Dr. Egon Spengler: Do you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Have you or your family ever seen a spook, spectre or ghost?
Ray: If the answer is "yes," then don't wait another minute. Pick up the phone and call the professionals...
All three: GHOSTBUSTERS! (555-2368)
Ray: Our courteous and efficient staff is on call 24 hours a day to serve all your supernatural elimination needs.
All Three: WE'RE READY TO BELIEVE YOU!
One of the defining elements of the movies (and the rest of the franchise as a whole) is that the characters examine the paranormal with the scientific method and combat it with technology, rather than other similar stories where the characters have to combat the supernatural with magic or more arbitrary urban legends. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who play Ray and Egon, respectively) were responsible for the premise and original script, Aykroyd himself being an avid believer in the paranormal while Ramis admitted to being more of a skeptic. As such, in addition to the excellent comedy and memorable characters Ghostbusters has been found to appeal to skeptics.
Three parapsychology professors (earnest, forthright, and curious Dr. Raymond Stantz, sarcastic schemer Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and detached academic Dr. Egon Spengler) have finally succeeded in discovering proof that ghosts exist! Unfortunately, as they return they discover that they have been fired from their positions at Columbia University in New York City. Facing dire prospects in finding new collegiate employment, Venkman has a brainstorm: go professional as paranormal investigators and exterminators. In their last investigation they devised a method of actually capturing and containing ghosts. They set up Ghostbusters, a company providing scientific exorcisms. At first business is slow, with cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) — who becomes Peter's Love Interest — as their sole client. As they begin researching her case, the number of ghosts in New York City increases exponentially.
The Ghostbusters soon become household names, and become so busy they recruit a fourth team member, Naïve Newcomer and token black guy Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), but they realize that the surge in ghosts is portentous. Dana is abducted and possessed by one of the malevolent entities in her apartment while her neighbor, nerdy accountant Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), is chased out to Central Park, where another evil creature possesses him. Petty bureaucrat Walter Peck (William Atherton) shuts down the Ghostbusters' containment unit, releasing all the ghosts they had trapped and inadvertently allowing the possessed Dana and Louis to meet and unleash Armageddon in the form of Gozer, an ancient Sumerian deity. While waiting for a meeting with the mayor, Ray and Egon explain the phenomena are centered on Dana's apartment, which was designed by a cult from the early 20th century to attract spirits and bring about The End of the World as We Know It.
The Mayor decides to let the Ghostbusters try. Worst case scenario is they're wrong and nothing bad happens. Best case scenario is they're right and he becomes a hero for trusting them. The Ghostbusters climb to Dana's penthouse, take on the Ancient Sumerian deity in the form of a hundred-foot tall marshmallow man, and win by breaking their own most serious rule.
A sequel starring most of the original cast was released five years later. For more on the sequel, see the Ghostbusters II page.
A third movie had been stuck in Development Hell for more than a decade. Aykroyd was gung-ho about the prospect and told anyone who'd listen that he had a script all ready to go; on the other hand, Murray was decidedly more skeptical after the Executive Meddling on the second film. Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) was touted in some circles as a spiritual sequel, with so many returning cast members, being set in the same continuity as the movies, having been written by Aykroyd and Ramis, and being described as being the third movie by Aykroyd. The prospect of a third movie with all of the original leads evaporated completely with Ramis' sudden death in 2014.
In 2014, plans for a Continuity Reboot were announced, directed by Paul Feig. For more details, see the Ghostbusters (2016) page. As publicity for the 2016 version, the first film was re-released in theaters with a "behind the scene" sneak peek of the new film. In January 2019, a sequel to the second film, eventually titled Ghostbusters: Afterlife, was formally announced, due to release in 2021.
"Venkman! What happened, are you okay?" "...he troped me.":
- 555: The phone number on the Ghostbuster's television ad is 555-2368.
- Above the Influence: When Venkman comes to visit Dana, he finds she is possessed by Zuul, which makes her want to sleep with the Keymaster. He refuses since she isn't in her right mind.Zuul/Dana: Do you want this body?
Venkman: Is this a trick question?
Zuul/Dana: I want you inside me.
Venkman: *laughs* Go ahead — no, I can't. Sounds like you got at least two people in there already. Might be a little crowded.
- Absurdly Long Stairway: The Ghostbusters have to climb 20 flights of stairs for the confrontation with Gozer, due to the elevators being out of service.
