To celebrate the August 14 birthday of Steve Martin, we’ve got a special photo gallery featuring his 15 greatest films. The actor, comedian, writer, producer, playwright, author and musician is an American icon who has been celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors and American Film Institute. He also received an honorary Oscar for his movie career in 2013.
Nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, six Grammy Awards (with five wins), as well as two Tony Awards, Martin is one of the great talents of the past few decades. There wasn’t a stand-up comedian alive in the mid-1970s who was on a hotter streak, and his first hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” led to many more appearances. He also now has 2018 Emmy Awards nominations for producing and writing his Netflix comedy special with Martin Short.
He then jumped into movies and never looked back, with such popular flicks as “The Jerk,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “All of Me,” “Roxanne,” “Three Amigos,” “L.A. Story,” “Parenthood,” and “Father of the Bride” over the next few decades. All of those films are included in our photo gallery above, which features his 15 greatest, ranked from worst to best.
15. DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID (1982)
Carl Reiner‘s comedy/mystery stars Martin as private eye Rigby Reardon, who suspects murder in the death of a local scientist. To establish the mood, director Reiner utilizes clips from 19 neo-noir films. It might seem unusual that Martin, who exudes a very contemporary vibe, could embody a period sensibility with fedoras and double breasted suits. But he does, and the comic mystery is a whole lot of fun.
14. BOWFINGER (1999)
Martin stars here as desperate film producer Bobby Bowfinger, who cobbles together enough funding to interest a studio that insists that he casts difficult action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). Anxious not to have to pay the exorbitantly-priced action star, Bowfinger tries to trick Ramsey into giving a performance without having to pay him, but, let’s just say, complications ensue.
13. THREE AMIGOS (1986)
In somewhat of an SNL reunion, Martin joined Chevy Chase and Short as three stars of silent Western films who are mistaken as heroes by the residents of a small Mexican town being terrorized by banditos. Thinking that they are coming to the town for a personal appearance, they are shocked to find that the townspeople expect that they are the “Three Amigos” heroes who are coming to save them.
12. BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (2003)
Martin had one of his biggest box-office hits in this comedy in which he plays an estranged tax attorney looking for love online and finds what he thinks is a dreamboat but is instead a convicted felon (Queen Latifah) who is seeking him out to clear her name legally. The most unlikely chemistry between Martin and Latifah worked like gangbusters and resulted in a huge audience-pleaser.
11. DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (1988)
Frank Oz‘s farce, which became the basis of a successful Broadway musical in 2004, featured Martin as small-time aspiring hustler Freddy Benson who finds himself up against suave con man Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine) in trying to bilk American heiress Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) out of $50,000. Their rivalry, however, results in mutual disappointment but at least an honor among thieves.
10. THE SPANISH PRISONER (1997)
Probably Martin’s most successful foray into dramatic film acting, David Mamet‘s film provided Martin with the juicy role of Jimmy Dell, a mysterious stranger who draws corporate engineer Joe Ross (Campbell Scott) who is drawn by Jimmy into a transaction that may lead Joe down a rabbit hole. Like many comics, Martin has a dark side, which Mamet recognizes and puts to effective use in this neo-noir thriller.
9. THE JERK (1979)
For a feature film debut, Martin takes some pretty nervy chances with “The Jerk,” Reiner’s film about the white adopted son (Martin) of black sharecroppers who hasn’t a clue that he’s actually adopted. Not only is his skin color different from the rest of his family, but he possesses a distinct lack of rhythm that sets him apart from the rest of his clan. “The Jerk” marks Martin’s first collaboration with Bernadette Peters, with whom he would reunite triumphantly two years later in “Pennies From Heaven.”
8. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987)
This beloved John Hughes film revealed a marked change in Hughes’ subject matter, moving from the angst of teens to those of adults, and Martin was his perfect subject. Here he plays ad executive Neal Page who needs to get home to Chicago, but along the way, he finds himself next to shower-ring salesman Del Griffith (John Candy) who steals his cab en route to LaGuardia Airport.
7. IT’S COMPLICATED (2009)
Nancy Myers, who worked with Martin in “Father of the Bride,” brought him on board for this romantic comedy in which bakery owner Jane (Meryl Streep) is conducting a secret affair with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin), yet at the same time, finds herself drawn to her architect Adam (Martin) who is remodeling her home.
6. L.A. STORY (1991)
“L.A. Story” is an apocryphal story of life in Los Angeles, with Martin’s character Harris, a TV weatherman, tired of the daily L.A. routine but finding himself infatuated with Sara (Victoria Tennant), a British journalist. The premise gives Martin the satirist a chance to have a good laugh at some of the excesses of Los Angeles culture resulted in one of his most memorable films.
5. FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)
In a remake of the 1950 Vincente Minnelli comedy that starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, Martin stars as George Banks, a shoe company executive who nervously waits for the wedding of his daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams). What distinguishes the film is Martin’s chemistry with his on-screen wife Diane Keaton, which was a major factor in the film’s success, which prompted a 1995 sequel that brought Martin his fifth Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor.
4. PARENTHOOD (1989)
Ron Howard’s film, which spawned a successful NBC television series, starred Martin as the father of a large family who has to deal with the responsibilities that come with that. As Gene Siskel famously said about this film, “every parent is a child too,” Martin is a big kid here as well as dad Gil Buckman, wrangling a large brood of divergent personalities who constitute his family. For his performance as Gil, Martin earned his fourth nomination for a Golden Globe Award.
3. ROXANNE (1987)
Martin’s acclaimed update of the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” has Martin playing Charlie Bates, the fire chief of a small town in British Columbia who is known for having a large nose. He’s attracted to newcomer Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah), and as much as Roxanne likes him, she is more attracted to dim bulb Chris (Rick Rossovich). Charlie agrees to help the socially awkward Chris win the heart of Roxanne while pining for her himself. For his performance, Martin was nominated for his third Golden Globe Award.
2. PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981)
This is a remarkable film, probably Martin’s most daring and one that would likely never be made today. Based on the BBC series starring Bob Hoskins, Martin portrays Arthur Parker, a sheet-music salesman from Chicago whose dream is to exist in a place where the songs he sells are part of his life. Stuck in a failing marriage, he takes up with schoolteacher Eileen (Peters) and they hope to build a new life together. t doesn’t work out that way. For his performance as Arthur, Martin was nominated for his first Golden Globe Award.
1. ALL OF ME (1984)
In what is arguably his greatest critical triumph, Martin won the Best Actor prize from both the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle for his performance as attorney Roger Cobb, who, through a fluke, winds up sharing his body and soul with the late heiress Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin). The role gives Martin an enormous opportunity to display his gift for physical comedy as he must embody both male and female personae. As Roger, Martin also received his second Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.