It was in 1976 that Bill Murray hinted at his intent to end up as one of the greatest figures in the acting industry. He appeared as Nick Kessel in an uncredited role in the comedy-drama film, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, and also played various roles in the popular American late-night live television show, Saturday Night Live. Since then, the American actor has been a part of numerous films and more than a handful of television works. Unsurprisingly, his efforts have been rewarded with a good number of coveted awards including an Academy Award nomination, one Golden Globe and two Primetime Emmy wins. It’d be foolish for anyone to suggest that this fella hasn’t been uber-successful in his acting endeavors, below are 12 of the greatest Bill Murray Movies and TV shows that support that sentiment.
Greatest Bill Murray Movies and TV Shows
12. Zombieland (2009)
This comedy film stars an ensemble cast that features heavyweights like Woody Harrelson, Jesse Rosenberg, Abigail Breaking, and Emma Stone as ordinary people trying to make it across the country in search of a sanctuary where zombies cannot find and contaminate them. Although each of these actors gives their characters their very best, it is Bill Murray’s cameo as himself that is one of the brightest and most memorable moments in the film. In the few minutes that he is on screen, he manages to capture our hearts and remind us why he is one of the biggest stars in the game by giving us the most incredible cameo performance in recent time. We get to see him not just as a living legend, but a vulnerable and relatable one.
11. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Bill Murray teams up once again with Wes Anderson in this epic coming-of-age movie. It follows an orphaned boy played by Jared Gilman who escaped scout camp to go find his favorite pen pal played by Kara Hayward, and the small acts of rebellion they undertake to protect their young love. The film is stacked with Hollywood veterans like Tilda Swindon, Bruce Willis, Frances Mc Dormand, and Edward Norton. Bill plays a character whose wife is cheating on him and he evokes a wide range of emotions with his performance. The Moonrise Kingdom won a ton of awards and was named the top 100 greatest films of the 21st century. If there’s any Bill Murray movie you should most certainly see, this should be it.
10. Tootsie (1982)
Asides from being one of the greatest Bill Murray movies ever, Tootsie is also one of the most culturally significant movies in history. It tells the story of a talented actor (played by Dustin Hoffman) who has a reputation of being rather difficult and impossible to work with, thus limiting his ability to score roles. He decides to remedy the situation by disguising himself as a middle-aged woman in order to secure a job. The film earned ten Oscar nominations amongst other prestigious award nods. Murray gives a riveting performance as Hoffman’s roommate that will keep you staring at your screen in amazement.
9. Broken Flowers (2005)
Murray’s character in Broken Flowers is one of the toughest roles he has had to play. He portrays an aging philanderer at the crossroads of his life. He is forced to track down four of his ex-lovers after he receives a letter informing him about the existence of his son. Murray’s expression in the film is a perfect painting holding a lifetime’s worth of pain, regrets, and deep shame. It’s a very emotional story that will probably leave your eyes wet. Nothing is more difficult or relatable than looking back on one’s life and realizing how many rotten years you have stacked up, and the way the actor contends with this makes it one of the greatest Bill Murray movies to date.
8. What About Bob (1991)
In this dark comedy, we get to see Murray play a character suffering from mental illness and he takes us down a winding path depicting how dangerous things can become when obsession takes control of a person. He stars alongside Richard Dreyfuss who plays his therapist. The tension between the actors is palpable and one of the things that make the movie truly exceptional. All Dreyfuss wants is to spend quality time on a vacation with his family, but his psychotic patient, Murray shows up and upends both their worlds.
7. St. Vincent (2014)
The iconic actor takes on the role of the titular character and the magnificent quality of his performance sealed the film’s fate as one of the greatest Bill Murray movies of all time. He plays a mean old man and former gambler who dislikes everything and everyone but somehow ends up babysitting for his new neighbor and begins to grow attached to her and her son. The boy and Vincent have a bond that matures into a solid friendship that they both treasure. It’s one of those movies that tug at your heart, forcing you to surrender yourself to it the way Murray himself opens up himself and allows these other characters into his life.