- Adorable Abomination:
- Gozer, in his/her/its Stay Puft form.
- Vinz Clortho's childlike naiveté and enthusiasm for Gozer's coming makes him kinda lovable, especially as played by the thoroughly nonthreatening Rick Moranis.
- The Alleged Car: Ecto-1 is an 1959 ambulance/hearse that needs a laundry list of new parts when Ray buys it. Remarkably, they fix it up, and it becomes their Cool Car.
- The Alleged House: Egon Spengler describes the firehouse that becomes their headquarters as such (they still buy it, apparently at Ray's insistence because he likes the fire pole):note Egon: I think this building should be condemned. There's serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it's completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.
- Ambiguous Gender: Gozer appeared female when "she" first came in, despite being referred to by male pronouns in texts used for research. The Keymaster did claim that Gozer could, and has, taken numerous forms in the past, so he/she could probably have looked like anything, male or female.Winston Zeddemore: I thought Gozer was a man!
Dr. Egon Spengler: It's whatever it wants to be.
- Analogy Backfire: Peter tries to tell Ray that being fired from the university isn't so bad, because "Einstein did his greatest stuff while he was working as a patent clerk." note Ray: Do you know how much a patent clerk earns?!
- Apocalypse How: Attempted. But where do you slot the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the scale?
- Arbitrary Skepticism: Played with. While Peter is certainly a believer in the paranormal, he has a bit more practical sense than Ray and Egon, who are willing to believe anything is supernatural related. "Right, no human being would ever stack books like this."note
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
- Art Deco: Dana's apartment building, as pointed out by Egon. In Real Life, however, it's shorter and doesn't have the spire at the top, where the climax takes placethe spire was made using a scale model.
- Artistic License Law: While Walter Peck does raise legitimate issues about what the Ghostbusters are up to and how much they look like con-artists, the whole business with his Cease and Desist order is another matter entirely. He gets the court order far too quickly—seemingly within a day or two of his meeting with Venkman, when it should take far longer—and uses it to barge into the Ghostbusters' place of business and demand everything be turned off immediately (over the protest of the electrician he brought with him no less), when in reality the Ghostbusters would have been given a few months to challenge the order as well as get their business in order, and someone like Peck in particular could not and should not have the authority to force them to do so—he is with the EPA, not the FBI.
- In addition, an NYPD Captain would not be going along to help enforce the shutdown order and ensure the Ghostbusters comply. NYPD Captains are considered senior management and are generally in command of precincts. In reality, a uniformed officer with the rank of Sergeant or below would be present.
- Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: "Get ready... get ready... GET HER!!!" "AAAAAHHHHH!!!!"
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: "It's the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man." Ironically, Stay Puft was described as a '100-foot marshmallow man'.
- Audience Surrogate: Unlike the others, Winston doesn't have a Ph.D. in anything; he's just an average Joe looking for a steady paycheck.
- Almost subverted. Originally his job interview was to depict Winston as being overqualified, while the team would have basically taken anyone.
- Bad Ass Boast: After turning into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Gozer wreaks havoc as he comes up to the building. Peter doesn't take that very well:Peter: Nobody steps on a church in my town!
(Funny because two doors down from the NYC building is a church.)
- Banishing Ritual: The titular team Reverse the Polarity of the Hell Gate that brought the Big Bad into our universe, thus sucking it back.
- Bathos: Evoked at the end of the first movie. The city is being destroyed by an evil god, yes, but it's in the form of a giant, smiling, sailor hat-wearing guy made of marshmallows.
- Beautiful Condemned Building: Despite its numerous flaws, Ray falls in love with the old firehouse.
- Big Applesauce: The film takes place entirely in Manhattan. According to Ivan Reitman, New Yorkers immediately embraced the film as a quintessential New York movie.Winston: I LOVE THIS TOWN!
- Big Bad: Gozer the Gozerian, an Ancient Evil that travels dimensions to destroy them.
- Blasphemous Boast: Averted:Winston Zeddemore: When someone asks you if you're a god, YOU SAY YES!
- Bloody Horror: During the scene in the mayor's office where people are describing the weird events going on in New York City, one man says "The walls in the 53rd Precinct were bleeding."
- Brand X: Stay Puft Marshmallows.
- Brick Joke: Ray has a rather underwhelming plan to catch the first ghost seen in the movie, shouting simply, "Get her!" Venkman yells at him over it. In the end, when confronting Gozer, Venkman suddenly shouts, "Go get her, Ray!"
