episodic list articles by Corey B. Buckner
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The 5 Best: Eddie Murphy Films
by Corey B. Buckner
My wife and I just finished watching Coming 2 America, the sequel to Eddie Murphy's classic 1988 film Coming to America. The new Coming 2 America is a hilariously nostalgic film experience that has me thinking about Eddie Murphy's comedic genius, especially throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In addition to being a pioneer for the accomplishments of black comedians; the cast lists of some of his movies reads like a veritable who's who in comedy. Not taking anything away from Eddie Murphy's later work, but I noticed that all of my favorite Eddie Murphy movies are from the 80s and 90s, which makes a list of my top 5 favorite Eddie Murphy movies an appropriate topic for GrewUpOnThat.com. With that, here is my list.
I typically don't do honorable mentions, but I think it is worth noting that Bowfinger with Eddie Murphy and Stever Martin is a phenomenal independent comedy. I can't call it one of my top five favorite Eddie Murphy's films SOLELY because it lacks the wide-spread cultural impact that the films on this list had. So it didn't make the list because not enough of you all went to see tise film and we didn't get to enjoy it together as a whole like so many other Eddie Murphy films. WIth that said… GO WATCH THIS MOVIE, it is hilarious!
5. Trading Places (1983)
This John Landis-directed buddy comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd was an instant hit when it was released in 1983. It's long-standing relevance was put on display earlier this year as the Gamestop/AMC Wall Street hedge fund saga was unfolding and the internet became ablaze with references to the film's plot. This film has many classic moments, my favorite of which being when Eddie Murphy is exposed for not being disabled and he starts yelling, "It's a miracle," and, "it was the Dukes." The whole vagabond in Wall Street story is played out perfectly and hilariously; and Murphy is a riot both as the fish out of water and as the cunning con man who has learned the system.
4. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
As it relates to this move I have four words for you, "Banana in the Tailpipe." Axel Foley, Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop was the perfect blend of serious action and outrageous comedy. Beverly HIlls Cop took Eddie Murphy's budding popularity, strapped it to a rocket and shot it to the moon. It was the highest-grossing film of 1984 and, unlike many of my favorite Eddie Murphy films, won critical acclaim as well. I can still vividly remember getting hype every time I heard the synth-infused theme song for this movie play, and still remember how much fun and excitement I had while watching this film. About the theme song, I DARE you to listen to it Rock It by Herbie Hancock now… it STILL goes hard in all its 80s synth glory. This song is a B-Boy CLASSIC, and could be heard on any number of street corners accompanied by teens breakdancing on cardboard boxes.
3. Life (1999)
Look... in the black community in 1999 the team-up between Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence was like getting to watch Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson play together for the first time on the Olympics Dreamteam of 1992. Eddie Murphy had already established himself as one of the most accomplished black comedians of all time, and Martin Lawrence was definitely on the way up and establishing himself as a potential heir to Murphy's throne. In the movie "Life" Murphy plays the clown/troublemaker to Lawrence's straight guy, and the two play off of one another perfectly!
This movie has more classic moments than I can list; and unlike earlier Eddie Murphy movies, not all of them center around him. They are spread across the stacked cast of characters that star in this film; a cast that is a who's who of black comedians in the late 1990s. "I'm the pappy", "That's my daddy's watch", "You gon' eat yo' cornbread", and "CLAUD" are just a small handful of classic moments from this film. Additionally, the soundtrack goes hard, with K-Ci & JoJo's title track "Life" perfectly portraying the dark, unsettling truth that this comedy is built on top of.
2. Coming to America (1988)
This movie was like Wakanda before Wakanda was Wakanda for black people. Coming to America was such a major accomplishment that it actually became a cultural landmark that lives in the collective experiences of black people of my generation in the same way that Black Panther now does. I still remember what a big deal it was when it was announced that best friends Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall would be filming a movie together. What we got was a perfect comedy, but specifically a perfectly black comedy that again has so many classic moments, that Coming to America could have its own top five classic moments list. Soul Glo, McDowell's and bark like a dog are just the tip of the iceberg for all the classic and memorable moments in this film.
Unlike a lot of "black" comedies from this time period; Coming to America didn't always put our blackness at the butt end of the joke. This movie was a perfect blend of laughing at common elements of black American and African cultures while also, and most importantly, celebrating those cultures when appropriate. This film is right on the pulse of knowing when to laugh AT black people, when to laugh WITH black people and when to CELEBRATE our majesty. It is a brilliantly hilarious film, and its importance in the black community cannot be overstated. As for the cast… try to go five minutes without seeing someone you recognize. Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Louis Andersn, Samuel Jackson, Earl LaSalle, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Samuel Jackson among others all appear in this film.
1. Harlem Nights (1989)
I'm sure that there are two common themes that you've noticed about my list thus far. Eddie Murphy's best films tend to have two major elements: classic, memorable moments that resonant culturally and all-star casts. For me, Harlem Nights is the pinnacle of both of those accomplishments. The classic, quotable moments in Harlem Nights seem to never end. I rewatched this film last night with my wife and it felt like thirty-seconds after every, "this is my part" moment, we were saying, "oh yeah… my part is coming up". I can't quote many of the funniest lines in this article, with the language being what it was, but here are just a handful non-stop classic moments in the film. Pinky toe, put your glasses on, orange juice, "Oh, you wanna hit people with garbage cans", "You killed my brother", Sunshine, "I ain't never coming home", "stop shooting that little m*****"; and I could go on nonstop like this pointing out classic moments from this film.
As it relates to the cast; despite how sad it is seeing that so many black comedians who appeared in this film are no longer with us; it is still another who's who of black comedians. Richard Pryor, Reynaldo Rey, Redd Fox, Tommy Ford, Robin Harris, Della Reese and a young Charlie Murphy all play on-screen roles in the film. Harlem Nights is a laugh-a-minute comedic thrillride, and is by far my absolute favorite Eddie Murphy film of all time.