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The 10 Best Bill Murray Movies Ever, Ranked

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A name that is and should be widely recognized in comedy, Bill Murray has been around to provide laughs for decades. Bringing his own unique qualities to the screen, Murray has carved for himself a niche based on his personality that simply cannot be copied. Between his masterful physical comedy to his perfectly timed and hysterical line deliveries, Bill is truly a one-of-a-kind talent. From his many roles over the years, the films he stars in are either because a certain director or repeat collaborator has a great bond with him, or simply because he is able to steal the spotlight no matter the assignment. Due to this, he has been given opportunities to play cameos in later films such as Dumb and Dumber To, Get Smart, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and a cameo as himself in Zombieland, which has got to be his best cameo.

All the way from wacky and zany to introspectively deep, Bill Murray portrays a lifetime of emotions in our list of films today. If you watch him closely enough, his performative nuances will make you laugh, cry, and think about what it truly means to be an actor. Murray is loved as a human being worldwide (for the most part), who has reportedly shown his face at random bars and parties just for a kick, becoming the owner of four minor league baseball teams, spontaneously studying philosophy and history in Paris, and starting his own golf apparel line. These and many other reasons are why we are here today to celebrate his accomplishments on screen, so sit back and scroll through the 10 best Bill Murray movies ever.

10. What About Bob? (1991)

10. What About Bob?
60 %
pg 100m
Genre Comedy
Stars Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty
Directed by Frank Oz
“Dr. Marvin? Dr. Leo Marvin?” In a comedy from director Frank Oz comes What About Bob?, a movie that is so hilarious and simultaneously uncomfortable that you won’t know what to do with yourself. Bob (Murray) is an obsessive-compulsive neurotic who is co-dependent on his psychotherapist and their regularly scheduled sessions, but when Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) goes on vacation, Bob tracks him down in need of guidance. One of the best things about this film is the inclusion of Julie Hagerty (as Fay Marvin), who is always a treasure but brings about a wonderful balance between Murray and Dreyfuss that transcends the screen. If you’re a fan of Bill Murray, you may be familiar with his temperament that earned him the nickname ‘The Murricane’ from co-star Dan Aykroyd which he fully showcased on the set of this film. Murray and Dreyfuss reportedly did not get along at all behind the scenes, and neither did the producer Laura Ziskin, whom he actually threw into a lake during a dispute. Besides the drama that arguably made their characters more believable, this movie turned out to be an utter classic in the Bill Murray catalog.

9. St. Vincent (2014)

9. St. Vincent
64 %
pg-13 102m
Genre Comedy
Stars Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
Directed by Theodore Melfi
At times charming and lighthearted yet dramatic and darkly toned, St. Vincent has it all. Two of the most unlikely people become friends: a young boy named Oliver (Jaeden Martell) and his new, sour, and old neighbor Vincent (Murray). While Oliver’s single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) is struggling with balancing her life, Vincent offers to watch after the boy since he, too, is in dire financial straits. While Oliver is under Vincent’s watch, they share some good banter — as well as an aging alcoholic and a shy adolescent can — at strip clubs, bars, and racing tracks. Full of wholesome fun and excellent Murray line deliveries, this film is unexpectedly pleasant to watch for all participating. Despite this performance from Bill Murray obviously having some great moments of comedy and emotional depth, it feels almost like it’s just a sad Bill Murray on screen, as though he took his character from Lost in Translation and made him even sadder. Not to worry, though, because if you’re a Bill Murray fan, you’ll appreciate the highs and lows of our beloved star no matter the depths.

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8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
62 %
r 119m
Genre Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett
Directed by Wes Anderson
Most certainly the most quirky and colorful title on our list today, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is quite high on the quirky scale even for creator Wes Anderson. When marine biologist/documentarian/ship captain Steve Zissou loses his mentor to the legendary jaguar shark, he makes it his mission to hunt and kill the creature while, of course, documenting it all. While I wouldn’t necessarily add this to the list of best quirky comedies nor even the list of best Wes Anderson films, Bill Murray provides a quality that made it a must for his top 10 films. The character Steve Zissou provokes a strange sort of curiosity if the viewer chooses to look a little deeper. Not only does the character have some metaphorical parallels with Murray at that point in his career and his life, albeit exaggerated, the portrayal of Steve almost feels a bit too natural as he seems to reach out for time lost due to focusing on the wrong things. When Zissou is fully fleshed out — maybe after the second or eighth viewing — it’s not hard to see the constant stresses of his life pulling at him from all directions, creating the persona of Steve Zissou. Metaphorical deep-diving aside, Murray put in over 40 hours of diving and even gained his diving certification.

