17 Underrated Bill Murray Performances That Remind Us Why We Love Him

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Vote up the best under-the-radar Bill Murray performances.

When you hear the term "comedic genius," Bill Murray is almost certainly one of the names that springs to mind. Ever since breaking out as a Saturday Night Live cast member in the 1970s, he's been at the forefront of comedy. Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, and Groundhog Day are among his most beloved films. He can do more than make people laugh, though. In the 21st century in particular, Murray established himself as a formidable dramatic actor with movies like Lost in Translation, for which he received a best actor Oscar nomination.

Because he has worked regularly for several decades, some of his films have slipped through the cracks or seen their notoriety diminished over time. Others were art house pictures that didn't attract a mainstream audience, despite his vast popularity. In any event, they contain undeniably underrated performances from the comedy icon. If you need a Bill Murray fix and have seen his major works plenty of times already, check out one of these movies instead. You'll be glad you did.

Which of these underrated Bill Murray performances is the most classic? Vote for your favorites.


  • 1
    376 VOTES

    Meatballs broke Bill Murray into the movies when it hit cinemas in 1979. Although comedy fans of a certain age are old enough to remember and revere it, younger audiences don't seem to have caught on. The actor plays Tripper, the head counselor at a summer camp. He takes a lonely, awkward teenage boy named Rudy (Chris Makepeace) under his wing - in between prank wars and general mayhem, that is.

    Directed by Ghostbusters' Ivan Reitman, Meatballs perfectly captures the energy Murray had at that stage in his career, when he was hot off Saturday Night Live. The movie's best scene finds Tripper giving a motivational speech to his campers, who have become discouraged after faring poorly in a series of Olympic games against a rival camp. Murray improvised the entire thing, including the now-famous mantra "It just doesn't matter!" firing up his young co-stars just as his character fires up his charges. Meatballs demonstrates that a director can simply encourage Murray to ad-lib, and the results will be incredible. 

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  • 2
    354 VOTES

    In St. Vincent, Bill Murray plays Vincent MacKenna, a drunken, bitter war veteran who spends his days either at the bar or the race track. He gets an unlikely gig as a babysitter when his new neighbor (Melissa McCarthy) needs someone to be with her 12-year-old son after school. This turns out to be a mixed bag. On one hand, Vincent takes the boy to places where kids should not be. On the other, he teaches him to have self-confidence and to not take flak from the bullies at school.

    At its core, St. Vincent is about how someone can be deeply flawed and still be a good person. Who better Bill Murray to get this idea across? Regardless of whether Vincent is having a cantankerous moment or a generous one, Murray continually shows us the character's humanity. This is one of his juiciest roles, and also one that allows him to bring all his specialties to the table at the same time. He makes Vincent hilarious yet troubled, and sarcastic but sweet. It's a multi-dimensional performance in a genuine feel-good film. 

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  • 3
    507 VOTES

    What About Bob? was a fairly big hit in the summer of 1991, but it hasn't quite been discovered by viewers who weren't around to see it at the time. Bill Murray plays Bob Wiley, a deeply neurotic man so incapable of handling his own problems that he crashes his therapist's vacation. Richard Dreyfuss plays that therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin, and his comic exasperation plays nicely off Murray's clinginess.

    The interactions between the men provide many big laughs. What About Bob? represents Murray at his most impish. He apparently took a method approach to the role, incessantly angering Dreyfuss off-camera, as well as on. His co-star may not have liked that idea, but there's no doubt that the behind-the-scenes tension created a hilariously real dynamic between the characters they play. Watching Bob get on Dr. Marvin's nerves is uproarious.

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  • 4
    402 VOTES

    Bill Murray only appears at the beginning and end of Kingpin, yet his presence is enormous. He's Ernie McCracken, a professional bowler who has a rivalry with fellow bowler Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson). They get involved in a hustle gone wrong in the opening scenes - an event that causes Roy to lose a hand while Ernie gets away scot-free. During the big climax, the two are reunited at a championship match. 

    Kingpin was directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, directors who were known for making wild, outlandish comedies in the '90s, including There's Something About Mary. Because their movies were larger than life, Murray knew enough to let go of the reins. Sporting the world's worst, most out-of-control comb-over, he enters the third act of this picture and blows the roof off with his side-splitting depiction of Ernie's super-competitive nature. He's a madman in this picture, and his energy is glorious.

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  • 5
    189 VOTES

    When it came out in 1998, Wild Things was mostly notable for some steamy scenes between Denise Richards and Neve Campbell, as well as Kevin Bacon appearing fully nude. That was a novelty back then, especially since Campbell was shedding the good-girl image she cultivated on TV's Party of Five. For that reason, it was easy to overlook Bill Murray's delightfully twisted turn as Ken Bowden, a sleazy personal injury lawyer, just before his acclaimed performance in 1999's indie darling Rushmore.

    The whole tone of Wild Things is campy and over the top. The actor slides into that nicely, making Ken an amoral guy who has no hesitation about trying to manipulate the court in every way possible. That includes showing up for a trial wearing a neck brace. Murray's performance contributes its own layer of craziness to a movie that's already bursting at the seams with crazy. It also provides a temporary respite from the sexually charged antics that fuel the plot, giving the audience time to breathe in between sessions of panting. 

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  • 6
    202 VOTES

    Quick Change is one of those movies where people who have seen it perpetually ask themselves, "Why isn't this considered a classic?" Bill Murray not only stars in this 1990 comedy, but also co-directed it. He plays Grimm, the mastermind of a bank robbery. When he and his two cohorts, played by Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, try to make an escape from New York City, one hitch after another conspires to make that impossible.

    You won't get a better opportunity to see Murray doing slow-burn comedy than this. Although he gets to drop some of his patented sarcastic one-liners, he's essentially the straight man here, forced to react to all the crazy people doing equally crazy things around him. It's different from his normal style, where he's the overtly funny one, but he does it extremely well. His work, combined with the chemistry he generates with his co-stars, makes Quick Change a movie every comedy fan should see. 

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