One of my favorite comedic actors and one of my favorite actors ever is the incomparable and legendary Bill Murray. From one of my favorite movies of all-time, Groundhog Day, to his stellar dramatic performance in Lost in Translation, Murray has endeared himself to me in multiple corners of my cinematic heart.
However, a list of his best performances of best movies he is in would require a Top 10 or Top 15. But what of Murray’s smaller roles where he is not the main protagonist or even a minor player? This Top 5 concerns us with movies where Murray’s star power serves as a comedic cherry on top or a great Easter egg to add a flair of comedic integrity to a film. When Murray is involved, you know you are in for something special.
So, in honor of Murray’s purported cameo in the new Ghostbusters movie, we’re looking at the Top 5 movie cameos of Bill Murray. Let’s start with one spectacular Easter egg cameo in an otherwise mediocre movie.
5) Harry’s New Roommate in Dumb and Dumber To
It’s important to note this movie is not very good. Most of the movie is a sad retread of what made the original so funny, and to be completely honest, I don’t think we needed another chapter in the life of Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.
However, for one brief shining moment, the movie channels something great by making a double callback to popular culture. When Lloyd comes out of his “coma”, he goes back to Harry’s apartment, the same apartment from the first movie. Harry introduces Lloyd to his new roommate who happens to make “rock candy that’ll make you dizzy”.
While Breaking Bad references are nothing new, e.g. Zootopia did it this year, the big reveals were later when news broke the man in the suit claiming to have his “best day ever” is in fact, Bill Murray. He only has one line, but that joke and then the Easter egg reveal of Murray in the protective suit makes it the funniest moment of the movie.
4) The Darjeeling Limited as a man trying to catch the train
Bill Murray is no stranger to working with director Wes Anderson. His dramatic/comedic role in Rushmore is one of his best ever and his performance as Steve Zissou in Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of his best ever. He has even had smaller roles in multiple films, but none as brief and notable as his cameo in one of Anderson’s lesser regarded movies, The Darjeeling Limited.
The movie opens, right away, with a classic Anderson-framed shot of Murray playing a man trying to catch the eponymous train in India.
It’s a frantic scene that is the closest we’ve ever gotten to a car chase in a Wes Anderson movie. I love that Murray, such a recognizable face seems to be framed as the main character of the film, only to miss the train and “hand off” the narrative to Adrien Brody. And while Murray only shows up briefly in one more scene for about five seconds during the most “Wes Anderson” sequence of the movie, this fun cameo is one of the only times a major star kicks off a movie and plays no part in the larger narrative for the rest of the running time.
3) Agent 13 from Get Smart
Another mediocre comedy but this one stars Steve Carell in the cinematic adaptation of the old TV series Get Smart. Like in Dumb and Dumber To, Murray has only a brief appearance, but true to form, he steals the movie and has the best scene in the movie.
When Carell’s Max Smart needs the walkway raised up and communications are knocked out, he discovers Agent 13 in a tree. Agent 13 turns out to be Bill Murray inside a tree going “old school” since the communications were knocked out.
I love how Murray plays an agent desperate for some conversation and catch up on life with Agent Smart. But, Smart has to get going. Besides, who wants to talk to a guy in a tree? Answer? Nobody. Murray is great and I wish the movie had a bigger role for a sad agent in a tree.
2) A Waiter in a Restaurant in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes
Jim Jarmusch, director of all things hip and cool, put together this movie as 11 short film vignettes related only to their use of cigarettes and coffee in each vignette. In one of the final shorts, RZA and GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan sit down and enjoy some naturally caffeine-free herbal tea while discussing caffeine. When the waiter wanders over to offer more coffee, they say they don’t “mess around” with that stuff and the waiter sits down for a chat and turns out to be none other than Bill Murray.
This is one of my favorite cameos because he is playing himself and wants RZA and GZA to keep his identity a secret. The best part is that Bill Murray playing himself is still him playing a part. From drinking straight from the pot to his slight self-loathing, Murray is a character in character or out of character. This short officially established Murray as someone cool you wanted to cameo in your movie or your life. It’s the reason why he can show up and crash weddings and it doesn’t take away from it, but makes them better. Murray is an icon but also carries enough street cred to hang with the Wu-Tang Clan or show up in Wes Anderson movies.
1) A Fake Zombie Bill Murray in Zombieland
Easily his best cameo ever, it all goes south for everyone’s favorite comedian when he shows up in this screwball, post-apocalyptic zombie horror comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone.
Best line, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just shot Bill Murray.”
And, “So do you have any regrets?” “Garfield, maybe.”