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Review of Iconic Roles: Bill Murray’s Four Best Performances

In the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, fan-favorite actor Bill Murray will reprise his most iconic character, Peter Venkman. While he was initially reluctant to take the role (apparently, he only accepted it so that Columbia Pictures would greenlight 1984’s The Razor’s Edge, which marvelously bombed at the box office) that decision would make his career take off.

The 71-year-old actor’s credits include plenty of astonishing performances and great movies. Here are his four best ones.


Iconic Roles: Bill Murray's Four Best Performances

After getting fired from their job at Columbia University, three bizarre parapsychology professors team up with a new associate and come up with a job as ghostbusters. They offer to investigate and eliminate any paranormal activity in New York City. Their main job will consist of saving two unsuspecting citizens possessed by ancient demigods who want the world’s end. But Brooklyn researchers are tougher than they look.

The role of Peter Venkman might have been written for the late John Belushi, but Murray poured his body and soul into it. The outcome was simply excellent. Since the second fans are introduced to the seductive paranormal detective, he charms them with his charisma and lightning blue eyes. While nowadays it might look a bit old-fashioned, the VFX department worked miracles at the time. Just think about how iconic Slimer or the gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man still looks today. It wasn’t common to see four geeks leading an action movie in 1984. Still, the gamble paid off as fans and critics loved this story. The film became the highest-grossing for the year’s release and the highest-grossing comedy ever for a short time.


Iconic Roles: Bill Murray's Four Best Performances

In the modern adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol directed by Richard Donner, Murray’s Frank Cross is the meanest person in the world. Three ghosts visit the cynical television mogul on Christmas Eve, forcing him to reflect on his past, present, and future choices before it’s too late. The story is a meta-narrative criticism of the role of consumerism in modern society.
After portraying many good guys on-screen, Murray turned heel for this job.

There was much curiosity surrounding this movie at the time, especially with Murray returning to acting after a four-year hiatus following The Razor’s Edge box-office bombing in 1984. Not only did the charismatic actor prove his doubters wrong, but he also delivered one of his best performances in arguably one of the best Christmas movies ever. Fans love to hate Murray’s Frank, who villainously makes fun of all Holliday season clichés made of education, rhetoric, and good feelings. In this film, he lies the foundation for his peculiar character, the one who goes beyond the mere acting, always looking “out of place,” an unsettling and absolute master of the scene, without any brakes or filters.

Groundhog Day

Iconic Roles: Bill Murray's Four Best Performances

Murray portrays Phil Connors, a television weatherman assigned to cover the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney. Accompanied by Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” Phil keeps reliving the same day again and again and he soon starts to make the most out of his peculiar situation and lives his life as there is no tomorrow. After getting sick of his lavish life, he even attempts suicide, but nothing seems to get him out of this living nightmare.

Murray teamed up with Harold Ramis once again for the 1993 fantasy comedy. While the direction isn’t as brilliant as the script (penned by Ramis and Danny Rubin), Murray delivers another outstanding performance that fans can watch and rewatch in a loop. Phil is far from being lovable at first. However, the more you get to know him and his estranged comedy, the more you like him.

Lost in Translation

Iconic Roles: Bill Murray's Four Best Performances

A veteran actor called Bob Harris meets Charlotte in a luxury hotel in Tokyo. She is the young wife of a photographer, and she’s full of doubts. Soon, Bob and Charlotte start to know each other better, and their mutual sympathy might hide something more.

Sofia Coppola directed and penned her second movie, then rewarded for Best Original Screenplay at the 76th Academy Awards. The hyperreal metropolis where the action takes place is full of emptiness, alienation, and absurdity, which brings out the character’s vulnerability. The protagonists warmly deal with the meaning of life and the passing of time. Murray portrays a character tormented by personal failure, stoically bearing the weight of his age. At the same time, he also knows when to get rid of gravitas in his usual eccentric way.

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