Bill Murray: His best performances to date

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Few actors in Hollywood are quite as uniquely beloved as Bill Murray is. It’s almost beyond explanation, but he’s considered the movie industry’s wacky uncle in a way. With the release this weekend of his newest film Rock the Kasbah (which I have to admit, I have yet to see), I wanted to honor Murray by running down what I consider to be his best performances to date. It’s of course my own personal list, so keep that in mind, but he’s someone who is hopefully one day going to win an Academy Award, so there’s no shortage of quality work to pull from. Behold the list below…

Here now is what I feel are Murray’s ten best performances so far:

10. Zombieland – One of the great modern celebrity cameos is Murray playing himself in this action/comedy/horror hybrid. It was also one of the last cinematic surprise that I can think of that really didn’t get spoiled ahead of time. Murray is having fun, playing himself, and it’s one of his most memorable turns as a result of that. When he shows up, a really enjoyable movie becomes even better.

9. Hyde Park on Hudson – Not a great film, let’s make that much clear, but an underrated one when it comes to the performance that Murray delivers as FDR. It’s his most overt Oscar bait type role ever, and it shows, but he’s still pretty good at bringing President Roosevelt to cinematic life.

8. Rushmore – This is probably low for some, but while I think this is Murray’s best collaboration with Wes Anderson, it doesn’t excite me quite like it does others. He’s strong in this role though, no doubt about that. Anderson and Murray have a synergy between them that he has with few filmmakers, that’s for sure.

7. Stripes – One of Murray’s comedy highlights, it’s just a fun romp that sees him pleasing himself and audiences in the way that he can best. This isn’t high art, but it’s clever and a ton of fun. Performances like this don’t get the credit they deserve, but Murray deserves a lot of credit for this one, if you ask me. Whenever he’s with Harold Ramis, special things tend to happen.

6. Get Low – An underrated supporting performance, Murray took a less than memorable part on the page and gave the character some needed personality. There’s not a whole lot of time in this one for him to leave his mark, but by not overplaying things in any way, he does it all the same. This is Murray doing the work of a character actor and doing it rather well, I might add.

5. Broken Flowers – Criminally under seen, this flick is. Murray is wonderful here as a man looking for a potential son, going back through his melancholic past. There’s some funny moments, but this is a bittersweet tale that lets Murray really soar. He was snubbed for awards in regards to this one, if you ask me. He deserved to be in contention for this effort, which stands as his best collaboration so far with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

4. Groundhog Day – An all time great comedic turn, Murray gives pathos to a potentially irritating character. We all know that the science fiction element of this comedy helps it to stand out, but it solely is the classic that it is due to Murray in the lead role. He brought something extra to it, that much is clear. As re-watchable as an comedy classic today, it’s a near masterpiece.

3. St. Vincent – Murray’s most recent success has him playing a man of advanced age for the first time and really tugging at your heart strings in a big way. I spoke very highly of his work in this flick last year, but even though his awards run ended at the Golden Globes and not the Oscars, it’s still something special. Once again, he’s the best part of a project.

2. Ghostbusters – Perhaps his most iconic role, Murray again was working with Ramis, this time just in front of the camera, as Ivan Reitman shepherded him to his best comedy part to date. There’s very little you can say about this classic action-comedy that hasn’t been said many times before, but it’s worth shining a light on once again. Part of why it’s so good is Murray, of course. His sarcasm and wit are at their peak in this one.

1. Lost in Translation – Easily Murray’s best performance to date, in my book at least, he’ll break your heart here. This is not only his shining star, acting wise, but it’s filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s masterpiece as well. It’s basically a perfect dramedy, one that burns a spot on to you brain and your heart as soon as you’ve seen it. I love it, I love Murray in it, and it’s a crime that he didn’t take hime the Academy Award for this tremendous performance.

Honorable Mention: Caddyshack, Ed Wood, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Royal Tenenbaums

Be sure to check out Murray in Rock the Kasbah, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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