Following our previous Eddie Murphy list that sorted his 80s-era run, we thought it’d be fun to do the same with the actor’s next batch of films.
Everyone loves Eddie Murphy. His foul-mouthed shenanigans have delighted audiences since he first stormed onto Saturday Night Live in a…
The 1990s were much more of a mixed bag for Murphy, who hit rock bottom with misfires like Vampire in Brooklyn and Another 48 Hrs. before bouncing back with family comedies such as Mulan and Dr. Dolittle. While his star never shined quite as bright as it did early in his carer, Murphy still managed to piece together an impressive resume heading into the 2000s.
Check out our list of Eddie Murphy 90s movies ranked from worst to best.
12. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
There’s so much talent behind Vampire in Brooklyn — Murphy, director Wes Craven, and Angela Bassett, to name a few — that it’s downright perplexing how bland the final product was. Here is an aimless film that can’t decide which direction it wants to take its subject matter. Is it a comedy? A romance? A horror film? I’m not quite sure and that’s a lot of the problem.
11. Another 48 Hrs. (1990)
If the original 48 Hrs. ushered Murphy to fame and fortune, Another 48 Hrs. (released nearly a decade later) marks the beginning of his downward spiral. I can forgive Harlem Nights, a minor artistic speedbump in which Murphy at least swung for the fences and tried something wholly unique. Another 48 Hrs., on the other hand, is little more than a desperate cash grab utterly devoid of artistic merit.
Gone is the magic that made Jack (Nick Nolte) and Reggie (Murphy) such a lovable dynamic duo, replaced by an assortment of clunky action scenes that are neither thrilling nor intense. Murphy mugs his way through a bland script, while Nolte looks like he’s just waiting for his paycheck. An incredibly disappointing follow-up to a classic film.
10. Holy Man (1998)
Holy Man has plenty going for it — chiefly, a great cast and a fun concept that at least made for some good trailers — but never organizes its elements into a satisfying whole. Murphy does what he can with the material, and it’s always fun to see 90s-era Jeff Goldblum, but this is a one-note comedy without a rudder that quickly gets stranded in its desperate bid to attain laughs.
9. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
Murphy tackles politics in Jonathan Lynn’s good-natured but lackadaisical comedy about a con man who weasels his way into congress and learns about the corrupt nature of the American government. Murphy works his magic in a few scenes, but the sluggish pace bogs down what should have been a raucous comedy. Still, I may need to give this one another look.
8. Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Am I wrong for kinda liking Beverly Hills Cop III? Yes, it’s lazy and nowhere near as fun or stylish as its predecessors. Still, during a recent rewatch, I found myself … having fun with the threequel that posits Axel Foley in an amusement park to catch the men who killed his boss. Murphy fits the role like a glove and curiously goes for a straighter approach on this go-round with mixed results. No matter, Judge Reinhold is on hand to provide some fun comedy, while Bronson Pinchot returns for a brief bit as Serge. A few action set pieces are well executed, including a sequence set atop a ride where Axel must save a couple of kids. Where else will you see George Lucas appear as a “Disappointed Man?”
I can’t recommend Beverly Hills Cop III as anything more than a guilty pleasure. Everyone, including director John Landis, should have tried harder to make this work. Still, after all these years, the threequel delivers passable entertainment.
7. The Nutty Professor (1996)
After a series of critical and box office flops, Murphy struck back in 1996 with The Nutty Professor with mostly positive results. On the plus side, the picture gives Murphy multiple roles to flex his acting chops — he portrays no less than seven characters, who all interact believably — and engage in silly, often hilarious slapstick. On the negative side, the picture doesn’t know when to stop and leans too hard on excessive crudity for a family pic.
The Nutty Professor is directed by Tom Shadyac, who never saw a bathroom gag he didn’t like. As he did with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar, Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Shadyac points the camera and lets his star(s) do the heavy lifting. Except, for every great moment in Professor, there is a handful of overly sexual, raunchy material that falls flat on its face.
Still, the costume and makeup design are incredible, and the splashy special effects are convincing. Unfortunately, Murphy can’t elevate the picture to another gear, resulting in an enjoyable comedy that doesn’t reach the highs of his best work.
6. Boomerang (1992)
Murphy toned down the edgy comedy that made him a star for Boomerang. This fun little rom-com lacks the big laughs of Murphy’s best efforts but deserves high marks for introducing a few wrinkles into the tried and true formula.
Murphy plays Marcus Graham, a successful advertising executive with a reputation as a womanizer who has the tables turned on him by his vivacious boss Jacqueline (Robin Givens). She also plays the field, you see? And when she ditches Marcus after a brief fling, he flocks to the lovely Angela (Halle Berry) and learns the true meaning of love.
