1. Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Rick Moranis was playing nerds long before it was cool to be playing nerds. But audiences liked him because he was so charming in his ineptitude. Even in Little Shop when he’s feeding bodies to his carnivorous alien plant, you can mostly see where he’s coming from. And you root for him — not Audrey II — to get the girl in the end. (I guess that’s why they scrapped the darker original ending.)
2. Danny O’Shea in Little Giants (1994)
There were a few notable kids sports movies in the early ’90s, but only Little Giants gave us Rick Moranis as Danny O’Shea, coach of a ragtag group of misfits. Like his team, Danny is slight, awkward, and unassuming, but his heart makes him strong. Care to guess which team wins when the Little Giants face off against the Cowboys, coached by Danny’s bully brother.
3. Lord Dark Helmet in Spaceballs (1987)
He’s not exactly Darth Vader, but Rick Moranis’ Lord Dark Helmet is pretty evil in Spaceballs — you know, when he’s not fumbling with his comically oversized helmet. It’s difficult for Moranis to be intimidating, but luckily the role doesn’t require that we take him at all seriously. And his dangerous Napoleon complex certainly makes sense here.
4. Louis Tully in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II (1984 and 1989)
Are you the Gatekeeper? Rick Moranis is the Keymaster! Well, he is toward the end of the first Ghostbusters when Louis and Dana get possessed. When he’s not fornicating with Zuul, Louis is a shy, clumsy guy who just wants to help. Sounds an awful lot like Moranis’ other roles — although the ghosts here definitely raise the stakes.
5. Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and its sequels (1989)
OK, so the franchise overstayed its welcome. The original Honey I Shrunk the Kids is still one of a kind. (Yes, there aren’t that many sci-fi action comedies for children.) While it’s the shrinking that people remember, Moranis is so good as the hapless patriarch. His attempts to find his tiny children and their friends is half the fun of the movie.