- Butt-Monkey: The male ESP test student who gets zapped whether his answers are wrong or nearly right, especially when he guesses a couple of wavy lines when there are three of them.
- Walter Peck. After having the Ghostbusters arrested, he gets insulted by them in front of the Mayor of New York, then thrown out of the Mayor's office, and finally doused in melted marshmallow after the team destroys Mr. Stay-Puft.
- Louis doesn't enjoy very good luck throughout the movie and most of the people who show up to his party seem to be clients rather than friends.
- Bystander Syndrome: After Louis is finally chased down by the terror dog outside of a fancy reception in Central Park, people watch him pounding against the glass, screaming, and getting yanked out of sight suddenly, then just turn their heads and go back to eating.
- The Cameo: The film features cameos from the likes of Ron Jeremy, Reginald VelJohnson (Carl Winslow), Larry King, Casey Kasem, Roger Grimsby, Joe Franklin, and even Ivan Reitman, the director (as the voice of Zuul/Slimer).
- Captain Obvious:Ray Stantz: Hey, where do these stairs go?
Peter Venkman: They go up.
- Casting Gag: Michael Ensign, who plays the hotel manager, had previously been in the 1982 film adaptation of The Wall as... a hotel manager. Both movies even have their hotels eventually getting trashed by the protagonists.
- Civilization Destroyer: Gozer's rampage would naturally decimate any remains of civilization.
- Contrived Coincidence: The Ghostbusters go into business in the exact same city and just a few weeks before a malevolent god-entity just happens to enter our world. Somewhat understandable, as they only realize the potential in a business once they realize the massive ghost problem New York has.
- Conveniently Timed Distraction: A Keymaster-possessed Louis is being held at Ghostbusters HQ under the watch of Egon, who wants to ensure that he and Zuul, the Gatekeeper, don't get anywhere near each other for fear of their joining resulting in a massive catastrophe (summing Gozer). It just so happens that that very morning Peck comes back with the order to shut off the protection grid. The resulting explosion and release of all the ghosts they had captured gives Vinz plenty of cover to escape. The best part is he doesn't even seem to be trying to sneak away. Rather he more just wanders off down the street and no one bothers to stop him.
- Converging-Stream Weapon: What you get when you cross the streams (besides a massive life-threatening explosion).
- Cool Old Guy: The Archbishop, who is on a first-name basis with the mayor, has an approachable demeanor and hears out the Ghostbusters.
- Cosmic Horror Story: This is a story about a doomsday cult deliberately building an Eldritch Location in order to perform bizarre rituals in order to summon an Eldritch Abomination, which was worshiped as a god in ancient Sumer, from another dimension to destroy the world. A team of paranormal investigators stumbles onto the plot, and, well, you know the rest.
- Creator Cameo: Director Ivan Reitman provides the voices for Slimer and Zuul. Producer Joe Medjuck crosses in front of the camera in the library.
- Cthulhumanoid: The legless howling ghost that emerges from the subway has a "face" made of tendrils.
- Daylight Horror: The scene where all the ghosts escape the containment unit and rampage the city is shot in broad daylight.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Venkman gets to play this along with Only Sane Man, in that he's continually snarking on his fellows' more outlandish ideas.
- Dana Barrett shows shades of this when Peter compliments her on her cello playing:Peter Venkman: You're the best one in your row.
Dana Barrett: Thank you. [beat] You're good; most people can't hear me with the whole orchestra playing.
- Janine, upon seeing a police officer at the door:"Dropping off or picking up?"
- Dean Bitterman: Dean Yeager inadvertently starts the Ghostbusters by firing them from their cushy academic jobs.
- Demonic Possession: Dana Barrett by Zuul, the Gatekeeper, and Louis Tully by Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster. They turn into demon dogs after opening the portal for Gozer.
- Destroyer Deity: Gozer The Destructor has visited the world several times, and apparently visited several other dimensions and laid waste to them. It does seem to give the world a fairly sporting chance to pick their destruction, which proves its undoing during 1984 when the form it assumes is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
- Destructo-Nookie: The intercourse between the possessed Dana Barrett (The GateKeeper) and Louis Tully (The KeyMaster), which is supposed to bring about The End of the World as We Know It. The act completely trashes Dana's apartment, to the point of blowing the outside wall out completely and revealing the walled-over stairway to the rooftop (there's a reason this all started in Dana's pad).