Yeah, it’s all relatively lightweight, but the ever-charismatic Murphy and a strong supporting cast — Eartha Kitt, David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence, Grace Jones, Chris Rock — are enough to make Boomerang a minor gem in the genre.
5. Life (1999)
Life is surprisingly touching, even deftly told, about two friends serving a lifetime in prison together. Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play Ray and Claude, a pair of bootleggers who end up in the slammer after a racist cop frames them for murder in 1932 Mississippi. Locked away for life with no hope of parole, Ray and Claude pass the time by bonding with other inmates (including an up-and-coming ballplayer and a gay man), plotting escapes, harboring hope of freedom, and spending countless days bickering with one another.
Murphy and Lawrence display remarkable chemistry even as their characters get weighed down by heaps of old-age prosthetics. Their relationship is fun to watch, even as it slowly deteriorates throughout the decades.
Still, something is missing here, and I’ve never been able to put my finger on it. I like Life a lot. There are plenty of laughs — the baby daddy scene always gets me — a strong supporting cast, a satisfying conclusion, and enough depth to draw comparisons to The Shawshank Redemption. Still, it’s merely a good comedy, not a great one. I imagine that’s because the film steers clear of the underlying realities facing the characters. So here we have prison life as seen through a Hollywood lens, full of humor and warmth but lacking the grime and grit of reality.
4. Dr. Dolittle (1998)
Dr. Dolittle may not have aged as well as some of Murphy’s more distinguished projects, but Betty Thomas’ PG-13-rated remake of the beloved family musical still produces enough laughs to hold the attention of younger viewers — primarily thanks to a slew of foul-mouthed animals voiced by Norm Macdonald, Albert Brooks, Chris Rock, John Leguizamo, Ellen DeGeneres, and Gilbert Gottfried (among others), who often run away with the show.
Still, Murphy holds his own as the titular good doctor, a role he plays surprisingly straight. His job is to react to and ground the nonsense around him, and the megastar brings warmth and gravitas to the endless assortment of fart jokes and low-brow humor.
Dr. Dolittle delights as a crude but amiable family comedy.
3. Metro (1997)
When Murphy gives a damn, the man delivers. Metro follows the atypical 90s action formula but kicks so much ass that it doesn’t matter that we’ve seen this all before in better films. Owing more to the gritty style of 48 Hrs., Metro positions Murphy as a tough-talking hostage negotiator battling Guy of Gisborne in San Francisco. The cat-and-mouse escapades result in the obligatory chase sequences, shootouts, and standoffs, expertly staged by director Thomas Carter. Still, the picture slows down long enough to let Murphy build a unique character worth rooting for, resulting in one of the actor’s most rewarding action vehicles.
Murphy is so good that it makes one wish Hollywood would’ve unleashed this side of the talented actor more often. Also, kudos to whoever decided to cast the always-incredible Michael Rapaport.
Metro is high-octane fun, the type of movie you enjoy with a large bowl of popcorn on a Saturday evening.
2. Bowfinger (1999)
Bowfinger ended Murphy’s turbulent 90s run on a high note. While the Frank Oz comedy never achieves the same level of success as the actor’s best films — in other words, it’s really good but not quite Beverly Hills Cop — Bowfinger at least affords Murphy a solid vehicle to showcase his vast talents.
Co-starring Steve Martin, Bowfinger follows aspiring filmmaker Bobby Bowfinger (Martin) and his endeavors to craft a sci-fi horror film starring A-lister Kit Ramsey (Murphy), the most popular star on the planet. The only problem is Kit doesn’t know he’s in the movie. Using clever guerilla tactics and a dimwitted lookalike named Jiff (also Murphy), Bowfinger sets out to produce his picture alongside a merry band of misfits, resulting in a smartly written (but mostly goofy) love letter to Hollywood. (Think Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, albeit with less camp.)
Martin (who also wrote) and Murphy work beautifully together; their comedic sensibilities mesh well and produce some big laughs. Director Oz is savvy enough to know when a joke has overstayed its welcome and expertly toes the line between satire and farce.
Bowfinger is delectable old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment, even if it comes up just short of greatness.
1. Mulan (1998)
Before lending his voice to Donkey in Shrek, Murphy tapped into the Disney well and scored a hit as Mushu, the wise-cracking red dragon who aids Mulan on her quest to stop the Huns. As Robin Williams accomplished in Aladdin, Murphy gives Mulan an edge that raises it beyond atypical, animated fluff.
It helps that Mulan is a well-written, exciting adventure about a young woman who takes her father’s place in the Imperial Chinese Army, bursting with great songs and a terrific Jerry Goldsmith score. Murphy’s whip-smart edgy humor is merely the proverbial icing on the cake.
A genuine Disney classic, Mulan ranks as one of the best animated films ever produced.