Ghost is a 1990 American supernatural romance film directed by Jerry Zucker from a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, and starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, Vincent Schiavelli, and Rick Aviles.[5] It focuses on Sam Wheat (Swayze), a murdered banker, whose ghost sets out to save his girlfriend, Molly Jensen (Moore), from the person who killed him – through the help of the psychic Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg).

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJerry Zucker
Written byBruce Joel Rubin
Produced byLisa Weinstein
CinematographyAdam Greenberg
Edited byWalter Murch
Music byMaurice Jarre
Distributed byParamount Pictures[2]
Release date
  • July 13, 1990 (1990-07-13)
Running time
127 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$22–23 million
Box office$505.7 million[4]

Ghost was theatrically released on July 13, 1990, to commercial success, grossing $505 million against a budget of $22–23 million and emerging as the highest-grossing film of 1990 and at the time of its release, was the third-highest-grossing film of all time. Its success extended to the home video market, and was the most rented film of 1991 in the United States. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with particular praise going towards the score and performances of the cast. Ghost earned five nominations at the 63rd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and winning Best Supporting Actress for Goldberg and Best Original Screenplay for Rubin.

Plot edit

Banker Sam Wheat and his artist girlfriend Molly Jensen move into a Manhattan loft with the help of Sam's friend and co-worker Carl Bruner. One night, the couple are attacked on the street by a mugger, and though Sam appears to chase him away, he returns to a devastated Molly cradling his bloodied corpse and realizes he is dead. A bright beam of light shines down on Sam but he walks towards Molly and the light disappears.

As a ghost, a despondent Sam remains by Molly's side but is unable to interact with the physical world and other ghosts he encounters are unhelpful. Sometime later, the mugger breaks into and searches their apartment. Molly returns unexpectedly and Sam scares her cat, which can see him, causing it to attack the mugger, who flees. While pursuing the mugger, Sam is attacked by a violent ghost on the subway train who can touch physical objects. Sam follows the mugger back to his apartment, learning his name, Willie Lopez, and that Sam was deliberately targeted.

Sam later encounters Oda Mae Brown, who operates as a charlatan psychic, but he realizes she can actually hear him and demands she help him warn Molly. Though reluctant to help, Oda Mae agrees after Sam keeps her awake with his singing. Despite her intimate knowledge of Sam's and Molly's relationship, Oda Mae struggles to convince Molly the afterlife is real until Sam has Oda Mae say "ditto", his response whenever Molly said she loved him. Molly tells the police and Carl about Willie, but the police dismiss the story and reveal Oda Mae's extensive history of fraud, leaving Molly disheartened.

Meanwhile, Sam follows Carl and learns that he hired Willie to rob Sam of his book of bank passwords. Carl needs the passwords to launder $4 million of drug money through an account held by the fictional "Rita Miller" for his criminal employers. He breaks into Molly's apartment and takes the book, and later attempts to seduce her until the enraged Sam inadvertently knocks over a picture frame. Sam returns to the subway and convinces the violent ghost to teach him to focus his emotions and reliably interact with the physical world.

Sam visits Oda Mae, who is now popular with ghosts hoping to reach their living loved ones, and convinces her to pose as Rita Miller to withdraw the drug money, which she reluctantly donates to charity; Molly witnesses the transaction while visiting the bank. As Carl panics over the missing money and death threats from its owners, Sam uses his abilities to torment him. Carl visits Molly to discuss the haunting and she unwittingly reveals Oda Mae withdrew the money. While Molly is upstairs, Sam attacks Carl until he threatens to murder Molly if the money is not returned that night. Carl and Willie travel to confront Oda Mae but Sam warns her to hide and terrorizes Willie until he flees into a road and is struck and killed by a car. Shadowy figures appear and drag Willie's screaming ghost into the ground.

Oda Mae and Sam return to Molly's apartment, where he levitates a penny to convince her he is truly present. After Molly calls the police to report Carl, Oda Mae allows Sam to possess her so he can dance with Molly. However, the possession leaves him weakened and unable to help when Carl breaks into the apartment. Carl takes Molly hostage and demands the money but Sam recovers in time to attack him. In a panic, Carl ineffectually swings a metal hook and tries to escape through a window, but the hook swings back and shatters the window pane, causing a large shard of glass to impale and kill him. Sam watches as the shadowy figures drag Carl away.

As Sam checks on Molly and Oda Mae, the beam of light returns, allowing them both to see and hear him. Sam thanks Oda Mae and shares a kiss with Molly, telling her he loves her. She responds, "ditto", before Sam walks into the light.

