Spotlight on Bill Murray & my Top Five Favorite Roles

BillMurrayBday It was Bill Murray‘s birthday this past Saturday, he turned 63. I know it’s a bit late but I can’t resist making a tribute to the comedian whose practically a legend. I’ve always been a big fan of the Illinois native, he’s perhaps my favorite SNL-grad (he’s one of the original members) who’s made it big in Hollywood. Murray’s one of those comedians who’s just naturally funny. His deadpan expression alone is just hilarious, which he certainly puts to good use in various roles that have achieved cult status over the years. He’s apparently not just quirky in his roles, but Mr. Murray seems to be just as amusing in real life. You’ve got to check out this awesome infographic that I found on HuffingtonPost site Click the larger image to view the entire thing.


There’s also a site aptly called… with a tagline ‘no one would ever believe you‘ πŸ˜€ Very few actors have become a cultural phenomenon of sort. I remember reading how people all over the states were making banners to invite Mr. Murray to their parties as he’s been known as a party crasher! Now, before I posted clips of my favorite roles from the 6’2″ actor, here are some interesting trivia that you might not know about (thanks to IMDb):

BillMurrayLostInTranslationSofia Coppola wrote the lead role of Bob Harris in Lost in Translation (2003), with Murray specifically in mind. She did not know the actor and even enlisted the help of her famous father, Francis Ford Coppola, to track down the sometimes quite elusive Murray. Once he finally read the script, though, he agreed to do it on the spot. Murray and Sofia Coppola are now good friends.

He has rubbed some collaborators the wrong way because he has a tendency to re-write and improvise his way through scripts until many of his scenes barely resembles the original versions. Most collaborators ultimately find, though, it’s to the improvement of the films.

Has no agent, no business manager, or favorite hair and make-up artist. He travels without an entourage.

Was considered for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the 1989 Batman film when it was set to be identical to the 1960s TV Series before Tim Burton came along. He’s also considered for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars (1977).

Turned down Steve Carell’s role in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), which became one of the few choices in his career that he regretted.

Was considered and tested for the voice role of Sulley in Monsters, Inc. (2001), but the director, Pete Docter, said that when the filmmakers decided to offer it to Murray, they were unable to make contact with him and took that to mean “no”.

Was a frequent collaborator with Harold Ramis throughout the 1980s, but their working relationship ended during the filming of Groundhog Day (1993) due to differing views on what the film should be: Ramis claims that Murray wanted the film to be more philosophical, while Ramis himself simply meant for it to be a comedy. Ramis also cites that Murray’s personal problems at the time (namely the ending of his first marriage) had a negative effect on his work ethic, causing him to be uncharacteristically harsh during filming, as another reason for the end of their working relationship.

Appeared in Zombieland (2009) as a favor to Woody Harrelson, movie co-star and big “Bill Murray” fan.

Now, I can’t really remember when I first saw Bill Murray. Most likely it’s in Ghostbusters (1984) as my brothers were a big fan of that movie. I still need to see a lot more of his films, especially the two by Wes Anderson that I missed out on: Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But out of about a dozen roles, here are five of my favorites (in alphabetical order):


This is the only film by Jim Jarmusch I saw so far. Murray plays a womanizer who received an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. This is kind of a road film of sort following his journey to visit his old flames. The female cast is pretty awesome here, esp. Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone and Tilda Swinton. Murray’s performance is quite restrained here and more reflective, but his deadpan mannerism is perfect for the role of Don Johnston who’ve lived his life on auto pilot. This scene with Lange and her cat is particularly amusing.


You can’t talk about Bill Murray’s career and not mention his early iconic role. I saw this years ago as a kid but his role with fellow SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd is always fun to watch. Murray plays a lovable wiseguy like nobody’s business and Peter Venkman got the best lines in this Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic.


This is one of his films that never seem to get old! As someone who’s made a career out of sarcastic and insolent antiheroes, his performance as Phil Connors is downright iconic. His dry ironic humor is full on as the frustrated weather who find himself living the same day over and over. It’s absolutely hilarious but at the same time, the poignant and philosophical aspect makes this a compelling watch worth revisiting year after year. This is one of my favorite scenes ever!


The premise of this movie, about a guy who inherits a circus elephant, lends itself to hilarity. Bill Murray manages not to be upstaged by the adorable Vera the elephant. The funniest parts are when Murray’s character Jack and Vera hit the road in order to deliver the elephant to a San Diego zoo. Along the way, they encounter a psychotic truck driver, played by an unhinged Matthew McConnaughey in perhaps his best comedic role he’s ever done. The scene at the truck stop alone is worth a watch!


