All hail Bill Murray! You have to be bananas to not think he’s one of the best, most hilarious, most original actors out there. From the early days of Saturday Night Live when he was doing impressions of everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to Tony Orlando, to cult classics like Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day, the guy knows how to get a laugh. These days he’s got his indie street cred as a sort of muse for filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola, so he has a whole new audience. Beyond comedy, the guy can play serious quite well, too (e.g. playing FDR in a period drama, which he did in 2012 in Hyde Park on the Hudson).
But, Murray isn’t just a great actor and comedian. He’s got a reputation as an oddball and eccentric dude. He doesn’t let people just ring him up on his cell phone (not even Sofia Coppola). He has them call a 1-800 number and leave a message—then maybe he’ll call back. There’s also a whole website called BillMurrayStory.com that has peoples’ weird and strange encounters with the guy. Who wouldn’t love to bump into the man?
So here are our picks for the Top 5 best Bill Murray roles. Feel free to disagree if you want—there are a lot more than five.
One of the all time classic comedies. Murray plays Carl Spackler, who comes to a fancy and exclusive golf course only to find that he doesn’t really fit in with their rules and regulations. His Ghostbusters co-star Harold Ramis directed this classic knee-slapper. Oh, and there’s that gofer. Watching Murray as Spackler battle the gofer infestation is one for the history books on hilarity.
It’s not like Murray hadn’t done independent films before this one (he was in Ed Wood with Johnny Depp), but this Wes Anderson flick breathed new life into Murray’s career. Not that it needed new life—but a new audience never hurts. He played lovelorn Herman Blume, a guy who befriends loveable prep school outcast Max Fischer and then falls for Max’s pretty teacher Rosemary. Murray is great as the imperfect but sweet mentor to Max, and his subtle, under the radar performance is a great example of a pro making it look easy.
3 Lost in Translation
A few years after his performance in Rushmore, Sofia Coppola stalked Bill Murray (she had to call his 1-800 number) and convinced him to star in her film about a May-December romance. He plays Bob Harris, an American in Tokyo who meets a younger, married Scarlett Johansson. He’s funny but also moving—he never tries to get the laugh, which is why he’s so great. The karaoke scene is especially great.
If you haven’t seen this hilarious 1970s summer camp flick, put it in your queue immediately. Under the same director as Ghostbusters, Bill Murray stars as Tripper, a good-hearted but slacker camp counselor who wears teeny tiny shorts (hey, it was the 70s). This movie definitely inspired Wet Hot American Summer and is the O.G. summer camp movie.
Murray played Dr. Peter Venkman in this classic comedy about a group of out of work parapsychology professors who start a business to remove ghosts—a sort of like paranormal pest control. The team comprised of Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis was pretty epic, and Murray’s deadpan style has rarely been better. There are rumors swirling that Ghostbusters III is in the works with the original cast, so let’s cross our fingers that it becomes a reality. In the meantime, check out the original.