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Ghostbusters is a 1984 American fantasy comedy film produced and directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, eccentric parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis co-star as their client Dana Barrett and her neighbor Louis Tully.

Ghostbusters (1984) theatrical poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIvan Reitman
Produced byIvan Reitman
Written by
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyLászló Kovács
Edited by
  • Columbia-Delphi Productions
  • Black Rhino[1]
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 7, 1984 (1984-06-07) (Westwood)
  • June 8, 1984 (1984-06-08) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25—30 million
Box office$295.2 million

Aykroyd conceived Ghostbusters as a project for himself and fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus John Belushi, with the protagonists traveling through time and space. Aykroyd and Ramis rewrote the script following Belushi's death and after Reitman deemed Aykroyd's initial vision financially impractical. Filming took place from October 1983 to January 1984.

Ghostbusters was released in the United States on June 8, 1984. It received positive reviews and grossed $242 million in the United States and more than $295 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing comedy film of its time. At the 57th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song (for the theme song). The American Film Institute ranked Ghostbusters 28th on its 100 Years...100 Laughs list of film comedies. In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Ghostbusters launched a media franchise, which includes a 1989 sequel, a 2016 reboot, and a new film that is scheduled for release in July 2020. The franchise also includes two animated television series (The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters), several video games, comic books, and toy lines.



Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler are scientists investigating the paranormal at Columbia University. After they lose their jobs following a botched ghost investigation at the New York Public Library, they establish Ghostbusters, a paranormal investigation and elimination service. They open their business in a disused firehouse, develop high-tech equipment to capture ghosts, and convert a combination car into the "Ectomobile" to support their business.

On their first call, at a hotel, Egon warns the group never to cross the energy streams of their proton pack weapons, as this could cause a catastrophic explosion. They capture their first ghost, Slimer, and deposit it in a special containment unit in the firehouse. As paranormal activity increases in New York City, they hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore, to cope with demand.

The Ghostbusters are retained by cellist Dana Barrett, whose apartment is haunted by a demonic spirit, Zuul, a demigod worshiped as a servant to Gozer the Gozerian, a shape-shifting god of destruction. Venkman competes with Dana's neighbor, accountant Louis Tully, for her affections. As the Ghostbusters investigate, Dana is possessed by Zuul the Gatekeeper, while Louis is possessed by her counterpart, Vinz Clortho the Keymaster. Both demons speak of the coming of "Gozer the Destructor" and the release of the imprisoned ghosts. The Ghostbusters take steps to keep the two apart.

Walter Peck, an Environmental Protection Agency lawyer, has the Ghostbusters arrested for operating as unlicensed waste handlers. He orders their ghost containment system deactivated, causing an explosion that releases all the ghosts. The ghosts wreak havoc throughout New York City, allowing Louis/Vinz to escape. Consulting blueprints of Dana's apartment building, the Ghostbusters learn that mad doctor and cult leader Ivo Shandor, declaring humanity too sick to exist after 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 by the mayor to combat the supernatural crisis. On the apartment building roof, Zuul and Vinz open the gate between dimensions and transform into supernatural hellhounds. Gozer, in the form of a woman, is attacked by the team. Gozer vanishes, but demands that the Ghostbusters "choose the form of the destructor". Ray inadvertently recalls a beloved corporate mascot from his childhood and Gozer appears as the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that attacks the city. Egon tells them to ignore his earlier advice and cross their proton energy streams at Gozer's portal, creating an explosion that closes the gate, destroys the Marshmallow Man, and banishes Gozer back to its dimension. The Ghostbusters rescue Dana and Louis and are welcomed on the street as heroes.


In addition to the main cast, Ghostbusters features David Margulies as Lenny Clotch, Mayor of New York, Michael Ensign as Hotel Manager, Slavitza Jovan as Gozer (voiced by Paddi Edwards), Astrologist Ruth Hale Oliver as the Library Ghost, Reginald VelJohnson as a police officer, Jennifer Runyon as one of Venkman's psychological test subjects, and Playboy Playmate Kymberly Herrin as a Dream Ghost. Roger Grimsby, Larry King, Joe Franklin, and Casey Kasem cameo as themselves, the latter in a voice-only role. Kasem's wife Jean appears in the film as the tall guest at Louis' party. The film also features appearances by pornstar Ron Jeremy, and a young Debbie Gibson.[2][3]



Director Ivan Reitman (2013) contributed ideas to the Ghostbusters script and helped secure it funding.

