1. The Jerk
One of his earliest leads and a rebirth of slapstick, Steve Martin gives you The Jerk. Martin excels in this genre more than he is given due credit nowadays, as his career has furthered and people's memory of his past credits becomes more hazy. His time as a comedian, juggler and street performer was his modern outlet for vaudevillian practice. The piece de resistance has to be his attempt to rid himself of all earthly possessions. Suffice to say it doesn't go well...If ever there was a line in film everyone needs to hear it's Martin A.K.A. Navin's response to his African American parents' admission he is adopted; "you mean I'm going to stay this colour?"
Martin's Bobby Bowfinger is a down and out "director" who is always looking for the next big break but never actually finding it. His L.A. sleazeball insignia causes an inordinate amount of laughs for what it is; a rat's tail hairpiece. His cordless phone (I should really enclose this in quotation marks but there would simply be too many in the article) will make you feel on top on your life in comparison, and who doesn't want that? It's the entire purpose of reality TV. The ensemble is one of the best you will see, with Eddie Murphy in his prime, Heather Graham as 'dumb blonde' superior, Robert Downey Jr, Christine Branski (The Birdcage, Mamma Mia) and Jamie Kennedy when he was actually good.
Standing out physically is one thing, and then there's Charlie in Roxanne. It's not only rom-com centred on the love interest Roxanne (Daryl Hannah)and Charlie in pursuit as a modern day version of Cyrano de Bergerac, but it's a love letter to being brutally different.
4. Little Shop of Horrors
Directed by Frank Oz, the director of many a Muppet movie, Little Shop of Horrors sees Steve in a delightfully wicked role as Orin Scrivello, the sadistic dentist with a penchant for letting off steam on his patients and his insecure girlfriend Audrey.
5. Planes, Train and Automobiles
Steve Martin is equally memorable playing the straight role in a buddy comedy. To a degree, this is the anti-buddy comedy, at least to begin with, as John Candy's (or should I say his character Del's-)idiocy creates a void between the two that is slowly rubbed away by his persistence and underlying lovable goofiness and good intentions.
6. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
While films like The Jerk and Roxanne highlighted his capability to do stand-alone characters, films like Planes, Trains and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels emphasise his talent for teaming up in a comedy duo. Michael Caine and he may have seemed like an unlikely pairing at the time but they are as intertwined now as gin and crying women. I for one could listen to lines such as 'May I take your trident, sir?", "Not mother?", "Ruprecht, do you want the genital cuff?" and "I've got culture coming out of my ass".
7. Three Amigos
Again, sheer slapstick silliness at its best. A feel-good, Dumb-and-Dumber style effort with Martin as the ineffably gumby-dumb Luck Day. If Steve Martin's taught us anything over the years, it's that themed movie nights that include burritos/ tacos and Mexican hats can never be a bad thing.
8. Bringing Down the House
This film caused a lot of debate for its portrayal of race but in my opinion it should be taken very lightheartedly and as a film which teases every stereotype thrown at the (particularly American) public. To take Steve Martin breakdancing as part of a serious commentary on race would only be cantankerously rigid. There's still more room on the market for another fill of Queen Latifah and Steve Martin in cohoots.
9. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Martin really is an experimental actor as Dead Men Don't wear Plaid illustrates. The black and white comedy makes the best of both worlds, acting as both a parody and an homage to the film noir style it so clearly delineates from.
Martin leads a star-packed ensemble cast that for name dropping purposes alone deserves some kudos. Family friendly doesn't mean unrelatable to people under forty and over fifteen in this case, as Steve carves out a role he will return to, a neurotic father trying to cope with family life.