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Bill Murray turns 71 today. The Oscar-nominee’s films (and off-screen antics) have earned him living legend status.
To wish the Illinois-born actor and “Saturday Night Live” alumnus a happy birthday, we’ll share our 10 favorite films of his.
Read our picks (and honorable mentions) below:
Pound for pound, one of Murray’s funniest performances. As scumbag arch-villain bowler Ernie McCracken in the Farrellys’ raunchy comedy, Murray turns up the sleaze opposite sad sack Woody Harrelson, shining brightest at the start (“Hi… not you… hi.”) and finish (that hair).
An obsessive-compulsive patient tracks down his psychotherapist during vacation, prompting the doctor to lose his mind. Perhaps the biggest strength in Murray’s work here is the performance he inspires from the equally brilliant straight man Richard Dreyfuss.
You might consider this too low a placement for the golf comedy classic, but frankly, I just don’t consider this Murray’s movie. As Bushwood Country Club’s eccentric groundskeeper Carl Spackler, the “SNL” star has plenty of memorable moments (“Cannonball!”), but falls behind in the power rankings to Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and the film’s real MVP, the massively underrated Ted Knight.
With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist and a man who may or may not be his son. Wes Anderson’s ambitious high seas adventure has a lot to offer, chiefly its terrific soundtrack and all-star ensemble featuring Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum. This is seen as “lesser” Wes Anderson, though it feels like a love letter to Murray and a film he’d been building towards since their first collaboration. Another Murray special on loneliness, family, grief and identity.
Murray and his pal Harold Ramis star as a pair of friends who dissatisfied with their jobs and decide to join the army for a bit of “fun.” As sly dog John Winger, the actor gives us another feature-length version of what he does best, putting stuck-up characters at ease in the face of adversity. Wonderful chemistry with Warren Oates, who plays Sgt. Hulka.
Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service in Ivan Reitman’s sci-fi comedy classic, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Full of hilarious people and mind-blowing visual effects, Murray’s casual charisma and non-stop one-liners as Dr. Peter Venkman remain the show-stopper.
Murray plays a selfish, cynical television executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve in “Lethal Weapon” director Richard Donner’s take on the Charles Dickens holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” It shouldn’t surprise us when such a smooth-talker like Murray has great chemistry with his romantic counterparts, but Karen Allen deserves equal credit. Another jerk-who-sees-the-light role Murray can do in his sleep, but such a rich and funny script this time.
As a faded movie star sleepwalking his way through a high-paying commercial gig in Tokyo, Murray forms an unlikely bond with a lose and lonely woman (Scarlett Johannson) in Sofia Coppola’s thoughtful meditation on loneliness, aging and relationships. Murray scored an Oscar nomination for what many consider his best performance, definitely one we didn’t know we’d waited so long to see.
Wes Anderson’s second (and arguably his best) film follows an eccentric teenager named (Jason Schwartzman), his friendship with a rich industrialist (Murray) and their mutual love for an elementary school teacher (Olivia Williams). Hilarious and poignant, it serves as a major showcase for Anderson, Murray and Schwartzman, who made his film debut. Snubbed for an Oscar nomination, Murray gave one of the best performances of 1998, let alone his career, redefining what he had to offer as an actor in more “serious” works from gifted filmmakers like Anderson. Awesome British invasion soundtrack, too.
The Bill Murray movie, thanks in no small part to its genius premise. This delightful Harold Ramis-directed fantasy about a curmudgeonly weatherman reliving the same freezing but eventful day over and over drew an enormous audience on home video and remains a comedy classic in the eyes of most. Few expected what might have seemed like another Murray vehicle to carry the depth of an existential crisis, hovering in territory he’d further explore the next decade.
Honorable Mentions: Meatballs (1979), Tootsie (1982), Mad Dog and Glory (1993), Ed Wood (1994), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Broken Flowers (2005), Zombieland (2009)
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