Ghostbusters was inspired by Dan Aykroyd's fascination with, and belief in the paranormal,[1][4] a trait inherited from his father (who wrote the book A History of Ghosts),[5] mother (who claimed she had seen ghosts), grandfather (who experimented with using radios to contact the dead), and great-grandfather (a renowned spiritualist). In 1981, he read an article on quantum physics and parapsychology in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, which gave him the idea of trapping ghosts. Aykroyd was also drawn to the idea of modernizing the comedic ghost films of the early 1900s by teams like Abbott and Costello (Hold That Ghost (1941)), Bob Hope (The Ghost Breakers (1940)), and The Bowery Boys (Ghost Chasers (1951)).[4][6]

Aykroyd began writing the script, intending for it to star himself, Eddie Murphy, and his friend and fellow Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumnus John Belushi, before Belushi's accidental death in March 1982.[4][1] Aykroyd recalled the moment, saying "I was writing a line for John, and [producer and talent agent] Bernie Brillstein called and said they just found him... We loved each other as brothers."[4] He turned to his other SNL former-castmate Bill Murray who agreed to join the project, albeit without an explicit agreement.[4] Aykroyd pitched his concept to Brillstein as three men who chase ghosts, even providing a sketch of the "Marshmallow Man". He likened them to normal pest control, saying that "calling a Ghostbuster was just like getting rats removed."[6]

Aykroyd felt that Ivan Reitman was the logical choice for director, following his successes with Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), and Stripes (1981), and having previously worked with him on a Canadian variety television show.[4] Reitman said that he had been told of the basic concept while Belushi was still a prospective cast member, but that it took place in the future with many groups of intergalactic ghostbusters, and "would have cost something like $200 million to make".[6] Aykroyd's original 70-80 page script treatment was more serious in tone and intended to be scary, but contained elements such as the Marsmallow Man and Ghostbusters logo that was in the finished script.[6][4]

Reitman met with Aykroyd over lunch at Art's Delicatessen in Studio City, Los Angeles and explained that his current treatment would be impossible to make. He suggested that setting it entirely on Earth would make the extraordinary elements more humorous, and that if they focused on realism from the beginning then the existence of the Marshmallow Man would be believable by the end. Reitman also conceived the idea of detailing the Ghostbusters' origins working at a university before starting their business, saying "this was beginning of the 1980s: everyone was going into business."[6][4] Following lunch, Reitman and Aykroyd walked to Burbank Studios to meet with Harold Ramis. Reitman had worked with Ramis on Animal House, Meatballs, and Stripes, and believed that he could better execute his intended tone for the script than Aykroyd.[6] Reitman also said Ramis should portray a ghostbuster, and after Ramis read the script he joined the project immediately.[4]

Despite the script now requiring large changes, Reitman pitched the film to then-Columbia Pictures executive Frank Price in March 1983. Price recounted finding the concept funny, but the project itself controversial as comedies were seen to have a ceiling on profitability, and the required budget would be high due to special effects and the cast who had been gaining fame on Saturday Night Live.[4][6] Reitman said that they could work with $25 million—$30 million (different figures have been cited) and Price agreed as long as the film could be released by June 1984.[5][4] They had thirteen months to complete the film, and had no script, effects studio, or a filming start date.[5] Reitman later admitted he made up the budget figure, basing it on three times the budget of Stripes seeming "reasonable".[4] Columbia's then-CEO Fay Vincent sent his lawyer Dick Gallop from New York to Los Angeles to effectively convince Price not to pursue the film, but Price disagreed, and Gallop returned to the head office reporting that Price was "out of control".[6][4]

Several different names were posited for the film, as Ghostbusters was legally restricted by 1970s children's show The Ghost Busters owned by NBCUniversal. Other options included "Ghoststoppers", "Ghostbreakers" and "Ghostsmashers". Fortunately, Price had parted ways with Columbia early in Ghostbusters' production and became head of Universal Pictures, at which point he allowed Columbia to have the title.[6][4][7]


Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman began reworking the script, first in Reitman's office before sequestering themselves and their families to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Aykroyd had his own home there, and they worked day and night for approximately two weeks in his basement.[5] Aykroyd was understanding about the reworking of his script, considering himself a "kitchen sink" writer who creates the funny situations and paranormal-jargon, while Ramis refined the jokes and dialogue. They would write separately and then rewrite each other. Many scenes had to be cut, including an asylum haunted by celebrities, and an illegal ghost storage facility in a New Jersey gas station.[4] Their initial, full script draft was completed when they left the Vineyard in mid-July, 1983, with a third and near-final draft ready by early August.[8][5][4] When Murray later flew into New York following the filming of The Razor's Edge to meet Aykroyd and Ramis, he offered little input on the script or his character. Ramis said that having previously written for Murray multiple times, he knew how to handle his character's voice.[4]

The most difficult part of writing was determining the story goal, including who the villain was and their goal, why ghosts were manifesting, and how a towering Marshmallow Man appeared. The Marshmallow Man was one of many elaborate creatures in Aykroyd's initial treatment, originally intended to emerge from the East River only 20 minutes into the film, and it stood out to Reitman but also concerned him due to the relatively realistic tone they were taking. While this process was occurring, Reitman was also searching for a special effects studio for the film, eventually recruiting Richard Edlund in the same two-week span.[5][9]


