En español | Bursting into America's living rooms (and hearts) in 1980 on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy, age 19, was an immediate sensation. By 22, he was an A-list movie star. Now 59, Murphy has headlined more than 50 films — some serious, most deliriously silly. As his long-awaited fish-out-of-water comedy sequel Coming 2 America debuts on Amazon Prime on March 5, it's time to count down this comedy superstar's top films, from number 10 to number 1. See if your favorites match with ours.
10. Boomerang (1992)
Toying with his off-screen image as a callow ladies’ man, Murphy plays a successful, womanizing ad exec who has the tables karmically turned on him by his new boss (Robin Givens). He finally sees what it's like to be the one who's belittled and treated like a sex object, sending his life in and out of the office into a tailspin. Boomerang doesn't quite hit the same lofty comic heights as Trading Places and Coming to America, but it's definitely a solid second-tier Murphy comedy that's worth watching when you've cycled through the more obvious top-shelf titles.
9. Dreamgirls (2006)
After a live-action fallow period at the box office, Murphy parlayed this adaptation of a hit Broadway musical into a comeback vehicle. Ironically, it's the backup singers who are the main attraction here (Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose as the Dreamettes). But as the bawdy headlining R&B singer Jimmy Early, Murphy delivers a fierce, tour-de-force performance, which earned him the first — and to date his only — Oscar nomination of his career.
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8. 48 Hrs. (1982)
You can't really call Murphy's big-screen debut a “star is born” moment. After all, he was already SNL's hottest cast member since John Belushi. But the live-wire performer channeled all of his rat-a-tat unpredictability into this smash hit that spawned a thousand buddy comedies in the ‘80s. Murphy and Nick Nolte play a perfectly paired ex-con and slob cop forced to work together to track down vicious killers. These opposites don't so much attract as play off one another, providing the sort of combative spark that results in perfect on-screen chemistry.
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7. Shrek (2001)
As Murphy was getting older, he increasingly retired the four-letter profanity of his Raw-era stand-up act and occasionally took baby steps into the world of family films. None is more indelible than this animated tale about an ugly green ogre with a Scottish brogue (Mike Myers) and his faithful, wisecracking pal, Donkey (Murphy). The movie spawned several sequels, but none have the novelty or the same whiplash hilarity as the original.
6. The Nutty Professor (1996)
Talk about a high degree of difficulty. For most comic actors, remaking Jerry Lewis’ most famous movie comedy would be a fool's errand. But Murphy turns Lewis’ tale about a nerdy scientist who swallows a potion that transforms him into a Casanova named Buddy Love into a showcase for his own talents. Chief among them: slapping on a series of latex fat suits to play every single member of the raucous Klump family, whose dinner table scenes deserve to be the centerpiece of any Eddie Murphy highlight reel.
5. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
The role of Axel Foley, a blue-collar Detroit police detective comically sent to glitzy La La Land, passed through the hands of both Mickey Rourke and Sylvester Stallone before landing in Murphy's mitts. But the comedian made Foley uniquely his own with his infectious hee-hee-hee guffaw, his irrepressible charm and his thousand-watt smile. Forget the lackluster sequels; the original is the one to watch — not just to see a comic actor working at his peak but also as a surprisingly thrilling action flick.
4. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
You don't need to have seen Rudy Ray Moore's 1975 Blaxploitation cheapie Dolemite to appreciate this loving, funky, wide-lapel tribute to an outrageous dreamer and the shoddy inner-city chop-socky film that fulfilled that dream. Although Dolemite Is My Name is loaded with laughs, Murphy actually digs deeper into his dramatic side than he ever had before in order to convey the frustrated artist beneath the fool's costume. The film isn't just a testament to the long-lost era of filmmaking, it's a showcase for an actor who discovers a new part of his talent.
Watch it: Dolemite Is My Name, on Netflix
3. Coming to America (1988)
Reteaming with Trading Places director John Landis, Murphy's last great film of the 1980s has aged like a fine wine. Murphy plays a rich African prince who goes to America to find a bride in … where else?... Queens. With Arsenio Hall as his manservant and comic foil, Murphy mixes heart and hilarity with effortless ease. He and Hall also don a series of brilliantly ridiculous makeup guises to moonlight as the regulars at a local barbershop — a gag that Murphy would soon return to in The Nutty Professor.
2. Bowfinger (1999)
An under-the-radar satirical gem and my personal favorite of the movies on this list, Frank Oz's Bowfinger roasts Hollywood with a giddy dash of venom. Especially the delusional wannabes who struggle on the fringes, like Steve Martin's loser director, Bobby Bowfinger. Armed with $2,100 and a lousy script for an alien invasion cheapie called Chubby Rain, Martin gathers a cast and crew of dim bulbs and convinces them that he's landed Murphy's superstar Kit Ramsey for the lead. But what he's actually doing is stalking Ramsey and snatching candid-camera footage of him to use in his film. The premise is as clever as it is daffy, and Murphy shines as both the egomaniacal Ramsey and his nerdy stand-in brother, Jiff.
1. Trading Places (1983)
In what is arguably Murphy's funniest movie based on sheer laughs per minute, the actor stars as Billy Ray Valentine — a skid-row hustler who becomes the patsy in a wager between two rich old billionaire brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). The bet is a nature-versus-nurture experiment to see if Valentine can be groomed into a respectable financial whiz like the lock-jawed WASP (Dan Aykroyd), whose life is destroyed in exchange for Valentine's rise. Jamie Lee Curtis is all big hearts and street smarts as the hooker who helps the pair scheme to get back at the old coots playing god. Aykroyd and Murphy are so perfect that it makes you wish they'd made a dozen more comedies together.