Your Top Three: Steve Martin Movies

Your Top Three: Steve Martin Movies

Nov 18, 2013

Your Top Three is a series here at where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.

This might be the hardest Top Three poll yet, at least for me. While not an unconditionally devoted fan, mainly not so in recent years, I really love Steve Martin. Enough that I had someone read from the screenplay for The Jerk at my wedding. Okay, so that's going to obviously be my number one. But what's next?

Martin, who received an honorary Oscar over the weekend at the Governors Awards (other winners were Angela Lansbury and costume designer Piero Tosi, while Angelina Jolie was given this year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award), has starred in so many classic comedies and also done a decent bit of dramatic work, so it's really difficult to choose favorites -- or at least what else to highlight.

Should I be sneaky and recognize Martin's first film appearance at age 10 or 11 in the Library of Congress-archived home movie Disneyland Dream (or his only other National Film Registry title, The Muppet Movie)? How about his barely remembered Oscar-nominated short The Absent-Minded Waiter? Should I give some love to his villainous performance in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a movie only I seem to really love? 

Part of me wants to honor Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a movie that I've only recently come to appreciate thanks to my wife. But while I think it's one of the most wonderful of Martin's performances, offering a mix of his super-silly and his more restrained, verbally witty personas, it's still not among my favorite of his movies.

Speaking of wit, it's hard for me to deny Roxanne. And speaking of silly, it's hard not to show some love for the stupid but hilarious ¡Three Amigos! I also have enormous appreciation for L.A. Story, The Spanish Prisoner, All of Me, Father of the Bride and of course (we can't forget this one with Thanksgiving approaching) Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Alas, I've still never seen Bowfinger or (all of) Grand Canyon, and I sadly never got through Pennies from Heaven, as much as I want to like it.

Here are my top three Steve Martin movies:

1. The Jerk - As I said, it's a special movie for me, personally. But it's also the one that makes me laugh the most. I'll always love idiot comedy, and as much as Will Ferrell and others try nowadays, nobody will ever top early Martin, especially as Navin R. Johnson. It's his most quotable movie, and that goes beyond things he says. For instance, I love pretending I have no rhythm when clapping along to the blues. It's actually kinda hard when you do in fact have rhythm. 

2. My Blue Heaven - Maybe it's the dark hair, but I always have trouble convincing my brain that Vinnie Antonelli is played by the same person as any other Martin character. It's more distinctly separate for me than, say, Grand Canyon is from The Pink Panther. It's one of his most inauthentic performances yet also one of his funniest, and the movie around that performance is brilliant to boot. It probably would be wrong to do now, with Nora Ephron gone, but I've always wanted a sequel.

3. Parenthood - Previously included in my top three Ron Howard movies, this is one that I love for many more reasons than Martin's part in it. But he is pretty much the glue that holds it altogether, and that's important. I actually think this is his strongest dramatic performance, even if it was recognized at awards time in comedy categories. Even more than Planes, this is where I really accepted him as more than (good at playing) a goofball schmuck. 


Your Picks (the top three being Planes, Trains and Automobiles; The Jerk and ¡Three Amigos!):



























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