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8 best Eddie Murphy comedies, ranked

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall dressed like royalty, standing in the street in New York in Coming to America.
Paramount Pictures

Eddie Murphy is one of the greatest comedic talents of his generation. Starting his career as a cast member on the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live in the early ‘80s, his break-out movie roles were in 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. Where Murphy truly shines, however, is in his stand-up comedy specials, which have been cited as inspirations for many comedians who have come since.

Murphy, often considered one of the best comedians in history, has racked up plenty of movie credits and awards. From on-screen roles to animated movie voice roles, Murphy is always a stand-out character, whether he’s leading the cast or not. Most recently starring in movies like Coming 2 America, You People, and Candy Cane Lane, it’s really Murphy’s earlier work that ranks among the best Eddie Murphy comedies.

8. Trading Places (1983)

Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy standing together in matching peacoats in a scene from Trading Places.
Paramount Pictures

Way back in the ‘80s, Murphy starred alongside Dan Aykroyd in this comedy about two men from very different circumstances who switch lives as part of an experiment. Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd) is a rich commodities director at a prestigious company, while Billy Ray Valentine (Murphy) is a street beggar and con man. When the owners of Louis’ company are having a debate about nature versus nurture, they witness Louis getting into an altercation with Billy. A light bulb goes off: Make these two men switch places and see how it turns out.

The results are devastating for Louis, who discovers how difficult it is to live in Billy’s shoes. Billy, however, is living it up in style, leveraging his street smarts and cunning ways to become a well-mannered businessman. The story in Trading Places gets dark sometimes, but Murphy’s perfect comedic timing brings the story back every time. With a satisfying ending, Trading Places is as much a feel-good movie about breaking barriers to social hierarchies as it is a comedy.

7. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy with a white suit, top hat, and cane, others following behind him in a scene from My Name is Dolemite.

One of Murphy’s more recent films ranks among his best. The biographical comedy sees him take on the persona of filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, who created the character of Dolemite for his stand-up routines and several blaxploitation films, including 1975’s Dolemite.

The stage persona is a pimp-like figure who captures every stereotype, from the cane to the flashy outfits. Complemented by a supporting cast that includes Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers), Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Wesley Snipes, and Snoop Dogg, Dolemite Is My Name was a widespread success. Murphy’s performance proved that even decades into the business, he’s still got it.

6. Shrek (2001)

Donkey looking up and smiling in a scene from the movie Shrek.
DreamWorks Pictures

In the 2000s, Murphy took on the voice role of the fast-talking Donkey in Shrek, considered one of the best animated movies ever made. While Mike Myers is the star as the titular character, Murphy’s donkey is the scene-stealer with his annoyingly talkative nature. A sidekick, Donkey provides the comic relief, but he’s full of wit as well.

The movie has received widespread critical acclaim, and Murphy’s performance, in particular, has been singled out by critics. He doesn’t just provide the voice, he makes Donkey into a memorable character that comes to life on screen. Murphy has reprised the voice role for all the movies in the Shrek franchise to date.

5. 48 Hrs. (1982)

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs.
Paramount Pictures

Widely considered to be one of the best movies in the year of its release, 48 Hrs. marks Murphy’s film debut, and he hit it out of the park instantly, leading to numerous other roles. He stars alongside Nick Nolte, who plays Inspector Jack Cates from the San Francisco Police. Cates teams up with Reggie Hammond (Murphy), the former partner to a criminal he’s hunting down. He gets Hammond a 48-hour release from prison to help him track down the man who killed several of his fellow inspectors.

Murphy acts as you would expect as a criminal granted access to civilian life after being locked up for several years. From waving Cate’s badge around to playing cop to getting into bar fights, he’s downright hilarious, while the chemistry between the two leads is fabulous. The combination of comedy and action proved that Murphy had serious chops in the business. It’s no surprise that the ’80s continued to be one of Murphy’s best decades for movies following this gem.