William Atherton portrays Environmental Protection Agency inspector Walter Peck

Ramis said that early on it was decided that he was the brains of the Ghostbusters, Aykroyd was the heart, and Murray was the mouth.[6] Aykroyd drew inspiration from Hollywood archetypes, he said "Put [the characters of Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler] together, and you have the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man."[4] For Egon's appearance, Ramis found inspiration from the cover of a journal on abstract architecture, featuring a man wearing a three-piece tweed suit, wire-rim glasses, and his hair was stuck straight up. He took the character's first name from a Hungarian refugee he attended school with, and the surname from historian Oswald Spengler.[6] Price agreed to fund The Razor's Edge (1984) which Murray had co-written and was starring in, rationalizing that if it failed it would lose little money, but hoping the gesture would secure Murray's commitment to Ghostbusters.[4]

Ernie Hudson went through approximately five auditions for the character of Winston Zeddemore, and had to wait a month before learning he had the part.[4] According to Hudson, an earlier version of the script had his character, Winston, in a larger role with an elaborate backstory as an Air Force demolitions expert. Excited by the part, he agreed to the job for half his usual salary. The night before shooting began, he was given a new script with a greatly reduced role; Reitman told him the studio had wanted to expand Murray's role.[10]

Julia Roberts auditioned for the role of Dana Barrett, but it was Sigourney Weaver who attracted the makers' attention. There was some resistance to her casting due to her generally serious roles in Alien (1979) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). Weaver revealed her comedic background from Yale School of Drama, and began walking on all fours and howling like a dog.[5][6] It was Weaver's suggestion that Dana become possessed by the demonic dog, which Reitman said solved issues with the final act by giving the events personal stakes.[5] Weaver also changed the role from a model to a musician, saying she can be kind of strict, but "you know she has a soul because she plays the cello."[4]

John Candy was offered the role of Louis Tully. Reitman recalled that it was a few days before Candy called him back to say he did not understand the character. Candy suggested portraying Tully with a German accent and multiple German Shepherd but the makers felt there were already enough dogs in the film, and both they and Candy passed on the casting. Reitman was already aware of Rick Moranis from mutual work in Toronto and sent him the script. He called Reitman back about one-hour later and accepted the part, saying he understood the character completely.[5][6][8] Moranis developed many aspects of the character, including making him an accountant, and ad-libbed the lengthy speech at Tully's party.[8] Sandra Bernhard was offered and turned down the role of Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz, which went to Annie Potts. As she arrived at her first day of filming, Reitman rushed Potts into the current scene. She quickly changed out of her street clothes and borrowed a pair of glasses worn by the set dresser. Her character ended up wearing the glasses throughout the film, provided to Potts by the dresser before each scene.[11][6]

William Atherton was chosen for the role of Walter Peck after appearing in the Broadway play Broadway alongside another of Aykroyd's SNL alumnus, Gilda Radner. The role was described to Atherton as akin to Margaret Dumont's role as a comedic foil to the Marx Brothers. Atherton said "It can’t be funny, and I don’t find [the Ghostbusters] in the least bit charming. I have to be outraged."[12] The role of the Sumerian god Gozer the Gozerian was originally intended for Paul Reubens, envisioned as a business-suited architect. Reubens passed on the idea, and it went to Yugoslavian actress Slavitza Jovan with the role changing to one inspired by the androgynous looks of Grace Jones and David Bowie.[11][13][14] Paddi Edwards was uncredited as the voice of Gozer, dubbing over Jovan's strong Slavic accent.[1][15]


Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8, the New York City firehouse used for the exterior of the Ghostbusters headquarters

John DeCuir, known for his elaborate sets, was hired as production designer and art director; he was in his 80's at the time.[16][8] Associate producer Michael C. Gross hired illustrators including Thom Enriquez, Bernie Wrightson, and Tanino Liberatore to produce storyboards and concept art.[16]

Principal photography began in New York City in the middle of October 1983, on an approximate $25—$30 million budget.[4][1] During the first day, Reitman personally brought Murray to the set, still unsure if he had read the script. On a separate day, the crew drove around the city filming spontaneous scenes at iconic locations, including Rockefeller Center where the actors were chased off by a real security guard; the scene appears in the film.[4] A scene was shot in Central Park West with extras chanting "Ghostbusters" before the name had been cleared, prompting associate producer Joe Medjuck to contact the studio urging them to secure the title.[6] As Reitman was working with comedians, he encouraged improvisation, adapting multiple takes to keep cast inserts that worked, but directing them back to the script.[8]

Filming on location in New York lasted for about six weeks, concluding just prior to Christmas that year.[5] Reitman was conscious that they had to complete the New York phase before they encountered inhospitable weather in December.[17] Choosing to shoot in New York City, at the time, was considered risky. In the early 1980s the city was seen as synonymous with fiscal disaster and violence, and Los Angeles (L.A.) was seen as the center of the entertainment industry. In a 2014 interview, Reitman said he chose New York because "I wanted the film to be... my New York movie".[4]

