Django UnchainedFor those of you who don’t remember, yes, Jamie Foxx has completed a few stand-up specials. He moved onto acting and singing early in his career, but his roots are in comedy. According to one interview, he changed his name to the androgynous “Jamie Foxx” because he noticed female stand-up comedians were usually called up onstage first and didn’t want to be put at a disadvantage. The name stuck and now Jamie Foxx is busy acting, singing and performing comedy around the world.
Mrs. DoubtfireRobin Williams is a hyped-up ball of energy on stage and 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire is a perfect place to see him act like a maniac in a film. Comedians have a long history of cross-dressing as elderly women (No, Tyler Perry, you were not the first), and Mrs. Doubtfire proves that niche is still completely hilarious. Also, it shows the lengths someone would go through to see their children. Would you want to do the same?
The Color PurpleOne of the few movies on this list that is not a comedy, the book adaptation The Color Purple is a remarkable tale of one woman’s struggle in the early 1990s Deep South. Whoopi Goldberg’s amazing performance as a timid housewife is even more impressive after seeing footage of her stand-up career. Whoopi’s brash demeanor and crass jokes about sex are the complete antithesis to the repressed life of Celie in The Color Purple.
Blazing SaddlesRichard Pryor was one of the greatest stand-up comedians who ever lived, but, unfortunately, his brilliance did not always translate well to his acting career. One of his greatest contributions was co-writing Blazing Saddles. He was also supposed to star in the film, but reportedly the studio refused after he began bringing cocaine and Courvoisier to the screenwriting sessions. In any case, the film still has Pryor’s prints all over it and is a great example of his creative mind.
The HangoverThe global smash and first in The Hangover series gave the world its first extended look at the bizarre comedy of Zach Galifianakis. Awkward, self-depreciating, and often even refusing to use punch lines, Galifianakis confused audiences for years before shooting to stardom in The Hangover. While the other films in the series aren’t as good, the first is a definite comedy classic.
The JerkThe classic comedy about the white adopted son of a family of black sharecroppers (“You mean I’m going to stay this color!?”) turned Steve Martin from a gifted comedian into a superstar actor. Check out the scene below where Martin mistakenly believes a gunman is obsessed with shooting holes in some oil cans. “He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!”
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I’m Gonna Git You SuckaKeenan Ivory Wayans seems to get overshadowed these days by younger brothers Damon, Marlon and Shawn, but his 1988 blaxploitation parody might just be the greatest thing anyone in the family has done. Chris Rock shows up in an early cameo role, and even Isaac Hayes is on hand to help out.
Cheech & Chong’s Up in SmokeCheech Marin and Tommy Chong had already released five comedy albums and completed multiple stand-up tours when Up in Smoke came out in 1978. The hilarious, smoke-filled movie brought them waves of new fans and has since become one of the greatest movies about weed of all time.
Cheech and Chong went on to make five additional live action films in the ‘80s, but most fans remember Up in Smoke as their greatest achievement.
Coming to AmericaIn the ‘80s, Eddie Murphy was on top of the world. In a killer six-year stretch, he released 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and his legendary stand-up special, Delirious. By the time Coming to America came out in 1988 no one was bigger than Murphy in the world of acting and stand-up comedy.
The fish-out-of-water tale cemented Murphy’s status and gave him his first opportunity to star as multiple characters in the same film. (Later, that became a principal feature of his Nutty Professor movies.)