The 14 Best Bill Murray Movies Ranked

Bill Murray is one of the most beloved comedic actors of all time. Murray first rose to prominence thanks to his memorable characters on "Saturday Night Live," joining fellow stars like Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi after Chevy Chase departed at the end of the first season. From there, Murray went on to become the biggest stars of the '80s, and many of his early films are now considered classics.

While Murray was frequently the headlining star, he's also proved willing to step into supporting roles to support emerging filmmakers like Tim Burton and Wes Anderson. He's a capable dramatic performer too, and has delivered sensitive performances in films by the likes of Sofia Coppola and Jim Jarmusch. This versatility has allowed Murray to remain relevant for several decades.

Murray's elusive relationship with the media gives him an aura of mystery. There are countless stories about Murray's wacky public appearances. Like an urban legend, any story about Murray could be true, and his unpredictability makes him exciting. Murray is even open about his failures, and has frequently lampooned his decision to voice the titular character in the "Garfield" films. A look at Murray's career is a snapshot into the last four decades of comedy — here are the 14 best Bill Murray movies ranked.

14. Zombieland

Bill Murray's surprising appearance in "Zombieland" is one of the greatest cameos of all-time. In the zombie apocalypse comedy, the survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) stumble upon a strange mansion as they look for shelter. They're shocked to discover that it's the home of Tallahassee's idol: Bill Murray. Murray appears as a fictionalized version of himself who dresses as a zombie in order to blend in.

It's amazing to watch Murray reflect on his own star power, and the cameo gives Tallahassee a chance to ecstatically explain his fandom. It's comforting to think that Murray would just be up to his usual routine during a time of crisis, and by just acting like himself he elevates the film. Murray even gets to poke fun at his past mistakes; after he's shot and asked what he regrets the most as he dies, he says it was the decision to voice "Garfield."

13. On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola's films are noted for their emotional complexity and their subversion of standard Hollywood formulas, so seeing her take on an old-fashioned, slapstick crowd pleaser was surprising. "On the Rocks," Coppola's second collaboration with Murray, is effective not because it's innovative, but because it executes familiar beats with precision. With Murray's welcoming presence, the clichés don't feel tired.

Novelist Laura Keane (Rashida Jones) is a hard-working New York mother who suspects that her seemingly perfect husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair. Laura's father Felix (Murray) has never taken anything seriously and only occasionally appears Laura's life, but decides to help his daughter solve the mystery through an increasingly ridiculous series of escapades. Felix is unreliable, but nonetheless cares deeply for his daughter and enjoys making her happy. As he's shown numerous times in his later career, Murray makes for a great father figure, even when he's pressuring Laura to step outside of her comfort zone.

12. Scrooged

"Scrooged" is a darker, comedic take on Charles Dickens' holiday classic "A Christmas Carol," in which Murray explores the complexity of a great literary character from a modern perspective. Cruel television president Frank Cross (Murray) is preparing a grand adaptation of the Dickens story for the holiday season, and subjects his crew to both unsafe working conditions and unrealistic expectations.

Cross is subsequently visited by the same ghostly visitors that he's tasked with recreating. "Scrooged" features a wild cab driver (David Johansen) as the Ghost of Christmas Past, a wacky fairy (Carol Kane) as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and a classically sinister nightmare (Robert Hammond) as the Ghost of Christmas Future. The new interpretations are amusing, while Murray must somehow make a completely unlikeable character sympathetic. Cross' cold-blooded behavior is so extreme that getting invested in his development is a challenge, but Murray uses his charisma to successfully retain the heart of Dickens' tale (he is, of course, ultimately redeemed).

11. What About Bob?

Murray can make even annoying characters endearing — just look at "What About Bob?" Murray stars in the film as the upbeat Bob Wiley, who, despite his good nature, is hopelessly terrified of being in public. Wiley refuses to leave his apartment, exhausting his regular therapists with his behavior. As a result, he's referred to the famous Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), who claims he can cure anyone with his innovative practices.

