48 Hrs. (1982) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Nick Nolte plays a jaded, renegade cop on the trail of a psychotic cop-killer who has escaped from a prison work farm. Eddie Murphy plays a convict who is sprung on a weekend pass to assist in the pursuit. An unlikely bond forms.

Sounds trite?

Time for a flashback.

1982 was quite a year for films, especially for youthful audiences.

  • Sci-Fi-Fantasy fans say it may have been the best year of all time. Blade Runner, The Wrath of Khan, E.T., Conan the Barbarian, Tron, The Thing, Liquid Sky, The Road Warrior, Poltergeist, Cat People, The Dark Crystal, and Beastmaster all debuted that year, and Videodrome was only a month behind.

  • Trends began that year in other genres. Stallone kicked off the Rambo series with First Blood. The modern teensploitation film was born, as Fast Times and Porky's debuted to large audiences. Body Heat hit the international theaters in 1982 (it had debuted in the USA in 1981), and the femme fatale erotic thriller was born, or more accurately reborn, since it had flourished briefly in the 1940s - without nudity - in films like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. 

  • There were plenty of other memorable films that year: Tootsie, Gandhi, Diner, My Favorite Year, An Officer and a Gentleman, Garp, The Verdict, Missing, Sophie's Choice, An Officer and a Gentleman, Fanny and Alexander, and Fitzcarraldo.

Given the stiff competition that year, you have to think that 48 Hrs is a pretty good movie, and must be fondly remembered, because it performed very well in its day, is a critical darling (96% positive reviews), and has held up against its contemporaries in the public consciousness.

Here is a list of the top dozen films from that year with 10000 or more votes, based on IMDb ratings:

And here is a list of the top dozen box office earners that year:

1 ET: The Extra-Terrestrial $435,110,554
2 Tootsie $177,200,000
3 An Officer and a Gentleman $129,795,554
4 Rocky 3 $125,049,125
5 Porky's $109,492,484
6 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan $79,912,963
7 48 Hrs. $75,936,265
8 Poltergeist $74,706,019
9 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas $69,701,637
10 Annie $57,059,003
11 The Verdict $53,977,250
12 Gandhi $52,767,889


It's pretty clear that 48 Hrs. was considered quite good in its time, and there are at least two good reasons why it still gets some respect.

(1) Just as Porky's, Fast Times, and Body Heat played important roles in launching popular new genres, 48 Hrs was seminal in the launch of the popular "mismatched buddy cop" action movie genre. It helped to sire a lineage which included the Lethal Weapon Movies, the Rush Hour movies and a few zillion more.

(2) 48 Hrs was Eddie Murphy's screen debut, and instantly launched him from the Saturday Night Live cast to A-list status as a big box office draw and one of the best action/comedy movie stars of the eighties. Murphy proved so popular that this film would soon be followed by Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop. I suppose there is a sad side to that story. After more than two decades of trying, Eddie has never been able to equal what he accomplished back then, and those three films remain his three highest-rated live action films at IMDb:

  1. (7.29) - Trading Places (1983)
  2. (7.20) - Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
  3. (6.79) - 48 Hrs. (1982)

48 Hours still holds up pretty well. The bickering between Nick Nolte and Murphy is still pretty funny, James Remar still seems to be an especially creepy bad guy, and the action scenes are still fun to watch, albeit improbable. It has a few minor flaws here and there, but there's only one major thing wrong with 48 Hrs. In the quarter of a century since it was released, it has been so widely copied - and even improved upon - that everything in it which seemed fresh in 1982 now seems like a tired cliché which has been done better elsewhere. We can never again enjoy it with 1982 eyes. Sad, but true!



  • widescreen, but  not anamorphically enhanced
  • poor transfer
  • no features



  • Denise Crosby - breasts

  • Greta Blackburn - breasts

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 3.5/4. An interesting review to look back upon, because Ebert recognized that Murphy was destined for stardom.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office: it was a smash hit for Paramount, one of the top ten money-earners of 1982.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film was a B- in 1982, when the ideas and Eddie Murphy were fresh. It doesn't seem as good when watched with 2006 eyes, but is still a good, sound genre flick, and deserves to have a much better DVD than this dark, poorly mastered, featureless release.

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