On Saturday, the beloved comedy classic Ghostbusters turns 30 years old, and it will undoubtedly prompt many of my peers to proclaim things like, “OMG we’re so old!” because nothing reminds us of our own mortality quite like 80s movies. On June 7, 1984, the world was first introduced to Drs. Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz and Egon Spengler, as well as a cast of other colorful characters, when Ghostbusters debuted at a theater in Westwood, California. The next day, it would open nationwide, and three decades later, fans still go bonkers any time someone mentions “news” about Ghostbusters 3. You know, despite the fact that Ghostbusters 2 was a stinky puddle of ectoplasm (read this outstanding history of the filming of Ghostbusters from Vanity Fair for more about the difference between the first and second films).
However, I come here today not to bury Ghostbusters 2, but to praise and honor Ghostbusters as one of the finest and most original pieces of American cinema from that decade of cocaine-fueled nonsense. It’s a movie that propelled Bill Murray to outright stardom, and it also serves as a reminder that Dan Aykroyd was once a comedy icon, and not a sad, possibly insane man who still says things that make people think, “Aw, someone lock him up.” Also, Ghostbusters provided us with what I consider the second greatest toy that any kid could have had in the 80s – the proton pack. I only had the ghost trap, because it was cheaper, so when my friends and I would play, I’d just wear a normal backpack and roll out the trap, but I still remember the proton pack as one of the coolest things in the world.
(The greatest toy of the 80s was the A*Team machine gun that could be broken down into a sniper rifle and handgun. It was pretty rad and also probably a terrible idea for a toy in retrospect.)
Like most people, I’ve watched Ghostbusters more times than I can remember, but I feel like I notice new things every time, like when Dr. Venkman visits Dana Barrett’s apartment for the first time and she says, “That’s the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there,” and Venkman responds, “What a crime.” You just don’t get jokes like that when you’re a kid. Also, I had never (at least that I can recall) noticed the painted sign on this wall before:
Not like it really makes a difference, because the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man doesn’t need to be explained. He’s a giant walking marshmallow delivered to this realm to enslave and possibly exterminate mankind, and he’s absolutely adorable. But Mr. Puft’s attempt at human genocide reminded me of how much these ghosts, no matter how harmless and funny, scared me so many years ago. They weren’t as terrifying as, say, the ghosts that made me afraid to sleep without the light on when I was 10 years old and watched The Shining, but a ghost is a ghost, you guys.
I’m older now, and the only things I fear are tax hikes and osteoporosis, so I thought it would be fun to watch Ghostbusters one more time and use my time-honored scientific method and crack team of researchers and analysts to rank the ghosts, ghouls, spooks, spirits, monsters and gods featured in this movie that we still love so much 30 years later.
The Sexy/Horny Ghost Lady
In perhaps the most random and unnecessary scene of Ghostbusters, Ray is basically seduced by a female ghost, who removes his pants and proceeds to cross his eyes. I don’t count her in this scientific ranking because 1) she seems pretty cool, and 2) this was a dream sequence. Ultimately, Ray was a pervert, and I like to believe that this scene only made the cut because Aykroyd wanted people to see his bulge.
Walter Peck, the Man with No Dick
He wasn’t a ghost, obviously, but he was a monster in a figurative sense. Mainly, I’ll take any chance I can get to talk about how William Atherton was one of the best dickhead character actors of the 80s. Between his role as the EPA-hole in Ghostbusters, Richard Thornburg in Die Hard and Die Hard 2, and especially Professor Jerry Hathaway in Real Genius, Atherton was in a league of his own back then.
Slimer’s not scary. Hell, he was the adorably gross face of the Ghostbusters brand for everything from the cartoon series to the amazingly delicious Hi-C Ecto Cooler drink. A tribute to Jim Belushi, Slimer was probably the only ghost in this movie that we wouldn’t have minded haunting and sliming our homes. You know, as long as he didn’t eat all of the hot dogs.
9) Vinz Clortho
Rick Moranis rarely gets enough credit for how hilarious his character, Louis Tulley, was in Ghostbusters, especially when he became possessed by Vinz Clortho via one of Zuul’s giant dog/frog monsters. The juxtaposition of Louis’s possession to that of Dana Barrett might help explain why Gozer’s grand plot to take over this realm fell apart so easily. A god is only as strong as her pets.
8) Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
On one hand, the Stay Puft man seems about as harmless as Slimer, because he’s so adorable and cuddly, and he’s made of marshmallow fluff, which almost everyone loves. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that even if he was a fair and just god-like ruler, his calorie count must have been obscenely frightening. In fact, I assume that Walter Peck didn’t return for Ghostbusters 2 because he died of diabetes after he was doused with the fluff blood of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s slaughter.
7) Flying Subway Monster
I don’t like riding the subway as it is, but imagine this guy haunting you while you’re trying to squeeze into a car with a bunch of people who smell like a ghost’s b-hole. I’d probably be like, “Hey flying ghost bird or bat or whatever, you can fly! Why are you in the subway?” That might be why he was flying out of the subway, though, so I’m cutting him a break for that.
6) Zombie Cab Driver
It’s hard enough to find a good human cab driver, but now the dude looking to get to across town in heavy traffic has to deal with this undead guy? No thanks. What I’ve always wondered about this scene, though, was that we see the ghost fumes flying into the car through the tailpipe, but we never saw if there was actually a driver in the cab. So was this cab already running and just sitting there without a driver? Or did the fumes possess the actual driver and turn him into this disgusting skeleton man? And if it’s the latter, did he turn back into a normal dude when it was all over? That would suck if the Ghostbusters won and everyone but him was fine. He’d probably be pissed about that.
5) The Old Lady Ghost in the Library
Look, the library sucks enough as it is, between all of the homeless people using the computers for pornography and the books that people expect you to read. But now this ghost lady not only has the nerve to shush the Ghostbusters when they try to find out why she’s there, making a big old mess of all the index cards, but she also turns into an ugly monster and screams at them? Talk about a hypocrite, old ghost lady.
4) Dana Possessed by Zuul
At first Dana looks kind of hot when she answers the door for Venkman, asks if he’s the Keymaster and starts talking all the sexy talk about making the possessed demon love. But that’s kind of the problem with her. You have to remember that she’s possessed the whole time – a good indicator in any situation that you think your lady might be inhabited by an evil spirit would be if she spins in the air, four feet above the bed – because if you don’t, she’ll probably be pretty pissed when you’re done making whoopee and Gozer doesn’t show up. You can try to use, “I swear this has never happened before” as an excuse, but I think she’s probably going to call bullsh*t.
Sure, she’s a god and that’s supposed to be the scariest out of all of these monsters and ghosts. Maybe we should take her a little more seriously because without the Ghostbusters, she’s sitting atop a throne of skulls in New York City, albeit as a giant man made of marshmallows. But we’re supposed to be scared of a god who couldn’t kill four dudes who ultimately got really lucky when they decided that crossing the streams would eliminate her? No offense, lady, but a real god would have killed the Ghostbusters when Ray admitted that they weren’t gods and not left them alive to think up their Hail Mary plan to neutralize her. Hell, what’s the point of shooting lightning bolts out of your hands if it can’t even kill a human? I bet the rest of the gods left her out of the “Gods We Lost” montage that year.
2) Gozer’s Big Doggy Monsters
I’m a dog-lover through and through, but Gozer’s monster pooches were far scarier than she ever was. Sometimes I wonder, though, if we really ever had to fear anything from those hibernating hounds of horror or if we could have stopped them from possessing Dana and Louis by simply rubbing their tummies and giving them some cookie bones. Who’s a good guardian puppy of Gozer the Gozerian? You are! Yes you are!
1) Dana’s Three-Armed Monster Chair
For all of Gozer’s flaws in the end, her biggest mistake was not putting her chair monster to more use in stopping the Ghostbusters. How is it that she can make three different monster arms burst out of a chair to simply grab Dana, but then when it comes to stopping the guys with nuclear accelerators strapped to their backs, the best she can do is tickle them with lightning? I’m just saying, if I’m a god and I need to beat four guys in order to take over the world and beyond, I’m going to play to all my strengths. No offense to the other gods out there doing their things, but if I have a monster chair that has three arms, I’m probably going to use it to at least subdue one of the Ghostbusters so they can’t cross all of their streams. The three-armed monster chair should have been the MVP of Gozer’s offensive, but instead he was left sitting on himself. Not cool, Gozer.