- Deus Sex Machina: It's heavily implied that the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper have sex in order to unlock the portal into our dimension and bring forth Gozer.
- Do You Want to Copulate?: Zuul has no problem having some side fun when Peter manages to get inside the apartment.Zuul!Dana: Take me now, subcreature!
- Dope Slap: Peter Venkman to Ray Stantz, and vice versa.
- Double Standard: When Venkman is administering the ESP test to the two students, any time Jennifer gets a wrong answer, she doesn't get shocked, while the male student gets shocked whether his answers are right or wrong. Even when his guess of a couple of wavy lines is close, note he still gets zapped. Jennifer notices that Venkman is only using the test as an excuse to flirt with her, but isn't all that bothered about her fellow student unfairly getting shocked.
- Dummied Out: Elmer Bernstein wrote a complete score for the film, parts of which in the final version got replaced by the songs from the soundtrack instead. Thus, several up-beat versions of the Ghostbusters Theme slipped into obscurity.
- Eldritch Abomination: This is what Gozer was implied to be. Parodied with the final form Gozer takes, which is the cuddly and cute Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
- Peter Venkman: Well, there's something you don't see every day.
- Eldritch Location: Gozer's dimension, as glimpsed through the fridge portal.
- Erotic Dream: Ray has one where he imagines a ghost girl giving him... um, moral support. This was originally part of a Deleted Scene where Ray and Winston are on a case at a haunted fort where the ghost girl had been greeting other male visitors.
- Establishing Character Moment: Venkman is first shown giving an ESP test to two students in which a wrong answer is followed by an electric shock. Because one of his test subjects is an attractive female student, Venkman keeps zapping the other (male) subject regardless of who gets the right answer. This reveals Venkman as a Jerkass and a man who thinks with his groin. The sharp-eyed will note that the male test subject seems to be getting the answers right after complaining of the shock. Note the look on Venkman's face as he gets it right, and the look of horror on the subject's face as Venkman reaches for the button
- Everybody Smokes: Perhaps not everybody, but the amount of smoking in this movie (especially from the lead characters) would never happen in a modern Hollywood film unless it's a period piece.
- Evil Makeover: When Dana gets possessed by Zuul, the Gatekeeper, she dresses and acts in a more provocative manner.
- Evil Slinks: Sigourney Weaver performs this trope as well as one who is human possibly can while she portrays the Zuul-possessed Dana.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Say it with me: "There is no Dana, only Zuul."
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: While Dana is unpacking her groceries during the kitchen scene, there is a pack of Stay-Puft marshmallows in one of the bags.
- Fog Feet: The library ghost.
- Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: "Don't cross the streams."
- In the scene where the eggs in Dana's groceries start cooking themselves while still in the box, a bag of Stay Puft marshmallows can be seen right next to them. An advert for the marshmallows also shows up on the side of a nearby building during the scene in which the ghosts are released from the containment unit.
- "Don't cross the streams."
- Larry King during the media montage telling his audience that some authorities suspect the Ghostbusters are staging the ghost appearances themselves.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: From what the Keymaster says (and the Ghostbusters later discover), Gozer is required for some reason to take on a form familiar to the inhabitants of the world it intends to annihilate.
- Funny Background Event: After mistakenly blasting a maid's cart at the hotel, the Ghostbusters take a moment to discuss their next move while behind them, the poor maid is trying to extinguish a small fire with her spray bottle.
- Generic Doomsday Villain: Gozer the Destroyer. He seems to be called "the Destroyer" because that's all humans really know about him: that he destroys things whenever he comes to Earth.
- G-Rated Sex: The film never outright states that the Keymaster and Gatekeeper have to have sex to open the portal for Gozer, though it lays down plenty of innuendo. First, there's the obvious phallic/yonic implications of their titles. Dana, when possessed by Zuul, makes some fairly explicit advances on Venkman when she believes he's the Keymaster. When Vinz Clortho does arrive at Dana's apartment the pair share a passionate embrace before ascending up a secret staircase to the rooftop but then the film cuts. When it cuts back to them, they lay atop a large stone table with their clothes disheveled and Vinz awakes with a huge smile and his broken belt dangling between his legs.
- Glad I Thought of It: Dana, getting more and more frustrated with Peter's flippant and flirtatious investigation of her apartment:Dana: Dr. Venkman, you came all this way, would you like to check the refrigerator?
Peter: (beat) I'm gonna check the fridge.