7. Scrooged (1988)

7. Scrooged
38 %
pg-13 101m
Genre Fantasy, Comedy, Drama
Stars Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe
Directed by Richard Donner
In one of the many Bill Murray 80s hits, Scrooged re-imagines the Charles Dickens classic with Murray at the helm as Scrooge. Based in a modern, late 80s world, Ebenezer Scrooge is now Frank Cross: a dastardly and heartless television executive at an unprecedentedly young age for the standard exec. What got him there? Being cutthroat, savage, and — as you eventually discover — his loveless upbringing glued to a television screen. This film goes full Murray as do many of his starring comedy roles, except this time he gets to exercise his absolute worst behavior. Co-starring Karen Allen, all of his real-life brothers, and a handful of some of the best that late 80s SNL had to offer, this romping mix of comedy and drama blends well to make this one of the best Christmas movies ever. Also can’t go without mentioning the hilariously downtrodden performance by Bobcat Goldthwait, who simply cannot catch a break. This was also a big comeback for Murray at the time, being his first big role in four years since his unfortunate and colossal failure in the romance/war/drama The Razor’s Edge (1984). These four years, however, are when he studied philosophy, history, and French in Paris, wandering around Europe and taking it all in.

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6. Stripes (1981)

6. Stripes
68 %
r 106m
Genre Action, Comedy
Stars Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates
Directed by Ivan Reitman
From Director Ivan Reitman — director of some of the best Arnold Schwarzenegger films as well as some National Lampoon staples — comes Stripes, an unlikely boot camp story that makes the military look like a load of fun. When John (Murray) loses his job, his apartment, his car, and his girlfriend all in one day, he convinces his best friend Russell (Harold Ramis) to do something totally unexpected and crazy: Join the army. Harold Ramis is a long-time collaborator with and close friend to Murray, as any fan of his would know, but this is the only other time besides the Ghostbusters films that we see them acting side by side. Another great feature of this film is John Candy as Ox, who blends well with the zany cast of characters that are required for a boot-camp-based film. This movie has some of the best Bill Murray moments of all of his films, which is why I recommend it, but the last 20 minutes or so kind of run off the rails in a strange direction.

5. Rushmore (1998)

5. Rushmore
86 %
r 93m
Genre Comedy, Drama
Stars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Directed by Wes Anderson
In Wes Anderson’s widely well-received second film after Bottle Rocket, Rushmore is what really got audiences into his unique filmmaking style. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzmann) is a young and extremely ambitious high schooler who has become enamored with one of his teachers, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Seeking romantic advice, Max initiates a friendship with a classmate’s father Herman Blume (Murray) that soon turns sour when he discovers that Herman has become romantically involved with Ms. Cross. Smart and hilarious, this film is a Wes Anderson revolution that brought about the career of young Schwartzmann, as well as a wonderfully defeated and gradually unraveling character brought to life by Murray. As always, Bill’s physical nuances are a glorious highlight to every scene he graces, and never more so than in the pool scene or when Max cuts the brakes in his car. Since Bill wanted so badly to work on this film, he offered to pay the $25,000 that would fund the helicopter shot for that montage scene, which was $16,000 more than what he was being paid to act in the film. This is the first Wes Anderson film, of many, that Murray was featured in.

4. Lost in Translation (2003)

4. Lost in Translation
89 %
r 102m
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi
Directed by Sofia Coppola
In a potentially good Valentine’s Day movie for lost souls, Lost in Translation can only be in that category for the wonderful direction from Sofia Coppola. Bob Harris (Murray) is a weathered movie star far removed from his peak of stardom who is filming a whiskey commercial in Tokyo when he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) in a hotel bar and strikes up an intimate friendship. This dramedy masterfully envelops themes of comedy, romance, disorientation, and displacement as the two characters try to discover what they are feeling. The best and most prominent theme is displacement, perfectly capturing what it’s like to be in a magically beautiful, yet culturally foreign place and the potential discomfort of a long-winded stay. The scene that captures this the best is also an awesome drinking scene, where Bob is shooting the whiskey commercial. Directed by an eccentric and boisterous Japanese director, Bob’s translator is not helping him to understand what the director wants at all, so he must go with his gut and do his best to please the immediate audience of Japanese speakers. The highs and lows of this film are all equally beautiful, painting a romantic yet saddening love story between our two characters that push the forces of reality upon you.

