Every Ghostbusters Movie, Ranked from Worst to Best


It’s been 40 years since the Ghostbusters first showed up on our movie screens, armed with proton packs and the blaring Ectomobile, kicking ghost butts all over Manhattan while their iconic theme song played in the background. The brainchild of SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd, who was inspired to create the story based on his family’s own fascination with the paranormal, Ghostbusters was a unique blend of horror and comedy.




Its all-star cast, which included big names like Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Sigourney Weaver, helped make Ghostbusters one of the biggest movies of the 1980s. Since then, we’ve had sequels, reboots, and more sequels, taking Ghostbusters from a stand-alone comedy to a multi-million dollar franchise. And with the recent release of the newest installment, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, what better time to review the franchise’s 40-year history and rank every film?


5 Ghostbusters (2016)


Ghostbusters (2016) was subject to review bombing and misogynistic online hate when it was announced that the film would reboot the original series and star a female main cast, which many viewers felt was “too woke”, gimmicky, and a slap in the face to the original film. At one point, Answer the Call had the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube. It would’ve been nice if this movie turned out to be a great refresh, shutting up all the haters and naysayers. But unfortunately, as a movie, Answer the Call just isn’t very good. And it should have been.

Not Great, but Unfairly Hated

Set again in New York City, Answer the Call was directed by Paul Freig, who knocked it out of the park with his female-led comedy, Bridesmaids. The film also stars four of the funniest women in comedy — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones — who play the next generation of Ghostbusters.


Yet despite this, much of the humor in Answer the Call falls flat. The film is also bogged down by an overuse of CGI, which ends up looking worse than the original. Several original cast members make cameos, though they oddly don’t play their franchise characters. There’s a lot of talent in this movie, no doubt, but it’s wasted on a messy story with poor pacing that spends more time being nostalgic than standing as its own film. Rent on Apple TV.

4 Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

3.5/5

Release Date
March 22, 2024

Cast
Mckenna Grace , Carrie Coon , Annie Potts , Paul Rudd , Emily Alyn Lind , Bill Murray , Finn Wolfhard , Ernie Hudson , Dan Aykroyd , Patton Oswalt , William Atherton , Kumail Nanjiani

Studio
BRON Studios, Columbia Pictures, Ghostcorps

Read our review of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the latest installment in the franchise, which just released this year. So far, it seems to be one of those fascinating cases where the critics’ and audiences’ opinions don’t align at all. Critics torched the film, while early audiences gave it the thumbs up. So, is it actually good? Well, from the get-go, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has a few things going against it. It’s yet another sequel from another franchise during a time when reboots and sequels are all we seem to get at the movies.


Another Unnecessary Sequel

When you first watch its trailer, you can’t help but roll your eyes and say to yourself, “Ugh, another one?” And that shows in the film itself. It’s nice that the franchise takes the story back to the streets of New York City, and it’s refreshing to get a brand-new villain (aside from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, again).

But the story tries juggling too many characters at once, which doesn’t really let any of them shine. And sure, it reunites the original main cast, including a few extras. But didn’t we already get most that in Afterlife? Overall, Frozen Empire just feels like another unnecessary sequel that was shoved down our throats. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is currently in theaters.

3 Ghostbusters II (1989)

ghostbusters 2

Ghostbusters 2

Release Date
June 16, 1989

Director
Ivan Reitman

Runtime
102


Ghostbusters II tried capitalizing on the first movie’s success and brought back the original cast. It was even directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, just like the first one — and yet, the dream team still couldn’t recapture the magic. The story behind Ghostbusters II felt tired and uninspired, like it was nothing more than a cash grab.

More Serious Than the Original

It also felt overly mature and serious compared to the original, which reveled in childish fantasies. The film’s negative reception stalled the momentum of the franchise, putting it on a 27-year hiatus, until the franchise was (unsuccessfully) rebooted in 2016. Ghostbusters II did have some perks: it introduced a new villain rather than reusing those from the original film: Vigo the Carpathian, whose oil painting has become iconic in the Ghostbusters universe.


We even get to see Louis (Rick Moranis) throw on a Ghostbuster jumpsuit and proton pack in an attempt to become the fifth Ghostbuster. But like so many sequels, it failed to compete with the original’s caliber. Stream Ghostbusters II on Hulu.

2 Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Read our review of Ghostbusters: Afterlife

After the female-led Ghostbusters bombed, producers needed a new direction for their beloved franchise. The answer turned out to be Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Rather than reboot the franchise, Afterlife continues the original series, set about forty years after the first movie. It departs the streets of New York City and follows the family of none other than Egon Spengler into rural Oklahoma.


The film introduces new ghosts and a fresh cast, including Paul Rudd, Stranger Things’ FInn Wolfhard, and Mckenna Grace, who perfectly captures her grandfather’s appearance and nerdiness. Afterlife imagines a world where the Ghostbusters and their adventures in New York City have been reduced to a mere ghost story, all but forgotten by the younger generation. Paul Rudd’s character, Gooberson, is baffled when the kids don’t know the iconic Ghostbusters song.

One Big Nostalgia Trip

Afterlife does lack originality. One of its ghosts, Muncher, feels like a rip-off of Slimer, and it recycles the original film’s antagonists, Gozer and the terror dogs. But we’re also treated with a surprise appearance by the original Ghostbusters: Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson).


Sadly, Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spengler, passed away prior to the film, though we do get to see his ghostly, digitized form. It’s pretty cool seeing these four old friends throw on their proton packs and take on ghosts again. Is it one big nostalgia trip? Sure, but it’s the most fun audiences will have riding around in the Ectomobile since the 1984 original.

Related: 10 Movies to Watch if You Love Ghostbusters

1 Ghostbusters (1984)

It’s impossible to rank anything else as number one. This is the film that started it all, whose tremendous success birthed this entire list of movies. Ghostbusters blended comedy and horror to create a ghost story unlike anything that audiences had ever seen before. Here, a team of ghost police — Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore — use their wild inventions to clear Manhattan’s streets of ghosts. Ghostbusters came with an A+ team.


It was directed by Ivan Reitman, whose name is attached to classic comedies like Animal HouseKindergarten Cop, and it was written by comedy legends Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also co-star in the movie. And of course, they’re joined by the comedic genius of Bill Murray and Rick Moranis. Throw in Annie Potts, who plays feisty secretary Janine, and a sexually possessed Sigourney Weaver, and you have yourselves a box office smash.

We Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

Ghostbusters also features one of the most iconic villains ever. And no, we’re not talking about Gozer, or the terror dogs, or even Slimer. We’re talking about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The movie’s creature effects, which utilized puppets and costumes, still look better and more realistic than some of today’s CGI.


The film’s theme song, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., has become iconic in cinema, its lyrics instantly recognizable: “If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?” Ghostbusters is now regarded as a 80s classic. Try as they might, none of these sequels and reboots could capture the magic of the original film. Stream Ghostbusters on Hulu.



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