Top 16 Bill Murray Roles

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to rank our favorite Bill Murray Roles. Did your favorite make the cut? Find out below!

16. Bunny Breckinridge, Ed Wood

15. Ken Bowden, Wild Things

14. Arthur Denton, Little Shop Of Horrors

13. Grimm, Quick Change

12. Steve Zissou, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

11. Tripper, Meatballs

10. Bob Wiley, What About Bob?

9. John Winger, Stripes

8. Bill Murray, Zombieland

7. Ernie McCracken, Kingpin

6. Bob Harris, Lost In Translation

5. Scrooged
A few years ago, I made an announcement to my entire family: I told everyone that I would never again watch one more damn version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Not on stage, not on screen. Not with George C. Scott, not with muppets. I was done. The story is boring, I said, the section about Christmas Past alone is interminably long, I know the ending, and the whole thing is too preachy. Carry on without me, I told my relatives. I'm done.

And yet Scrooged is still my favorite holiday movie of all time.

Bill Murray, as Scrooge-tastic television executive Frank Cross, is alternatively mean-eyed and manic as he's led around by the nose through his Christmases Past, Present and Future. Why do I love this version, when I've grown tired of all others? Maybe it's David Johansen's (a.k.a. Buster Poindexter) rollicking Cab Driver of Christmas Past who shows Frank his neglected childhood, and then laughs when Frank finally squeezes out a couple tears. Maybe it’s Carol Kane's luminous, ass-kicking Ghost of Christmas Present, who flits around on fairy wings and moonbeams, when she's not clocking Cross in the head with a toaster. ("Sometimes you have to slap them in the face just to get their attention!" she trills.) Maybe it's the comically tender moments when Frank goes from grinchy to awkward when he's face to face his former girlfriend Claire, played by the doe-eyed, freckled Karen Allen.

And then there's the ending, which by all accounts, I should hate: when Frank emerges from his near-death vision with Christmas Future, bursts onto the set of his own network' live telecast of Scrooge, and rhapsodizes on camera about what he's finally figured out, why one day of the year can in fact be so important: "It's Christmas Eve! It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier... for a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!"

And then he leads the cast in a sing-along, a cast that includes Buddy Hackett, Mary Lou Retton, and the Solid Gold Dancers.

I should be fed up with all of that.

But when Murray tears up in front of everyone, when he really gets it... I have to admit: I get it too. And that's why Scrooged is the one and only Christmas movie that I look forward to watching every year. --Didactic Pirate

4. Herman Blume, Rushmore
When Max Fischer first sees Herman Blume, Blume is giving a speech to all of the Rushmore students in the chapel. Blume advises the students to rise up against their rich classmates. Max is immediately smitten.

As was I.

Rushmore is a classic love triangle between a fifteen-year-old boy, his teacher, and his fifty-year-old best friend. All of the characters are dealing with death; Max still misses his dead mother. His teacher, Rosemary Cross, still pines for her late husband. For Herman, the deceased person in his life is himself: he is unhappy, he sleepwalks through life, his wife is possibly ready to move on, and his sons are jerks. Herman is shaken from his slumber, first by Max's pluckiness, and then by his love for Rosemary.

This movie is sad, but also very funny. As Max and Herman compete for Rosemary's affections, their actions become rather dirty as the competition escalates: Herman runs over Max's bicycle and Max cuts the brake line in Herman's car. Finally, Max realizes he will never have Rosemary and actually helps Herman win her back.

This is one of my top ten favorite movies of all time. There are so many things that make this movie endearing: the smart and quirky script, Wes Anderson's directorial style, the incredible soundtrack, the breakout performance of Jason Schwartzman (Max Fischer is a major prick, yet you can't help rooting for him), but the standout here is Bill Murray. He does such a great job of acting in this movie, it's a shame he didn't win a major award for this role. Even when he's not reciting lines, he's delivering them with his facial expressions. That's what makes a great actor: the ability to convey a character's thoughts and feelings without opening his or her mouth. --Chris

3. Carl Spackler, Caddyshack
"Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."

I mean no disrespect to the other Bill Murray roles on this list, but as much as I love Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters, Murray's Carl Spackler is, hands down, his most iconic. So much so that people have been quoting Spackler for nigh on 30 years now. 30 years! But what is absolutely amazing about this role is that Murray was with the production for a total of six days of the 11-week shoot. On top of that, all of his lines were unscripted - Spackler was total improv. Want more evidence of the genius of this role? According to Wikipedia, Denmark was the only place outside of the US and Canada the film was a hit. The reason? The distributor cut 20 minutes from the film to emphasize Murray's role. Ha!

When I think of Bill Murray, Carl Spackler always comes to mind.

I leave you with this: "In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, 'Au revoir, gopher'." --Mr. Big Dubya

2. Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

Ten Things I Love About Peter Venkman

  1. His curly, slightly disheveled, wispy little skullet.
  2. His clear sense of professionalism, seen when interviewing female subjects:
    Venkman: [to librarian Alice] Are you currently menstruating?
    Library Administrator: What has that got to do with anything?
    Venkman: Back off man, I'm a scientist.
  3. His macho, no-nonsense approach to getting the job done: "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown."
  4. His charm: "Janine, someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries."
  5. The douchy, yet endearing air about him; the way he can put people down to their faces and frame it as a compliment.
  6. The way he hops around on one foot by the fountain outside of where Dana's orchestra rehearses, in his dirty uniform with a flaming orange shirt over top, in an attempt to get her attention.
  7. The handful of slime he nonchalantly - yet very deliberately - wipes all over EPA rep Walter Peck's shoulder upon meeting him, which brings us to Thing #3 that I love about Peter Venkman:
  8. His screw-you attitude.
  9. His penchant for bustin' ghosts.
  10. The way he turns down his demon-possessed girlfriend LIKE A BOSS:
    Dana: I want you inside me.
    Venk: No, I can't. Sounds like you got at least two people inside there already. It might be a little crowded. --Mamatulip

1. Phil, Groundhog Day
Bill Murray has played a lot of roles in his time, and most of his characters tend to fall into one of two categories: pompous and smart-assed or goofy and funny. He does both exceedingly well, which is why he was perfect for the part of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. Phil starts the movie as a truly arrogant and unlikable bastard. His tag-line when reporting the Groundhog Day story early on sums up Phil's attitude nicely, as well as making a great statement on TV news in general: "This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather." (One of my favorite movie lines of all time.) You really hate the guy. (Rumor has it that this might well be closer to Murray's actual personality than most of his fans would like.) By the end, he's humble and funny. The film really does a brilliant job of getting the audience to learn to love Phil as Rita, Andie McDowell's character, learns to love him.

The brilliance of Murray's portrayal of Phil is in the fact that he can believably pull off every emotion that his character experiences throughout his seemingly endless day. He's annoyed, then confused, then gleeful and evil, and finally constructive and helpful. It's difficult to think of another actor who could have you still rooting for him to win the girl after all of the nasty stuff that he did to kill time--robbing armored cars, dating and dumping hot girls by spying on them and claiming to know them--and then trying to pull the same trick on Rita, and so on.

Groundhog Day is, hands down, Bill Murray at his best. --Dave

We showed you ours, now show us yours! What's your favorite Bill Murray role? Have your say in the comments!

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