Bob grows so enthusiastic about Marvin that he follows his new doctor to a luxury resort, disrupting Marvin's vacation and introducing himself to Martin's wife Fay (Julie Hagerty) and his children, Siggy Marvin (Charlie Korsmo) and Anna (Kathryn Erbe). While Murray is supposed to be intentionally irritating, Marvin's lack of empathy is the real obstacle. Ironically, Marvin's family is charmed by Bob, as he is not arrogant and tries to help them work through their problems without an eye towards personal gain.

10. Little Shop of Horrors

Murray is such a great actor that sometimes he only needs one scene to steal the show. In the 1986 musical horror comedy classic "Little Shop of Horrors," the diminutive florist Seymour Kelborn (Rick Moranis) is forced to contend with the violently abusive dentist Orin Scrivello (Steve Martin) in order to win the love of his co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). Scrivello revels at the chance to torture his patients, and he's shocked when Arthur Denton (Murray) seems to enjoy his sadistic procedures.

Denton simply laughs with glee as Scrivello performs a painful root canal, and grows increasingly infuriated as Denton continues to have a great time in the dentist's chair. Martin's annoyance is hilarious as Murray grows increasingly excited; it's a moment featuring two comedy titans at the height of their powers. "Little Shop of Horrors" has many strange non sequiturs, but Murray's scene is among the most memorable.

9. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

In his collaborations with Wes Anderson, Murray often plays supporting roles, but he got the chance to take on the lead character in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." The underwater adventure follows the titular explorer, who is hailed as a legend within the oceanography community. However, Zissou still holds a grudge against an elusive great white shark that killed his partner decades prior. He embarks on a new voyage to exact revenge, calling together his wacky crew.

Zissou is unexpectedly accompanied by his biggest fan, Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), who joins the expedition after his mother dies. Plimpton idealizes Zissou's achievements, but secretly suspects that his idol is also his father. Ned attempts to determine the truth as they search together for the dangerous beast, and Zissou gradually becomes a father figure to him. Wilson's performance is completely earnest throughout, which is hilarious when compared to Murray's stoic self-seriousness. Murray makes Zissou pretentious in a manner that is amusing, and not grating.

"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is Anderson's most action-packed film, but its conclusion is surprisingly dark. The ambiguous note with which the mystery is addressed elevates the premise beyond a simple parody.

8. Stripes

"Stripes" is half of a great comedy. The 1981 satire follows slackers John Winger (Murray) and Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis), who both experience a series of personal and professional hardships because of their immaturity. Winger spontaneously decides that his only option is to enlist in the U.S. Army, and convinces Ziskey to join him. Upon beginning their training at Fort Arnold, Winger immediately clashes with his overbearing drill, Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates).

Hulka is flabbergasted by Winger's lack of interest in legitimately fulfilling his duties, and attempts to embarrass him in front of the other trainees. However, Winger's popularity only grows, and he becomes the de facto leader of the wacky group of recruits. It's hilarious to watch Murray and his friends wreak havoc amidst army protocol. Winger and Ziskey also utilize all available resources to romantically pursue military police officers Louise Cooper (Sean Young) and Stella Hansen (P.J. Soles).

The second half of "Stripes" is an absolute mess, as the band of misfits become unlikely heroes when they are dispatched to Italy and execute a key rescue operation. The events are unrealistic, particularly when they steal the experimental armored EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle. However, even though the story is ridiculous, Murray is nonetheless committed to the crazy change of pace.

7. Ed Wood

Tim Burton's "Ed Wood" is a tribute to the creative spirit of artists who dedicate themselves to a craft. Burton is the ideal filmmaker to explore the life of a storyteller who is often mocked for being weird, and considered too untraditional to ever be a mainstream success. This biographical film follows the titular cult writer-director (Johnny Depp), who created low budget films throughout the '50s. Wood is passionate but completely incompetent, and his films, which include "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," are often considered among the worst ever made.