55 Central Park West which served as the home of Dana and Louis and the climactic battle

The building at 55 Central Park West served as the home of Weaver's character, and is the setting of the Ghostbusters' climactic battle with Gozer. The art department added extra floors and embellishments using matte paintings, models and digital effects to create the focal point of ghostly activity.[18][19] During shooting of finale scene at the building, city officials allowed the production to close down the adjacent streets during rush hour, impacting traffic across a large swathe of the city. Gross remarked that from the top of the building, they could see traffic queuing all the way to Brooklyn. At various points, a police officer drew his gun on a taxi driver who refused orders, in a similar incident another officer pulled a driver through his limo window. When angry citizens asked Medjuck what was filming, he blamed Francis Ford Coppola filming The Cotton Club. Aykroyd encountered science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, a man he admired, who complained: "You guys are inconveniencing this building, it's just awful; I don't know how they got away with this!"[6] Directly next to 55 Central Park West is the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which is stepped on by the Marshmallow Man.[19]

Other filming locations included New York City Hall,[19] the New York Public Library, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Tavern on the Green (where Louis is cornered by the demonic dog), Columbus Circle, and Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 in the Tribeca neighborhood,[3] which was used as the Ghostbusters' headquarters.[1][20] Columbia University allowed it's Havemeyer Hall to stand in for the fictional Weaver Hall, on the condition that the university not be identified by name. The Irving Trust Bank on Fifth Avenue served as the bank where Aykroyd's character takes out a third mortgage to provide the Ghostbusters' startup money.[21] Locals complained about the imposition on their neighborhoods. John DeCuir said: "They had one night to dress the street. When people went home early in the evening everything was normal, and when the little old ladies came out to walk their dogs in the morning, the whole street had erupted. Apparently, people complained to the New York Police Department and their switchboard lit up."[22]Daniel Wallace, author of Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History, writes: "Infectious energy was everywhere. The upbeat vibes seemed to buoy the production schedule, and the New York shoot finished two and a half days earlier than expected." Weaver said: "I think it was a love letter to New York and New Yorkers. Central Park West, and Tavern on the Green, and the horses in the park, and the doorman saying, "Someone brought a cougar to a party" – that's so New York. When we come down covered with marshmallow, and there are these crowds of New Yorkers of all types and descriptions cheering for us as a New York–it was one of the most moving things I can remember."[22]

Filming moved to L.A., resuming just after Christmas and before the New Year.[5] Despite its New York City setting, the majority of Ghostbusters was filmed on-location in L.A., or on sets at Burbank Studio, with location scouts searching for buildings that could replicate the interiors of buildings being filmed in New York.[17][1] Reitman tried to use the interior of Hook & Ladder 8, but they were unable to take over it for long enough due to it being an active fire station. Interior firehouse shots were instead taken at the decommissioned Fire House No. 23 in downtown L.A.. The building design, while common in New York, was a rarity in L.A.. An archival photograph of an active crew in Fire House No. 23 from 1915 was hung in the background of the Ghostbusters office, appearing in the film.[17]

As the film used practical effects, they needed skilled technicians that mainly resided in the city, and soundstages that, at the time, were not present in New York.[17] While filming took place in the main reading room of the New York Public Library (they could only film early and had to be out by 10am),[9] the basement library stacks were represented by the Los Angeles Central Library as Reitman said that they were interchangeable. The stacks were destroyed in a 1986 fire and the area now serves as space for storage and shipping.[17] The Millennium Biltmore Hotel stood in for the scenes set at New York's Waldorf-Astoria.[23] The short production schedule and looming June 8, 1984, release date meant that Reitman was editing the film while shooting it, and there was often time for only a small number of takes.[5][9] Editor Sheldon Kahn sent Reitman black-and-white reels of sequences during filming, allowing him to make changes, but he considered that this also helped him understand how to better pace the film. Principal photography concluded at the end of January 1984, after 62 days of filming. Kahn completed the first full cut of the film three weeks later.[5]


Elmer Bernstein composed the film's original score

The Ghostbusters score, composed by Elmer Bernstein, uses ondes Martenot (a staple of Bernstein's 1980s work) and the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. Peter Bernstein, David Spear and Patrick Russ contributed orchestration. The score was released in 2006 as Ghostbusters: Original Motion Picture Score by Varèse Sarabande. It contains 39 tracks by Bernstein, including several cues that were replaced in whole or in part by songs, and four pieces recorded for the album ("Ghostbusters Theme," "Dana's Theme," and the previously unreleased "Magic" and "Zuul"). Bernstein understood the decision to supplant his opening and some of the closing credit music with the Ray Parker Jr. song, but disapproved of other pieces being replaced, particularly "Ghosts!", which was written for the scene in which the ghosts are released.[24]

The theme song, "Ghostbusters", was written and performed by Ray Parker Jr. It was at number one for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and stayed on the chart for 21 weeks.[25] According to Bruce A. Austin, the theme "purportedly added $20 million to the box office take of the film".[26] Music was required for a montage in the middle of the film, and "I Want a New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News was used as a temporary placeholder due to its appropriate tempo. Reitman was later introduced to Parker Jr. who developed "Ghostbusters" with a similar riff to match the montage.[6]

