Who ya gonna call? Well, besides the insurance company to dispute a claim, the Ghostbusters, obviously. There have been four Ghostbusters movies since 1984, and all of them are either great, or pretty good (Yes, ALL of them). But, that said, none of the Ghostbusters movies are perfect. In fact, I’d say that there is at least one thing about each movie that could have actually been better. Some of these things are rather minor, but some of them are pretty major, even lessening some of the films in my eyes.
Now, this article isn’t about how one movie might be better than another, or how a film like Ghostbusters: Afterlife might improve upon the original movie. I’m not ranking these films after all. But, what I am doing is discussing their highest highs, and their lowest lows. That said, in case you’re wondering what my favorite Ghostbusters movie actually is, it’s number two. It’s much better than you remember it, I assure you. Anyway, on with the list!
Oh, and minor spoilers up ahead.
Ghostbusters is about three scientists (and a guy just applying for a job) who open up a gateway to another dimension and bust ghosts. Pretty simple.
The Best Thing About Ghostbusters
The very best thing about the original Ghostbusters is that it’s hilarious. All four members of the team have their thing – Peter is the sarcastic one, Egon spouts the technobabble, Ray is the giddy big kid, and Winston, as the outsider, is the straight man. But, it’s not just the Ghostbusters, as all of the other characters somehow find a way to have incredible lines.
It’s all just so silly and even a little ribald, as there are sexual jokes aplenty here that would go right over a kid’s head back in 1984. There’s no doubt about it, in its purest form, the first Ghostbusters is definitely the funniest movie of the four, and it’s not even close.
The Worst Thing About Ghostbusters
Okay, this is a small nitpick, but can I please talk about how complicated the villains are in this movie? I mean, I know the nonsensical nature of Gozer and Zuul and Vinz Clortho are all a part of the humor, and it’s funny. Don’t get me wrong. But, try explaining the villains to anybody who has never seen the movie, and you’re going to be rubbing your head.
So, you have the Gatekeeper, called Zuul, and the Keymaster, called Vinz Clortho, and they’re like these dogs, but then, they take over the bodies of people in order to have sex (the key in the gate, you see), and then they open up a portal for Gozer, who is neither male nor female. Oh, and then you have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who Ray basically conjured up to be “the form of the Destructor,” and yeah. I mean, I LOVE it, as well as any version of Gozer, new or old, but man, it’s so confusing. Intentionally so, but confusing nonetheless.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
After pretty much destroying the city with their last mission, the Ghostbusters disband, only to come together again once a ghost takes Venkman’s son.
The Best Thing About Ghostbusters II
I mentioned earlier how Ghostbusters II is my favorite in the franchise, and it’s mostly because of its newest characters: Janosz, played by Peter MacNicol, and the new antagonist, Vigo, played by Wilheim von Homberg, but voiced by Max von Sydow, who starred in the first Exorcist movie.
Janosz is hilarious with his put-on accent and his sniveling to Vigo, and I find Vigo to be a much scarier villain than Gozer, even though he goes down so easily. I mean, seriously, how could you not love the scourge of Carpathia, and the sorrow of Moldavia? He’s the best!
The Worst Thing About Ghostbusters II
Okay, yes, I know. Ghostbusters II is nowhere near as good as the first movie. This is not lost on me. The plot feels a little uneven, with the court scene being the real start of the actual ghostbusting. The villain, while brought in early, doesn’t really play too much of a role until the very end, and the Statue of Liberty is not as interesting as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. In every way, the second movie just feels lesser than the first.
But, again, Ghostbusters II is my Ghostbusters movie. It might be because I was old enough to actually appreciate it, and was already a fan of the cartoon series, The Real Ghostbusters, when the movie came out, but either way, I really love this movie, and nothing you can say will change my mind.
Three scientists (and a woman applying for a job) bust ghosts. I really don’t mean to sound reductive, but it’s mostly just the first movie, with women.
The Best Thing About Ghostbusters (2016)
A lot of people don’t like this movie because of the cast, but I enjoy it for that very reason. I mean, I did write about how an all-female Ghostbusters was a great idea all the way back in 2015, and it was. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones all had impossibly large shoes to fill, but they stepped up and did a tremendous job being both sort of similar, but also tremendously different from the original Ghostbusters, and I like all of their performances.
Our very own Eric Eisenberg liked the movie enough when he reviewed it back in 2016, giving it three and a half stars out of five, and I like it, too. It’s fun.
The Worst Thing About Ghostbusters (2016)
I said it was fun, but it’s not necessarily funny, which is a shame, since I find all of the women in the cast hilarious. That said, I think this movie tries way too hard to elicit laughter from its audience, but the jokes only sometimes land. I would rather not compare it to the first movie when it comes to the jokes, but how do you not compare a reboot to the original?
So, yeah, it’s nowhere near as organically funny as the first movie, or even the second movie, for that matter. That said, I definitely find it to be a worthy movie in the series, and Paul Feig was right to speak out after his 2016 film was originally left out of the box set. That was messed up.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
A hard-on-her-luck single mom moves her kids to the middle of nowhere after her father dies, only for her children to learn that their grandfather was once a Ghostbuster.
The Best Thing About Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Ghostbusters movies take place in New York, right? Well, yes, usually, but not in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which moves the story all the way to rural Oklahoma. This actually sounds like a recipe for disaster, but this new setting is the best thing about the new Ghostbusters, as it manages to make the movie feel fresh…well, at least in this regard.
The ghosts being in this territory lead to really fun scenes, like an excellent moment of the Ecto-1 blasting around a mostly deserted main street. There’s other good stuff about this film as well, but the setting is the stand-out for me. It’s great!
The Worst Thing About Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Don’t hate me, but I actually think the constant nostalgia in this movie is a minus rather than a plus. It holds the film back, rather than pushes it forward. I think this latest film leaned a little too hard into the homages, much like with the Star Wars sequels, almost to the point where I wish they weren’t even in the movie at all.
Let me be clear, though. I understand how Egon is the catalyst for the plot of this movie, and that the original Ghostbusters are barely even in it at all. But, I feel like it still harkens back more to the older films than it should, leaving it feeling exciting at times, but boring and bland at others. Oh, well. Still a good movie, but one that could have been better.
What do you think are the best and worst aspects of each Ghostbusters movie? For more news on all things Ghostbusters, make sure to swing by here often.
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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