6. Caddyshack (1980)
There are very few actors that can take on comedic roles and transform them the way Bill Murray effortlessly does. His character in Caddyshack is a groundskeeper at a fancy golf club who is determined to ruin one of the gophers who insists on destroying the course fairways that he so diligently tends to. Even though this movie is nearly four decades old, it still features one of Murray’s finest acting outings. It’s not surprising that the movie has garnered a cult following. No matter how many times you see this film, you are always going to be impressed by its quality as well as the outstanding talent displayed by the featured cast, including Murray. The latter pretty much outshone the original lead protagonist with his impeccable and compelling acting skill, even though he was only intended to be a supporting character.
5. Ghostbusters (1984)
It would be impossible to talk about the greatest Bill Murray movies without mentioning Ghostbusters. It is arguably his most iconic films ever. No one expected the movie to become as big as it did, considering that it was made solely for the purpose of funding another project (The Razor’s Edge) which was dear to Murray’s heart. It went on to inspire remakes, a cartoon series, action figures, and a plethora of other materials. Murray displays the very best of his wisecracking abilities. His character is hilarious beyond measure and plays a huge part in the movie being considered a classic. Murray and his team of parapsychologists and their one-of-a-kind ghostbusting business will forever remain an unshakable staple in pop culture. It is brilliant, magical, funny, and impossibly charming.
4. Lost in Translation (2003)
After decades of taking on distinguished comedic roles and playing them out to perfection, Murray’s one and only Oscar nomination came from his role as an aging movie star who travels to Tokyo to shoot an ad but ends up befriending a younger woman played by Scarlett Johansson. The two form an unlikely but intense attachment to each other in just a few days. It’s a rare and beautiful thing for two adrift and aching souls to find comfort in one another, free from judgment or responsibility, but tethered together by a genuine understanding of the other’s pain. They confide in each other, trying to make sense of this vast and aimless world while sightseeing through Tokyo. It’s a deeply emotional and dreamy movie that will leave you caught between ache and longing.
3. Rushmore (1999)
Rushmore was the first of many fruitful collaborations between the director Wes Anderson and Murray. The actor takes on a character that is wildly different from the ones he had portrayed before then. He plays a wealthy businessman who develops an unusual friendship with a teenage boy, but things get complicated when he and the boy fall for the same woman. Rushmore was the movie that kick-started the second phase of Murray’s career as a serious actor in Independent cinema. He won a number of awards for his role including a Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Awards for Best Supporting Actor. It’s one of the greatest Bill Murray movies as well as one of his best films released in the last three decades.
2. Stripes (1981)
Imagine thinking your life is so boring and purposeless that you decide to join the army just so you add some kind of spark to your life. That is the position that Murray and his friend found themselves in. This goofy cocktail of a movie is a shining example of how excellent Murray’s humor can be. Merging improvisational skills and sheer hilarity, Murray manages to give us one of the most astounding comedies of all time. It’s impossible to not be charmed by the mess his character makes of military service and where all that takes him. He carries the film and keeps it entertaining from the first moment he comes on screen till the credits begin to roll. This one of the earliest movies that showcased his chops as an actor of merit, and it will always have a special place in our hearts for that reason.
1. Groundhog Day (1993)
This is perhaps the ultimate Murray performance and his most iconic collaboration with Harold Ranks. This fantastical comedy movie about a despondent weatherman who ends up in a time loop, and is subjected to relive the worst day of his life over and over. This forced existence leads him to contemplate his life and re-examine a lot of things. He quickly descends into a pit of hedonistic pursuits and tries to end his life on numerous occasions to no avail until he starts to develop a renewed thirst for life. Murray is at the peak of his career here and it shows in how refined his performance is. If you are looking to see some of the greatest Bill Murray movies, it doesn’t get much better than Groundhog Day. Absolute 10/10 and highly recommended.
What we have above are all movies. What about his TV shows? Well, his television works aren’t as much as his big-screen roles and hardly can any of them rival the successes of the movies above except for Olive Kitteridge, the television film, A Very Murray Christmas, and of course Saturday Night Live.