Bill Murray is back and flexing those dramatic muscles as Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson. Since pushing his acting skills into the drama arena after years as a cinematic comic titan, Murray has shown how truly versatile he has become. In honor of his latest film arriving and all of its Oscar buzz for its leading man, Movie Fanatic looked back over four decades of Murray work to compile our own Top 10 Bill Murray Movies.
10. Where the Buffalo Roam
Before there was Johnny Depp as the founder of Gonzo journalism, there was Murray’s take on Hunter S. Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam. The film is a mishmash of several of Thompson's books and is simply a balls-to-the-wall comic gem.
Meatballs was Murray's first foray on film after his success on Saturday Night Live. The Canadian film was directed by Ivan Reitman and set up a longstanding relationship between the director and star that would continue with Stripes, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2. Sure, it is firmly planted in 1970's humor, but the film still resonates today. Murray's portrayal of a camp counselor makes it so.
Is it one of the best Christmas films of all-time? You bet, and again that is largely due to the performance of Murray as the titular character. Scrooged took the holiday film and firmly turned it on its head. Murray killed it as the head of a major television network who has the compassion of... well, the devil. When he makes his staff and creative team work on Christmas, as they stage a live production of Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, you can guess what happens. He is visited by three ghosts, all leading him to the conclusion that he needs to live his life a little bit nicer.
7. Moonrise Kingdom
Murray's most recent starring role before Hyde Park on the Hudson, Moonrise Kingdom, is only the latest brilliant work the actor achieved pairing with director Wes Anderson. As we stated in our Moonrise Kingdom review, the story of two tweens finding love and escaping their parents' grasp in 1960s New England is nothing short of brilliant. And it also allowed Murray to push his acting muscles even further as a distant father and husband.
6. Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day has become part of the world's lexicon. Whenever someone is repeating something over and over, it is continually referred to as the Groundhog Day effect. That speaks to the power of this 1990s comedy that featured Murray as a pompous local newsman who finds it beneath himself to have to cover the annual gathering in Punsxutawney, Pennsylvania to see if a groundhog named Phil will rear his head and witness his shadow. Murray is why this film works and doesn't become mundane. As he lives the same day for the umpteenth time, it is a joy to see the actor delve simultaneously into madness and clarity.
Forward... march! What better comic actor than Murray to lead a band of misfits into basic training? A classic group of comics joined the actor in this 1981 classic including Harold Ramis (who Murray would work with on Ghostbusters), John Candy and John Larroquette. At a time when the country was still reeling from backlash over the Vietnam War, with Stripes, Murray and his platoon managed to cinematically make the military more approachable. One thing is for sure: Joining the army never looked so fun.
Caddyshack is part of a roll that Murray had there for a while that we will not likely see again when it comes to comic actors scoring so many iconic comedies in a row. Starting with Meatballs, and then Where the Buffalo Roam, Caddyshack and then Stripes, Murray ruled the comedy landscape. The film is considered the quintessential golf comedy of all time and those Caddyshack quotes are among the most popular... ever.
3. Lost in Translation
After that string of comic gems, Murray tried to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. He did not fare so well with The Razor's Edge in 1984, and that may have hurt his chances for a second effort. He kept at it and when Sofia Coppola cast the actor as the lead in her Lost in Translation, Murray was so unbelievably brilliant. He even earned the elusive Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He has this film to thank for this dramatic-centric next chapter of his life that he is still firmly in with his slew of Anderson films and his current biopic of FDR.
Speaking of Anderson, there could have been no other actor who could have inhabited the role of Herman Blume in the filmmaker's instant classic dark comedy. His back and forth with up-and-comer Jason Schwartzman is nothing short of genius on both actors' parts. Rushmore does not work without each actor who commanded the role being cast. It will continue to be a favorite of film fans for decades as new audiences discover it. Its brilliance has only been enhanced with age.
Yes, it may be the biggest blockbuster on this list, but it also is the best. Ghostbusters is not only a movie that defined its time, it is also a film that has managed to garner legions of fans as the years have passed. So much so, that Ghostbusters 3 news is still front page fodder in 2012. The talent trifecta of Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis made the sci-fi-comedy adventure electric and although sequels followed and will follow, nothing compares to the original. There are too many iconic moments to list, but the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is right near the top!
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