Film / Ghost (1990)
aka: Ghost

Mmm, ghost sex.

Sam: Molly, you're in danger.
Oda Mae: You can't just blurt it out like that! And quit moving around, because you're startin' to make me dizzy! I'll just tell her in my own way. (Ahem.) in danger, gurl.

Ghost is a 1990 movie starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn, and Whoopi Goldberg in the performance that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (which she attributes to Swayze insisting on her being cast in the part).

Executive Sam Wheat and his artist girlfriend Molly are a pair of yuppies living in SoHo New York. They're in love, though Sam seems to have a little difficulty coming right out and saying it, and can only manage "ditto" when Molly tells him she loves him.

On their way home one night, Sam is mugged and killed. This is where the actual story begins, as the violent murder (plus the fact that Sam had the unfinished business of never truly telling Molly he loves her) causes him to stick around as a ghost. Then Sam discovers there's more to his death than just making him an unfortunate statistic in mugger-prone New York.

In 2010, a Foreign Remake was made in Japan, where Sam's character is now a woman trying to protect her husband. A musical production of Ghost hit Broadway in 2012.

Not to be confused with the 1997 short film Ghosts, starring Michael Jackson, or the book Ghost by John Ringo.

Ghost provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Carl never wanted Sam dead — he just wanted his wallet. Once he dies and becomes a ghost himself, he actually seems pleased to see Sam again, if only briefly.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: "Sam?" "Oh, Carl..."
  • Alone with the Psycho: Averted. Carl was trying to keep Molly's good opinion of him, and only revealed himself as the psycho as he became desperate.
  • And I Must Scream: Subway Ghost is forever angry at the suddenness of his death and refuses to move on.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Sam, and a man on an operating table.
  • Aside Glance: After Oda Mae finally agrees to help Sam thanks to his unbearable rendition of "I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am", he gives a small grin to the camera.
  • Badass Longcoat: The Subway Ghost
  • Barred from the Afterlife: The movie is all about this — some souls aren't ready for one place or the other at the time they part with the body, and the main character had some things to resolve on Earth before his soul could be at peace.
  • Berserk Button: One need only imply that you think the Subway Ghost committed suicide for this to be pressed for him.
  • Big Applesauce: Hodgepodge piecing together of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sam when Oda Mae and Molly are cornered by the Big Bad.
  • Bittersweet Ending: With a little help from Oda Mae, Sam saves Molly from Carl, also bringing an end to the money laundering he was behind, and he finally tells her he loves her. But after all is said and done, he's dead, he just watched his best friend get dragged to hell, and can never come back.
    • However, Sam did ascend into heaven, and presumably he'll be reunited with Molly someday.
    • In the Foreign Remake, just when you think the male lead would die, he is actually experiencing a Near-Death Experience. But his wife promises that they'll reunite again.
  • Body Surf: Oda Mae is nonplussed to discover that she is a vehicle for ghosts, as well.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Even when the Big Bad realizes he's being haunted by Sam, including being attacked and knowing he can't do anything to defend himself, he continues to threaten Molly's life aloud to him. This goes as well as expected.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Sam has difficulty saying "I Love You" to Molly. When she says "I love you" to him, he answers, "Ditto." This becomes a plot point; when Oda Mae says "Ditto" as somthing Sam would say, Molly begins to believe her.
  • Cement Shoes: Carl pulling his hair over the (newly-drained) bank account while Ghost!Sam looks on impishly. Sam tosses out observations about how the mob is going to bury him "right next to Jimmy Hoffa."
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sam's "lucky" Indian penny. He later uses his ghost powers to make a penny move while Molly watches.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Vincent Schiavelli as the Subway Ghost.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Oda Mae's fake IDs.
    • Sam encounters a ghost in the subway who somehow breaks a window. Later on, Sam tips over a picture frame. So he comes back to the ghost to teach him how to touch solid objects.
    • Molly's ghost-sensing cat.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Oda Mae initially refuses to help Sam, he starts singing "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am" over and over again for hours to her until she finally can't take it anymore and agrees to help. Later in the film, we learn that Sam used the same trick to get Molly to agree to their first date.
  • Cool Old Lady: In the Foreign Remake, Oda Mae's character is now a tiny old lady who enjoys frightening children.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen
    • Sam writing "BOO" on the steamed bathroom mirror in Willy's apartment. Cheap but effective!
    • Later, Sam freaks out the Big Bad by typing "SAM" repeatedly on his computer.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once Sam learns how to manipulate objects in the real world, Willy and Carl really never stood a chance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sam, especially once he drains Carl's bank account.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Inverted, as Oda Mae's conversations with Sam make everybody think she's crazy, but she's not.
  • Death by Irony: Carl impotently swings a hook at Sam's ghost — only for it come back at him and smash into a glass pane, killing him.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Sure as Hell it is...
