Top 365 Films – #215 – Trading Places (1983)

'Trading Places' Film - 1983DIRECTED BY: John Landis

STARRING: Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristin Holby and Denholm Elliott

BUDGET: $15m

EARNED (Worldwide): $90.4m

AWARDS: 2 BAFTAs (Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress)



A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.


Trading Places has two businessman, The Duke Brothers (Mortimer and Randolph) who make a wager by switching the lifestyle of a current employee with a man from an ‘uneducated’ background and a history of crime as they bicker about whether it’s a person’s environment or heredity that determines how well they will do in life. The bussinessman who is about of this wager is Louis Winthorpe, wealthy and Harvard educated and the other man is Billy Ray Valentine, a street hustler who gets dragged into this game after a chance encounter with Winthorpe.


Trading Places is a comedy I can never get tired of watching for the simple premise and comedic performances among the cast. The wager between the Duke brothers begin after Louis has Billy Ray charged for stealing his briefcase. It’s a completely overblown charge as Billy Ray just happened to bump into him and is completely innocent, but the repulsive elitist and his snobby club brethren watch the cops take him away. This leads to Mortimer believing that Billy Ray would be just as good as Louis at calling the shots in the commodity markets and they bail Billy Ray out and hire him….and also have Louis get fired and have everything taken away from him, giving it to Billy Ray. It shows that the Dukes are that rich, they can quite literally make anything happen. From then we observe how Billy Ray and Louis handle their new change of fortunes giving the actors interesting role reversals to deal with. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd have great chemistry together, the former on fire particularly in the beginning of the film for his state for the theatrics on the streets pretending to be a Vietnam veteran to karate master in a prison cell and the latter just as terrific on screen as the man who is so vain and smug, he is entirely clueless as to how little he is liked and how easily replaceable he is, leading to some scenes that lead to a dramatic downfall for the character, yet effectively humorous at the same time. Jamie Lee Curtis is really good as the hooker with the heart of gold that takes Louis Winthorpe in when he’s down on his luck in exchange for helping her in the process, Denholm Elliott is also good as butler Coleman and Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are just great as the Duke brothers.


FAVOURITE SCENE: Louis Winthorpe (the third) is at his lowest when on the bus, in a dirty Santa suit, mauling a huge piece of salmon to the disgust of two passengers on the bus.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘’Cause I’m a karate man! And a karate man bruises on the inside! They don’t show their weakness. But you don’t know that because you’re a big Barry White looking motherfucker! So get outta my face!’ – Billy Ray Valentine. 

DID YOU KNOW?: The film was conceived as a vehicle for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. But when Pryor dropped out and Eddie Murphy came on board, he made a motion to get Wilder replaced because he didn’t want people to think he was just trying to be another Pryor.

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