The world is definitely a better place with Stephen Glenn Martin in it. It’s been an absolute pleasure being alive during the time he’s been plying his craft on the silver screen. He long ago established himself as one of the comedic geniuses of his generation, and with the success of his latest project, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, while not a film it is still a testament to how much of an icon living he is.
With a new season on the way later this year, it feels like an appropriate time to give the Emmy, honorary Oscar and five-time GRAMMY winner his flowers by listing ten of his classic films that are a must-see for anyone that may be new to the greatness of Martin, or just appreciates comedy.
Over the past three decades he’s been able to flawlessly pull off the role of lover, louse and lord of the manor (well, some would say father but then the alliteration would’ve been off so lord of the manor it is… heh. He actually does his best work in the roles where he plays the exasperated dad). Honorable mention films include 1983’s The Man With Two Brains, 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors, 2003’s Bringing Down the House, and 2006’s The Pink Panther.
The ones listed below have made me laugh out loud over and over again. So while this is definitely a Steve Martin appreciation post, it’s also an excuse to see his ridiculous wig from My Blue Heaven. Heh.
The Jerk (1979)
Plot: Navin (Steve Martin) believes he was born a poor black child in Mississippi. He is, however, actually white. Upon figuring this out, he heads north to St. Louis to find himself. After landing a job at a gas station, Navin is excited to discover his name printed in the new phone book. This ratification of his existence leads him from one misadventure to another — as he invents gadgets, dodges bullets, joins the carnival and seeks love in the arms of beautiful Marie (Bernadette Peters).
The Three Amigos (1986)
Plot: Three cowboy movie stars from the silent era — Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase), Lucky Day (Steve Martin) and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) — are fired when one of their movies bombs. In what seems to be a career-saving offer, young Mexican woman Carmen (Patrice Martinez) offers them a high-paying gig in her village. The three jump at the opportunity, expecting to do their typical act, but Carmen believes they are really heroes and asks them to rid her village of bad guy El Guapo (Alfonso Arau).
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Plot: Easily excitable Neal Page (Steve Martin) is somewhat of a control freak. Trying to get home to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his wife (Laila Robins) and kids, his flight is rerouted to a distant city in Kansas because of a freak snowstorm, and his sanity begins to fray. Worse yet, he is forced to bunk up with talkative Del Griffith (John Candy), whom he finds extremely annoying. Together they must overcome the insanity of holiday travel to reach their intended destination.
Plot: In this modern take on Edmond Rostand’s classic play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” C. D. Bales (Steve Martin) is the witty, intelligent and brave fire chief of a small Pacific Northwest town who, due to the size of his enormous nose, declines to pursue the girl of his dreams, lovely Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah). Instead, when his shy underling Chris McConnell (Rick Rossovich) becomes smitten with Roxanne, Bales feeds the handsome young man the words of love to win her heart.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Plot: Con artist Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) is a longtime resident of a luxurious coastal resort, where he enjoys the fruits of his deceptions — that is, until a competitor, Freddy Benson (Steve Martin), shows up. When the new guy’s lowbrow tactics impinge on his own work, Jamieson resolves to get rid of him. Confident of his own duplicitous talents, Jamieson challenges Benson to a winner-takes-all competition: whoever swindles their latest mark first can stay, while the other must leave town.
Plot: Perfectionist Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) struggles with the deficiencies of his children, thinking they reflect poorly on his parenting — and Gil’s siblings only add to the stress of his life. One of his sisters (Dianne Wiest) faces difficulty when her teenage daughter (Martha Plimpton) becomes pregnant. Another (Harley Jane Kozak) clashes with her husband (Rick Moranis) when she asks for more children. Gil’s immature brother (Tom Hulce) turns up as well, with a young son he can barely handle.
My Blue Heaven (1990)
Plot: Vinnie Antonelli (Steve Martin) trades the mob for the witness protection program and moves to a small suburb in California. But for Vinnie, old ways die hard. He becomes a challenge for Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis), the FBI agent in charge of making sure Vinnie keeps a low profile before he can testify against his former mob associates. Barney, though, might actually be able to learn some things from Vinnie. That is, if Barney can keep him alive long enough.
Father of The Bride (1991)
Plot: George Banks (Steve Martin) and his wife, Nina (Diane Keaton), are the proud parents of Annie (Kimberly Williams), but when she returns from studying abroad and announces that she’s engaged, their whole world turns upside down, especially that of overprotective George. From meeting the in-laws to wedding plans with an over-the-top consultant (Martin Short) and his flamboyant assistant (B.D. Wong), it seems as if the troubles never end in this update of the classic Spencer Tracy comedy.
Plot: On the verge of bankruptcy and desperate for his big break, aspiring filmmaker Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) concocts a crazy plan to make his ultimate dream movie. Rallying a ragtag team that includes a starry-eyed ingenue (Heather Graham), a has-been diva (Christine Baranski) and a film studio gofer (Jamie Kennedy), he sets out to shoot a blockbuster featuring the biggest star in Hollywood, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) — only without letting Ramsey know he’s in the picture.
Cheaper By The Dozen (2003)
Plot: Tom (Steve Martin) and Kate Baker (Bonnie Hunt) have compromised their careers to raise 12 children. Tom coaches a high-school football team, while Kate has retired from journalism to raise the family. Things change when Tom is offered a college coaching job in a new city at the same time a publisher buys Kate’s parenting memoir. After moving, Kate goes on a book tour, leaving Tom in charge of the children, who — already unhappy about relocating — plunge the household into chaos.