Great movies beget great moments. They are more than just releases that pass briefly through theaters. They leave a lasting imprint, their influence showing itself in numerous ways. Ghostbusters is unequivocally a great movie. Even if you don’t believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness Monster, or the theory of Atlantis, you have to admit that it’s still pretty darn funny.
The reach of Ghostbusters is wide. Released more than thirty years ago, it continues to have an intensely devoted fan base, as well as to have ripple effects in pop culture. If an average Twinkie represented the impact most movies make, the Ghostbusters twinkie would be thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds. That impact should continue with the release of Paul Feig’s new reboot.
Who you gonna call for a look at the most seminal moments in this franchise? Us, of course!
Here are the 15 Best Moments in Ghostbusters History
15. The Release of Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters opened on June 8, 1984 in 1,339 theaters. Its competition on that weekend was Joe Dante’s Gremlins and the hip-hop/breakdancing drama Beat Street. Venkman and the boys were the ones who topped the box office, though, raking in $13.5 million. (That number was stellar for the time.) It remained in the #1 position for seven straight weeks, fending off such newcomers as The Karate Kid, Revenge of the Nerds, and Bachelor Party.
On the weekend of July 27, Ghostbusters was finally displaced by Prince’s Purple Rain, but it reclaimed the top spot the following weekend. Even more impressively, the movie played in theaters for almost seven months, concluding its run at the end of December with a total box office take of $221 million. So popular was the comedy that Columbia Pictures gave it a re-release in late August 1985, where it earned an additional $8 million. Any way you look at it, Ghostbusters was a massive hit.
14. The Theme Song
In the 80s, virtually every movie released was accompanied by a soundtrack album, or at least a pop song that served as its theme. Many times, the songs had nothing whatsoever to do with the story being told. (The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” from Beverly Hills Cop is a great example.) Ghostbusters, too, had a soundtrack, but there was a difference. A song was specifically commissioned to reflect the subject matter and tone of the movie. The performer: Ray Parker, Jr., a popular singer/songwriter who’d had hits with his group Raydio, as well as some solo smashes.
Parker conceived the eponymous tune as a jingle for the Ghostbusters, and wrote it as such, in only a matter of days. Accompanied by a music video that featured the film’s stars – as well as cameos from other comedy luminaries such as Chevy Chase and John Candy – the tune spent three weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Ghostbusters” remains one of the most popular and recognized movie theme songs in history.
13. The Phone Number
Phones play a surprisingly important role in Ghostbusters. The main characters appear in a TV commercial during the film, urging people to call in with reports of paranormal activity. (“We’re ready to believe you!”) And, of course, the refrain “Who you gonna call?” is repeated umpteen times in Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song, serving as the movie’s de facto catch phrase. It therefore made sense to devise a promotional opportunity centered around calling the Ghostbusters.
In a stroke of marketing genius, director Ivan Reitman set up a real 1-800 number that viewers could call to hear a prerecorded message from Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). That gimmick was more successful than Reitman could have imagined. It logged 1,000 calls per hour, 24 hours per day, for six straight weeks, at which time it was shut down. Fans loved the idea, which was as much fun as it was promotional.
12. The Oscar Nominations
Ghostbusters received two Oscar nominations at the 57th annual Academy Awards, which were held on March 25, 1985. The team consisting of John Bruno, Richard Edlund, Chuck Gaspar, and Mark Vargo was nominated in the Best Visual Effects Category, while Ray Parker, Jr.’s title tune was nominated for Best Original Song. Unfortunately, everyone came away empty-handed. The effects award went to Dennis Muren, Michael J. McAlister, Lorne Peterson, and George Gibbs for Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Best Original Song, meanwhile, went to Stevie Wonder for “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” from the Gene Wilder comedy The Woman in Red.
Despite not winning in either category, the fact that Ghostbusters received these nominations was proof that it was positively regarded by the Hollywood community. It was a commercial, mainstream comedy – not your typical awards fare, mind you – but there was also an undeniable degree of artistry involved.
11. The Sequel
On June 16, 1989, the world got what it had been wanting for five years: a Ghostbusters sequel. Opening on 2,410 screens, Ghostbusters II pulled in $29.5 million in its opening, which was a then-record for a non-holiday weekend. Unlike its predecessor, the sequel faded pretty quickly. Reviews were mixed, and a number of other blockbusters, like Tim Burton’s Batman and the second installment of the Lethal Weapon series, overshadowed it. The movie left theaters at the end of the summer, with a box office take of $112 million – just under half what the original made.
While it was seen by many as a commercial and creative disappointment, time has been kind to Ghostbusters II. Removed from the hype and huge expectations that greeted it in 1989, fans have come to find many lovable qualities in the sequel. No one regards it as a better film than the original, but there are still plenty of laughs, plus a terrific supporting performance from Peter MacNicol. Even if not on the same level as the first one, Ghostbusters II is generally recognized by many fans to be a decent follow-up that captures enough of the original’s spirit (no pun intended) to be reasonably satisfying.