4. Coming to America (1988)

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall dressed like royalty, standing in the street in New York in Coming to America.
Paramount Pictures

Another Murphy gem from the ‘80s, the romantic comedy was a hit. Murphy plays crown prince Akeem Joffer from the wealthy African nation of Zamunda. Forced into an arranged marriage by his parents, Akeem would rather find a bride who loves him for who he is. So, he travels to Queens, New York in search of genuine love, with the help of his best friend and personal aide Semmi (Arsenio Hall). Coming to America is a hilarious fish-out-of-water story as Akeem tries to acclimate to big-city American life while also disguising his true wealth and status. Seeing him try to understand the weirdly wonderful culture and customs he knows nothing about and live like an average Joe by doing things like getting a job at McDonald’s clone, MacDowell’s is adorably believable.

Murphy doesn’t just play Akeem in this movie; he also plays several other characters thanks to elaborate make-up and unique personas. This includes Randy Watson, a soul singer for the fictional band Sexual Chocolate, the Jewish barbershop customer Saul, and the barbershop owner Clarence. He fully encapsulates every role such that you might not even realize it’s him under all that make-up.

Even with the impressive other performances in this movie, Murphy’s innocently sweet and jovial Akeem won fans over. The decades-later sequel, Coming 2 America, released in 2021, didn’t quite live up to the original. But Coming to America remains one of Murphy’s standout comedic performances, combining a heartwarming story with his signature style of comedy.

3. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Eddie Murphy in a poster for Beverly Hills Cop.
Paramount Pictures

Spawning a franchise that includes three movies with another forthcoming, Beverly Hills Cop is one of Murphy’s most memorable hits. It’s the original movie that sets the stage for Axel Foley (Murphy), a street-smart detective who travels from Detroit to Los Angeles to investigate the death of his best friend. While the premise of the movie is bleak, it’s a hilarious buddy cop action comedy thanks to Murphy’s knack for making even the most serious situations uncomfortably funny.

The role has become iconic for Murphy while the movie was one of the first to put him on the map as a viable leading movie man. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and achieving blockbuster box office success, Beverly Hills Cop was the perfect vehicle for Murphy as a fast-talking cop on a mission.

2. Eddie Murphy Raw (1987)

Eddie Murphy mouth wide open saying something to a mic in Eddie Murphy Raw.
Paramount Pictures / Eddie Murphy Productions

It’s an hour-and-a-half of pure comedy gold, but Eddie Murphy Raw exemplifies why Murphy shines most in his stand-up routines. The usually quiet personality explodes when he’s on stage by himself, mic in his hand. The jokes flow freely in this stand-up comedy routine, with the set beginning by addressing his previous routine Eddie Murphy Delirious. As the name would imply, the set is unadulterated, profane, and downright raw in material. No topic, no matter how controversial, is off-limits.

While Murphy’s comedy might not be for everyone, his unabashed ability to wax poetic about everything from dating to STDs, materialistic American women, race, and more is something to be admired. Specials like Eddie Murphy Raw have inspired comedians after him to take the same no-holds-barred approach. It’s not for the politically correct, but for those who understand and appreciate Murphy’s humor, Eddie Murphy Raw is him in his prime.

1. Eddie Murphy Delirious (1983)

Eddie Murphy making a face in the iconic red leather suit while on stage with a mic in Eddie Murphy Delirious.
HBO / Eddie Murphy Productions

Eddie Murphy Delirious is a masterclass in stand-up comedy. It’s rare to find a talent like Murphy who can command a stage the way he does. He has arguably never done it better, whether in stand-up comedy or scripted movies, than in his first feature stand-up special. The performance, turned into an album that earned a Grammy Award, runs just 70 minutes long. It’s guaranteed you’ll be laughing the entire way through and wishing there was more.

The moment Murphy walks on stange with his bright red leather outfit, fans go wild. His jokes are quoted and recognizable, from his re-enactment of the ice cream truck coming by as kids to his take on dating and women, Murphy hits every mark with this stand-up special. It’s one fans have watched again and again and it doesn’t get any less funny each time around. Like with his other stand-up specials, Eddie Murphy Delirious is filled with profanity and what many might call inappropriate jokes. But it was also from a different time. It’s for adults only, but Eddie Murphy Delirious remains Murphy’s most engaging, animated, and exciting performance ever.

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Christine Persaud
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