Ghostbusters is a 1984 American supernatural comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The film stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as three eccentric parapsychologists in New York City, who start a ghost catching business. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis co-star as a potential client and her neighbor. It was released in the United States on June 8, 1984 and made US$238,632,124 in the United States. The American Film Institute ranked Ghostbusters 28th in its AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs list of film comedies.
The film was followed by a sequel, Ghostbusters II in 1989, and two animated television series, The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters. As of May 2013, a third feature film still remains uncertain.
Following their first encounter with a ghost, misfit parapsychologists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) lose their jobs at Columbia University. Unable to research their discovery, the trio establish a paranormal exterminator service known as "Ghostbusters" in a former firehouse. With no customers and dwindling funds, they are eventually hired by the Sedgewick Hotel manager to investigate a haunting. At the hotel, they capture their first ghost and deposit it in a "containment unit" in the firehouse basement. Paranormal activity begins to increase in New York City; the Ghostbusters become celebrities containing it, but are increasingly burdened by their hectic schedule. The group hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), to help them cope with the demand.
The Ghostbusters are retained by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), whose apartment is haunted by a demonic spirit, Zuul, a demigod worshipped as a servant to Gozer the Gozerian, a Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction. Venkman takes a particular interest in the case, competing with Dana's neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), for her affection. As the Ghostbusters investigate, Dana is possessed by Zuul, which declares itself "The Gatekeeper", and Louis by a similar demon called Vinz Clortho, "The Keymaster." Both demons speak of the coming of the destructive Gozer, and the Ghostbusters plan to keep the two apart. Thereafter, the Ghostbusters' office is visited by Walter Peck (William Atherton), a lawyer representing the EPA, who has the team arrested for operating an unlicensed nuclear device and orders their ghost containment grid deactivated, unleashing hundreds of captured ghosts onto the city. Freed from the Ghostbusters' custody, Louis/Vinz advances toward Dana/Zuul's apartment while the escaped ghosts wreak havoc throughout the city.
Consulting blueprints of Dana's apartment, the Ghostbusters learn that mad doctor and cult leader Ivo Shandor, claiming humanity was too sick to survive after the horrors of World War I, designed the building as a gateway to summon Gozer and bring about the end of the world. The Ghostbusters are released from custody to combat the paranormal activity, but are unable to prevent the arrival of Gozer, who initially appears as a woman (Slavitza Jovan). Briefly subdued by the team, Gozer disappears, but her voice echoes that the "destructor" will follow, taking a form chosen by the team. Venkman, realizing that whatever they think of will appear as a destroying force, urges his comrades to avoid giving form to the destructor by clearing their minds. Unable to keep his mind blank, Stantz remembers a beloved corporate mascot from childhood, "something that could never, ever possibly destroy us," whereupon the destructor arrives in the form of Stantz's giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, which begins laying waste to the city. To defeat it, the team combine the energy streams of their proton packs (which Egon advised against earlier) against Gozer's portal to our world. A single explosion banishes Gozer back from whence it came, seals the gateway between the worlds, and destroys the Marshmallow Man. Soon thereafter, Dana and Louis are freed from the remains of their possessors. As hundreds of New Yorkers wipe marshmallow goo from their faces, the Ghostbusters are applauded by the city's population.
The cast also includes Alice Drummond as a librarian, Jennifer Runyon as an ESP volunteer, Reginald VelJohnson as a jail guard, and director Ivan Reitman provides the voice of Zuul and Slimer. Roger Grimsby, Larry King, Joe Franklin, and Casey Kasem make cameo appearances in the film.
The concept was inspired by Aykroyd's own fascination with the paranormal and it was conceived as a vehicle for himself and friend John Belushi, fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus. The original story, as written by Aykroyd, was very different from what was eventually filmed; in the initial version, a group of "Ghostsmashers" traveled through time, space, and other dimensions combating huge ghosts (of which the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was one of many). Also, the Ghostbusters wore SWAT-like outfits and used wands instead of proton packs to fight the ghosts. Ghostbusters storyboards show them wearing riotsquad-type helmets with movable transparent visors. In addition to a similar title, the movie shares the premise of professional "exterminators" on a paranormal mission with The Bowery Boys slapstick comedy Spook Busters (1946, directed by William Beaudine).