Despite his lack of talent, Wood creates a unique community of performers and crew members who remain loyal to him throughout his career. Part of this unusual family is the aging drag queen John "Bunny" Breckinridge (Murray). Murray finds the sadness in a misunderstood performer who feels like he'll never find his calling again. The scenes in which Bunny supports Wood's ambitions are among the film's most touching.

The real Bunny plays a pivotal role in "Plan 9 From Outer Space," a film now deemed so bad that it's hilarious. Murray's recreation of Bunny's performance is spot on. It's particularly amusing when, in the low-budget science fiction film, Bunny is forced to wear a medieval costume borrowed from another project.

6. Rushmore

"Rushmore" ushered in a new era of Murray's career, as it was his first collaboration with eccentric writer-director Wes Anderson. Anderson is renowned for his idiosyncratic characters, striking images, and symmetrical framing; Murray's dry humor fits perfectly with his style. Anderson's films also often feature stacked casts, and it was exciting to see Murray interact with a larger ensemble as he passed the torch to the up-and-coming stars of "Rushmore."

"Rushmore" follows the coming-of-age story of precocious overachiever Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). A student at the private Rushmore Academy in Houston, Max participates in every possible extracurricular activity, yet struggles to keep his grades up. Max is disillusioned and wants to be taken seriously by adults, and his confidence catches the interest of the reclusive aristocrat Herman Blume (Murray). Blume is similarly disenchanted with Rushmore, and bonds with the strange boy. Their initial friendship is shattered when they both fall for the widowed literature teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), and begin bitterly goading each other into childish pranks.

Murray and Schwartzman both illustrate the growth of their selfish characters. Max realizes he's ultimately not a good fit for Rosemary, and channels his efforts into helping Blume make amends. Although neither character makes a formal apology, Schwartzman and Murray make the respect that has developed between the two very, very clear.

5. Lost in Translation

Writer and director Sofia Coppola created the role of fading movie star Bob Harris specifically for Murray in order to showcase the more sensitive side of one of her favorite actors. Not only is the result the best film of Coppola's career, but it finally earned Murray his first Academy Award nomination for best actor after being snubbed throughout his career. While it's framed like a love story, "Lost in Translation" explores a deeper connection between two lonely outsiders who find fleeting moments of intimacy in their miserable daily lives. It's one of Murray's most complex performances; he hides depression behind his winning personality, and brings authenticity to the pressure Harris faces while living up to his iconic status.

Harris has been married for 25 years and has fully-grown children, but goes through a midlife crisis while shooting a series of luxury whisky advertisements in Japan. While drinking alone in a hotel lobby, Harris becomes fascinated by the American student Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). The two converse, and Charlotte reveals that she's struggling with her marriage to celebrity photographer John (Giovanni Ribisi). Bob and Charlotte bond over their shared loneliness; despite the vast age difference, they both feel trapped. They embark upon a memorable evening exploring the sights of Tokyo, popping in to random nightclubs for unexpected adventures.

The relationship could've been poorly handled and might've felt either creepy or superfluous, but Murray and Johansson make it completely sincere. Bob's final words to Charlotte remain a beautiful mystery.

4. Broken Flowers

"Broken Flowers" is one of the most downbeat movies on Murray's entire filmography. Grimly humorous, "Broken Flowers" sees Murray take on a heartbreaking role as a man who no longer finds joy in his life. Director Jim Jarmusch's approach to comedy is the opposite of the eccentricity that Murray built his career on; Jarmusch plays out situations until they're unbearably awkward. With a miscast lead performance, "Broken Flowers" could have easily been depressing, but Murray provides the needed charisma to make it shine.

