Bill Murray went from being one of the all-time great cast members of Saturday Night Live to being one of the all-time great comedy movie stars. Now, here are the Top 5 Funniest Bill Murray Comedies, which, incidentally, are also some of the best comedies of the '80s and '90s.
The quintessential Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day provides the perfect vehicle for Murray's well-honed persona. The plot, about a guy who wakes up to the same day over and over gain, should have gotten old quickly, but miraculously keeps finding ways to reinvent itself and stay fresh. And Murray's got a nearly impossible task - to make us love a guy who starts out as extremely unlovable inside of that plot - and does it without ever becoming cloying or overly sentimental (which the movie avoids, too). I can't think of another actor who could pull off what he does in Groundhog Day. It remains his best movie, and one of the best of the 1990s.
The most amazing thing about Ghostbusters may be that it still holds up good as new today. Still one of the most successful -- and easily the best -- special-effects comedies of all time, the movie gives Bill Murray lots to play against, from academics to his colleagues to Sigourney Weaver (both possessed and not) to giant marshmallow men. His dry skepticism and cooler-than-you attitude is put to the test, and he provides the perfect vessel for the audience -- he can't believe what he's seeing, either. Murray always feels like he's getting away with something in Ghostbusters; that the script provides him with some of the best one-liners of his career doesn't hurt. It's a classic.
Murray's sole directorial effort (he co-directed with Howard Franklin) is one of the great overlooked comedies of the 1990s and led the way towards the kinds of characters Murray would play later in his career. In Quick Change, he's still smarter than everyone else, but he's older and no longer combative. He's not trying to break the system; he's trying to leave it entirely. It's Murray at his deadpan best, and he surrounds himself with a great supporting cast that includes Geena Davis, Randy Quaid, Jason Robards, Phil Hartman and Stanley Tucci. In its own weird way, it's kind of a love letter to New York -- the kind only Bill Murray could create.
If Meatballs was the movie that suggested Bill Murray could be a movie star, Stripes cemented it. There's nothing terribly original about the movie -- it's the textbook snob-vs.-slobs comedy (only here, the "snobs" are military personnel) -- but the script and particularly Murray are funny enough to make it something kind of special. Though the supporting cast (including John Candy) is great, Murray's pretty much a one-man show here, and he's up to the job of carrying the whole thing (though Ghostbusters is a better movie largely because he doesn't have to). There are plenty of people turned off by Murray's smart-ass, wisecracking style of comedy in the '80s. Those people are wrong.
While not an out-and-out comedy, Rushmore is an excellent representation of later-period Bill Murray -- and still a really funny movie. Not only did it launch Murray's long working relationship with writer/director Wes Anderson, but also transformed him and rescued the star from possible washout (movies like Larger Than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little). Murray's character, Herman Blume, is the culmination of where his career was headed throughout the '90s; he's tired and bored, looking for something different to revitalize a life that's become too familiar. Anderson found a new take on Murray's persona and spun it to great effect. Just about every scene he has with Jason Schwartzman is pretty perfect.