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Eddie Murphy's Great 8 Film Performances

by Kevin Marshall   November 06, 2012 at 12:00AM  |  Views: 4,541
Eddie Murphy's Great 8 Film Performances

If you ask ten people what it is that makes Eddie Murphy great, you'll probably get ten different answers. Some will say it was his iconic run on "Saturday Night Live" in the early eighties, while others will point to his early stand-up comedy career. Many others will think of him first and foremost as a film star, though they'll be split between his raunchy comedies, buddy cop films, and dramatic turns.

The one constant is that Murphy is a performer with an incredible range both within and outside of every conceivable genre of entertainment. Just in choosing his eight most outstanding film performances, we're struck by his versatility.

Here, then, are eight of the greatest film performances of the man Spike will honor with its special "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only," airing Wednesday, November 14th at 10/9c.

48 Hours

48 Hours Eddie Final
Source: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Moviepix/Getty Images

The action comedy flick was Murphy's first major motion picture and immediately transformed him in the public eye from a standout on "Saturday Night Live" to a legitimate box office draw. Murphy starred as a convict brought out on a two-day leave to assist a police detective (Nick Nolte) in capturing a former associate. The film wasn't just a hit, it actually created a formula (if not an entire genre) for buddy cop films that is still being replicated.

Trading Places

Trading Places Dan Final
Source: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Murphy's second feature film was more of a traditional comedy that played more to the familiarity audiences had with him through his roles on "Saturday Night Live." In the film, Murphy stars as Billy Ray Valentine, a streetwise grifter who unknowingly becomes part of an elaborate experimental wager from a pair of wealthy brothers. Through their manipulation, he exchanges positions on the socio-economic hierarchy with fellow SNL alum Dan Akroyd, with hilarious results. It's a familiar story, owing largely to folk tales such as "The Prince and the Pauper," yet Murphy's approach and delivery produces something wholly unique.

Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy's Great 8 Film Performances
Source: Paramount

Two years after he helped more or less create the buddy cop genre, Murphy returned to the formula in an altogether different yet still thoroughly entertaining film. This time his partner was Judd Reinhold, another young star who had just broken through with a performance in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." It's arguably Murphy's most memorable and iconic film on this list.

Eddie Murphy: RAW

Eddie Murphy: RAW Final
Source: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Moviepix/Getty Images

Equal parts engrossing and hilarious, Murphy's second stand-up film was directed by Robert Townsend and mixed observational humor with anecdotes of his life as a film star. In one of the more controversial highlights of the film, Murphy tells the story of receiving a lecture over the phone from Bill Cosby over his use of profanity. He then calls Richard Pryor, whose reaction is…well, what you would expect. Few are spared in his act, as he lampoons relationships, people who sued him for a nightclub brawl, Italian-Americans obsessed with the film "Rocky," and even his own mother. At the time of its release, it held the distinction of having the most occurrences of the f-word, a record that was broken just a few years later in 1990's "Goodfellas."