The spring movie “Isle of Dogs” marks the eighth pairing of actor Bill Murray and filmmaker Wes Anderson. In fact, Murray has participated in all of Anderson’s films except for his first project “Bottle Rockets” which he made with longtime friends Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson.
Murray first came to national attention when he joined “Saturday Night Live” in its second season to replace the departed Chevy Chase. Like many of his SNL colleagues of the era (Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd) Murray was able to parlay his television success into a film career. He first made his film mark in comedies but in later years would take on increasingly dramatic films as well. Murray would return to TV in 2015 for the HBO limited series “Olive Kitteridge,” for which he won an Emmy as Best Supporting Actor a suicidal man who becomes involved with the title character (Frances McDormand).
Murray’s career got off to a somewhat shaky start when he was cast in the first season of “Saturday Night Live” but unfortunately for Murray it was the wrong “SNL.” Instead of the classic program for NBC (for which he auditioned and came close to joining), Murray was cast on “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell” a variety program starring the overbearing ABC sportscaster. The show has been labeled one of “the greatest disasters in the history of television” by its director Don Mischer. The disaster and quick cancellation of the show worked out well for both Murray and the other “Saturday Night Live.” Murray became available to accept the job that would make him famous and the show got to use the title that they had always wanted to use from the beginning.
But it all worked out for the best, and we can now feature our choices as the greatest 15 films in Murray’s four-decade career. Take a tour above and sound off in the comments about which are your selections as his best and worst.
15. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986)
Murray has a scene stealing cameo in this film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical. He plays a masochistic patient who frequents sadistic dentist Steve Martin’s office.
14. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001)
Murray’s second film with Anderson was this story of a family of child prodigies whose adult lives don’t measure up to their early achievements. Murray plays a doctor who is married to Gwyneth Paltrow but is initially clueless to her infidelities and strange behavior.
13. WILD THINGS (1998)
The complicated plot and mechanizations of the thriller “Wild Things” are too complex to go into here but this film remains one of Murray’s most low key and likable performances. As the stars of the film get involved with various plots to swindle and or murder each other, Murray is a steady force as the lawyer who handles all their financial needs whether they be criminal or not.
12. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004)
After supporting roles in two Anderson films, Murray took the lead role in a fourth film. This comedy about a famous oceanographer tracking a killer shark was the first of Anderson’s films to receive less than glowing reviews from critics and audiences but Murray still makes the most out of his role as the title character.
11. MEATBALLS (1979)
A year after director Ivan Reitman launched the film career of fellow “SNL” star Belushi with “Animal House,” he did the same thing for Murray with this low budget Canadian comedy. The film become a surprise box office hit in 1979 and launched Murray into a film career.
10. HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON (2012)
Murray had one of his most acclaimed roles and one that took him farthest away from his typical persona when he played President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
9. GET LOW (2009)
Murray received a couple of critic’s group awards as Best Supporting Actor as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his role in this Robert Duvall headlined film. Murray plays a slimy funeral home director who agrees to provide Duvall with the funeral celebration he wants after paid a great deal of money to who ever will do that.
8. WHAT ABOUT BOB? (1991)
Murray has a field day as the phobia plagued patient of a psychoanalyst played by Richard Dreyfuss. Bob (Murray) is so filled with hope for his mental well being after his first session with Dreyfuss that he follows the doctor to New Hampshire where he is vacationing with his family.
7. TOOTSIE (1982)
“Tootsie” remains one of the most acclaimed films of its time and features Murray in a small role as Dustin Hoffman’s roommate. The film earned 10 Oscar nominations (but only won one for Best Supporting Actress Jessica Lange). Murray’s appearance in the film was not mentioned in the film’s credits or advertising so many audiences were pleasantly surprised to find one of their favorite actors and comedians among the fine cast.
6. CADDYSHACK (1980)
Shortly after Murray replaced Chase in the “SNL,” the two were united on screen in this popular 1980s comedy. Murray plays the groundskeeper at a posh country club golf course who is obsessed with destroying a gopher who keeps ruining the course’s fairways.
5. STRIPES (1981)
In the year following his departure from “Saturday Night Live” Murray cemented his place as a film star with this highly successful army comedy. While the film doesn’t really break new ground it features Murray at his most comic as a loser who feels his life has nothing going for it so he decides to join the army.
4. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
In a summer that was filled with blockbusters, “Ghostbusters” emerged as the biggest comedic film of that year. Murray reunited with old colleagues Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman to create one of his most popular films, one that largely shaped his comedic film presence for many years.
3. GROUNDHOG DAY (1993)
Murray found one of his most popular and acclaimed films when he re-teamed with Ramis to make this comedy. The story is about a pompous TV weatherman who finds himself fated to repeat the same day over and over again. The film was recently the basis of a Broadway musical.
2. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)
Murray received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor for this story of a depressed middle-aged movie star shooting a commercial in Japan who meets an equally depressed young woman (Scarlett Johansson) in his hotel. The two embark on platonic affair where they discuss their own troubled lives while sight seeing around scenic Tokyo.
1. RUSHMORE (1999)
Murray won the same set of critical awards as Best Supporting Actor as he did for “Lost in Translation” but surprisingly was not even nominated for an Oscar for this film that marked his first collaboration with Anderson. Murray plays a bored business executive who befriends a teenager who goes to the same private school as his sons. The friendship is strained when Murray falls in love with the same teacher the teen has a crush on.