It’s pretty fashionable to hate on Eddie Murphy these days. What people forget is that not only did he carry (Will Farrell style) Saturday Night Live for several years, but he’s also made a grip of amazingly hilarious movies, not to mention some of the highest grossing comedies of all time. Whether we’re talking standup or his ability to play just about any character under the sun, Eddie Murphy is the new Rodney Dangerfield. He gets no respect, but he damn well deserves some.

In honor of this new film, Tower Heist, which hits theaters this Friday, let's take a look at nine proofs that Eddie Murphy is a comic genius of the highest order. And Eddie, if Tower Heist bombs, just blame Brett Ratner.

Trading Places

The actual story is nothing new. The “prince and pauper switch places” theme is a trope as old as time itself. Murphy and Dan Ackroyd, however, bring their comic talents to breathe fresh live into an old cliché. The film is required viewing in the age of endless recession, 99 percenters and the end on the American Dream. You’ll never look at frozen concentrated orange juice the same way ever again.

Beverly Hills Cop

It’s hard for us to think of this film without thinking of Kahn Souphanousinphone singing along with the classic track “Alex F.” If Trading Places showed Murphy as a master of comedic acting, Beverly Hills Cop proved he was a bankable Hollywood property. Few people remember that this film outgrossed Ghostbusters. It’s interesting to contemplate how he would have done in the role of Winston Zeddimore, which was written specifically for him. True story: This was originally slated to star Sly Stallone and be a gritty action picture. We’re not really sure how they planned to work bananas in the tailpipe into it.

White Like Me

Not to hate on Tim Kazurinsky, but when we say that Eddie Murphy carried Saturday Night Live for years, we’re not kidding. Who was his competition? Joe Piscopo? Murphy is still the only person to host the show while a cast member. The “White Like Me” sketch shows Murphy making critical observations on race while keepin the spirit light and fun. He passes as a white man, studying Hallmark cards to learn how white people think. When he hits the streets, he finds that white people don’t have to pay for anything, parties start on buses when black people leave, and banks give money away.


Even when Eddie started making a comeback, his career was considered a bit of a joke. He made a living doing children’s movies, but the taint of epic bombs like The Adventures of Pluto Nashhung like the stink of a dead man around him. One standout from this period is the Frank Oz-directed Bowfinger, where Murphy starred alongside Steve Martin. The film is a hilarious sendup of Hollywood culture, including a group called MindHead who are “not” a parody of Scientology.


Eddie Murphy’s Delirious set new standards for profanity on film, sparking a rivalry between Murphy and Bill Cosby. Delirious was a high-profile HBO special, but Raw went into the theaters, boasting a who’s who of black Hollywood talent behind the camera including Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans. Raw was, between the time of its release in 1987 and the release of Goodfellas in 1990, the film with the most uses of “fuck” on camera, surpassing Scarface.

Coming To America

Coming To America might well be Eddie Murphy’s greatest film. This is where the staple of Murphy playing several characters in the same film began, and it easily works better here than anywhere else. Who can forget classic moments like the barbershop scenes or the Black Awareness Pageant? Martin Lawrence has apparently discussed remaking the film, but he’d better not dare.

Kill The White People

Watch this sketch once and see if you don’t find yourself humming this song for a week afterward.

48 Hours

48 Hours literally invented the buddy cop film and probably cemented Murphy’s presence as a Hollywood heavyweight. He was able to get his first spot hosting Saturday Night Live because of this film. While the film itself isn’t the greatest ever made, it’s culturally significant and Murphy is, as always, hilarious.

James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub

This one came out of Murphy’s standup. One of his best and most underrated characters, Murphy’s James Brown isn’t spot on, but is an exemplar of the type of impression comedy we would come to know and love from Murphy. From the dance moves to the singing to the shuffling offstage underneath a cape, Murphy got the finer points and blew them vastly out of proportion, the essence of parody.

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