The music video, directed by Reitman,[1] features cameos by celebrities including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr. It concludes with the stars of the film dancing and singing in Ghostbuster costume behind Parker in Times Square.[27] Huey Lewis had been approached to compose the theme for the film, but declined due to his work on the soundtrack for Back to the Future.[1]

Reviewers at AllMusic awarded both the Original Soundtrack Album and the Original Motion Picture Score 4 out of 5 stars. Evan Cater describes the Original Soundtrack Album as "a very disjointed, schizophrenic listen" that "does very little to conjure memories of the film". However, he cited the title track, Mick Smiley's "Magic", and the two inclusions from Elmer Bernstein's score as exceptions.[28] Jason Ankeny described the Original Motion Picture Score as "epic in both sound and scale", writing that it "ranks among Bernstein's most dazzling and entertaining efforts, evoking the widescreen wonder of its source material ... his melodies beautifully complement the wit and creativity of the onscreen narrative".[29]


During the film's thirteen-month production, all the major special effects studios were working on other films, and the biggest, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), had been booked for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and for Return of the Jedi (1983). The remaining studios were too small to work on the approximately 630 individual effects shots. At the same time, special effects cinematographer Richard Edlund was intending to leave ILM and start his own business. Reitman convinced Columbia to collaborate with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), which also needed an effects studio, to advance Edlund $5 million to start his own company Boss Film Studios and purchase the necessary equipment.[5][4] According to Edlund, much of the setup time was taken by lawyers finalizing the contract; afterwards, only ten months remained to build the effects studio, shoot their scenes, and composite the images.[4] Their techniques for the film included miniatures, puppetry, stop-motion, rotoscoping, and cell animation. The Boss Film Studios team were split to complete work on Ghostbusters and MGM's science-fiction film 2010.[1] The $5 million effects budget overran by $700,000.[9]

Creature effectsEdit

A puppet of Slimer at Film Legends Museum in Poděbrady

The gluttonous, slimy, green ghost was only known as "Onion Head" on set due to puppets unpleasant smell.[7] Now commonly known as "Slimer", it was not known as such until after the film's release when given a name in 1986's The Real Ghostbusters. was performed by Mark Wilson, who wore a foam rubber suit reinforced with spandex. Mechanical designers used cables to operate his face. His sequences were filmed at a rate of eight frames per second, while the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was filmed at a rate of 72 frames per second.[1] Aykroyd admitted that the character was inspired by Belushi, particularly his body.[4] Ramis said that the comparison was not malicious, explaining that Belushi was the person most likely trip over a coffee table and knock a bookcase over. Aykroyd tasked his friend with designing the Marshmallow Man, asking for a combination of the Michelin Man and the Pillsbury Doughboy in a sailor hat.[6]

The Marshmallow Man was portrayed by an actor in a foam suit, each costing between $25,000 and $30,000. The actor had to have a separate air supply due to the foam toxicity. The costume was filmed against scale models to finish the effect. The effects team were only able to find a particular model of police car at the correct scale, and so bought several and modified them to represent different vehicles. The water from a burst hydrant hit by a remote-controlled car was actually sand as water did not scale down.[9] The "marshmallow" that rains down on the crowd after it is destroyed was shaving cream. Nothing like the shot had been done before, and William Atherton (Peck) insisted on a trial run before filming. After a test with 75 pounds (34 kg) of shaving cream knocked a stuntman flat, only 35 pounds (16 kg) were used for the final shot.[30]

The Library catalog scene was accomplished live with in three takes, with crew blowing air through copper pipes to blow the cards into the air, which had to be collected and reassembled for each take. Reitman used a multi-camera setup to focus on the librarian and the cards flying around her and a wider overall shot,[5][9] The floating books were simply hung on string.[9] For the scene in which Dana is pinned to her chair by demonic hands before a doorway beaming with light, Reitman said he was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). A rubber door was used to allow distortion as if something was trying to come through it, while grips concealed in a trapdoor beneath the chair, burst through it while wearing demonic dog-leg gloves.[9] Ghost puppets were built by Boss Films, which also handled compositing of special effects shots.[31] Made before the advent of CGI, any non-puppet ghosts had to be animated, taking up to three weeks to create a second of footage.[9]

Technology and equipmentEdit

Cadillac station wagon "Ectomobile"

