Study Guide

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters Introduction


Release Year: 1984

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy

Director: Ivan Reitman

Writers: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis

Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver


In 1984, a gigantic monster took over America. 

Godzilla? King Kong? Wal-Mart? Nope. None of those beasties could hold a candle to the unstoppable leviathan that was Ghostbusters, the comedy-horror that blew up the box office and put its moderately-annoying-yet-catchy theme song on the tongues of millions.

We're not exaggerating when we say that Ghostbusters took over America (and even the world). Luckily for us all, it wasn't a hostile take over: as the highest grossing comedy of the '80s, Ghostbusters had everybody lining up around the block to roll in the aisles.

Who knew that a flick about three broke college professors starting a ghost-exterminating business would strike such a nerve and earn legions of loyal fans to this day? 

Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman—that's who.

Ghostbusters first came to life (afterlife?) in the mind of Dan Aykroyd, who originally conceived of the movie as a vehicle for himself and fellow SNL veteran John Belushi. After Belushi's tragic death, the comic role of a lifetime passed on to another SNL alum, Bill Murray, who shot from star to superstar with the role of Peter Venkman.

Aykroyd and Murray weren't the only comic masterminds behind Ghostbusters, though. You can get all the deets in our "Screenwriters" section, but director/producer Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis helped Aykroyd give his original concept the extreme makeover that made it the comic juggernaut it still is today.

Not only did Ghostbusters break new ground at the box office; it also basically invented the genre of special effects comedy, paving the way for good stuff like Beetlejuice, Men in Black, the movie Shmoop's gonna make about labradoodles taking over the world.

Columbia Pictures took a huge risk in signing off on the 25-30 million dollars it took to make the movie. Up till then, that was a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a comedy. In the end, though, Columbia was laughing all the way to the bank, after the movie raked in around 130 million and proved that America would lap up a movie that blended comedy with horror special effects and a big dose of adventure.

By the end of 1984, it was clear that Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston had busted their way into film history… and finally answered the age-old question "Who you gonna call?"

What is Ghostbusters About and Why Should I Care?

Ghostbusters is "a perfect comedy"—so spoketh Judd Apatow in an article in Vanity Fair (source).

In the same article, Judd also dropped this bomb: "Movies like Ghostbusters… made us want to make movies." So the secret is out; we have Ghostbusters to thank for the films of Judd Apatow. (Your mileage may vary: you might see that as a mark in the movie's favor, or sound reason to immediately destroy all copies in existence.)

But there's no doubt that Apatow isn't the only filmmaker inspired by Ghostbusters, and the fact that it inspired a new generation of comic filmmakers is one of the best possible reasons to check it out… besides that fact that it's hilarious and features a ginormous Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Give it a gander and you're sure to find a bunch of the same character types and plot structures that pop up in the most recent flicks that have made us laugh so hard that we spit our soda on the guy sitting in front of us. Of course, we'd be selling you short if we said the only reason to study Ghostbusters is its influence on later films.

Basically, human beings have been joking about stuff the whole time we've been kicking it on this planet. The Elizabethan Era had Shakespeare's comedies, the Renaissance had the commedia dell'arte, the Greek and Roman Eras had their comedies, and the Stone Age had... cavemen tripping over stuff?

The point is that Ghostbusters didn't invent its comic character types and basic plot structures. It just did a really good job of making a modern version of stuff that's been around for a long, long time.

And, like those moldy oldies we just cited (commedia dell'what now?), Ghostbusters is primed for staying power. Already, a generation removed—lookin' at you, Apatow—is finding inspiration in Ghostbusters. And it still endures as a classic, and will probably be remembered alongside, say Some Like It Hot as major, major steps in comedy film history.

In fact we're willing to bet you that, a few hundred years from now, film students (or whatever the 25th Century equivalent of film is) will be studying Ghostbusters, alongside Much Ado About Nothing and Lysistrata , as classics of the comedy form.

(Yeah, we know: there's no way we can ever pay off on that bet.)

Trivia

John Candy was originally supposed to play Louis Tully, but he backed out after his idea for Louis to have a German accent and two pet schnauzers was rejected. (Source.)

When the ecto-containment unit blows, famous porn star Ron Jeremy can be seen in the crowd. (Source.)

Slimer's blobbiness was inspired by the body shape of Aykroyd's best friend John Belushi, who was slated to star in the film before his death. (Source.)

Almost every scene in the movie features improvisation from the actors, especially Bill Murray. Particularly amazing is the scene at Louis's party, which is mostly one single shot and is almost entirely improvised by Rick Moranis. (Source.)

Ivan Reitman is the un-credited voice of Gozer and Slimer. (Source.)

When Sigourney Weaver auditioned for the part of Dana, she growled and barked like a terror dog; Reitman told her to "never do that again." (Source.)

Ghostbusters Resources

Websites

Ghostbusters HQ
Click here for all things Ghostbusters.

IMDB
Same goes for IMDB, but you knew this already.

Rotten Tomatoes
You don't know a movie until you've checked its RT stats.

Ghost-thinkers
Get scholarly with this website that thinks about the movie in context of the grand tradition of horror literature.

Book or TV Adaptations

The Real Ghostbusters
The animated franchise made it for 7 seasons.

Extreme Ghostbusters
Unfortunately, the follow-up animated franchise only made it for 1 season.

Comics
Click here to check out all the different comic book versions of the franchise.

Articles and Interviews

Oral History
Check out this great article where the stars of the movie tell you about it in their own words.

Making Of
Here's an article about what it took to make ghostbusting possible.

Thumbs Way Up
Find out why Roger Ebert loves Ghostbusters even though it is a big budget special effects comedy.

An Exhaustive History of Ghostbusters 3 Rumors
Yeah, that's pretty much what this article is about.

Girl Ghostbusters?
The glass ceiling of ghostbusting will be busted.

Special FX
Click her for an interview with Ghostbusters' special effects master John Bruno.

Video

Ghostbusters vs. Mythbusters
Um, greatest rap battle ever?

Who You Gonna Call...
... to write a hit them song? Ray Parker Jr, obviously.

Nitpicking
11 things you never noticed about Ghostbusters.

Just Dance
Who knew the Ghostbusters dancing was a concept with video game potential?

Ghost-trailer
Crazy how the movie totally holds up, but the trailer just… doesn't.

Honest Trailer
Ghostbusters gets roasted.

Images

Central Park West Unscathed
Looks like that church survived the wrath of the Marshmallow Man.

Hook and Ladder
Ghostbusters HQ still stands in Manhattan.

Ghostbuster Graffiti
This is probably Dan Aykroyd's tag.

They Got Marshmallowed
A little marshmallow goop isn't gonna stop these guys.

Ramis Memorial
On the day Harold Ramis Died, a memorial appeared outside of the firehouse where Ghostbusters was shot.