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Eddie Murphy's 10 Greatest Roles

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September 9th, 2011

Recent rumors were confirmed today that Eddie Murphy has been chosen to host the 2012 Academy Awards Presentation.  Murphy has flown under the radar of late as most of his recent films have done poorly at the box office, save The Shrek franchise.  Murphy remains, however, a Hollywood heavyweight having been nominated for an Oscar himself for 2006’s Dreamgirls.  The 2012 Oscar show will be co-produced by Brett Ratner who (not coincidentally) is the director of Murphy’s newest film Tower Heist, which is set to come out in November.  In honor of the Academy’s decision to return to a comedian-as-host format à la Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, let’s take a look at the ten comedic roles that have helped to make Eddie Murphy a Hollywood icon.  Here they are:

1 – Buckwheat – I’m going out on a limb here and calling Murphy’s portrayal of the Little Rascals’ character his greatest performance.  The sketch with Buckwheat selling his album of cover songs (Bu-weet Sings) is the funniest Saturday Night Live skit in the last twenty years.

2 – Axel Foley – Murphy hit the big screen with 48 hours, but his most memorable movie role is easily Axel Foley, the fish out of water Detroit cop that comes to Beverly Hills to investigate a murder.  His confidence rules the film.

3 – Gumby – Another classic Murphy character from SNL.  Choosing to play Gumby as a foul-mouthed, cigar smoking, grouchy, Catskill-type prima donna was nothing short of genius.

4 – 48 Hours – Murphy got his big screen debut in Walter Hill’s comedy about a wise-cracking criminal who teams up with a by the books cop to help solve a case of murder and missing money.  Reggie Hammond singing “Roxanne” in jail is worth the price of admission by itself.

5 – Donkey – Murphy is the real star of the Shrek franchise as Donkey.  Not surprisingly, Donkey is a wise-cracker with a particularly funny fascination with parfait.  Donkey steals every scene he’s in thanks to a brilliant vocal performance by Murphy.

6 – Ray Gibson – Life is a criminally underrated Murphy film and the comedic chemistry between Murphy and Martin Lawrence is terrific.  Gibson is a con man looking to make and easy buck and is wrongly convicted of murder.  Playing the same character over the span of 50 plus years is no small task, and highlights Murphy’s considerable acting chops.

7 – Randy Watson – Murphy plays multiple roles in Coming to America but it’s his brief appearance as Randy Watson that I will remember until the day I die.  Watson puts his singing talents on display with, hand down, the best version of “Greatest Love of All” ever performed.  His band, Sexual Chocolate, wasn’t bad either.

8 – Billy Ray Valentine – In Trading Places, Murphy stars as Valentine, a street hustler who is asked to trade places with a Wall Street broker as part of a cruel bet between to old, rich snobs.  Murphy is hilarious, as is Dan Aykroyd,

9 – The Entire Klump Family – Okay, so Murphy doesn’t play young Hercules, but he plays everyone else in the Klump clan, including Grandma.  The two dinner table scenes are as funny as any movie moments of the last twenty years.

10 – Mr. Robinson – On SNL, Murphy played Mr. Robinson, a ghetto version of Mr. Rogers, complete with a word of the day (can you say bastard, kids?), cardigan, and a meaningful life lessons for the kids.  Velvet Jones almost got this last spot.


I teach English, coach basketball and football, and play in a bar band in Arizona. I prefer the round Chicken McNugget to the peanut-shaped one, and Ginger to Mary Ann. I am a Gemini who loves attending concerts with my wife and children, beef jerky, and Scarlett Johansson. Vehicles with ladders = cool. Sugarland = not cool. Using the = symbol = lame.
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