3. Caddyshack (1980)

3. Caddyshack
48 %
r 98m
Genre Comedy
Stars Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight
Directed by Harold Ramis
Hilarious and unconventional, Caddyshack is one of the best golf movies that envelops so many zany characters and storylines, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is a young and impressionable caddy at a high-class Country Club who is just trying to get a scholarship to afford an education, but what he receives is an education in the ways of life paralleled with golf. This film is unstoppably wacky and has some of the best comedic moments of the ’80s, making it an instant contender for one of the best comedies of all time. Besides the main and ultimately unimportant main plot, it’s the ‘side characters’ played by Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray that give this movie life. Bill’s role in this movie is the unintelligent and lazy groundskeeper of the country club, who becomes obsessed with hunting down a gopher who has single-handedly torn up the golf course. After Murray’s three-year streak on SNL, this was one of three movie projects he completed in 1980. It seems unlikely to be a part of three films in one year, but that’s because Bill Murray filmed his Caddyshack scenes in six days and improvised every line. You truly can’t beat that comedy mastery.

2. Ghostbusters (1984)

2. Ghostbusters
71 %
pg 107m
Genre Comedy, Fantasy
Stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Another exemplary comedy from Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters is not only comedy/fantasy/action gold but is a staple in the 80s movie genre. Serving as a sort of paranormal extermination business, the Ghostbusters are a team of paranormal scientists that have happened upon a gateway to a dimension of evil that threatens to end our world. Featuring a legendary cast of characters, Bill Murray somehow still shines through in the spotlight of hilarity and absolute ridiculousness. This was the first film I had ever seen Bill Murray in, which is a glorious introduction to the world of 80s films as well as the Murrinator. Watching it as a kid, a teenager, and an adult, there’s always something you get out of it no matter what age you are. I will never forget the first time I watched it and noticed the hilarious comedy acting from Murray when he was ‘slimed’ by the ghost they were hunting. It was like a new way of acting in my eyes, granted I hadn’t seen all that many movies at that age. Since Reitman went mainly to SNL for this cast, the role of Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters was not actually written for Bill Murray, but instead for the late and great John Belushi. Trying to stand in a role written for such a legend himself, I think Bill Murray did a pretty damn great job filling the shoes.

1. Groundhog Day (1993)

1. Groundhog Day
72 %
pg 101m
Genre Romance, Fantasy, Drama, Comedy
Stars Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Directed by Harold Ramis
In what is technically one of the best romantic comedies ever, Groundhog Day is arguably the best Bill Murray film in history, making it a film you can watch over and over and over again like there’s no tomorrow. When a brash and disillusioned TV weatherman travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day ceremony, he finds himself trapped and reliving the same day over and over again, unable to discover why or how. Masterfully performed by our star, we get to witness Murray’s character going through all 5 stages of grief as he starts to uncover the truth about his situation and how he might escape it. Despite being his best movie ever, this was also the most tragic and dramatic behind-the-scenes story in his career. Working with long-time best friend Harold Ramis produced comedy masterpieces in their time, but tried their friendship in many ways creatively. Due to their visionary differences for the film (Ramis going for straight-up comedy while Murray desiring a bleaker, darker tale), they clashed at every turn, causing Murray to show up late for filming, throw tantrums on set, and hire a deaf assistant for no other purpose than to piss them off. This ultimately ended their friendship, causing them not to speak with each other for 21 years. They eventually reunited, unfortunately on Ramis’ deathbed, but we can be thankful for the blood, sweat, and tears they put forth for us to enjoy their timeless and defining comedies of the 80s.

Honorable Mentions:

Tootsie (1982)
Broken Flowers (2005)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Kingpin (1996)

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Connor Sheppard
Connor Sheppard is an Oregon-grown culture writer for The Manual. Intrigued from a young age by pop culture and movies, he…
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