Ghostbusters is a 1984 American supernatural comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as, respectively, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler, a trio of eccentric parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. The film also stars Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, and features Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Ernie Hudson in supporting roles.
Based on his own fascination with spirituality, Aykroyd conceived Ghostbusters as a project for himself and John Belushi. The protagonists would travel through time and space to combat a host of demonic and supernatural threats. Following Belushi’s death, and with Aykroyd’s concept deemed financially impractical, he was paired with Ramis to rewrite the script to set it in New York City and make it more realistic. Ghostbusters was the first comedy film to employ expensive special effects. There was concern about the budget it would require, and little faith in its potential for box office success. On an approximate $25–30 million budget, filming took place between October 1983 to January 1984, on location in New York City and Los Angeles, and on sets at Burbank Studios, Los Angeles. Competition for special effects studios among various movies in development at the time meant that part of the budget was used to co-found a new studio under Richard Edlund. He used a combination of practical effects, miniatures, and puppets to deliver the ghoulish visuals.
Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984, to critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon. It was well received for its deft blend of comedy, action, and horror, and Murray’s performance was repeatedly singled out for praise. The film earned $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run, making it the second-highest-grossing film of that year, and the highest-grossing comedy of all time at that point. It was the number-one film in theaters for seven consecutive weeks and was one of only four films to gross more than $100 million that year. Further theatrical releases have increased the total gross to approximately $295.7 million, making it the most successful comedy film of the 1980s. In 2015, the Library of Congressselected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Its theme song, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., was also a number-one hit.
With its effect on popular culture, and a dedicated fan following, the success of Ghostbusters launched a multi-billion dollar multimedia franchise. This includes the popular animated television series The Real Ghostbusters (which itself spawned a media franchise), its sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters, video games, board games, comic books, clothing, music, books, food, toys, collectables, and haunted attractions. Ghostbusters was followed in 1989 by a sequel, Ghostbusters II, which fared less well financially and critically. Repeated attempts to develop a further sequel had ended following Ramis’s death in 2014. A 2016 reboot, also called Ghostbusters, was released to mixed reviews and financial failure. A second, direct sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, is scheduled for release in 2021.