'Ghostbusters' in 1984: What the Critics Said Then


Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray in 1984′s ‘Ghostbusters’ (Columbia Pictures)

Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters reboot has been met with an unexpected amount of pre-release vitriol, but early reviews aren’t completely hostile—in fact, the all-over-the-map reactions for Ghostbusters in 2016 are not too far removed from the kind of write-ups that greeted Ivan Reitman’s original version when it arrived in theaters back in 1984. With the new film’s debut now just a few days away, we look back to see how its predecessor was received 32 years ago.

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Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Miss [Sigourney] Weaver looks great and shows herself to be a willing comedienne, as well as an excellent foil for Mr. Murray. But this is his movie, first and foremost, and it’s another of the messy, near-miss films in which he seems to specialize. Put Mr. Murray in any setting where order, tidiness and rationality are taken seriously, and he becomes the consummate anarchic slob; that’s enough to keep “Ghostbusters” going, like “Stripes” and “Meatballs” before it. But Mr. Murray would be even more welcome if his talents were used in the service of something genuinely witty and coherent, rather than as an end in themselves.”


“Originally conceived as a John Belushi-Dan Aykroyd vehicle called Ghostsmashers before Belushi’s death in 1982, Ghost Busters under producer-director Ivan Reitman makes a fundamental error: featuring a set of top comics but having them often work alone.”

Related: Paul Feig Responds to ‘Misogynistic’ ‘Ghostbusters’ Backlash


Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“The rest of “Ghostbusters” is less successful than it should be. Pumped up with special effects, it eventually degenerates into a mindless sound and light show that could have appeared in many other, lesser movies. This film is a whole lot funnier when its characters are talking to and past each other than when everybody is standing around in awe of not particularly awesome special effects… Still, on balance, “Ghostbusters” is a hoot. It’s Murray’s picture, and in a triumph of mind over matter, he blows away the film’s boring special effects with his one-liners.”

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Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“"Ghostbusters" is one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production. It is not a complete vindication for big-budget comedies, since it’s still true, as a general rule, that the more you spend, the fewer laughs you get. But it uses its money wisely, and when that, ahem, monster marches down a Manhattan avenue and climbs the side of a skyscraper … we’re glad they spent the money for the special effects because it gets one of the biggest laughs in a long time.”

Arthur Knight, The Hollywood Reporter

“The plotting may be primitive, but it’s all carried off with far more style and finesse than one might expect from the creators of Animal House and Meatballs, with a special nod to editors Sheldon Kahn and David Blewitt for their sustained pacing of both the comedy and the action.”

Richard Schickel, Time

“Whoever thought of having evil’s final manifestation take the form of a 100-ft. marshmallow deserves the rational mind’s eternal gratitude. But praise is due to everyone connected with Ghostbusters for thinking on a grandly comic scale and delivering the goofy goods, neatly timed and perfectly packaged.”

David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

“Although the project reportedly cost more than $30 million to complete, Reitman keeps the mood airy and light with only a few portentous lapses, mostly avoiding the temptation to grandiosity that spoiled such past disappointments as “1941” and “The Blues Brothers.” This is a silly movie, not delicate or subtle, but generally fun. I expect it will be with us for a very large part of the still-young summer season.”

Kathleen Carroll, The New York Daily News

“But “Ghostbusters” is primarily a showcase for Murray, who slinks through the movie muttering his lines in his usual cheeky fashion and getting off an occasionally hilarious crack that proves he’s thoroughly enjoying himself. This is one horror movie that is played strictly for laughs and, while the direction could have been more spirited, audiences are likely to have a good time watching the devil-may-care Murray demonstrate his slightly demonic comic abilities.”

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

“Essentially a $30 million version of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy but not at all a bad time, thanks mainly to Bill Murray’s incredibly dry line readings and director Ivan Reitman’s maintenance of a moderately coherent tone and plotline.”

‘Ghostbusters’: Watch a trailer for the 1984 original: