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Ghostbusters: A Series Ranking

Image of Ghostbusters Patch | Image Via Flickr | Image By JD Hancock CC BY 2.0

Who You Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters has been a franchise that has been cemented within the pop culture zeitgeist since its initial release in 1984. The series stems from a group of New York City parapsychologists who deal with supernatural occurrences that affect the lives of those around them. Ghostbusters as an entity is unique in its run of films – usually, the newer films are reboots, however, 1984, 1989, 2021, and 2024 all span across the same timeline while 2016 sits there as its separate project. 

Though it has hit some rough spots since its initial blowout, the series continues to expand its licensing over action figures, comics, video games, TV, and more. Despite the loss of Harold Ramis in 2014, he and the other stars of the films, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson have appeared in every single film in the series, even the 2016 version as different characters with Harold Ramis’ son being his cameo. Though no future movie has been announced, there have been multiple conversations of possible follow-ups.

Ghostbusters II: 2.5/5

Ghostbusters II (1989), is possibly controversially placed in last mainly because the film is boring, it’s a play-by-play of what happened in the first movie but done worse and without the charm from the cast. Ghostbusters II was directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, the film was released in theaters on January 16, 1989. Currently standing with 55% from critics and a 61% audience score, the film cemented itself as a failed follow-up to one of the best comedies ever. 

The movie takes place five years after the original after the destruction of the previous film creating pariahs out of what should have been heroes. The four men are all no longer at the height of their careers now playing as child entertainers, a scientist, and a television host. After a series of strange occurrences affecting Dana Barrett, the four men suit up and fight the evil that’s infested New York City through goo that heightened negative emotions, creating a hostile environment. With powerhouses like Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Raymond Stantz, Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett, Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler, and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore returning for the sequel one could expect similar results.

A big reason as to why Ghostbusters works is because the characters are grounded therefore making the believability of the ghosts easier for us. The overacting of Peter MacNicol who played Janosz Poha and Rick Moranis who played Louis Tully take away this ability. The humor is more toned back from its usual darkness making this film more watchable for the whole family, which makes sense because the film just felt like a cheap copy made not for the fans but for the studios to make more money – which failed. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife: 2.5/5

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), places fourth because it just comes across as incredibly hollow in comparison to the others. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was directed and written by Jason Reitman with help for the script from Gil Kenan, the film was released in theaters on November 19, 2021. Currently standing with 64% from critics and a 94% audience score, the film cemented itself in the series and proved to the world that Ghostbusters was back. 

This film takes place after the in-universe death of Egon Spengler, with his death comes the arrival of his daughter Callie Spengler and grandchildren, Trevor and Phoebe Spengler. Phoebe meets a teacher named Gary Grooberson and her friend “Podcast” who both engage with Phoebe’s interest in the supernatural and help her begin investigations towards the poltergeists that invade the town. Callie and Gary both get possessed before Phoebe with the help of the Ghostbusters free them from the shackles of Zuul. 

The film utilizes its cast to the best of its abilities with Carrie Coon as Carrie Spengler, Finn Wolfhard as Trevor Spengler, McKenna Grace as Phoebe Spengler, Paul Rudd as Gary Grooberson, Logan Kim as Podcast, with returnees Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Raymond Stantz, and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore.

The cast is the best part of this movie, each actor feels their characters thoroughly and no one feels half-baked. Phoebe is a bit of the kid acting like a grownup trope which makes her character not as likable as the other cast members. Grace however plays Phoebe spectacularly giving her a subtly that only someone of her caliber can achieve. Rudd continues to play a version of himself which he does well – he’s the wisecracking Adult Kid and he’s fun to watch in this film. The film just doesn’t feel like Ghostbusters, the campiness that is associated with it is nearly non-existent, and unfortunately, the cameo of the originals makes this movie, not the Spenglers’.

Ghostbusters (2016): 2.5/5

Ghostbusters (2016), was definitely controversially placed in third despite its reception due to the comedy it usually managed to emulate to the audience. Ghostbusters was directed and written by Paul Feig with help from the script from Katie Dippold, the film was released in theaters on July 15, 2016. Currently standing with 74% from critics and a 49% audience score, the reboot unfortunately didn’t meet the expectations set by the original and killed the hype for the next few years. The movie follows ex-best friends Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert who with the help of Jillian “Holtz” Holtzman document an encounter with a ghost which ignites Erin’s fascination with the supernatural. Through their beginnings, they meet Patty Tolan, an MTA staffer who experienced a supernatural experience in the subways.

Together all four women become the Ghostbusters of their universe. The Ghostbusters battle with Rowan North, a man who has been triggering events all over the city in an effort to draw out ghosts and gain their energies. The group battles in the streets of New York and ultimately comes out on top. The film has some of the best female comedians of all time with Melissa McCarthy as Dr. Abigail L. “Abby” Yates, Kristen Wiig as Dr. Erin Gilbert, Kate McKinnon as Dr. Jillian “Holtz” Holtzman, and Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan. This film is the only out of the five to not take place in the same universe as the original. 

This decision led a lot to turn away from the movie on the pure basis it was “disrespecting the original” – other decisions stemmed from misogyny and the hatred of female lead media originally dominated by men. It’s not bad, but it’s not good – McCarthy and Jones eat up their scenes and generally leave the viewers wanting more of them. Wiig plays more of a straight man for the group and does good when she has her comedic bits. Unfortunately, McKinnon does not feel like an actual person in the film, she’s incredibly over the top and often chews the scene in such a negative way that it just leaves you cringing. So many genuinely good scenes are shot down from the addition of a joke from her and leave the movie feeling, eh?

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire: 3.5/5

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024), places itself in second for its genuine comedic abilities as well as emotional stepping stones. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire was directed and written by Jason Reitman with help for the script from Gil Kenan similarly to Afterlife, the film was released in theaters on March 22, 2024. Currently standing with 43% from critics and an 83% audience score, the film, though loved by the fans, wasn’t as well received as its predecessor. 

Taking place three years after the events of the previous movie, the Spenglers’ along with Gary who is dating Callie move to New York City. The family works as the Ghostbusters of the modern day, working throughout the city taking out all the paranormal occurrences. After an event that leads to a lot of damage, Phoebe is put on probation causing a rift in the group. Ray and Podcast receive an orb from a customer named Nadeem Razmaadi which displays high levels of spiritual energy. In the orb is Garraka who is now free and begins freezing over New York City – his plans are foiled when the Spenglers with the help of the original Ghostbusters and Nadeem can defeat the ghost. With returning plays like Carrie Coon as Carrie Spengler, Finn Wolfhard as Trevor Spengler, McKenna Grace as Phoebe Spengler, Paul Rudd as Gary Grooberson, Logan Kim as Podcast, and newcomer Kumail Nanjiani as Nadeem Razmaadi, the film is never in incapable hands. 

The characters this time around feel like a genuine family and leave each argument feeling more personal. Phoebe this turnaround is the main reason for the release of the main antagonist, and this makes her character much better than in the original. This time around, Phoebe doesn’t feel like a stereotype but a character who the viewer can envision will lead the Ghostbusters to success.

Ghostbusters: 4/5

Ghostbusters (1984), has no other place on this list but at the top. The movie is the best Ghostbusters of them all, but also just a genuinely great movie outside of the context. Ghostbusters was directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, the film was released in theaters on June 8, 1984. Currently standing with 95% from critics and an 88% audience score, the film stays in the minds of fans and proves that the original is always better. 

The viewers follow Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore as they travel throughout New York City saving whoever calls their name. It gets personal when a past employer of theirs Dana Barrett is shown to get possessed by Zuul. After the famous attack from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the group are able to ward off the ghosts and save Dana from her possession.

Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Raymond Stantz, Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett, Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler, and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore all play their parts perfectly and one couldn’t imagine better characterizations played on screen. This movie is the standard of how the series of films should be made, it’s humorous but has heart, it doesn’t take itself seriously but also treats every matter with respect. It is genuinely a great experience watching and rewatching which a lot of these movies don’t have the privilege to say. Ghostbusters is a combination of all the right ingredients mixed together to create a movie that is full of love and it shows in its final product.

Ghostbusters (1984) Official Youtube Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Omid Rad is a freelance writer, movie lover and overall geek.