookalike Bowfinger hires as a last resort who turns out to be Kit’s twin brother. A sharp industry satire, this remains one of Murphy’s most underrated films.
The best part: Murphy gives a lesson in physical comedy during a scene in which Bowfinger convinces Jiff to cross a busy freeway, Frogger-style.
8: Reggie Hammond in 48 Hrs. (1982)
The premise: The Saturday Night Live superstar came out of the gate running with his film debut, in which San Francisco police inspector Jack Cates (Nick Nolte, 81) teams up with convicted robber Reggie Hammond (Murphy) to track down two hardened criminals. The catch? They have to get the job done before the clock runs out on Hammond’s 48-hour release from prison. Their chemistry set the template for generations of buddy cop comedies, including Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour, and Murphy was nominated for the Golden Globe for “New Star of the Year.” (He lost to Ben Kingsley in Ghandi.)
The best part: Murphy instantly became a movie star with his memorable scene in the redneck bar, Torchy’s, thanks to a few expletive-laden quips.