Study Guide

Ghostbusters Themes

  • The Supernatural

    With a name like Ghostbusters, it'd be a little weird if some supernatural goings-on didn't... um... go on. As promised by the title, this comedy-horror classic is loaded with ghosts.

    Spectral librarians, slimy green blobs, zombie cab drivers—ask and ye shall receive. Ghostbusters also has a few tricks up its sleeves, throwing in surprises like demigod terror dogs and the evil Sumerian god, Gozer the Destructor. One of the many cool things about this movie is that it takes supernatural figures from a lot of different genres, puts them in a blender, and comes up with a new mythology all of its own.

    Questions About The Supernatural

    1. How is the depiction of the supernatural in Ghostbusters different and/or similar to other ghostly 80's movies like Poltergeist?
    2. Are the ghosts in the movie ever scary? Why, or why not?
    3. Explain the different types of supernatural creatures in movie.
    4. What is the effect of Ghostbusters blending comedy with horror?

    Chew on This

    Ghostbusters should be considered a comedy-fantasy or comedy-adventure, rather than a comedy-horror since its ghosts aren't scary.

    Excluding Gozer, the ghosts of Ghostbusters are far less destructive than the Ghostbusters themselves.

  • Wealth

    It's hard to miss all the talk about money in Ghostbusters. We hear it on the small scale with the Ghostbusters spending most of the movie scrambling for cash to spend, and the tax accountant Louis Tully bragging about his savings on generic Tylenol.

    On the larger scale, we see big whopping symbols of overblown commercialism like the corporate mascot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who tromps through the Upper West Side, wreaking havoc like Godzilla. While nobody is going to label Ghostbusters as a political satire on the excesses and disparities of 1980's America, the financial concerns of the nation are on full display.

    Questions About Wealth

    1. What is the purpose of all the money talk in Ghostbusters? How does it comment on the time in which it was made?
    2. What are the biggest symbols of commercialism in the movie?
    3. How does the fact that the Ghostbusters are a for-profit business affect their status as heroes?
    4. Which characters are most closely connected with the quest for money?

    Chew on This

    The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is a symbol of the crushing power of corporations and capitalism run rampant.

    The filmmakers made the Ghostbusters a private business to ground the movie in the common concerns of the decade.

  • Rules and Order

    There's a delicate balance of order and chaos in Ghostbusters. Though their mission is to bring order by busting ghosts, the Ghostbusters are constantly getting into trouble with every authority figure they come into contact with, whether its university administration, the cops, or the EPA.

    Ultimately, though, they defeat Gozer, a god of chaos, whose only goal is to cause destruction on Earth. With the Ghostbusters, we see a journey from outlaws to heroes, from guys who disrupt the mainstream to guys who keep the mainstream flowing on its merry way.

    Questions About Rules and Order

    1. In what ways can the Ghostbusters legitimately be considered menaces to an orderly society? In what ways are they the ultimate bringers of order?
    2. Which characters most clearly represent the force of order in the movie?
    3. How do the Ghostbusters earn badges of authority?
    4. In what ways is Gozer the ultimate representation of chaos in the film?

    Chew on This

    Ironically, the Ghostbusters often cause chaos while trying to bring order.

    By conquering Gozer, a god of chaos, the Ghostbusters ultimately become bringers of order.

  • Love

    Ghostbusters has a lot of love. We've got the usual romantic plots we often find in comedies, with the lead guy chasing after a girl who's way out of his league. Then that love plot is tied in with what we see in adventure stories, where he rescues her from a monster to win her love.

    To top it off, we've also got a couple comic love-subplots going on. Whoa, who knew Ghostbusters was a romantic comedy? Besides romantic love, Ghostbusters gives us the brotherly love between the Ghostbusters themselves, while also rekindling a love of New York City that'd been lost in 1980's.

    Questions About Love

    1. In what ways is Ghostbusters a romantic comedy?
    2. How are other types of love besides romantic seen in the movie?
    3. What are the main romantic plots in the movie?

    Chew on This

    In many ways, the romances of Ghostbusters function like the ones in a Shakespearean comedy.

    Peter's fascination with Dana is more lust than love.