Aykroyd pitched his story to director/producer Ivan Reitman, who liked the basic idea but immediately saw the budgetary impossibilities demanded by Aykroyd's first draft. At Reitman's suggestion, the story was given a major overhaul, eventually evolving into the final screenplay which Aykroyd and Ramis hammered out over the course of three weeks in a Martha's Vineyard bomb shelter in May–June 1982. Aykroyd and Ramis initially wrote the script with roles written especially for Belushi, Eddie Murphy, and John Candy; but Belushi died during the writing of the screenplay, and neither Murphy nor Candy would commit to the movie, so Aykroyd and Ramis made some changes and polished a basic, science-fiction-oriented screenplay for their final draft.
In addition to Aykroyd's high-concept basic premise, and Ramis' skill at grounding the fantastic elements with a realistic setting, the film benefits from Bill Murray's semi-improvisational performance as Peter Venkman, the character initially intended for Belushi.
For the test screening of Ghostbusters, half of the ghost effects were missing, not yet having been completed by the production team. The audience response was still enthusiastic, and the ghost elements were completed for the official theatrical release shortly thereafter.
Louis Tully was originally conceived as a conservative man in a business suit played by comedian John Candy; but with Candy unable to commit to the role, he was replaced by Rick Moranis who portrayed Louis as a geek. Gozer was originally going to appear in the form of Ivo Shandor as a slender, unremarkable man in a suit played by Paul Reubens; but the role was played by Yugoslav model Slavitza Jovan. The demonic voice of Gozer was provided by Paddi Edwards, supposedly after Bill Murray joked that the line "choose and perish" sounded like "Jews and berries" when spoken with Jovan's Slavic accent. Eddie Murphy was supposed to be Winston Zeddemore because Dan Aykroyd wanted him to, but he went to make Beverly Hills Cop. The Peter Venkmen role was originally meant for John Belushi but due to his passing, the role had to be given to Bill Murray, per Larry King in a recent interview on the Howard Stern Show. King also went on to say that Murray wanted to do the script as written as a tribute to John.
Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984 in 1,339 theaters and grossed $13.6 million on its opening weekend and $23 million in its first week, a studio record at the time. The film was number one at the box office for five consecutive weeks, grossing $99.8 million. After seven weeks at number one, it was finally knocked to second place by Prince's film, Purple Rain and had grossed $142.6 million, second only to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the year's top moneymaker. However, Ghostbusters regained top spot the next week, and then again six weeks later. It went on to gross $229.2 million at the box office, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1984, behind only Beverly Hills Cop. At the time, these figures put it within the top ten highest-grossing films of all-time. A re-release in 1985 gave the film a total gross of $238.6 million ($509 million in today's dollars) surpassing Beverly Hills Cop and making Ghostbusters the most successful comedy of the 1980s.
Ghostbusters received mainly positive reviews from critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1984. It holds a 94% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 46 reviews; the site's consensus called the film "An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns."
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "This movie is an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy ... Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines". Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "Everyone seems to be working toward the same goal of relaxed insanity. Ghostbusters is wonderful summer nonsense". In his review for TIME, Richard Schickel praised the three lead actors: "Of the ghost wranglers, the pair played by writers Aykroyd and Ramis are sweetly earnest about their calling, and gracious about giving the picture to their co-star Bill Murray. He obviously (and wisely) regards Dr. Peter Venkman as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop fully his patented comic character". Pauline Kael had problems with the chemistry among the three lead actors: "Murray is the film's comic mechanism ... But nobody else has much in the way of material, and since there's almost no give-and-take among the three men, Murray's lines fall on dead air". In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Its jokes, characters and story line are as wispy as the ghosts themselves, and a good deal less substantial".
The film received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Song (for the hit song "Ghostbusters") and Best Visual Effects.
In 1989, Criterion Collection released a laserdisc version of the film, in a one-disc CLV version and a two-disc special edition CAV version; the latter also included deleted scenes, and a split-screen demonstration of special effects from the film, the screenplay, among other features.
Director Ivan Reitman was not happy with the laserdisc release of the film because "it pumped up the light level so much you saw all the matte lines. I was embarrassed about it all these years". The DVD version of the movie was released on June 29, 1999; at a time when an estimated four million U.S. households had DVD players, Ghostbusters became one of Reel.com's fastest selling products.
Sony announced at Comic-Con 2008 that the Blu-ray version of the film was to be released on October 21, 2008. It was released first through Sony Pictures' campaign site, Ghostbustersishiring.com as a way to drum up sales of its release. The movie was released on Blu-ray on June 16, 2009 to coincide with the film's 25th Anniversary. Ghostbusters was the first film ever officially released on a USB flashdrive.
