The Best Bill Murray Movies

No one does comedy better than Bill Murray

Bill Murray has appeared in roughly 50 movies and was a cast member on Saturday Night Live during the 1970s. Known for his comedic timing and deadpan sense of humor, Bill Murray often is able to get more laughs with a simple stare than some comedians can with monologues, slapstick and fart jokes.

During the 1980s and early 90s, Bill Murray movies limited him to roles as a goofball comedian, but more serious roles in Rushmore and Lost in Translation have now made Bill Murray one of the more appealing stars of dramas and the independent film scene.

With 30 years under his belt in Hollywood, the actor has made some great movies, but these are the 10 very best Bill Murray movies:

Bill Murray

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The Top 10 Bill Murray Movies

10) Scrooged

A modern day retelling of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol , Scrooged stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a television-programming executive with a “bahumbug” attitude toward the holidays. The plot plays out the same as the Dicken’s novella, where The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future each come to visit Frank and show him the error of his conceited ways.

Scrooged made just over $60 million in 1988 during the prime of Bill Murray’s comedic career and is still widely aired on cable and network television during the Christmas season.

9) Zombieland

Bill Murray plays himself, Bill Murray, in Zombieland , in what was described by Marc Slavov of the Austin Chronicle as "the single most outrageously entertaining unexpected celebrity cameo of any film—genre or otherwise."

The movie is a post-apocalyptic comedy about the world being overtaken by zombies, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson.

Spolier Alert: In the cameo, Bill Murray reenacts a scene from Ghostbusters with Harrelson, smokes marijuana and masquerades as a zombie in order to play golf amongst the roaming undead. In a case of mistaken identity, Eisenberg shoots him and when asked if he has any regrets, Bill Murray replies, “well, maybe Garfield .”

The cameo is perhaps the greatest tribute to Bill Murray to date and was deemed by Roger Ebert as “the single biggest laugh of the year.”

Official Zombieland Trailer

Bill Murray as Raleigh St. Clair

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8) The Royal Tenenbaums

Released in 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums reunites Bill Murray and director Wes Anderson after their previous success with Rushmore. Chronicling the rise and fall of a family of childhood geniuses, athletes and playwrights (Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow), The Royal Tenenbaums central plot revolves around the family’s patriarch (Gene Hackman) attempting to rebuild his relationship with his children after neglecting them for almost 20 years.

Bill Murray plays a supporting role as Raleigh St. Clair, neurologist and husband of Margot Tenenbaum (Paltrow). Raleigh St. Clair’s test patient, Dudley Heinsbergen the focal study for his new book, Dudley’s World, accompanies him throughout the film and offers some of the movies more charming and unforgettable moments.

In an ensemble cast filled with some of today’s more noted comedians and actors, it is Bill Murray’s few scenes in The Royal Tenenbaums that steal the show.

7) Kingpin

“You’re on a gravy train with biscuit wheels!” – Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray)

Kingpin is probably one of the more hilarious and quoted Bill Murray movies to date. Directed by the Farrelly brothers, the movie stars Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid and Bill Murray in a supporting role.

The film tells the story of a once-talented professional bowler whose career is cut short until he finds a new prodigy to mentor. Bill Murray plays Ernie McCracken, a longtime bowling tour professional and nemesis to Harrelson’s character, Roy Munson. Partly responsible for the end of Munson’s career, McCracken is a womanizer and overall scumbag and Bill Murray plays it perfectly.

Official Kingpin Trailer

Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

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6) Groundhog Day

Directed by Ghostbusters and Stripes co-star, Harold Ramis, Groundhog Day is one of the most successful comedies in the career of Bill Murray, grossing $ 70.9 million in theaters.

Taking place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day, the movie tells the story of Phil Connors (Bill Murray) a lonely, yet egotistical Pittsburgh weatherman sent to cover the town’s annual tradition with his cameraman and producer (Andie MacDowell). Connors inexplicably ends up living the same day over and over and is doomed to do so until he is able to get his life’s priorities in order.

In some ways, Groundhog Day could be considered a romantic comedy and would be the only one in which Bill Murray has appeared as a lead character. Both Bill Murray and the film received outstanding reviews from critics and fans alike and is 34 on The American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Movies and 8 on their list for Fantasy Films.

5) Caddy Shack

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!” – Carl Spackler (Bill Murray)

Bill Murray only spent a grand total of six days working on Caddy Shack, but his scenes are often the most quoted and memorable of the movie.

Caddy Shack takes place at Bushwood, a fictional golf course, and stars some of the great names in comedy, including Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and of course, Murray. Bill Murray plays the role of Carl Spackler, the course’s groundskeeper assigned to rid Bushwood of its gopher problem.

Like many Bill Murray movies, Caddy Shack has received cult status among both film and golf fans and finds itself on many critic’s choice lists as one of the 100 best comedies ever. Caddy Shack II would later be released, however Bill Murray did not reprise his role as Carl Spackler and the film garnered very limited success.