The "proton packs", the ghost-hunting weapons wielded by the Ghostbusters, were designed by design consultant Stephen Dane, who "went home and got foam pieces and just threw a bunch of stuff together to get the look. It was highly machined but it had to look off-the-shelf and military surplus." The fiberglass props were created by special effects supervisor Chuck Gaspar, based on Dane's design. Gaspar used rubber molds to create identical fiberglass shells, attached them to aluminum back plates and Army surplus All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment frames. Each pack weighed about 30 pounds (14 kg), or nearly 50 pounds (23 kg) with the batteries installed, and strained the actors' backs during the long shoots. Lightweight packs made of foam rubber were used for stunt work.[32][9] The neutrino wand had a flashbulb at the tip, giving animators an original point for the energy stream.[9] The PKE meter prop was built using an Iona SP-1 handheld shoe polisher as a base, to which lights and electronics were affixed.[33] All the technology was designed to not be overly fancy or sleek, emphasizing the characters scientific backgrounds combined with the homemade nature of their equipment.[17]

The Ghostbusters' vehicle, the Ectomobile, was in the first draft of Aykroyd's script, and visualized through concept drawings by John Daveikis. Early versions were jet black, and had fantastic features such as the ability to dematerialize and evade police pursuit. The vehicle was a modified 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor with an aftermarket ambulance conversion. Dane created its high-tech roof array in Hollywood with objects including a directional antenna, an air-conditioning unit, storage boxes and a radome. Because of its size, the roof rack was shipped to Manhattan via airplane, while the car was transported to the East Coast via train. Sound designer Richard Beggs created the distinctive siren from a recording of a leopard snarl, cut and played backward.[34] The concept for the vehicle was that it would be a modified hearse; according to Akyroyd, the actual vehicle was "an ambulance that we converted to a hearse and then converted to an ambulance".[35]


The fictional rooftop of 55 Central Park West was constructed at Burbank Studios. It was one of the largest constructed sets in film history and was surrounded by a 360-degree cyclorama painting. The lighting used throughout the painting consumed enough power that when in use, the rest of the studio was shut down, and an additional four generators were added on top.[5][17] Small models such as planes were hung on string to animate the backdrop.[5] The set was built three stories off the ground allowing for filming from low angles.[9] The script did not specify from where Gozer would appear, and De Cuir painted the top of Dana's building with large, crystal doors that opened, which was written into the script.[8] For the scene in which Dana's apartment explodes outwards, Weaver was stood in place as the practical effect was utilized.[9]

The production used fake walls laced with pyrotechnics in the hotel to practically create the damage of the Ghostbusters proton packs.[17] The climactic earthquake scene was shot in Manhattan, enhanced with supplemental work in Los Angeles. While the shot of the Ghostbusters and other New Yorkers falling down was filmed on location, the shots of the street cracking were achieved with hydraulics used on a Los Angeles sound stage.[36]



The film was first screened for test audiences on February 3, 1984, with unfinished effects shots to determine if the comedy worked. Even at this point, Reitman was still concerned that audiences would not react well to the Marshmallow Man due to its deviation from the realistic take in the rest of the film.[8] Reitman recalled that approximately 200 people were recruited off the streets to view the film without any special effects in a theater on the Burbank lot. It was during the opening librarian scene that Reitman knew the film worked, as audiences reacted with fear, laughs, and applause as the Librarian Ghost transformed from a lady into a monster.[8] The fateful Marshmallow Scene was met with a similar reaction, and Reitman knew that he would not have to reshoot any scenes.[5][8] A viral campaign was initiated by the studio featuring the "No ghosts" logo, which created popularity even though the people were yet unaware of the film's title or its stars.[1] A theatrical trailer for the film contained a functional toll-free telephone number with a message by Murray and Aykroyd waiting for the 1,000 callers per hour it received over a six-week period.[7]

Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984, in 1,339 theaters. It grossed $13.6 million on its opening weekend[37] and $23 million in its first week, setting studio records at the time.[38] It surpassed Tootsie's record as Columbia's best opening week.[1] The film was number one at the box office for five consecutive weeks, grossing $99.8 million.[39] After seven weeks, it was dropped to the number-two position by Prince's film Purple Rain, at which point it had grossed $142.6 million, second only to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the year's top grosser.[40] Ghostbusters regained the top spot the next week, and again six weeks later.[41] During its last week of playing at the theaters, December 28, 1984-January 3, 1985, it earned another $699,366, placing it No. 15 at the US box office.[42]

By the year's end, Ghostbusters had grossed $221 million,[43] making it the highest-grossing film of the year and the highest-grossing comedy of its time,[44] replacing Animal House.[5] It went on to gross $229.2 million but was surpassed by Beverly Hills Cop as the highest-grossing 1984 film and the highest-grossing comedy.[45] Ghostbusters was re-released in August 1985. During the first week of its reissue, August 23-29, 1985, it grossed $3,055,491, making it No. 8 at the US box office.[46] The 1985 re-release raised Ghostbusters' U.S. gross to $238.6 million[4] ($556 million in today's dollars[47]), surpassing Beverly Hills Cop[48] and making it the highest grossing comedy film of its time.[49]

