Being a child of the 1990s I grew up on a TV diet of Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and later, I hate to admit, Power Rangers…
Like most kids, my favourite character from Ghostbusters was Dr. Peter Venkman, played by Bill Murray and as an adult my affection for him and what he brings to his characters is still strong. Through the years I have watched a number of his movies and enjoyed his serious acting roles just as much as his comedy ones. I now want to share the top 5 Bill Murray movies that, for me, stand out above and beyond the rest – so here they are:
5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
IMDB score 7.2
I have to say, this is one of my favourite Wes Anderson films and in my opinion one of Murray’s finest performances, with one critic claiming ‘Murray makes every scene better than the one before’.
The film follows aquatic documentarian Steve Zissou as he tries to avenge the death of his best friend, who was eaten by a ‘Jaguar shark’. The movie, like many of Anderson’s also looks at family relationships, with Ned, Played by Owen Wilson, appearing as Zissou’s long lost son. The relationship between father and son makes for some great deadpan moments, with Murray capturing Zissou’s childish side brilliantly. But there are also moments where Ned and Zissou reflect on their relationship and the result, in a way, is tragic, but amazingly not out of context with the rest of the movie. Dead pan dry humour at its best.
IMDB Score 7.8
I remember the first time I saw Rushmore; it was a few years after it was released. I actually started watching it by mistake, you know, when you end up watching something unplanned but it actually ends up gripping you? This is undoubtedly an outstanding performance by Murray, who plays self-loathing millionaire Herman Blume, it is so good (and he does it so well in other movies) that I wonder if he has an element of Blume et al in himself.
The story focuses on Max Fischer, played by Jason Schwartzman, a 15 year old school boy who falls for his teacher, Ms Cross. Blume, who has struck up an unlikely friendship with Fisher, also falls for the teacher and what follows is a strange sort of love triangle that will make you laugh and cry as it flitters between drama and comedy.
3. Lost in Translation
IMDB Rating 7.9
I don’t think I have ever wanted another man to get with a girl I fancy so badly. I am referring to Scarlett Johansen and of course Murray, who is playing a character less dark than that of Blume but with the same vulnerability and loneliness. Murray plays 50 something actor, Bob Harris, who is in Tokyo, Japan to film a series of commercials for a whiskey brand, like many of Murray’s characters, you know there is a back story even before you find out what it is, a trait he brings brilliantly to so many of his characters.
However, his time in Tokyo changes when he meets Charlotte, a young new bride who is somewhat neglected by her new spouse, as a result a close friendship ensures, that always threatens to become more, but never does. The film is beautifully shot, full of laughs and innuendo. To me it is probably one of the best movies I have watched where nothing really happens…
P.S This film made me want to do Karaoke when I was in Japan!
IMDB Rating 7.8
Some of you may be surprised that, after my introduction, Ghostbusters doesn’t top my list! But as Murray has been involved in many great films it was really tough to choose the number one.
In Ghostbusters, Murray rules the roost amongst some of the 80s finest comedians, such as Akroyd and Ramis, who co-wrote the script. He stars as Dr. Peter Venkman, the deadpan, ladies man with a disliking for ghosts and a love for the one liner! My favourite one liner from Murray (Venkman) has to be this:
Dana, “Oh that’s the bedroom nothing ever happens in there” to which Venkman says under his breath “What a crime”. Perhaps I didn’t catch the comedy, but Murray brings Venkman to life with his great delivery!
The story (like I need to say) is about 3 Professors, who study parapsychology. Having lost their funding they set up an organisation known as The Ghostbusters, which removes ghostly beings from New York City homes, of course early in the film they employ Winston (I actually thought Winston Churchill was black because of this when I was a child) as the fourth Ghostbuster. With the team complete they set about defeating the evil demi-god Gozer the Gozerian.
1. Groundhog Day
IMDB Rating 8.2
I have seen this film so many times I could actually play Murray’s part! And with good reason! This comedy comes when Murray is at his very best; a great script to start, Groundhog Day is story about change, yet Phil Connors (Murray) lives the same day over and over again helping him on a path of self-realisation (Concluding he is an Ass-hole).
Accepting his fate, he begins to see that his producer, Rita, played by Andie MacDowell, is actually the love he has been looking for and sets about trying a wide range of techniques to win her love, but being an ‘Ass-hole’ his attempts lead to many comedic moments.
My favourite line from the film is:
Rita: “I studied 19th Century French poetry” to which Phil laughs and says “What a waste of time”
Classic line! Like many of Murray’s films, this one is about change and it is the realisation of his own actions and his love for Rita that saves him from his fate.
I think the main reason I chose this film over Ghostbusters was because Murray carries the whole thing, whereas in Ghostbusters he has other strong comedic actors for support, in Groundhog Day he is in every scene (practically) and without him I don’t think it would have had the same success.
There are so many great Murray films, or films where he has played a supporting role, that films such as Kingpin, Scrooged even Tootsie haven’t even made the top ten, 6 to 10 can be seen below in the ‘Best of the rest’ section.
BEST of the rest
IMDB Rating 7.2
9. The Man Who Knew Too Little
IMDB Rating 6.3
IMDB Rating 6.8
7. Ghostbusters 2
IMDB Rating 6.2
6. What About Bob?
IMDB Rating 6.8
Author Bio – Matthew Graham is a writer who produces articles for a company selling cameras