Cast edit

Production edit

Background and filming edit

Filming of the apartment took place at 102 Prince Street, lower Manhattan

Ghost was the first film Jerry Zucker directed on his own, as well as his first dramatic film. He had previously been part of the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker directing team, known for their parody films. Zucker stated that his decision to direct Ghost was not made to distance himself from comedies or to mark a new chapter in his career, but he was merely "just looking for a good film to direct." When screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin learned that Zucker was to direct the film and wanted to make changes to his script, he was apprehensive, as he wanted Miloš Forman or Stanley Kubrick to direct and feared Zucker would turn his script into a comedy. However, Rubin changed his mind and warmed up after dining with Zucker and being impressed by how "deeply philosophical" he was.[5]

Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Paul Hogan, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Kline, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise were considered for the role of Sam Wheat.[6][7] Bruce Willis turned the role of Sam Wheat down as he did not understand the script and later called himself a "knucklehead" for declining.[8] Similarly, Fox thought the film wouldn't work, and, in hindsight, regretted turning the role down.[9] Michelle Pfeiffer, Molly Ringwald,[7] Meg Ryan,[7] Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman were considered for the role of Molly Jensen. Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, and Oprah Winfrey were either considered or auditioned for the role of Oda Mae Brown.[10][11][12][13][14] Zucker initially was not interested in casting Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae, and Swayze advocated for her to be cast.[15][14]

Zucker credited arguments from radio host Dennis Prager with deciding to "lighten" Rubin's original script with a moral message.[16]

Rubin noted that he "wanted to tell a ghost story from the ghost's perspective": "One day, I was watching a production of Hamlet, which begins with the ghost of Hamlet's father saying, ‘Revenge my death,’" he recalled. "I thought, ‘Wow, let's transpose that into the 20th century; it'd be an interesting story.’ And the idea hit me."[17]

Filming for Ghost began shooting in July 1989. Many of the interior scenes were shot at Paramount in Los Angeles. The interior of Sam and Molly's loft is a reproduction of the home and studio of artist Michele Oka Doner, built from plans she provided because she declined to allow filming in her loft. It was reconstructed in an unused loft nearby in her Soho neighborhood[18] and featured many of the same details as the actual loft, such as radiators around columns, open stairs and a house-shaped enclosure for the refrigerator. Filming of the apartment took place at 102 Prince Street, lower Manhattan.[19][20] The exterior scenes were shot in New York City, particularly in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Soho, and Wall Street, for about five weeks. The film features about 100 special effects shots.[21] Demi Moore's famous 'boy cut' in the movie was designed by Manhattan hair stylist John Sahag.[22]

The final scene used digital video effects. Originally it was meant to show Patrick Swayze kissing Demi Moore before walking up a mylar platform toward a bluescreen with grips in the shot. VFX supervisor Richard Edlund didn't think the audience would buy it, and used Quantel’s “Harry” video-compositing system to combine the workprint with Swayze with elements that had been shot on an Oxberry animation stand and things like an endoscope of Christmas tinsel.[23]

Music edit

The music for Ghost was written by veteran French composer Maurice Jarre, whose work was nominated for the 1990 Academy Award for Best Original Score (won by John Barry for Dances with Wolves).[24] The soundtrack also featured the 1955 song "Unchained Melody", composed by Alex North with lyrics by Hy Zaret. In Ghost, the song appears both in instrumental and vocal form, the latter being the version recorded by Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers in 1965.[25]

The soundtrack album was issued worldwide on Milan Records, but licensed to Varèse Sarabande in North America. It was reissued with two extra tracks in 1995, and later as part of Milan's Silver Screen Edition series with the extra tracks and an interview with Maurice Jarre.[26]

Release edit

Releases and sales edit

The film became an unexpected box-office success,[27][28][29][30] grossing $505.7 million on a budget of between $22–23 million.[31][32] It was the highest-grossing film of 1990.[33] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 51.46 million tickets in the US.[34] It spent eight consecutive weeks at number one at the UK box office[35] and became the highest-grossing film of all time in the UK surpassing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with a gross of £23.3 million. That record would last for three years before getting surpassed by Jurassic Park in 1993.[36][37] It also spent six consecutive weeks atop the Australian box office.[38] It was also the highest-grossing film in Indonesia at the time with a gross of $3.6 million[39] and the highest-grossing foreign film in the Philippines.[40]

The film was released on video and LaserDisc in the United States on March 21, 1991, and sold a record 646,000 videos for rental, breaking the record set by Die Hard 2,[41] and a record 66,040 LaserDiscs.[42] It was the top video rental of 1991 in the United States,[43] and generated a gross of $40 million for Paramount. The video went on sale in the fall and generated sales of $25 million.[41]

Critical response edit

Ghost has an approval rating of 76% based on 78 professional reviews on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.9/10. Its critical consensus reads, "Ghost offers viewers a poignant romance while blending elements of comedy, horror, and mystery, all adding up to one of the more enduringly watchable hits of its era."[44] Metacritic (which uses a weighted average) assigned Ghost a score of 52 out of 100 based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[45] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[46]

Roger Ebert gave Ghost two-and-a-half out of four stars in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, regarding the film as "no worse an offender than most ghost movies, I suppose. It assumes that even after death we devote most of our attention to unfinished business here on Earth, and that danger to a loved one is more important to a ghost than the infinity it now inhabits." He was also critical of the film's "obligatory action climax", the "ridiculous visitation from the demons of hell", the "slow study" of the Molly character, and the "single best scene" in which Sam overtakes Oda Mae's body to caress Molly: "In strict logic, this should involve us seeing Goldberg kissing Moore, but of course the movie compromises and shows us Swayze holding her - too bad, because the logical version would actually have been more spiritual and moving."[47]

