All Eddie Murphy Action Comedies Including Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, Ranked

From his earlier days as a stand-up comedian performing at Saturday Night Live, then-young Eddie Murphy is already a star in the making. And he did from his promising feature debut in 48 Hrs. He made his career appearing in action comedies, notably in the ’80s era including the aforementioned movie and of course, Beverly Hills Cop. With the long-awaited Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F currently streaming on Netflix (you can read my review right here), here is my list of every action comedy that he’s in and yes, I included his latest movie as well — all ranked from worst to best.

Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)

A scene from "Beverly Hills Cop III" (1994)

In the first 10 minutes, director John Landis effectively combines grits and laughs. The latter can be seen during the dance-along scene with The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” playing on the radio. The botched car theft ring sting operation, which culminated in an exhilarating car chase looks as if Beverly Hills Cops III gets on the right track.

Too bad the rest of the movie falters with a misguided cross between the franchise’s action-comedy tropes and Die Hard on a Wonder World theme park. The weirdly out-of-place, kid-friendly tone doesn’t help, while the comedy that defines the franchise is disappointingly lame. The same also goes for the subsequent action scenes after the promising start. John Ashton’s John Taggart, one of the key supporting roles in the first two movies, is nowhere to be seen and he’s sorely missed in this third movie.

I Spy (2002)

Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in "I Spy" (2002)

Pairing Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, coupled with a story inspired by the popular 1960s spy series of the same name, this expensive big-screen remake looks set to be a winner here. But the reality is that Betty Thomas, who previously directed Murphy’s 1998 hit comedy, Dr Dolittle, botches the potential in I Spy. It’s loud, obnoxious and frankly, unfunny for the most part.

The biggest problem lies in its generic screenplay that sticks to the same old spy-movie cliché, even though Murphy and Wilson share some worthwhile buddy-comedy moments playing off each other. Given a large US$70 million budget, Thomas could only muster a series of generic action set pieces that barely raise a pulse while she undermines the otherwise inspired casting of Malcolm McDowell as the movie’s main antagonist.

The Golden Child (1986)

Eddie Murphy and Charlotte Lewis in "The Golden Child" (1986)

Here’s an odd one out of an ’80s Eddie Murphy star vehicle that tries to blend his signature action-comedy tropes with Asian mythology and fantasy elements. It may sound ambitious but the sadly underappreciated (at the time) Big Trouble in Little China released a few months earlier during that same year did a far better job. Murphy’s role as a wisecracking detective specialising in finding missing children may have been right up his alley. But his usual charismatic turn isn’t enough to offset the slapdash and clunky plot (e.g., the romance angle between his character and Charlotte Lewis’ Kee Nang feels awkwardly misplaced).

It also doesn’t help that the otherwise stunning co-star Charlotte Lewis, who plays the beautiful monk with martial arts skills, spends time looking as if she’s appearing in a softcore erotica. The Golden Child does its few otherworldly, B-movie charm, particularly the final encounter against Charles Dance’s scenery-chewing, sharp-shifting demon-in-disguise, Sardo Numspa.

Showtime (2002)

Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro in "Showtime" (2002)

The first thing about Showtime, marking Tom Dey’s second time around handling a buddy-comedy genre after Shanghai Noon, attracts me the most is the pairing of Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy and a then-fresh reality show angle. The comedy may have been a hit-and-miss affair. But at least it’s fun watching the stoic Robert De Niro and the wisecracking Eddie Murphy trading quips and one-liners.

Showtime also does well in the action department, notably the thrilling car chase along the streets of Los Angeles involving a police car and a forklift. Then, there’s William Shatner, who steals the show in his hilarious cameo appearance as the actor himself and former T.J. Hooker star teaching De Niro and Murphy a few acting tips (the hood-jumping scene comes to mind).

Another 48 Hrs. (1990)

Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in "Another 48 Hrs." (1990)

It’s the same old s*** in Another 48 Hrs., rehashing the original’s storytelling beats right down to the pistol-packing action scenes. I didn’t like it the first time I watched it. But this otherwise inferior sequel somehow grew on me as time went by. Returning director Walter Hill still has his way of making an action movie that feels visceral and entertaining. And of course, the unforgettable pairing of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Shame the sequel was heavily butchered from its reportedly 145-minute original workprint to only 95 minutes, messing up the storyline to the point it muddles the motivation of the final antagonist showing up in the third act.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024)

Eddie Murphy returns as Axel Foley in "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" (2024)

It has been a long time coming for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, the fourth instalment of the franchise after suffering from decades of development hell. First-time feature director Mark Molloy knows his way around the franchise and happens to be a self-professed fan of the first two movies. He combines the witty comedy of Beverly Hills Cop and the slick, action-packed Beverly Hills Cop II and it works like a charm. It may have been heavy on the nostalgia factor but it was entertaining enough. Eddie Murphy is in fine form here, giving us the foul-mouthed and wisecracking Axel Foley that fans have been longing for after the disastrous third movie.

Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold in "Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987)

The comedy in Beverly Hills Cop II has Eddie Murphy, where he shares a story credit, trying too hard to make everything work in his favour. It does score some hilarious moments (the Johnny Wishborne improv comes to mind) but overall, it pales in comparison with the witty 1984 original.

And yet, for all the recycled themes and storytelling beats, it’s hard to deny Tony Scott’s signature visual prowess injected into this sequel. The movie also benefits from higher stakes, better action set pieces and a killer soundtrack (Bob Seger’s infectiously catchy “Shakedown” still rules).

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

(L-R) John Ashton, Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984)

Once a project set to star Mickey Rourke (!) and later, Sylvester Stallone (!!), it wasn’t until Beverly Hills Cop finally came together with Eddie Murphy in the lead role. The rest, as they say, is history. Murphy already proved he has a knack for playing a street-smart, irreverent character in his 1982 breakthrough, 48 Hrs. He repeated the same feat as Detroit cop Axel Foley and made it his own.

Another part of what made Beverly Hills Cop such a big hit back in the day is how Murphy uses the fish-out-of-water concept to his advantage. This gives him ample room to strike an amusing contrast between his fast-talking personality and John Ashton and Judge Reinhold, who play them straight as by-the-book cops from Beverly Hills. As an action movie, though gritty as it may be, it is surprisingly too restrained for its own good. Beverly Hills Cop also features Harold Faltermeyer’s unforgettable synth score that defines the 1984 original till today. And not to forget, Glenn Frey’s memorably propulsive “The Heat Is On” in the opening credits.

48 Hrs. (1982)

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in "48 Hrs." (1982)

48 Hrs. may have been over 40 years old but this granddaddy of buddy-comedy genre still stands out as one of the best of its kind. Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking, street-smart hustler Reggie Hammond pairs well with Nick Nolte’s no-nonsense, grizzled cop Jack Cates. They play off each other well as they trade quips and insults and at one point, throw punches at each other. His most memorable moment comes from an improvisational scene where he pretends to be a cop in a bar full of rednecks. Credits also go to Walter Hill for his muscular direction and James Horner’s distinct score.