Ghostbusters sold over 68 million tickets in the U.S. in its initial theatrical run.[43] It was re-released for its 30th anniversary in 2014 and grossed a further $3.5 million, taking its U.S. gross to $242.2 million.[43] Adjusted for inflation, these figures put it within the top 40 highest-grossing films of all time by 2019.[50] Columbia spent $2.25 million on prints, $1 million on promotional materials and $7 million on advertising and marketing costs. Columbia negotiated 50% of the box-office gross at the theaters or 90% of gross after expenses, depending on which would be higher. Since the latter was the case, the studio eventually got a 73% share of the box office profit.[51] The main cast members each received percentages of the gross profits or net participation of the film.[1]

Post theatricalEdit

The VHS version of Ghostbusters sold over 400,000 cassettes in 1985. Its total revenue of $32 million made it among the five bestselling film cassettes of the year.[52]

In 1989, The Criterion Collection released a LaserDisc version, in a one-disc CLV version and a two-disc special edition CAV version. The latter included deleted scenes, a split-screen demonstration of the film's effects, the screenplay, and other special features.[53] Reitman was unhappy with the LaserDisc release of the film, explaining that "it pumped up the light level so much you saw all the matte lines. I was embarrassed about it all these years."[54] The DVD version of the film was released on June 29, 1999.[54]

In 2008, Ghostbusters became the first film released on a USB flash drive.[55] It was released on Blu-ray on June 16, 2009, to coincide with its 25th anniversary. A second Blu-ray version, released on May 14, 2013, was marketed as "Mastered in 4K",[56] while a true 4K Blu-ray was released on June 7, 2016.[57]

Sony Pictures rereleased the film in nearly 500 theaters in the United States on October 13, 2011, and the following two Thursdays before Halloween of that year.[58] Sony reissued a remaster in 4K version for its 30th anniversary on August 29, 2014. Originally a one-week re-release for the U.S. Labor Day, it ran for three weeks ending on September 18.[59]


Critical responseEdit

You never expect that big a hit. But there was a great sense that we were doing something special right from the beginning.

—Ivan Reitman in 2014 on the reception of Ghostbusters[6]

Ghostbusters received positive reviews.[1] Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that it was "an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy", and gave it three-and-a-half stars out of four. Ebert praised the special effects and their natural inclusion into the story, saying that they are placed at the service of the intelligent characters. He also cited Ghostbusters as a rare mainstream film with many quotable lines.[60] Newsweek's David Ansen enjoyed the film, describing it as a teamwork project where everyone works "toward the same goal of relaxed insanity"; he called the film a "wonderful summer nonsense".[61] Time's Richard Schickel also praised the humor, which he felt was successful despite the abundance of special effects and dark themes such as Armageddon. He praised the three lead actors: he complimented Aykroyd and Ramis, who also gave room to their co-star Bill Murray. Schickel considered Murray's character Peter Venkman a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop fully his patented comic character".[62] Deseret News' Christopher Hicks praised Reitman's improved directing skills, as well as the crew for avoiding vulgarity found in their previous films, Caddyshack and Stripes. He found that they instead reached for more creative humor and genuine thrills. Hicks singled out Murray who, according to him, "has never been better than he is here". Hicks noted that Murray, Ramis and Aykroyd "wanted to be like the Marx brothers of the 80s". He complained at the finale, claiming it to have lost its sense of fun and to be "overblown", but found that the film compensates this since it "has ghosts like you've never seen".[63]

Pauline Kael had problems with the chemistry among the three lead actors. She praised Murray, but felt that other actors did not have much material to contribute to the story; she concluded, "Murray's lines fall on dead air."[64] Contrary to Ebert's and Schickel's review, Janet Maslin in The New York Times was of the opinion that special effects overshadowed the humor. She liked the idea of Murray in an Exorcist-like horror parody, but thought the concept was not fully developed. She deemed the jokes, the characters and the story weak. For Maslin, Ghostbusters worked during the small ghost-catching scenes, but went out of hand during the doomsday scenario finale.[65]


Ghostbusters was nominated at the 57th Academy Awards for Best Original Song (Ray Parker Jr., "Ghostbusters") and Best Visual Effects (John Bruno, Richard Edlund, Chuck Gaspar and Mark Vargo).[66] The film was nominated for three Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Bill Murray) and Best Original Song (Ray Parker Jr.).[67] It went on to win the 1985 BAFTA for best original song (Ray Parker Jr.), while it was also nominated in the best visual effects category.[68] It also won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.[69]


Zuul, a genus of herbivorous ankylosaurine dinosaur, was named after the villain demon in Ghostbusters

In 2017, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans were studying a fossil of a newly discovered ankylosaur species, and decided that its head resembled that of Zuul from Ghostbusters. Accordingly, they named the species Zuul crurivastator.[70][71]

Six months after the film's release, songwriter Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for plagiarism, claiming that Parker had copied the melody from his 1984 song "I Want a New Drug". Lewis had been approached to compose the theme for the film, but declined due to his work on the soundtrack for Back to the Future. The case was settled out of court.[1][6] Entertainment industry observers credit Ghostbusters, alongside Saturday Night Live with reversing the industries perception of New York City, which had a negative perception in the early 1980s. According to a representative of the New York Public Library, people dressed as the Ghostbusters occasionally burst into the main reading room.[4]

