best film:  The seven (7) Wes Anderson collaborations for Bill Murray have made this a very cluttered category – but at the very tip top – it is either Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation or The Royal Tenenbaums. Murray owns a bigger win share percentage of Lost in Translation, but holding down a few hilarious scenes (excellent per/minute average) in a film the artistic size of Tenenbaums is no small feat and should not be overlooked. Murray’s abbreviated performance in Royal Tenenbaums has the number five slot below and certainly an argument could be made for a few other performances of his (Life Aquatic is probably next up). It is impossible to compare a five (5) minutes on screen performance (Tenenbaums) with a 90-minutes on screen lead role – but that is part of task of this list here.  Slaying it in a top one hundred (or thereabouts) all-time film, even if it for just a few scenes, does seem to have more worth than being front and center for a film that cannot make its respective year’s top ten. Also, do not sleep on the 2012 and 2014 Wes Anderson films in this category either – both Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel are surefire, first ballot masterpieces.


He misses out on playing the larger Gene Hackman Royal role – but Murray makes a lasting impression as Raleigh St. Clair in Wes Anderson’s 2001 masterpiece


best performance:  Lost in Translation leads the way, but Bill Murray has proud Mount Rushmore of four performances below. In Sofia’s 2003 film, Murray builds upon that subterranean melancholy he started to show in sequences of Groundhog Day (1993) and, more directly, in Rushmore (1998).  He is dazzling as Bob Harris in Lost in Translation – witty and poignant. Lost in Translation features those Sofia trademark long gazes looking out of the window, the defeat on his face when he is on the phone with his wife – and the epic, final chase and embrace of Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte character. Murray is an actor who can clearly be verbal – outspoken and hysterical – (Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters) but he may be even better giving a Buster Keaton or Steve McQueen performance with his face – sitting alone on a bed in an empty luxury hotel room (like a Roy Andersson cinematic painting) or looking low and alone in a crowded room.


Murray’s career has had distinct ebbs and flows. He is a broad comedy champion of the 1980s – but his artistic peak is in 2003’s Lost in Translation.


stylistic innovations/traits:  Bill Murray’s top four (4) films and performances pack a wallop. After that, he carries Ghostbusters, does his best in Life Aquatic (an ambitious film and performance), and carves out some of the best scenes in one of the best films of the century (Royal Tenenbaums) but after that – there is not much – some hysterical cameos perhaps. In Tootsie, he steals scenes from Dustin Hoffman which is saying something – and his surprise turn Zombieland should make us all smile. Murray is in all those fun, broader comedies like Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes and sure even peaking in Ghostbusters (a massive smash of a box office hit – making him a household name). Groundhog Day in 1993 is sort of the half way point between those films and eventually turning the corner with Rushmore in 1998. Groundhog Day is sublimely suited for Murray’s talents. His Phil Connors is pure ego and this is a virtuoso comic performance. He is funny but smug – very superior. He is told “try it again without the sarcasm.” Phil is clearly unhappy. He is called a “primadonna” and “a glass half-empty kind of guy” along with “egocentric” being his defining characteristic. Rushmore builds upon that for Murray and goes beyond what he had done in his career prior. After that, he is off and running with Jim Jarmusch, Sofia Coppola and of course, more Wes Anderson. The Wes Anderson collaborations are aplenty, and this is the main spine and body of work he will be remembered for.  There is a little more meat on the bone for him in Moonrise Kingdom and The French Dispatch than there is for him in Grand Budapest and Darjeeling. Still, overall it is strange to break it down and see that Murray has really just been the lead or co-lead in eight (8) films in that 40+ year career.


Broken Flowers (2005) – a major feather in the cap for Bill Murray. He is a perfect match for the Jarmuscian deadpan and pathos. There is great scene of him bruised in the rain at the cemetery with a tear coming down – a meditation on regret. For Murray, it makes for yet another pairing as an auteur collaborator-god and deadpan ennui along with Lost in Translation and Rushmore. 


directors worked with: Wes Anderson (7), Jim Jarmusch (3), Sofia Coppola (2), Sydney Pollack (1), Tim Burton (1). Again, connecting with Wes Anderson for Rushmore was such a turning point for Murray. It is not just the seven (7) collaborations – but one has to wonder if more artistically inclined auteurs like Jarmusch and Sofia would have sought to work with Murray if he had strictly continued on those high laugh films with Ivan Reitman, Frank Oz, and Harold Ramis.


from Rushmore – the start of Murray’s second run that includes Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers Groundhogs Day acts as the bridge.


top five performances:

  1. Lost in Translation
  2. Rushmore
  3. Groundhog Day
  4. Broken Flowers
  5. The Royal Tenenbaums


archiveable films

1982- Tootsie
1984- Ghostbusters
1991- What About Bob?
1993- Groundhog Day
1994- Ed Wood
1998- Rushmore
2001- The Royal Tenenbaums
2003- Coffee and Cigarettes
2003- Lost in Translation
2004- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
2005- Broken Flowers
2007- The Darjeeling Limited
2009- The Limits of Control
2009- Zombieland
2009- Get Low
2012- Moonrise Kingdom
2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel
2020- On the Rocks
2021- The French Dispatch