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Sam.
  • Don't Think, Feel.: The Subway Ghost's explanation on how he, and later Sam, can move objects without the use of a physical body.
    Subway Ghost: You've gotta take all yer emotion, all yer love, all yer pain and push it way down deep in ta the pit of yer stomach and let it explode like a reactor! Pow!
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Willy, and later Carl. The Hospital Ghost implies this is the fate of other evil people when they die.
  • The Dragon: Willy is this to Carl.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Subway Ghost's death was apparently taken as a case of this trope, and he reacts very poorly when he thinks Sam is implying it, insisting bitterly that it wasn't his time and that he was pushed.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Exploited — Molly's cat goes berserk when it senses Sam's ghost. It lashes at Willy's face, alarming Molly and foiling his break-in attempt.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The intro of this film makes it seem spookier than it really is. It also comes across as something of a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, since all it does is establish Carl's friendship with Sam and Molly and show that Sam is rich enough to afford breaking into and completely refurbishing an expensive SoHo loft; aside from providing the surreal imagery for Sam's later strange dream, it never gets referenced again until the climax, when Sam chases the Big Bad through other abandoned or under-construction portions of the building.
  • Final Speech: Subverted. Sam gets a poignant goodbye to Molly... after he's already dead, and has been dead for some time.
  • Finding Judas: Subverted. Carl was plotting behind the scenes, but it wasn't for the greater good, and he really was the villain. He was perfectly willing to seduce Molly or kill her to forward his plans.
  • Foreign Remake: Would you believe a Japanese-Korean version? With a Gender Flip, yet?
  • Foreshadowing
  • Four Is Death: Four million dollars was the cause of this tragedy...
  • Fright Deathtrap
  • Ghostly Goals: Protect his girlfriend.
  • Go Into the Light: The way Sam ascends.
  • Hands-On Approach: The Signature Scene with the pottery machine.
  • The Hero Dies: Sam himself at the beginning.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The spatter coming out of Carl when he gets run through by the window pane is pretty gruesome, considering the injury.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Carl swings a construction hook at Sam out of desperation, but without Sam even manipulating it (he literally stands there and watches swing by harmlessly), it comes back and smashes into a window pane as he's trying to scramble away, causing it to turn into a giant shard of glass to impale him.
  • I Uh You Too: "Ditto." Inverted at the end: when Sam finally manages to say "I love you" to Molly, thereby ensuring his Ascension to a Higher Plane of Existence, it's she who replies with "ditto".
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Carl, courtesy of a shattered window pane.
  • Involuntary Charity Donation: Whoopi Goldberg's character, the psychic Oda Mae Brown, does a variation of this to the villain — with Sam's help, she's able to steal the money from a special account, turn it into a check, and donate it to a nuns' charity.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Sam spends the entire movie in the burgundy polo and jeans he was wearing when he was murdered.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Sam, in preparation for a big client, is practicing saying basic phrases in Japanese.
  • Jerkass: The Subway Ghost.
  • Jump Scare: With the title card of all things.
  • Karmic Death: Willy and Carl, who surely did have it coming.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Oda Mae leaves both Sam and Molly to their own devices after Sam mentions "there's somebody else involved". She probably doesn't want to be added to that list, especially since Willy lives in her neighborhood.
  • Large Ham: Vincent Schiavelli as the Subway Ghost.
  • Living Shadow: The demons that carry off Carl and Willy.
  • Look Both Ways: While fleeing from Sam's ghost, Willy gets sandwiched between two speeding cars.
  • Loud of War
    • Sam terrorizes Oda Mae with Herman's Hermits until she agrees to help him.
    Second verse, same as the first...
  • The Mafia: It's hinted that Carl is laundering drug money for a mob boss.
  • Magical Negro: Oda Mae, who for a good part of the movie does NOT want to become one. She inherited her ability from her mother, who got it from her grandmother. They say she'll get it too, but she never believed them.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Ditto."
  • Meet Cute: The Japanese remake opens up with showing how the lead couple first met.
  • Mickey Mousing: When the Big Bad sees his money drained on the computer, the score jingles with the error message popping up on the screen.
  • Midlife Crisis Car: Carl's new sports car.
  • Mood Whiplash/Genre Shift: Other than the surreal opening, the movie starts out as a regular drama with some romance. Once Sam is killed and starts investigating his murder, things get even more dramatic and elements of horror appear... but then he meets Oda Mae Brown and the movie switches to a comedy. Most scenes with her remain funny (if at times in a Gallows Humor way) even as they are interspersed with Sam's continued investigation, his attempts to protect Molly, and Carl putting the moves on Molly to cover his tracks, get the password, and eventually eliminate her as a witness. Finally, after the horror returns and an action climax, the movie ends with a Tear Jerker. Whew.
  • Mr. Exposition: The first ghost Sam meets, a world-weary old guy in the hospital. "Lucky bastard", he dryly says when a patient ascends to Heaven. He almost shudders when he talks of "other ones" that sometimes appear.
