Bill Murray is one of the funniest human beings ever to live, and along with Martin Short and Steve Martin is a part of my Holy Trinity of Comedy. The man owns the internet and every film he is in, and if the stories I read about Bill Murray are true, that means he is just as great a guy in real life as he is in his films.
When I watch Bill Murray on screen, I don’t see a kind, sweet, average friendly guy. Instead I see a sarcastic, caustic but hilarious and charming performer. That is why Bill is one of the funniest men in film today, and possibly of all time. His humor is dark, his delivery gloriously dead-pan and he can play his characters as goofy or serious with such ease.
Bill Murray, like the other two I mentioned above, has made such a profound effect on cinema, and his nomination for Best Actor for the amazing Lost in Translation (which should have translated to a win by the way) and the brilliant Get Low show that he is fully capable of serious performances, but then his brutish sarcasm shines through in the always entertaining Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters. He is an incredible performer, and one that should never be underestimated, as he can play a brief supporting role and go quietely into the night, or he can play a lead role and tear through the screen with his talent. He is content to play both, and that is why Bill Murray is a favorite of mine.
Here are the seven essential Bill Murray performances you should check out if you haven’t already
- Groundhog Day (1993). It is always a dead-heat between the top two for which is his best performance, but the legendary Groundhog Day seems to always win the battle, and rightly so. Murray is on fire here – sarcastic, frantic and always very funny.
- Lost in Translation (2003). The film that got Bill Murray a Best Actor nomination and incredibly close to a win. It is a sleeper hit that has Bill on top form, but in a very different way. Not many actors can surprise with such a nuanced performance, and this was a great film.
- Quick Change (1990). This is a wonderful caper film that stands as one of Bill’s most underrated performances. He co-wrote and co-directed the film, but his greatest achievement was making a character who would normally be so unlikable totally likable and we cheer for him to succeed, even though, you know, he robbed a bank?
- Ghostbusters (1984). I’m not going to say much here, but every man wants to be Peter Venkman, that’s how great Murray was in this beloved film.
- Where The Buffalo Roam (1980). In one of his first lead roles, Murray is so quirky and funny as the legendary Hunter S. Thompson. It is a very underrated film that has sadly disappeared from public knowledge. For the few that’s seen it, it is a comedy treasure.
- The Wes Anderson Films (1998 – 2014). Murray has only had a major role in two films by the idiosyncratic Wes Anderson, but he’s appeared in all but one of Anderson’s films (which was his film debut). Whether he is the sarcastic Steve Zissou or the wordless passenger in The Darjeeling Limited, Murray elevates these films even more than they already are.
- Broken Flowers (2005). Jim Jarmusch is one of my favorite directors, and while Broken Flowers may not be his greatest work, it is one of Murray’s finest performances and some of his best latter-day comedy work.
So essentially, Murray has handled drama, broad comedy, science fiction, independent comedy and capers, amongst others. He is a great performer and one of the film industry’s greatest collaborators.