I think if I could only name one BEST Bill Murray performance, I’d have to say this one. I mean there are some truly hilarious scenes but there’s a layer of vulnerability that he captured as the faded movie star Bob Harris that’s just as compelling to watch. His tentative relationship with a young woman who’s disillusioned with her new marriage is wonderfully written. I always say this is my favorite role of Scarlett Johansson as well. Seems that this film isn’t for everyone though. I actually recommended this film to a couple friends who didn’t find it enjoyable nor funny. For me though, the two scenes below at the photoshoot and in his hotel room with a Japanese female escort had me in stitches! I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role.


  • The Royal Tennenbaums
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Moonrise Kingdom

UPVOTE please

So what’s YOUR favorite Bill Murray role(s)?

51 thoughts on “Spotlight on Bill Murray & my Top Five Favorite Roles

  1. I wrote a list about my 10 favorite performances by Bill Murray a few years ago:

    I still think he should’ve won the Oscar for LiT… could you imagine the acceptance speech that he would’ve give. Hell, SNL would’ve asked him to host the season finale in a big way where all of the cast of SNL past and present have to show up to pay tribute to Murray. Even Eddie Murphy. There’s no one bigger or as cool as Bill Murray.

    1. Great list Steven! I still have to see some of those on your list, What About Bob sounds like a good one! Yeah I think his performance in LiT is Oscar worthy! Amen to your last sentence, I’d so watch that. SNL is just not as funny as it used to.

  2. Hi, Ruth:

    Very interesting filmography of Mr. Murray!

    Being the nonconformist I am. I’ll opt for two earlier films.

    ‘Where the Buffalo Roam’. With Mr. Murrray taking on the role of Dr. Hunter Thompson in a lower budgeted and better cast take on his novel, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. His interplay with Peter Boyle as Thompson’s lawyer and radical friend, Lazlo is as ad libbed as it is funny. Also a very of its time soundtrack by various artists.

    Also a fan of ‘Stripes’. Where SNL meets the best of Second City TV. All overseen by John Larroquette and Warren Oates.

    1. Two great picks I still need to catch, Kevin. Thanks for the recommendations. I had no idea β€˜Where the Buffalo Roam’ was based on β€˜Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ Oh I think I’d enjoy Stripes, I like John Larroquette!

  3. Ted S.

    You know I’ve never thought much of Bill Murray, he’s a good actor and very funny but if say he decides to retire and not act anymore, I won’t miss him at all. I definitely liked some of his films, Goundhog Day, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, What About Bob, Quick Change and even Charlie’s Angels. If I remember correctly there were reports that he was quite difficult to work with when they were shooting that movie. Apparently he got in fights with Lucy Liu and McG, which is why he didn’t return for the sequel.

    1. Thanks for your honest answer Ted. There are some actors I won’t miss when they retire but I think I’d miss Murray. Well if he doesn’t like McG, then more power to Mr. Murray! πŸ˜€

  4. Excellent piece Ruth. I just love Bill Murray. Nobody delivers deadpan and sarcasm quite like him. It’s hard to pick five faves as there are so many but if I had to I’d go for…

    Groundhog Day
    Lost In Translation

  5. Who doesn’t love Bill Murray, eh? πŸ™‚ Great post, he’s definitely one of a kind. I wasn’t a fan of Broken Flowers although he was good in it. I love Ghostbusters (1 and 2), Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation though and he has an excellent cameo in Zombieland. He was also very good in Hyde Park on Hudson even though the film was terrible.

    1. Exactly Chris πŸ˜€ He’s one of those actors who shine in whatever role he’s in, no matter how small. I still want to rent Hyde Park even though the reviews haven’t been kind, glad to hear he’s still very much watchable in it.

  6. It’s great to see Bill Murray continue to find roles that suit his style. As he’s got older he’s made astute choices of which Lost In Translation was one of them (although I’m no fan of the film myself), while he’s still managed to bring out the old 80s/90s Murray at times (eg. Zombieland). He’s definitely one of my favorite comic actors of the 1980s and he remains someone I’m always interested in seeing.

    Great choices for favorite roles – my own would include Groundhog Day, Quick Change and Scrooged.

    1. I always like comedians in serious roles. Murray is one and Robin Williams is another, he even pulled off villain-y roles efficiently. I do hope he continues to get good roles even now. 63 is relatively young, so I hope he still works until he’s in his 80s! πŸ˜€

  7. While taking some of these parts would have drastically altered Bill Murray’s career trajectory, others are landmines that he wisely sidestepped. Without further ado, here is an obsessive list of roles Bill Murray was considered for, passed on, or filmed only to have the scenes left on the cutting room floor.

  8. Love, love, and love Bill Murray. I remember this interview with Sofia Coppola, where she said it was so hard to contact Murray she even phoned Al Pacino for help because he lived in the same area as Murray.

    My favorite films of his Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day… he is at his sarcastic best! But his best performance would be Lost In Translation. Without him the film would be very different especially with its slow pace. Even in cameos like Zombieland and Darjeeling Limited he left a lasting impression! Awesome guy!