David Ansen of Newsweek, despite finding the ending too sentimental, praised the film as "a zippy pastiche that somehow manages to seem fresh even though it's built entirely out of borrowed parts."[48] Variety magazine called the film "an odd creation – at times nearly smothering in arty somberness, at others veering into good, wacky fun."[49] Goldberg received considerable praise for her performance. In a review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin comments "Ms. Goldberg plays the character's amazement, irritation and great gift for back talk to the hilt. This is one of those rare occasions on which the uncategorizable Ms. Goldberg has found a film role that really suits her, and she makes the most of it."[50] Even some writers who gave negative reviews of Ghost extended praise to Goldberg's work in the film.[51]

Accolades edit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Lisa Weinstein Nominated [52]
Best Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Bruce Joel Rubin Won
Best Film Editing Walter Murch Nominated
Best Original Score Maurice Jarre Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Walter Murch Nominated
American Comedy Awards Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Whoopi Goldberg Won [53]
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Adam Greenberg Nominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Maurice Jarre Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role Whoopi Goldberg Won [54]
Best Original Screenplay Bruce Joel Rubin Nominated
Best Make Up Artist Ben Nye Jr. Nominated
Best Special Visual Effects Bruce Nicholson, John T. Van Vliet,
Richard Edlund, and Laura Buff
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [55]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Patrick Swayze Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Demi Moore Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Whoopi Goldberg Won
Golden Reel Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Dialogue and ADR for Feature Film Lee Haxall Nominated
Golden Screen Awards Won
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Jerry Zucker and Bruce Joel Rubin Nominated [56]
Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Nominated [57]
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won [58]
Mainichi Film Awards Best Foreign Language Film (Readers' Choice Award) Jerry Zucker Won [59]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Whoopi Goldberg Won
Nikkan Sports Film Awards Best Foreign Film Won [60]
People's Choice Awards Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Film Jerry Zucker Won
Satellite Awards Best Classic DVD Nominated [61]
Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Film Won
Best Actor Patrick Swayze Nominated
Best Actress Demi Moore Won
Best Supporting Actor Tony Goldwyn Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
Best Director Jerry Zucker Nominated
Best Writing Bruce Joel Rubin Nominated
Best Music Maurice Jarre Nominated
Best Special Effects Bruce Nicholson, John T. Van Vliet,
Richard Edlund, and Laura Buff
TV Land Awards Favorite Character from the "Other Side" Whoopi Goldberg Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Bruce Joel Rubin Nominated [62]
Young Artist Awards Most Entertaining Family Youth Motion Picture – Comedy/Horror Won [63]

In 2002, the film ranked #96 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions.[64]

Legacy edit

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, in one of the most famous scenes from the film[65]

The pottery wheel scene became widely known,[65][66] and has been cited as "one of the most iconic moments of '90s cinema."[67] It has also frequently been parodied,[66] such as in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (of which Jerry Zucker served as an executive producer; it was directed by his brother David Zucker), the short British animated film Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death[68] and US TV series Two and a Half Men.[67]

The film inspired a musical stage version, Ghost: The Musical. The show had its world premiere in Manchester, UK, in March 2011[69] before transferring to London from June 2011 and having its premiere on July 19, 2011.[70] On November 13, 2010, Paramount and Shochiku released a Japanese remake of Ghost, titled Ghost: In Your Arms Again (ゴースト もういちど抱きしめたい, Gōsuto Mouichido Dakishimetai).[71] The remake stars Nanako Matsushima, South Korean actor Song Seung-heon, and veteran actress Kirin Kiki.[72] In this film, the ghost is a woman, played by Matsushima.

On January 17, 2023, it was revealed by Vanity Fair that Channing Tatum and his company, Free Association, acquired the rights to the film from Paramount. Tatum announced plans to produce, and star in, a remake of the film, with himself cast in Swayze's role.[73]

The 2023 BET+ original film The Reading pays tribute with an Easter egg, naming a minor character Oda M. Brown, though not fully named Oda 'Mae' Brown. The film is not officially associated with Ghost. However, the movie's plot deals with the supernatural psychic readings of the deceased. Brown's daughter Sky, performs spiritual readings for Emma Leeden (Mo'Nique) in a similar exorcism style Oda Mae Brown did with her clients possessing the souls of the departed. The film is written and directed by Courtney Glaude and is executive produced by Lee Daniels.[74][75][76]

See also edit

References edit

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  2. ^ Cieply, Michael; Easton, Nina J. (September 11, 1990). "Paramount Reels in Power Struggle After Hits, Misses". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
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  6. ^ Heidenry, Margaret (July 13, 2015). "25 Years of Ghost: Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin Talks Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Pottery-Wheel Sex". Vanity Fair.
  7. ^ a b c Swayze, Patrick; Niemi, Lisa (September 29, 2009). The Time of My Life. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-5858-6.
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External links edit