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21 September 2021, 12:00 | Updated: 21 September 2021, 13:11
From wisecracking Ghostbuster to a man trapped in Groundhog Day, these are the roles that made Bill Murray one of the world’s biggest movie stars.
Bill Murray probably shouldn’t be a Hollywood star: he doesn’t have an entourage, he rubs people the wrong way a fair bit and he once accidentally broke Robert De Niro’s nose. Somehow though, his incredible wisecracking persona and unique charm have turned him into one of the biggest stars ever. These are the roles that have made that happen.
There are iconic Bill Murray parts and then there’s Dr Peter Venkman. The most popular of all of the comedian’s roles, Venkman is a classic New York smartarse - who just happens to battle ghosts.
If anybody was right to play the lead role in a modern take on A Christmas Carol, it was Bill Murray. Successful, cynical but with a heart of gold buried under his expensive 1980s suit, this is why Murray makes people care even in the silliest comedy creations.
Bill Murray as romantic comedy leading man. It shouldn’t work, but it definitely does. Even though the groundhog bit him twice during filming, Murray shines as Phil Connors, who is - you guessed it - successful, cynical but secretly has a heart of gold.
Probably Murray’s finest performance in a (mostly) serious movie. The film launched the career of Scarlett Johansson, but the part of Bob Harris also won Bill a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and lots more awards beside. He plays the jaded actor Bob Harris, who falls for Johansson’s Charlotte. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?
Murray plays the titular oceanographer on the trail of the deadly jaguar shark that killed his friend in this super-dry comedy from Wes Anderson. Probably Murray’s ultimate cult role and let to an increase in sales of red woolly hats.
Murray plays John “Bunny” Breckenridge in Tim Burton’s tale of a down-at-heel B-movie director. Bunny is an actor and sometime drag act who appears in Wood’s masterwork Plan Nine From Outer Space. Murray playing “camp” is brilliant.
Murray stars in a cameo role originally played by Jack Nicholson in the 60s original. He’s the masochistic Arthur Denton who is the ideal patient of the sadistic dentist, played by Steve Martin. Murray works himself up into a bizarrely hilarious sexual frenzy as Martin gets to work. Two comedy giants in one scene. Yes!
Ernie McCracken. Even the character name lets you know that Kingpin is going to be one of Murray’s less intellectual parts - not that it stops him from tearing up the screen. Murray really has fun in the part, which came a few years before he turned to more serious fare and started winning lots of awards.
Wes Anderson directed Murray in Rushmore but he isn’t the only brilliant director to work with the actor more than once. Ivan Reitman, The Farrelly Brothers and Harold Ramis all had so much fun making movies with Murray that they hired him multiple times. This 90s classic is important because of how it helped established the next phase of Murray’s career: the deadpan indie icon.
Even if you don’t like golf, this brilliant comedy is an early indication of how good Murray could be. He’s not even the main character in the film but his gopher-bashing antics manage to steal the limelight from everyone else.