    1. Yeah, Murray is quite an elusive guy. He just doesn’t live by anybody’s rules, I find that endearing and quite admirable in a business where people clamor for film roles.

      Yeah, I LOVE LiT because of Murray. You’re right that he makes even the slow pace watchable. I might watch Zombieland one of these days as my hubby loves that movie.

  9. Bill Murray is easily my favorite comedian. It’s hard to pick his best role, but I’ll have to go with Groundhog Day, Rusmore, and Lost in Translation as his top 3.

    1. Seems that his cameo in Zombieland is lots of people’s favorites, can’t say I blame ’em. His deadpan (pun intended) expression is put to good use πŸ˜€

  10. Stripes, Caddyshack, Lost In Translation, Rushmore and Ed Wood. Zombieland has to be my favorite surprise cameo ever. Master of the deadpan the “Garfield… maybe” line just kills.

    Because I just cant leave well enough alone my second five would be The Royal Tenenbaums, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Broken Flowers.

    1. Hi Dave! Wow, I wonder if people love Zombieland because of that Murray cameo, ahah. That’s so cool that he did the role as a favor to Woody Harrelson. Glad you like all my picks, though I think people should give Larger Than Life a shot, it’s such a hilarious movie!

  11. I’ve always been kinda hit and miss with Murray. I like some of his stuff but don’t care for a lot of it. That said, three of my favorites would have to be What About Bob (he is hilarious in it), Rushmore, and Moonrise Kingdom!

        1. Oh, his specialty seems to be playing a smart-Alec types so yeah I’m sure he’s hilarious being obnoxious. Gotta watch that one since we seem to have similar taste in comedies πŸ˜‰

    1. I have only seen his cameo scene in Zombieland but I might watch the whole thing one of these days πŸ˜€ Not sure which one City of Ember was, I should look that up.

  12. Great post Ruth!
    I love Bill Murray ever since I watched Lost in Translation, followed by Groundhog Day in the space of a week. Both are, in all likelihood, two of my favorite films ever. Needless to say, a huge part of what made those two flicks so compelling is precisely Bill Murray. Like it often happens with great actors delivering iconic performances, I simply could not see anyone else in the entire planet doing a better job with those two roles.

    As for the rest, he’s had a great career for being such an elusive, some may say difficult man to work with. How can anyone not like The Ghostbusters?

    The infographic is awesome by the way. I hope that the rumor is true. “No one will ever believe you!” hahaha

    1. Hi Niels, how the heck are ya? I left you a comment a while back on your blog. Love the new look btw.

      Glad you’re a fan of Murray too. Yes he’s perfectly cast in those two roles, I also can’t imagine anyone else in those roles. I’m not surprised he’s difficult, lots of great actors sometimes have to roll a certain way. Yeah, when I saw that infographic I knew I had to share it.

  13. Nice picks, Ruth! Our lists are almost identical, as my top 5 roles would be Broken Flowers, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation and Wild Things. πŸ™‚

    1. I didn’t even know Bill Murray was in Wild Things!! I wasn’t interested in that movie but I might have to check out his scenes on there now πŸ˜€

    1. Hi Marie, welcome to FC! I see from your Avatar that we both love Richard Armitage, so yay πŸ˜€

      I haven’t seen the last two on your list, adding to my queue!

  14. Great list! Lost in Translation is my favourite performance, he is incredible there.

    Ugh, I love LIT so much. The honesty from both characters is just amazing, and how they both relate to each other. Charlotte is worried and confused, but Bob is washed-up and regretful. In some weird way, these characters are some form of odd soul mates. This is the heart of Coppola’s phenomenal work.

    1. Hi Jack! Glad to hear you love LiT too, you’re right the chemistry between him and Scarlett are wonderful. It’s one of those unlikely couples I love, perhaps my fave from Sofia Coppola so far.

  15. bdgill12

    Around my house and with my circle of friends, we refer to him as American Treasure Bill Murray. The man is, quite simply, the best. Nice picks. I’d have had Royal Tenenbaums and Zombieland in my list. Great stuff!

    1. Hi Brian! Ahah, American Treasure is right, he is practically a legend. One of these days I gotta see the entire thing of Zombieland, not just his cameo πŸ™‚

  16. Great choices Ruth! I would agree with that top 5, and just replace LARGER THAN LIFE(because I haven’t seen it) with something else, probably Murray’s performance in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998).
    ps I almost typed “Ruthmore” by mistake, ahah πŸ™‚

  17. I would have loved to watch Bill Murray do an Adam West-style Batman. That would have beaten Burton’s version all to hell. πŸ˜€

    Big fan of Bill Murray; he’s almost always great in anything he’s in. Ghostbusters was almost certainly the first film I saw him in, and it might still be my favorite of his — though Groundhog Day is up there as well. After that, his roles in Caddyshack, What About Bob? and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou all rank highly.

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