7 best Eddie Murphy movies to watch right now

Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F
(Image credit: Netflix)

From the time he debuted on “Saturday Night Live” at just 18 years old, Eddie Murphy has been a comedy sensation. From creating memorable “SNL” characters like Gumby and Mr. Robinson to releasing multiple hit stand-up specials, Murphy dominated comedy in the 1980s. He then became a major movie star, going from raunchy R-rated fare to family-friendly films over the course of the next few decades.

Murphy recently returned to one of his most popular characters with the Netflix original “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” the first “Beverly Hills Cop” movie in 30 years. “Axel F” has been a hit with critics and audiences, with a 66% Rotten Tomatoes score and a position atop the Netflix top 10 movies. Here are seven more Murphy classics to check out that demonstrate his talent and range.

'Beverly Hills Cop'

BEVERLY HILLS COP | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies - YouTube BEVERLY HILLS COP | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies - YouTube
Watch On

Murphy cemented his superstar status with this action-comedy blockbuster, the highest-grossing film of 1984. Originally intended as a Sylvester Stallone vehicle, it was retooled for Murphy, giving him a showcase for his comedy while also featuring plenty of exciting action. Murphy plays Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit police detective who finds himself in the unfamiliar upscale environment of Beverly Hills as he investigates a friend’s murder.

Director Martin Brest stages some impressive chases and shoot-outs, balancing the action and suspense with hilarious interactions between Foley and the uptight denizens of Beverly Hills. It all fits together seamlessly, thanks to Murphy’s captivating performance and an appealing supporting cast that includes Judge Reinhold, Paul Reiser and a breakout role for Bronson Pinchot. It’s no surprise that Foley went on to star in multiple sequels, but the original is still the best.

Watch on Netflix


Shrek (2001) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube Shrek (2001) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube
Watch On

For an entire generation — and maybe more — Murphy is known primarily as the voice of Donkey, the talking animal sidekick to the title character in the massively popular animated “Shrek” franchise. The movies' success eventually overtook their quality, but the first “Shrek” is a clever, amusing take on traditional animated fairy tales, starring Mike Myers as a grumpy ogre who just wants to live in peace in his swamp.

Shrek ends up on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), accompanied by the eager Donkey, who’s determined to become Shrek’s best friend whether Shrek likes it or not. The Shrek-Donkey relationship remains a bright spot in the ongoing franchise, and Murphy makes Donkey upbeat and relentless without becoming annoying. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Myers’ exasperated curmudgeon.

Watch on Netflix

'Coming to America'

COMING TO AMERICA | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies - YouTube COMING TO AMERICA | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies - YouTube
Watch On

This fish-out-of-water comedy starring Murphy as the prince of a fictional African country searching for a bride in New York City could easily have relied on cringe-worthy stereotypes, but it’s funny, warm and unexpectedly wholesome. Rejecting the arranged marriage presented by his parents, Murphy’s Prince Akeem instead heads to the U.S. to find a woman who will fall in love with him as a person, not as royalty.

To that end, he takes a job at a fast food restaurant and attempts to live simply, although he doesn’t really understand how to do that. Akeem is kind-hearted and genuine, and his romance with his boss’ daughter Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley) is low-key and sweet. Director John Landis balances that sweetness with some crazy comedy from Murphy and Arsenio Hall each in multiple roles, but the goofiness never overshadows the sincerity. 

Rent/buy at Apple or Amazon

'Dolemite Is My Name'

Dolemite Is My Name | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Dolemite Is My Name | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
Watch On

Murphy was the perfect choice to play eccentric Blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore in this entertaining biopic about the production of Moore’s cult classic “Dolemite.” Murphy captures Moore’s larger-than-life personality as the comedian who became an underground sensation thanks to his rhyming pimp character Dolemite. “Dolemite Is My Name” is a celebration of scrappy independent filmmaking, with its story of the inexperienced Moore producing a feature film seemingly by sheer force of will.

Murphy’s engaging performance is matched by Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Moore’s fellow comedian and co-star Lady Reed and Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin, the pretentious actor Moore hires to direct his movie. Director Craig Brewer’s film finds humor in Moore’s amateurish enthusiasm without ever making fun of the man himself, and Murphy makes Moore easy to root for, even at his most deluded.

Watch on Netflix


DREAMGIRLS | Official Trailer - YouTube DREAMGIRLS | Official Trailer - YouTube
Watch On

Murphy received his only Oscar nomination for his supporting role in director Bill Condon’s big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. He plays Jimmy “Thunder” Early, an R&B singer on the same record label as the girl group known as The Dreams. While The Dreams (played by Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose) are the main characters, Jimmy’s story parallels their rise to stardom, as he struggles to maintain his own fame and eventually turns to drugs.

Murphy draws on his brief stint as a pop singer to keep pace with powerhouse vocalists Beyoncé and Hudson, but it’s Jimmy’s tragic desperation that makes his performance so unforgettable. Murphy has a mixed track record with dramatic roles, but he’s great as Jimmy because he brings the same charm and verve of his comedic work to this ambitious but doomed musician.

Rent/buy at Apple or Amazon

'48 Hrs.'

48 Hrs. - Official® Trailer [HD] - YouTube 48 Hrs. - Official® Trailer [HD] - YouTube
Watch On

Murphy’s big-screen debut essentially invented the modern buddy-cop comedy, with the dynamic between Murphy’s wisecracking criminal Reggie Hammond and Nick Nolte’s sullen police inspector Jack Case. Case springs Reggie from prison on a 48-hour pass to help catch one of Reggie’s former associates, Albert Ganz (James Remar), who’s escaped from custody after killing several guards. Case and Reggie are at odds with each other at first, but they eventually develop a wary mutual respect.

Murphy’s charisma and comedic talent carry what could otherwise be a fairly rote crime thriller. Once Reggie shows up about half an hour into the movie, Murphy takes over, and the highlight is a scene in a honky-tonk bar, with Reggie posing as a cop and putting the redneck patrons in their place. It’s immediately clear that Murphy is set to be a huge movie star.

Watch on Paramount Plus


Bowfinger (1999) Official Trailer - Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy Movie HD - YouTube Bowfinger (1999) Official Trailer - Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy Movie HD - YouTube
Watch On

While Murphy often employs extensive prosthetics to play multiple characters in movies like “The Nutty Professor” and “Norbit,” he needs no such enhancements for his dual role in this silly, endearing showbiz comedy. Steve Martin, who also wrote the screenplay, plays the title character, a small-time movie producer with big dreams of directing a sci-fi movie called “Chubby Rain.” He’s determined to include famous action star Kit Ramsey (Murphy), even if Ramsey doesn’t know that he’s actually in the movie.

Murphy plays Ramsey as a self-involved, paranoid Hollywood celebrity, beholden to a self-improvement cult known as MindHead. Murphy also plays Ramsey’s estranged twin brother Jiff, a meek nerd who’s happy to help Bowfinger realize his vision. Murphy makes the two characters distinctive while conveying their connection, and both of them fit perfectly into Martin’s off-kilter world of B-movie hustlers.

Watch on Starz

More from Tom's Guide

Josh Bell

Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has written about movies and TV for Vulture, Inverse, CBR, Crooked Marquee and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.