What Makes Bill Murray So Memorable? Here Are 10 Scenes for Starters
Few American actors are as revered as Bill Murray. The hilarious-serious elder statesman of indie comedy first won our hearts more than three decades ago as a different kind of funnyman, playing a series of lovable buffoons. It’s all genius, and it’s all just added to his enduring sheen of cool. Though it’s really hard to choose just 10, here are our picks for the best Bill Murray film scenes.
1. Caddyshack (1980): “It’s in the hole!”
Murray’s part as the slack-jawed half-wit groundskeeper Carl helped establish his reputation as an underdog hero. As he swings the heads off a bed of flowers, Carl calls the Cinderella-story tournament in his head, culminating with an exultant, “It’s in the hole!” before taking off in the rain to caddy for the Bishop (Henry Wilcoxon), who is having the best round of golf of his life… until he is struck down by lightning. Carl’s “nothing to see here” slink away from the dead man still puts us in stitches.
2. Lost in Translation (2003): “Make it Suntory time.”
Murray’s disaffected American movie star is in Tokyo to do a one-line commercial for Suntory whiskey. His director, in dramatic rapid-fire Japanese, offers performance notes; the translator plays the perfect straight man, telling Bob, “He wants you to turn, look in camera, OK?” With perfect timing, Murray asks, “That’s all he said?” As he asks for clarification, the tension rises to almost unbearably droll levels. (The complete translation of the scene, which is amazing, was published in The New York Times.)
3. Stripes (1981): “We are the wretched refuse.”
That military-film staple, the rousing speech, gets a new spin when it’s delivered Bill Murray-style, including references to Old Yeller, the Watusi and mutants. John rallies his band of misfit Army recruits—including a young John Candy, Harold Ramis and Judge Reinhold—with cries of, “There’s something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us,” and yet it works. We’d follow him too.
4. Rushmore (1998): Golf Balls in the Pool
Not a word is spoken as Herman Blume slowly tosses golf balls into a pool at his sons’ birthday party, then climbs the diving board in his Budweiser swim trunks, jumps in—lit cigarette still in mouth—and remains suspended underwater. And yet his movement speaks volumes about his apathy toward life; his very posture tells the story of who he is.
5. Ghostbusters (1984): “Are you the Keymaster?”
There are so many indelible moments from this hit, but one of our favorites is when Murray’s Venkman swaggers up to Dana (Sigourney Weaver)’s apartment to discover her possessed by Zul the Gatekeeper. His deadpan reaction is pure Murray: “Are we still going out?”
6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004): “I wonder if it remembers me?”
The fairytale moment when Murray’s oceanographer actually meets his personal Moby-Dick, the Jaguar Shark that ate his best friend, is a tragicomic masterpiece. “I wonder if it remembers me?” he asks with both pride and heartbreak as he nearly dissolves into tears. His face is mesmerizing.
7. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003): “Bill Groundhog-Day-Ghostbustin’-ass Murray!”
Jim Jarmusch’s indie collage brings together an unlikely but brilliant trio in the segment called “Delirium,” as the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA and RZA discuss the benefits of a caffeine-free, alternative-medicine lifestyle while Murray (also playing himself as a waiter, for some unexplained reason) smokes cigarettes and guzzles coffee from the pot. It’s an absurd and enchanting encounter.
8. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): “Are you cussing with me?”
In one of his many wonderful collaborations with Wes Anderson, Murray’s suited lawyer Badger advises Mr. Fox (George Clooney) not to buy the tree home he’s interested in. The two engage in a decidedly G-rated bout of cussing—using the word “cuss” in place of any actual bad words. And because they are, after all, wild animals, they also claw and hiss at each other. It’s light-hearted hilarity and yet so smart and strange… perfect.
9. Broken Flowers (2005): Michelle Pepe’s grave
As aging Lothario Don Johnston, Murray is deeply affecting and quietly funny as he visits a parade of ex-girlfriends in hopes of discovering which of them mothered the teenage son who is looking for him. Smooth and apparently unflappable, Don finally breaks down at the grave of his onetime love, and his restrained sorrow is so exquisite that we finally understand how unsatisfied he is with the choices he’s made.
10. Groundhog Day (1993): Diner Confession
Murray’s frustrated yet blasé attitude is irresistible in this comedy classic whose very title has become part of the cultural lexicon. Nowhere more than when Phil attempts to prove to Rita (Andie Macdowell) that he is, in fact, “an immortal” because he has survived being stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, burned and blown up. “I’m a god, I’m not the God—I don’t think.”