10. “On Our Own”
Ray Parker, Jr.’s theme song was a tough act to follow. In some ways, it was an impossible one. Nobody could ever come up with a tune that would be as closely identified with the Ghostbusters franchise as Parker’s was. Wisely, Bobby Brown went a different route, simply delivering a good song, rather than attempting to deliver an iconic one. The singer, who rose to fame as a member of New Edition before achieving solo success with songs like “My Prerogative” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” was asked to do the musical honors for the sequel.
“On Our Own” was written by L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Daryl Simmons, and was a fine example of the “New Jack Swing” sound that Brown and other artists were starting to make popular at the time. It, too, was a hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it sat comfortably for three weeks. (It went to #1 on the R&B chart.) The music video, like Parker’s, featured a number of celebrity cameos. Among them were Rick Moranis, Christopher Reeve, and future presidential candidate Donald Trump.
9. The Real Ghostbusters Cartoon
One of the key ingredients to the success of Ghostbusters was its wide-ranging appeal. Adults loved it, but so did kids, who responded to the goofy comedy and crazy apparitions featured in the movie. Because of that appeal to young viewers, a Saturday morning cartoon spinoff was eventually commissioned. The Real Ghostbusters debuted on ABC in September of 1986, and featured the characters going on various missions in NYC, as well as other spots across the globe. Arsenio Hall and Dave Coulier were among the actors who provided character voices during the show’s seven seasons.
There was a lot of non-vocal talent involved, as well. J. Michael Straczynski, the noted comic book writer and eventual Babylon 5 showrunner, served as story editor on the program. The Real Ghostbusters ended its successful run in October 1991. It remains fondly remembered by fans. An eventual DVD release of the show was greeted with much fanfare.
8. The Merchandise
As with many films that have massive commercial success, Ghostbusters spawned its fair share of merchandise. There are the requisite t-shirts, soundtrack albums, action figures, books, and Halloween costumes. Other items have been a little more out of the ordinary. LEGO produced a 508-piece replica of the Ecto-1 (the Ghostbusters’ car) that fans can build, and they recently unveiled an incredibly detailed 4634-piece firehouse headquarters set. No worries – it’ll only set you back $350.
Popular juice brand Hi-C, meanwhile, delivered one of the most popular pieces of merchandise, the Ecto Cooler. This citrus-flavored drink was intended to be a limited-time product when it was released in 1987, but it proved to be more successful than anyone ever expected, lasting until 2001, when it was finally retired. For many years, fans begged for its return. In the wake of the new reboot, the company has listened. The Ecto Cooler is currently back on store shelves.
7. The Comic Book
Ghostbusters has spawned several different comic books over the years. NOW Comics began a series back in 1988 that was based on the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, while Marvel’s UK branch had its own running at around the same time. Perhaps the most high-profile example, though, is the one from IDW, which secured the comic rights to the franchise in 2008. After some one-shots and mini-series featuring the beloved characters from the original two films, IDW started an ongoing series in 2011.
Writer Erik Burnham and illustrators Dan Schoning and Nick Runge created a storyline that is true to the tone of the movies, but also designed to reward the fans. Each issue contains all kinds of references and in-jokes. Some are subtle, others overt. (At one point, Ray Stantz is visited by the ghost of The Blues Brothers’ Jake Blues, who, of course, was played by Dan Aykroyd’s cohort John Belushi.) The IDW Ghostbusters series is a ton of fun for readers who love this franchise. The more you know about it, the funnier the books are. It’s also worth noting that IDW also published a cool 4-issue series in which the Ghostbusters team up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
6. The Videogame
People who fantasized about being a Ghostbuster were very happy in 2009 when Atari published Ghostbusters: The Video Game. No, it wasn’t the first game to be based on the movies but, thanks to significant advancements in console systems, this third-person shooter was the first game to really allow players to feel as though they were wielding a proton pack and fighting the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Available for all systems, the videogame was positively reviewed and commercially popular.
Aside from being enormously fun to play, the game was notable for some behind-the-scenes qualities. In many circles, it was referred to as the “unofficial Ghostbusters III” thanks to the participation of the stars. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and, yes, Bill Murray all reprised their characters in vocal form. Aykroyd and Ramis also pitched in story ideas and penned much of the game’s dialogue, ensuring that it had the feel and humor fans would expect.
