Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right The 10 best Bill Murray movies
Lost In Translation
Lost In Translation

The 10 best Bill Murray movies

America's saddest clown has built an impressive film résumé of belly laughs and weary resignation alike

By Joshua Rothkopf
Advertising

Straining for significance, Bill Murray lunged at a dramatic role in 1984’s The Razor’s Edge and did something of a belly flop. The saddest thing about that bomb? We had already been taking him seriously for years. On Saturday Night Live and in his early comedies, Murray dazzled with his soft touch, and by the time Ghostbusters came out, he had become a fan favorite. Still, it’s taken a generation of younger directors like Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson to fully mine Murray’s classic way with stone-faced ennui. Here are 10 Bill Murray movies that highlight a career that’s only gotten better with age.

Best Bill Murray movies

1. Rushmore (1998)

Movies Comedy

Enticing the eye with fussy widescreen compositions and the ear with British Invasion pop, Wes Anderson’s semi-autobiographical second feature finds him refining his quirky, hermetic worldview. Jason Schwartzman, as insanely ambitious prep-school nerd Max Fischer, was a real find, but it’s Bill Murray, in (still) the most soulful performance of his career, who gives the film its underlying sense of gravitas. He’s done a lot of Anderson’s films since, but none as deep as this one.

2. Groundhog Day (1993)

Movies

Rarely can a Hollywood comedy be described as philosophically profound, but this tale of a smug, selfish weatherman (Murray) forced to replay the same day until he gets it right owes as much to Nietzsche as to Second City. Murray’s performance simply can’t be overrated, shifting from glibness and pain to wisdom and euphoria.

Advertising

3. Lost in Translation (2003)

Movies Drama

In the hands of another director, Lost in Translation’s narrative simplicity—the story of two Americans, a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) and a few-decades-older man (Murray) gently mingling lives during their sojourns in Tokyo—might have resulted in a slight film. But Sofia Coppola has tremendous talent for shading in the finest aspects of human interaction, and Murray rises mightily to the occasion, seasoning his character’s disenchantment with sparks of emotional rebirth.

4. Caddyshack (1980)

Movies

Murray’s turn as a shambling, mumbling groundskeeper (“Cinderella story…outta nowhere”) obsessed with removing a pesky gopher from the links has become a comedy classic: the definitive improvisational turn in a Hollywood movie. Elsewhere, the movie serves largely as a reminder of how intensely annoying Chevy Chase and Ted Knight could be.

Advertising

5. Tootsie (1982)

Movies Comedy

So maybe Dustin Hoffman doesn’t really look much like a woman. Suspend your disbelief. Among this terrific actorcentric comedy’s many miracles is a subdued, huggable turn by Murray as a drunken playwright and sympathetic roommate. It’s as if the younger Bill was somehow channeling his older gentleness.

6. Ghostbusters (1984)

Movies Comedy

Consider the elements of this supernatural comedy—and the upbeat mania of performers like Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis—and Murray is all but essential to this movie’s success. He’s a bored blue-collar ghost worker, lit cig dangling from the corner of his mouth. Murray’s blitheness sells the whole concept.

Advertising

7. Quick Change (1990)

Movies Comedy

The credit usually goes to Harold Ramis and Groundhog Day for upping the ante dramatically speaking for Murray, but the transition really comes here, a few years earlier, with this sharp heist comedy that saw the beginnings of thoughtfulness emerging from behind the smirk.

8. Ed Wood (1994)

Movies Comedy

Tim Burton’s biopic of the infamous, earnest Edward D. Wood Jr., widely considered the worst filmmaker of all time, treats its subject with equal parts derision and admiration. Johnny Depp leads a superb cast of oddballs that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones and Oscar winner Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi. Murray is in crisp form as catty camp queen Bunny Breckinridge.

Advertising

9. What About Bob? (1991)

Movies

In retrospect, Murray’s role as an intensely needy psychiatric patient seems tailor-made for a different kind of actor—a Nicolas Cage or a Woody Allen. It’s to Bill’s credit that he was able to tamp down the hipness and give himself over to the character’s neuroses.

10. Stripes (1981)

Movies Comedy

Given Murray’s unkempt, insouciant persona, it seemed a no-brainer to place him in the most strictly regimented milieu imaginable: the army. Our man comes through with an unforgettable drill formation. Also, we miss John Candy.

Recommended

    You may also like

      Advertising