Murray's character, Don Johnston, is a serial womanizer with a small fortune. An unexpected letter informs him that he has a secret son who is now a teenager, and Don decides to track down his child and form a connection. Unfortunately, the letter was delivered without a name, and Don realizes that five of his past lovers could be the boy's mother. As he investigates each one of his former suitors, the situations become increasingly uncomfortable, forcing Don to face his past mistakes. There's a sense of futility to his mission — Don's neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) suggests that the entire letter could be a hoax.

While Don's failures are pathetic, Murray makes good with humorous comments throughout. Don isn't necessarily a likable character, but his sadness feels very realistic; neither Murray or Jarmusch seem at all interested in ending "Broken Flowers" on an optimistic note.

3. Caddyshack

The ensemble sports comedy "Caddyshack" was not initially a hit, but fans grew to appreciate the its chaotic spirit. "Caddyshack" is very sketch-like in its structure, with frantic scenes that lack internal logic, and Murray contributes many of the film's best recurring gags.

"Caddyshack" follows the inner workings of the exclusive Bushwood Country Club and its unmotivated employees. Teenager Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) attempts to earn enough money to pay for his college education as a caddy, but he's victim to the cruel insults of the club's wealthy owner Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). However, Danny finds a mentor in the club's top-scoring golfer, Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Murray's scenes exist outside of the main storyline; he co-stars as the dim-witted groundskeeper Carl Spackler, whose relentless pursuit of a gopher has destructive results.

It's hilarious to watch Murray pop up and derail the central narrative, creating confusion and infuriating the club's pretentious senior members. Murray often plays intelligent, witty roles; here, he was cast against type as a foolish hooligan, and turns in one of his all-time funniest performances.

2. Ghostbusters

"Ghostbusters" is a wonderful mix of fantasy adventure, sharp humor, and body horror that proved that Murray's comic timing translates well to an action-comedy blockbuster. Dr. Peter Venkman is by no means a noble hero, using his position at Columbia University to charm students and annoy rivals.

Venkman and his best friends, Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), are fascinated with the undead ghouls that haunt New York City, and develop technology that can be used for both public service and financial gain by catching ghosts. Each member of the trio is unique. Ray is wacky and often makes clueless mistakes, and Egon is methodical without any capacity for irony. Venkman possesses a gleeful cynicism that humanizes the film's most fantastic moments. They all have a terrific rapport, and the addition of the fast-talking Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) later in the film creates a unique mix of heroes.

Murray also has great romantic chemistry with Sigourney Weaver, who plays his love interest, Dana Barrett. Murray's romantic advances are earnest, and he truly cares for Dana when she becomes possessed by the evil spirit Zuul. Venkman is a role that Murray has returned to as the Ghostbusters franchise has grown — even in the disappointing "Ghostbusters II," he is still entertaining.

1. Groundhog Day

In "Groundhog Day," Murray showed a versatility that he's never topped. This perfect film seamlessly combines comedy and drama, and finds an optimistic perspective on a character that starts off incredibly cynical. "Groundhog Day" is very dark at times, but the twisted laughs don't detract from the sweetness of the story's conclusion. Murray's longtime collaborator Harold Ramis understood his star's unique talents, and channeled his lifelong friend's best attributes into the most complete performance that Murray has ever delivered.

Murray stars as downbeat news reporter Phil Connors, who dreads covering the festive Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year. Accompanied by his loyal producer Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell), Connors is forced to stay in the joyous town overnight due to a blizzard. When he wakes up the next morning, Connors discovers that his entire day is repeating. It's not just a one-time occurrence; Connors must relive February 2 for an eternity.

The beauty of "Groundhog Day" is seeing Connors slowly alter his behavior as he memorizes the day's events and becomes a better person. He starts off using his knowledge to make petty personal gains, but learns to become more empathetic towards the people that he's ignored. Connors used to dread seeing his childhood acquaintance Ned Bryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) every morning, but ends up greeting the obnoxious man with open arms. It is fulfilling to see Connors finally recognize Rita's love for him, and to realize that he feels the same way.