Morphine and structurally-derived compounds are mu opioid receptor (mu OR) agonists, and the most effective analgesic drugs. However, their usefulness is limited by serious side effects, including dependence and abuse potential. The N-substituent in morphinans plays an important role in opioid activities in vitro and in vivo. This study presents the synthesis and pharmacological evaluation of new N-phenethyl substituted 14-O-methylmorphinan-6-ones. Whereas substitution of the N-methyl substituent in morphine (1) and oxymorphone (2) by an N-phenethyl group enhances binding affinity, selectivity and agonist potency at the mu OR of 1a and 2a, the N-phenethyl substitution in 14-methoxy-N-methylmorphinan-6-ones (3 and 4) converts selective mu OR ligands into dual mu/delta OR agonists (3a and 4a). Contrary to N-methylmorphinans 1-4, the N-phenethyl substituted morphinans 1a-4a produce effective and potent antinociception without motor impairment in mice. Using docking and molecular dynamics simulations with the mu OR, we establish that N-methylmorphinans 1-4 and their N-phenethyl counterparts 1a-4a share several essential receptor-ligand interactions, but also interaction pattern differences related to specific structural features, thus providing a structural basis for their pharmacological profiles. The emerged structure-activity relationships in this class of morphinans provide important information for tuning in vitro and in vivo opioid activities towards discovery of effective and safer analgesics.