There are some actors who are so well known for their work in comedy that they practically have become synonymous with the genre itself. I believe that Planes, Trains & Automobiles star Steve Martin is one such person.
With 15 Saturday Night Live hosting gigs under his belt (and among the best SNL hosts), countless accolades, including five Grammys and an honorary Oscar, and a number of well-regarded novels, the 76-year-old Only Murders in the Building cast member and co-creator is so esteemed and influential, it would be hard to name all of his finest efforts on the big screen so far. Well, we tried anyway, and came up with the following picks for the best Steve Martin movies available for streaming, digital rental, or purchase on physical media, below.
The Jerk (1979)
An absent-minded man-child (Steve Martin) moves away from his adoptive family in Mississippi to experience city life, where he constantly falls prey to or surprisingly benefits from his own naive worldview.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin was already a household name from his stand-up and work in television when he starred in his first leading role with The Jerk - a zany, shamelessly absurd cautionary tale that he also co-wrote, but which was directed by the late Carl Reiner.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)
A renegade private eye (Steve Martin) encounters a number of familiar faces when investigating the death of a cheese scientist in the 1940s.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Co-writer Steve Martin collaborated with co-writer and director Carl Reiner again on Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, which brilliantly spoofs classic detective noir films by actually placing Martin in scenes from classics in the genre with clever editing, resulting in a meta parody way ahead of its time.
The Man With Two Brains (1983)
A brain surgeon’s (Steve Martin) marriage to a gold-digging femme fatale (Kathleen Turner) becomes complicated after he finds himself falling for a living brain in a jar with whom he can speak telepathically
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Co-writer Steve Martin collaborated with co-writer and director Carl Reiner once again for The Man with Two Brains, which is easily the most insane and cartoonish comedy the two would make together, and the description above barely scratches the surface as to why.
Three Amigos! (1986)
Three out of work actors (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase) accept what they assume is an acting gig, only to learn they are the last hope to save a poor village from a vicious group of outlaws in early 1900s Mexico.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: From director John Landis and co-writers Steve Martin, SNL creator Lorne Michaels, and musician Randy Newman, Three Amigos! is a hilarious fish out of water story and cult favorite that would also be the first of many collaborations between Martin and his friend Martin Short.
Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
A meek loner (Rick Moranis) discovers a strange plant with an ability to talk, a capacity to grow at an alarming rate, and a craving for human flesh.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin takes a supporting role this time, but still totally steals the show, as a slimy, corrupt dentist in Little Shop of Horrors - director Frank Oz’s musical remake of Roger Corman’s sci-fi comedy classic.
A man with an abnormally large nose (Steve Martin) falls for a beautiful woman (Daryl Hannah) who is charmed by his personality, but still captivated by the more traditional good looks of another.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin both writes and leads the cast of the witty and romantic Roxanne - a modern update of Edmond Rostand’s classic stage play, Cyrano de Bergerac.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
A sophisticated, British scam artist (Michael Caine) and an audacious American hustler (Steve Martin) compete to see who can con an heiress first.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin would re-team with director Frank Oz (and have the honor of starring alongside Michael Caine) for the clever con artist comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels - a remake of the Marlon Brando/David Niven film Bedtime Story and the source material for the Anne Hathaway/Rebel Wilson film The Hustle in 2019.
In order to finally make the movie of his dreams, a desperate wannabe filmmaker (Steve Martin) jumps through hoops to secure an A-list action star (Eddie Murphy) as his lead without the actor realizing it.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Writer and star Steve Martin re-teamed with director Frank Oz, and had the honor of working with Eddie Murphy for Bowfinger, an underrated and uproarious gut-buster of a Hollywood satire that also boasts a killer supporting cast, including Robert Downey Jr.
Planes, Trains And Automobiles (1987)
An uptight ad executive (Steve Martin) trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving is forced to take on a well-meaning, but irritating, shower curtain ring salesman (John Candy) as his travel companion.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Here, Martin found himself working with writer and director John Hughes and starring alongside the late John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which could be the finest and funniest mismatched buddy road trip movie ever made.
A Midwestern man (Steven Martin) and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) struggle with all the pressures of adulthood, especially when it comes to raising their children.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin was able to lead an all-star cast and work with director Ron Howard for Parenthood - a heartwarming and relatable comedy about what it takes to raise a family, and the loose source material for the hit NBC dramedy of the same name.
Father Of The Bride (1991)
A man (Steve Martin) struggles to accept the fact that his oldest daughter (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) is not his little girl anymore when she becomes engaged to her boyfriend (George Newbern).
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin leads the cast of yet another remake of a classic with Father of the Bride, which is also another heartwarming and relatable comedy that, this time, is about what it takes to be prepared for when your family grows up.
Father Of The Bride Part II (1995)
As George Banks (Steve Martin) is struggling to accept the fact that he is about to become a grandfather when Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) announces she is pregnant, he soon learns that he is also about to become a father for the third time, after his wife, Nina (Diane Keaton), discovers that she is pregnant.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin reprises the role of George Banks in Father of the Bride Part II, a sequel to the hit comedy that, this time, comments on what it takes to be prepared when a new family member suddenly and unexpectedly arrives.
Cheaper By The Dozen (2003)
A college football coach (Steve Martin) struggles to singlehandedly maintain stability at home while his wife (Bonnie Hunt) is away promoting her memoir about raising their 12 children.
Why it’s one of the best Steve Martin movies: Steve Martin leads another all-star cast in the role of the ultimate father, in director Shawn Levy’s Cheaper by the Dozen - yet another funny, charming, and heartfelt remake of a classic that comments on how difficult it is to expect the unexpected when your family is several sizes larger than average.
It was not until now that I realized how often Steve Martin has played the role of a father in over his head, and how well he has mastered the part. It kind of makes me wish we saw him in a third movie instead of the Cheaper by the Dozen reboot Disney+ has planned. At least there are plenty of great and versatile things on his resume to keep us entertained.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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