  • Near Death Clairvoyance: Though the near death experience just ended up as death.
  • Not-So-Phony Psychic: Oda Mae comes from a family of mediums, though she didn't believe in spirits and scammed her customers with fake seances. That is until she meets Sam and realizes she really can hear dead people. Word spreads and she is soon swamped by ghosts trying to contact their living relatives, even though Sam didn't actually tell any of them about it.
    Oda Mae: Orlando, Orlando, is there an Orlando here?
  • The Obi-Wan: The Hospital Ghost, sort of. He tells Sam a bit about being a ghost. Right after they see a spirit ascend into Heaven, Sam turns to find he disappeared, likely to meet up with his now-deceased wife. Sam didn't even know his name.
  • Oh Crap!: Sam's reaction when Molly tells the Big Bad she saw Oda Mae at the bank using the "Rita Miller" alias, then in the climax when he realizes the swinging hook is about to have deadly consequences for the Big Bad.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The poltergeist effect of throwing things around is described as coming from the emotions, but the ghosts still kick and hit and shove things to make them move as if they were alive.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Sam nearly blows it trying to prove it's him by relaying "I love you" until he changes it to "ditto"
  • Pink Means Feminine: "Rita Miller's" fancy getup.
  • Plague of Good Fortune: Once Sam leaks word of her communing with real ghosts, Oda Mae has more business than she knows what to do with.
  • Poltergeist: Apparently this is a skill that can be learned.
  • The Power of Love: It's what keeps Sam there to look after Molly and what allows Molly her chance to hear him and say goodbye when he goes into the light.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder/Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Although it happens after he's died, Sam's bizarre dream about waking up in bed with the angel statue instead of with Molly seems like an example of a nonsensical everyday dream. It isn't till later that Sam realizes it's Foreshadowing that Molly, his angel, is in grave danger (with a glimpse of the statue getting broken).
  • Reluctant Gift: After conning the villains' money out of the bank, Sam convinces Oda Mae that she can't keep it and urges her to give the check to a nearby Salvation Army booth. Which she does... although still clutching the check for a while and crying as the puzzled nun is pulling on it. Finally, Oda Mae relents, allowing the nun to read the amount... and faint.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "Unchained Melody", by the Righteous Brothers, originally about a prisoner hoping his girl will wait for him (hence "unchained"), becomes the love theme for this film. It also put the song back on the charts.
  • Resurrected Romance
  • Romancing the Widow: Inverted — Carl took a shortcut by bumping off her hubby first.
  • Seen It All: The Hospital Ghost. As he sits with Sam, they see some doctors trying to save a patient.
    "I've seen it all the time. He's not gonna make it. (cue light from Heaven) You see? Here they come. Lucky bastard too."
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: The Subway Ghost is a madman who fell in front of a train, possibly intentionally. He begrudgingly agrees to teach Sam how to manipulate solid objects. Once the lesson is concluded, the ghost succumbs to his delusions and vanishes into the tunnels again.
  • Sex by Proxy: Sam uses Oda Mae's body for a Makeout by Proxy with Molly.
  • Sinister Subway: "Like TRAINS?!!"
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Subway Ghost.
  • Spirit Advisor: Several ghosts throw out little titbits of pertinent information for Sam, but notably the Subway Ghost, who teaches him how to move objects. Slightly different in that the character being advised is himself a ghost...
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: In the gender-flipped foreign remake, the protagonist seems to be somewhat influenced by the Japanese Onryo spirit.
  • Teach Him Anger: The Subway Ghost laughs his ass off when Sam fails to move a soda can. This causes Sam to get furious enough to kick it like David Beckham, which earns him a friendly congratulations.
  • Tempting Fate: Sam jumps into Oda Mae's body to share a last dance with his fiancée, which had already been shown to weaken ghosts. Naturally, that's when a psychotic Carl chooses to attack.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sam himself, thanks to instruction from the Subway Ghost.
  • Troll: After draining the laundered money, Sam taunts the villain and start messing with objects in the office just to fuck with him.
    Sam: Yoo-hoo! *pushes chair across the room*
  • Trust Password: "Ditto."
  • Two Roads Before You: Sam sees a light emanating from the sky after he dies. But he turns away from it to be with Molly, and it seals shut.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Starting when Carl realizes he can't access the stolen money and lasting somewhere around the entire third act. Culminating at the end, where he winds up getting a Karmic Death as a result of trying to win a physical fight against a ghost.
  • Visual Innuendo: Featuring the world's only PG-13 rated clay-pottery-throwing scene. (Until of course, the Affectionate Parody as seen in Wrongfully Accused, and the one in Naked Gun 2½.)
  • Wham Line: When Sam follows Carl to Willy's house and finds they are in cahoots:
    Willy: Carl, what the hell are you doing here?
  • Whodunnit to Me: The Trope Codifier. At the start, Sam is resigned to being a dry crime statistic until Willie turns up again in the apartment. The goal was not to kill Sam but to hack into his work computer, a task left unfinished. Sam starts to catch on while tailing Carl to Willie's place, ironically out of concern for his friend's safety.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Oda Mae adopts a broad southern stereotype with the bank.