For one week in August 2009 an ad-supported version of Ghostbusters could be streamed in the USA via YouTube.
A second Blu-ray version was released on May 14, 2013. It was marketed as "Mastered in 4k", and was noted as having improved image quality over the previous Blu-ray release.
Sony Pictures re-released the film in nearly 500 theaters in the United States on October 13, 2011, and the following two Thursdays before Halloween of that year.
The film's theme song, "Ghostbusters," written and performed by Ray Parker, Jr., sparked the catchphrases "Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!" and "I ain't afraid of no ghost." The song was a huge hit, staying #1 for three weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and #1 for two weeks on the Black Singles chart. The song earned Parker an Academy Award nomination for "Best Original Song". According to Bruce A. Austin (in 1989), this theme "purportedly added $20 million to the box office take of the film".
The music video produced for the song became a #1 MTV video. Featuring actress Cindy Harrell, directed by Ivan Reitman, produced by Jeffrey Abelson, and conceptualized by Keith Williams, the video integrated footage of the film intercut with a humorous performance by Parker. The video also featured cameo appearances by celebrities who joined in the call-and-response chorus, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Ollie E. Brown, Melissa Gilbert, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, Lori Singer, and Teri Garr. The video ends with footage of the four main Ghostbusters actors in costume and character, dancing in Times Square behind Parker, joining in the singing.
The film score was composed by Elmer Bernstein, and is notable for its use of ondes Martenot (a staple of Bernstein's 1980s work) and also the Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer. Orchestrators contributing to the film were Peter Bernstein, David Spear and Patrick Russ. The score was commercially released in 2006 as Ghostbusters: Original Motion Picture Score by Varèse Sarabande. It contains 39 songs by Bernstein.
Reviewers at Allmusic have awarded both the Original Soundtrack Album and the Original Motion Picture Score 4 out of a total 5 stars. Evan Cater describes the Original Soundtrack Album somewhat pejoratively as "a very disjointed, schizophrenic listen" that "does very little to conjure memories of the film". However, he notes that there are exceptions to this, namely Ray Parker Jr.'s title track "Ghostbusters", Mick Smiley's "Magic", and the two inclusions from Elmer Bernstein's score. Jason Ankeny describes the Original Motion Picture Score as "epic in both sound and scale", noting that it "ranks among Bernstein's most dazzling and entertaining efforts, evoking the widescreen wonder of its source material", concluding that "his melodies beautifully complement the wit and creativity of the onscreen narrative."
In autumn 1984 Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker, Jr. for plagiarism, claiming that Parker copied the melody from his 1983 song "I Want a New Drug". Lewis had been approached to compose the main theme song for the movie, but he declined due to his work on the soundtrack for Back to the Future. The two musicians settled out of court. It was reported in 2001 that Lewis allegedly breached an agreement not to mention the original suit, doing so on VH1's Behind the Music.
A script for a potential third film was under development by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the writing team that worked with Harold Ramis on the 2009 comedy Year One; according to Ramis, the four main cast members from the original film may have minor on-screen roles: "The concept is that the old Ghostbusters would appear in the film in some mentor capacity". Comments from Murray in August 2010, after Year Ones release suggested the latter's poor reception made a new Ghostbuster sequel a "dream just vaporized." Two months later, Aykroyd downplayed Murray's comments, saying Stupnitsky and Eisenberg "wrote Bill the comic role of a lifetime, and the new Ghostbusters and the old are all well represented in it"; they wrote a "strong first draft" that Aykroyd and Ramis would work on. In February 2012, Aykroyd said "The script must be perfect. We cannot release a film that is any less than that. We have more work to do."
The film became a cultural phenomenon and an instant classic. The American Film Institute ranked it 28th in its list of the top 100 comedies of all time (in their 100 Years... 100 Laughs list), and nominated it for its lists of the 100 greatest movies in 1998 and 2007 and the 100 most heart-pounding movies (in AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills). The title song was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs, and two quotes were nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: "We came. We saw. We kicked its ass," and "He slimed me," both spoken by Venkman. In 2005, IGN voted Ghostbusters the greatest comedy ever. In 2006, Bravo ranked Ghostbusters 76 on their 100 Funniest Movies list. Entertainment Weekly ranked it as the Funniest Movie of the Past 25 Years. In 2008, Empire magazine ranked the film #189 on its list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. In 2009, National Review magazine ranked Ghostbusters number 10 on its 25 Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years list. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Ghostbusters the 44th greatest comedy film of all time.