Lasting receptionEdit

The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 97 percent based on 71 reviews from critics, and a weighted average of 8.14 out of 10. The website's critical consensus describes the film as "an infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns".[72] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 71 out of 100 based on eight reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[73] Modern review websites Filmsite[74] and[75] included it among the best films of 1984. Writing for the film's 30th anniversary, Time Out's Tom Huddleston awarded Ghostbusters five out of five, praising Reitman's direction, Murray's performance, the script, the special effects, and the soundtrack, which he said felt fresh. Huddleston described the film as a "cavalcade of pure joy".[76]

The American Film Institute ranked Ghostbusters No. 28 on its 100 Years...100 Laughs list.[77] The film also appeared on several lists of the best comedy films, by outlets including Bravo (2006),[78] Entertainment Weekly (2008),[79] Rotten Tomatoes,[80] and IGN (2018).[81] In 2014, Rolling Stone readers voted Ghostbusters the ninth greatest film of the 1980s.[82] Complex ranked Ghostbusters No. 15 on its list of "The 50 Best 80s Movies"[83] while Empire ranked it No. 68 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Movies". [84]

Cultural impactEdit

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[85]

In 2009, National Review ranked Ghostbusters No. 10 on its "25 Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years" list, on the grounds that the Environmental Protection Agency is portrayed as the villain and "the solution to a public menace comes from the private sector".[86] In November 2015, the film was ranked the 14th funniest screenplay by the Writers Guild of America in its list of 101 Funniest Screenplays.[87]

Ghostbusters was reportedly Columbia Pictures' most lucrative hit: by October 1984, it already spanned dozens of advertisements. Its title entered the urban dictionary, since it was applied to the national budget ("budgetbusters"), agriculture ("cropbusters"), B-52s ("nukebusters") or sanitation ("litterbusters").[88]

Sequels and rebootEdit

Film fans dressed as Ghostbusters in 2011

After the success of the first film and the 1986 animated series The Real Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures managed to persuade the producers to make a sequel.[89] The second film, Ghostbusters II, was released in 1989.

A script for a potential third film was under development by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the writing team that worked with Ramis on the 2009 comedy Year One; according to Ramis, the four main cast members from the original film were potentially to have minor on-screen roles: "The concept is that the old Ghostbusters would appear in the film in some mentor capacity."[90] Comments from Murray in August 2010, after Year One's release, suggested the latter's poor reception made a new Ghostbuster sequel unlikely.[91] 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.[92] 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." [93]

On February 24, 2014, Ramis died, causing Sony Pictures to re-evaluate the script that they were writing for Ghostbusters III.[94] Sony was planning on starting production in New York early in 2015, but Reitman decided to pull out of directing the film in light of Ramis's death. Reitman, however, was to help to find a new director.[95] It was revealed on March 20, 2014, that Phil Lord and Chris Miller were in talks to direct the film, but by April 8, 2014, the duo had decided to pass on the project.[96] On May 30, 2014, The Wrap reported that Ruben Fleischer is being considered to direct the third film.[97] Weaver told Vanity Fair that her character's son, Oscar, would be a Ghostbuster in the film.[4]

On August 2, 2014, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that the studio wanted Paul Feig to direct the film and wanted to make it an all-female Ghostbusters team.[98] On September 17, 2014, Aykroyd told The Hollywood Reporter that he wanted to do a Ghostbusters-style universe similar to Marvel's own universe.[99] On October 8, 2014, The Hollywood Reporter announced that screenwriter Katie Dippold and director Paul Feig would write the script.[100]

On December 10, 2014, both Rebel Wilson and Jennifer Lawrence revealed they were approached for a role in the reboot, while Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer and Lizzy Caplan expressed interest in appearing.[101][102] On December 15, 2014, leaked emails from Sony revealed Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt's ultimate plan to team up for a different Ghostbusters film, with Tatum comparing it to Batman Begins.[103] In January 2015, the main cast members for the all-female lead film, were announced as McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. The global release dates for the reboot, titled Ghostbusters, were across July 2016.[104]

In a February 2015 interview on Ron Bennington's radio show Unmasked, Aykroyd stated he would still like to see his idea for a sequel made.[105] The following month, Deadline wrote that an all-male lead Ghostbusters film was in the works from Sony's Ghost Corps label, with Channing Tatum set to star,[106] Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan producing, Drew Pearce writing and Anthony and Joe Russo directing.[107][108] In 2016, the project was confirmed to be cancelled, with the Russo brothers no longer attached.[109] Ivan Reitman later revealed that the project was never in serious development.[110]

Entertainment Weekly reported in January 2019 that a new Ghostbusters film is in development, to be helmed by Jason Reitman, Ivan's son. The film is to be set in the same universe as the first two Ghostbusters films, with Reitman directing and writing the film alongside Gil Kenan, and aiming for a 2020 release.[111]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit