Top 5 Bill Murray Roles
In chronological order starting with the most recent.
Dr. Peter Venkman – Ghostbusters
It was really close between either this or his role in Stripes. In a lot of ways, they are nearly the same. Ghostbusters is simply the better movie, but both roles are what we have come to expect from Murray, not just on film but in real life: A fast-talking, wise-cracking game show host of an everyman perpetually down on his luck and in way over his head. He has severe Bugs Bunny syndrome. Everything he does should objectively make him an asshole, but frankly, he is so charming and funny, no one really cares.
Phil Connors – Groundhog Day
Phil is a more outright asshole than his Ghostbusters and Stripes characters, but that is part of the point. Phil is cursed to live the worst day of his life over and over until he gets it right. The last count I saw had him stuck in that day for 3,176 days. Plenty of time to lose hope, go crazy, find himself, and learn how to play piano and sculpt ice with a chainsaw. Murray ping-pongs between his trademark over-the-top mania and crooner-esque cool guy showing off every tool in his tool box when it comes to crafting a character.
Bob Harris – Lost in Translation
Murray plays an aging movie star on a business trip in Japan. A ahead of its time parody of what Bill Murray would eventually become saw Bill roaming in and out of mundane situations adding a little extra spice. It sort of examines that life of a popular performer and how they always have to be working. Bill’s wallowing Bob is constantly revving up the smile whenever he is recognized even though he’d rather continue wallowing. At least, that is, until he falls for the adorable Scarlet Johannson, pretty much at the same time the rest of America does. The two of them, not really knowing Japanese and spending most of their time alone, end up connecting on a whole new level, leading Bill to his one and only Oscar nod.
Steve Zissou – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Steve Zissou is the captain of a research ship and nature documentarian. His newest film venture is documenting his revenge on a rare sea creature that ate his very good friend. He is essentially a mix of Captain Ahab and Jacques Cousteau, but as if he was a Venture Brothers character. He is completely sincere in his feelings but is characterized by a high level of comic absurdism. It’s what makes Wes Anderson’s films such an anomaly of storytelling. I can’t even fathom how he strikes such a weird balance between sincerity and insincerity. What works as a compelling drama can also double as a strange comedy. It is no wonder Bill Murray fits these movies like a glove. He can crack you up with a dramatic reading and move you to tears with a joke.
Don Johnston – Broken Flowers
In Broken Flowers, the aptly named Don Johnston is an aging Don Juan, living a simple lonely existence in a nice house with kind neighbors. He receives a mystery letter from an anonymous old flame letting him know that he fathered a child, but she doesn’t want him coming to look for him. He makes a list of the most likely ex-girlfriends and hits the road. Of all of Murray’s roles, this is probably his most impressive dramatic work. He is a somber and slow moving man carrying a great weight. He never vocalizes his regrets, he just wears them. The usually motor-mouthed Murray is left speechless by the worst kind of mirror of ourselves, our former lovers.