5. The Reboot Cast Announcement
For many years, Bill Murray made it clear that he had little or no intention of ever starring in a third Ghostbusters installment. That indicated that the franchise was most likely over, unless someone came along to reboot it. Someone did, and that someone was Paul Feig, the talented comedy director of Bridesmaids and Spy. Even better, Feig had a plan to put a fresh spin on the property, one that would differentiate it from what Ivan Reitman and his cast did in the 80s: he was going to make the new Ghostbusters women.
That cool idea became downright thrilling when, in July 2015, he announced that four of the funniest people (male or female) on the planet would be the stars. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and current Saturday Night Live cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were named the new Ghostbusters. Aside from the level of comedy talent involved, the gender-swapping idea was perfect, because it implied that the movie was shooting to be something more than a mere retread of the original. In today’s weary reboot world, that’s a perspective worth cheering.
4. Paul Feig shuts down the haters
Of course, the internet is filled with trolls happy to spew negativity, and the announcement of female Ghostbusters brought many of them to the surface. Whiny fan-babies complained online that “women can’t be Ghostbusters” and that the existence of the reboot was “ruining their childhood.” The first trailer for the reboot quickly became the most disliked video ever on YouTube, with many speculating that trolls were conspiring to vote it down.
Feig stayed silent about all this until the trolls started picking on his cast members, particularly Leslie Jones. Then he issued a smackdown. Feig tweeted “[W]hen you attack and insult my cast, you’ve crossed the line. Grow up and leave my cast alone.” He later called out specific trolls individualy, telling one, “You have no idea what we did, so stop acting like you do. Enough is enough. Just let this movie happen.” Another potent comment: “F*** the haters.” It was inspiring to see a filmmaker stand up for the actors he so clearly believed in. Feig delivered a much-needed spanking to those who would so harshly judge the movie before seeing it.
3. Fans pay tribute to Harold Ramis
Harold Ramis was more of a writer and director than an actor. Prior to Ghostbusters, his screen work was limited to a few episodes of the Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV and a supporting role as Bill Murray’s best friend/fellow cadet in Stripes. By the time he stepped into the role of Egon Spengler, Ramis was better known for having directed National Lampoon’s Vacation and co-written Animal House, Caddyshack, and Meatballs. Nonetheless, he nailed the part, which allowed him to have a career in front of the camera that was just as successful as the one he had behind it.
Fans loved Ramis as Egon. They also loved him in general. He had a style of humor that somehow managed to be deeply sincere, yet also undeniably subversive. In many regards, he kept his personal life to himself, which made it a shock when news emerged in 2014 that he had died of vasculitis, a disease that causes the inflammation of one’s blood vessels. Ghostbusters fans paid tribute to Ramis in a touching manner. Taking their cue from a scene in which Egon uses a Twinkie to illustrate the amount of psychokinetic energy in New York, they showed up at the Tribeca firehouse that served as Ghostbusters headquarters and assembled a little memorial consisting of flowers, pictures, and those delicious snack cakes. It’s probably safe to say that Ramis would have loved it.
2. The Official Website
Pretty much every movie that comes out these days has an official website where you can get information and cast listings, watch the trailer, or maybe download some Twitter and Facebook avatars. That’s become par for the course. What far fewer movies have is a website that takes a bigger-picture approach. The official Ghostbusters website is one of those rarities. It’s a one-stop shop for all things bustin‘.
Spanning all three motion pictures, the site contains dozens and dozens of production stills and rare behind-the-scenes photos, video clips (including interviews with the cast members from the reboot), contests, and information on getting free Ghostbusters-themed apps, including the new “Slime City” game. If you want to connect with the stars on social media, their accounts are linked up here. There’s even a link to the Ghostbusters shop, where you can purchase officially-licensed merchandise, like Pop Figures, books, posters, and more. Attractive and easy to navigate, the website is a great online destination for any serious admirer of this franchise.
1. The Acclaim
Audiences love Ghostbusters in a big way. They aren’t the only ones. The movie has endured the test of time so well that it is now regarded as one of the best, most important comedies in the history of cinema. That’s not hyperbole, either. Each year, the National Film Registry carefully selects up to 25 films that they consider to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” for preservation in the Library of Congress. Among those included over the years have been Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, Raging Bull, Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles, E.T., and Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. It is an esteemed list of motion pictures, and in 2015, Ghostbusters joined their ranks.
The American Film Institute has also honored the movie. In 2000, the AFI unveiled their “100 Years…100 Laughs” list, a ranking of the 100 funniest movies in American cinema. Ghostbusters landed at #28, ahead of This Is Spinal Tap, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and Chaplin’s Modern Times. (Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot topped the list.) Recognition of this sort shows that Ghostbusters is so much more than just a silly supernatural comedy. It has been executed with skill and originality, reaching a level of quality that most comedies could never dream of approaching. The film is widely considered a classic, for very good reasons.
Are there any other great moments in Ghostbusters history that we’ve forgotten? Let us know about them in the comments.