Bill Murray as Steve Zissou

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4) The Life Aquatic

Also directed by Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic marked the third time Bill Murray and Anderson worked together and the first time with Murray as the lead character.

In the film, Bill Murray plays the role of washed-up, world-famous oceanographer and documentarian, Steve Zissou. On the night before he is set to embark on a mission to kill the fabled “Jaguar Shark” who ate his friend, Zissou discovers that he may be the long-lost father of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson). Zissou encourages his new-found son to come with him and soon Plimpton and reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett) find themselves on Zissou’s ship and a journey filled with sabotage, pirates, explosives, intrigue and three-legged dogs.

The film received mixed reviews, however, many critics praised Bill Murray and assumed he would receive his second Academy Award nomination. That did not turn out to be the case. Since The Life Aquatic, Bill Murray has appeared in brief roles for both Wes Anderson’s films, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Bill Murray in Rushmore

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3) Rushmore

The second film of director Wes Anderson and first collaboration between he and Bill Murray, Rushmore marked the actor’s return to more dramatic roles and a new direction for the future of his career.

Bill Murray had appeared in dramas early in his career in films such as The Razor’s Edge and Where the Buffalo Roam, but had been on a nearly 20-year hiatus before taking the role of wealthy industrialist, Herman Blume, in Rushmore.

Somewhat of a dark comedy, or dramedy, if you will, the movie tells the story of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), an ambitious but failing student of a college preparatory school who befriends Herman Blume only to later find the two in a love triangle with the school’s preschool teacher, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams).

Bill Murray was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes and received many accolades for his performance in the film.

2) Lost in Translation

Directed by Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation tells the story of an aging Hollywood star, Bob Harris (Bill Murray), on a trip to Tokyo, Japan to film a TV commercial. On the trip, Bob Harris meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who is visiting Tokyo with her husband, a professional photographer. Charlotte and Bob develop a quiet friendship that teeters between a father/daughter relationship and romance with the vibrant city and culture of Tokyo in the backdrop.

The plot plays off the title of the film where the characters are both lost in their life as well as foreigners in a strange land. In an interview on the Lost in Translation DVD, Bill Murray states that the film is his favorite he has appeared in.

For his performance in Lost in Translation, Bill Murray received his first and only Academy Award nomination of his 30-year career, however, Sean Penn would go on to win Best Actor for Mystic River.

1) Ghostbusters

Earning a grand total of $236.6 million dollars, Ghostbusters is the highest grossing film featuring Bill Murray. The movie features Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as parapsychologists who go into business as ghost exterminators in New York City.

Bill Murray shines as Peter Venkman, and would go on to reprise the role in Ghostbusters II and The Ghostbusters video game, despite it originally being written for John Belushi.

The film has appeared on hundreds of critic’s choice lists as not only one of the best comedies of all time, but also as one of the best movies in history and certainly the best in the fabulous career of Bill Murray.

Bill Murray Discusses Ghostbusters 3

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Comments 8 comments

goodmovies profile image

goodmovies 6 years ago from Texas

I love Bill Murray, but I wasn't crazy about Lost in Translation or Scrooged. (I thought they were both overrated, and both low points in his career.) But on the other hand, if he can manage to help create movies like Groundhog Day and The Life Aquatic, then I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and see anything he stars in.


bogerk profile image

bogerk 6 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks for the comment! The Bill Murray movies I love, I really love, but he does have some stinkers, so Scrooged was able to just eek onto the list. I really enjoyed Lost in Translation and Bill Murray even had the ability to make Scarlett Johansson interesting, so that's saying something.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Great Hub! I like your selections. I enjoyed all of these movies. I am a big Bill Murray fan. "Kingpin" is an all time favorite. "Lost in the Translation" I loved. They are all very good. Thanks! And welcome to the Hub Pages Community.


bogerk profile image

bogerk 6 years ago from Midwest Author

Thanks a lot! I'm a huge Bill Murray fan. I think he has a new movie coming out soon called "Get Low" with Robert Duvall that sounds pretty good. Maybe I'll have to update the list.


MichaelRoberts profile image

MichaelRoberts 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

I didn't even realize that he was in some of those films. I'm going to have to go and check them out now.


bogerk profile image

bogerk 5 years ago from Midwest Author

Hi Michael Roberts -

Bill Murray has played a lot of supporting roles in his career, or little cameos here and there. He probably has only been the "star" in less than 10 or so of his films, but he definitely shines as the star or support.

Thanks for reading!


Painted Seahorse profile image

Painted Seahorse 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA

Bill Murray's always been one of my favorites, even when he only has a brief goofy cameo (like "Get Smart" and "Zombieland"). "Quick Change" is also one of my favorite comedies, and very underrated I think.

Thanks for the great list!


self absorbed profile image

self absorbed 4 years ago from Canada

This is a great hub, I love Bill Murray! It's hard for me to pick a favorite, but I think I would have to go with Kingpin, I could watch that movie forever. Also I think that Bill Murray's cameo in Zombieland is probably the best cameo of all time!

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