If you’re a fan of a certain brand of ’80s comedy films, the sight of Bill Murray and Harold Ramis together on-screen is always a welcome one. The two comics began that run with Stripes (1981), which Ramis co-wrote. But while Stripes was a big hit, it was nothing compared to the smash that Ghostbusters (1984) became.
Once again, Ramis co-wrote the screenplay. This time, he collaborated on the script with Dan Aykroyd, who joined Ramis and Murray in front of the camera as the titular paranormal investigators. With those successes on the board, Murray and Ramis kept rolling together into the early ’90s.
Their run ended with Groundhog Day (1993), after which the longtime collaborators barely spoke prior to Ramis’ 2014 death. But by then they’d already delivered a body of work that secured their reputations. Their best-known work came from those years together.
Bill Murray and Harold Ramis collaborated on 6 films together
While Ramis had a number of memorable screen appearances, he was first and foremost a writer. He got his start at Second City in his hometown of Chicago and notched some of his earliest screen credits writing for SCTV (1976-79). Then he broke through on the big screen with National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978).
After that success with Second City alumnus John Belushi, Ramis co-wrote Meatballs (1979). That film launched Murray’s career in movies and marked the first big-screen collaboration between him and Ramis. And another landmark film from the duo followed the next year.
That was Caddyshack (1980), which was Ramis’ first foray into big-screen directing. Once again, he co-wrote the script, though he pointed out that Murray improvised most of his lines on the set. Regardless, the two of them were on fire, and their third effort (Stripes) hit even bigger with audiences.
With the two Ghostbusters (the sequel arrived in 1989) and Groundhog Day following it, Murray and Ramis had six films on which they collaborated at a high level. It was an extraordinary run by any standard.
3 Murray-Ramis films made the AFI’s ‘100 Years… 100 Laughs’ list
In 2000, the American Film Institute polled 1,800 film artists, executives, critics, and historians to come up with its “100 Years… 100 Laughs” list. You can call it the “funniest 100 American films” list if you like, and three of the Murray-Ramis collaborations placed on it.
Caddyshack turned up at a most respectable 70th place, but the other two cracked the AFI’s top 50. Groundhog Day checked in at No. 34 on the list, and Ghostbusters landed at No. 28. (Animal House also appeared on the AFI list at No. 36.)
When Ramis passed away in ’14, President Obama praised the late writer-director as “one of America’s greatest satirists” in an official White House statement. And Obama cited the same three Murray-Ramis collaborations as AFI. Fans may regret the pair’s post-Groundhog Day rift, but they certainly made it count while it lasted.
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