Everyone loves Eddie Murphy. His unfair shenanigans have delighted audiences since he first stormed onto it Saturday Night Live in a Gumby costume in the early 80s and went on to achieve Hollywood box office glory with a string of hits that nearly made him the king of the decade.
There is no doubt that Murphy’s comedy struck a chord with moviegoers. Do you need proof? Check out the following list, which ranks the best Eddie Murphy 80s movies from worst to best.
7) Harlem Nights (1989)
Murphy ended his ’80s run in literal dramatic fashion, teaming up with Richard Pryor for the critically panned Harlem Nights. The film, directed by Murphy, made a decent amount at the box office, but ultimately wasted its talented cast in a nonsensical crime thriller that doesn’t grab one’s attention.
Harlem Nights marked the beginning of the end for Murphy as follow-up films Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman, Beverly Hills Cop IIIand Vampire in Brooklyn failed to capture his early magic.
Fortunately, the second arrival was night – Murphy returned with hits like this The cute professor, Mulan, Doctor Dolittle, Lifeand Bowfinger before lending his voice to the box office Shrek. Although he never achieved the astronomical success he enjoyed early in his career – to say the least The Adventures of Pluto Nashthe better—Murphy’s later contributions were still solid enough to appease fans yearning for more of his creative genius.
6) The Golden Child (1986)
Murphy’s first foray into a family adventure is an enjoyable romp packed with some really bold special effects – the demon always scared me – and a few well-timed gags – “I just want some chips!”
That said, choppy editing, a confusing plot, and lukewarm direction keep the picture from taking off. Murphy does his best to salvage the fiasco, but his talents all too often take a backseat to the grand spectacle. Too bad, because this one could have been special.
5) Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Tony Scott’s follow up on Beverly Hills Cop doubling down on everything that worked in the original with mixed results. Murphy is his usual charming self, but lost in the transition is the light-hearted tone in favor of more violence and a silly plot that feels more appropriate for Bad Boys than Axel Foley.
Still, the sequel looks great because of Scott’s visual flourishes and offers enough laugh-out-loud moments to keep viewers invested. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before: Axel wanders around Beverly Hills talking his way out of trouble on his way to solving the case, while Billy (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Ashton) offer peripheral support.
Somehow, the formula still works, although viewers expecting a production that lives up to its star’s talents may be disappointed.
4) Coming to America (1988)
There is much to appreciate in John Landis’ Coming to America, although the picture too often feels like a series of comedy sketches strung together by the flimsiest of plots. We’re dealing with Eddie Murphy, the movie star now, not the old, brash, up-and-coming comedian. Coming to America lets Murphy do his thing and for the most part it works. Hilarity abounds thanks to a variety of goofy characters (many played by Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall) and some well-executed sight gags.
Prince Akeem also stands as one of the more likable characters in Murphy’s oeuvre, his beaming positivity contrasting amusingly with the cynicism of downtrodden New Yorkers—”Good morning, my neighbors,” he bellows from his apartment. “Hey, f*** you,” replies a passerby. One only wishes Landis had spoiled him a bit and spent more time fleshing out the plot than taking care of his star.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fupg2r1EJ9w
3) Trading Places (1983)
This rags-to-riches-to-rags comedy pairs Murphy with Dan Aykroyd and director John Landis, and the trio hilariously explores the idea of nature versus nurture. Except here, Murphy, a low-level grifter with nothing to lose, trades places with Aykroyd’s snobbish investor via a vicious game between two older men and must endure (or bask in) the other’s life in a spell.
The results are often hilarious and surprisingly profound. Here we have an intelligent comedy that cares about its characters. Landis doesn’t go for cheap laughs. Instead, he lets the humor develop naturally without losing sight of his story.
Of course, it helps to have two of the best in the business at your disposal. Murphy delivers a measured performance that balances his outspoken comedy with his regal charm. His quick wit is a perfect match for Aykroyd’s cheeky intellect; the picture shifts into another gear when the pair finally team up in the third act.
Jamie Lee Curtis is also present as a whore with a heart of gold, while Denholm Elliott gets in on the fun as a world-weary butler who empathizes with both men. Fun!
2) Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
48 hours. and Trading locations brought Murphy’s shenanigans to the big screen, but that was it Beverly Hills Cop it made him a superstar. As Axel Foley, Murphy delivers the goods and provides plenty of laughs without detracting from the main narrative.
From its grand opening sequence to Bronson Pinchots inspired Serge and Harold Faltermeyer’s terrific synth-heavy score, all about Beverly Hills Cop works.
Murphy does the heavy lifting. His comic timing and manic energy are almost magical; he alternates between a fast-talking smart-ass and a tough-talking police officer with deft precision. More importantly, he plays Axel as a cop whose loyalty knows no bounds, a man willing to risk it all for his officers, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton’s Billy and Taggart.
Director Martin Brest and writer Daniel Petrie Jr. allow scenes (and Murphy’s performance) to breathe, but are savvy enough to know when a gag has run its course. That’s how it’s done, folks.
There is a reason Beverly Hills Cop remains one of the biggest box-office hits of all time – it’s a truly hilarious, action-packed adventure that entertains as much today as it did when it first hit theaters in 1984.
Searching Breaking Bad alum Jonathan Banks as a gruff henchman.
1) 48 hours. (1982)
Murphy’s first foray into the big screen was an all-timer. 48 hours. pairs the smooth-talking comedian with grumpy ole Nick Nolte for a surprisingly dark and gritty buddy dramedy. Director Walter Hill pulls out and leans into the 1980s grime and grit with gusto. At the same time, his two leads demonstrate a natural chemistry that elevates their relationship beyond the usual odd-couple tropes.
Viewers expect light-hearted fun along the lines of Beverly Hills Cop or any of Murphy’s subsequent films might be shocked to see the icon deliver a relatively straightforward performance punctuated by occasional comic outbursts—”There’s a new sheriff in town!” Reggie Hammond is more complex than many of Murphy’s characters, and we can only regret that the star didn’t get more nuanced roles like this later in his career.
At least, 48 hours. is a damn good movie, filled with hard-hitting action, a twisted villain (played by James Remar) and a raunchy script that makes one yearn for the uncensored days of 80s cinema. This is as perfect a crime story as you will ever see.