- Gameshow Host: Dana compares Venkman to one.
- Glass Smack and Slide: Louis is chased by the Keymaster, Vinz Clortho, and attacked by him until he slams face-first into the window of a restaurant and slides down, screaming. On the other side of the glass are a bunch of swanky, upscale diners who glance up briefly, then go back to exactly what they were doing.
- Godzilla Threshold: It is incredibly important not to cross the streams but by the time Gozer is about to reincarnate and bring about the End of the World as We Know It, they realize that the small chance that they'll survive is worth the risk if the tactic succeeds.
- Got Volunteered: When they face Gozer, Venkman shouts, "Go get her, Ray!" This is Venkman's revenge on Ray shouting "Get her!" when confronted by the librarian ghost.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Ivo Shandor, a worshiper of Gozer. Shandor was the architect for the building where Gozer first enters our world and led a cult dedicated to him. Of course, Shandor himself has passed away by this point, but it was significant enough to become an important mention while the Ghostbusters are locked up as the previously mentioned architect since he was the one who had brought all the necessary elements for Gozer's return together while he was still alive. Years later, when Shandor returns and releases Gozer only for the Sumerian god to come back in a weaker Stay Puft form (leading to his second defeat), the ghost of Shandor decides to become a god himself using an also-previously-established mandala spread throughout New York, as well as become the ghost behind the ghosts to most, if not all of the Ghostbusters's deadlier ghost enemies in the 2009 Ghostbusters game. Oh, and the name he chooses for his Destructor form like Gozer's (except minus the Stay Puft)? The Architect.
- Hand Signals: Egon communicates with these a couple of times in the film:
- The first time he tells Peter with finger gestures against his face, disguised as cleaning himself up, to charge the hotel $4,000 for capture and containment, and $1,000 for other services.
- The second time, he emphatically warns the entire business that when Peck shuts off the containment unit, there will be a terrible explosion; he throws both hands up and mouths "BOOM" to emphasize his gesture.
- Hate Sink: Walter Peck, a paranoid EPA agent who is nothing but belligerent when demanding to inspect the Ghostbusters' facilities, has them arrested for a disaster he caused by mishandling equipment, and claims they're faking the existence of ghosts with hallucinogenic gas and light shows.
- Hellhound: The Terror Dogs, Zuul and Vinz Clortho.
- Heroic BSoD: Ray gets this when he ends up conjuring the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as the creature to end the world.Peter: Ray has gone bye-bye, Egon. What have you got left?
Egon: Sorry, Venkman. I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted as the Ghostbusters were willing to end their lives by crossing the streams to destroy Gozer's gateway, but ultimately survive the entanglement and the resulting explosion. They lucked out on that "slim chance" Egon mentioned.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Ghostbusters had only just figured out the significance of Zuul, Gozer, Ivo Shandor, and Dana Barrett's apartment building by the time of the final confrontation. Dana, their first customer, only came to them when she did because she saw their commercial on TV, and she only saw them on TV because it was on when she got home. It is implied that it was on when she got home because of paranormal activity in her apartment (along with the eggs and the doomfridge). If Zuul coulda just dialed it back on the poltergeist activity, Gozer would have been triumphant. (To make it even more ironic, it is doubtful that anyone, Zuul, Gozer, or the heroes, even realized this.)
- Hope Spot: For a moment, it looks like they've vaporized Gozer and all's good with the world. Then Egon checks the P.K.E meter and chimes in with "Ray, this looks extraordinarily bad." Cue Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Averted in the first film, as Venkman was utterly foiled in his attempt to reach Dana.Zuul (in Dana's body): There is no Dana, only Zuul!
Peter: What a lovely singing voice you must have.
- Ignored Expert: The Con Edison technician Peck brings with him to shut down the Ghostbusters' containment unit realizes that it's not a good idea to mess with the equipment and voices his concerns. Peck tells him he doesn't care about his opinion and orders him to shut it down anyway.
- Informed Flaw: Egon claims that the firehouse they wind up buying is completely inadequate for their power needs. But from what the audience sees, all of their equipment runs smoothly until Peck interferes with the containment unit.
- Invisible to Normals:
- People dining in the restaurant apparently can't see Vinz Clortho advancing on Louis; they just see some weird guy screaming with his back against the plate-glass windows and (being New Yorkers) ignore the obvious lunatic.
- During the "Magic" sequence, nobody on the streets seems to notice the lights gushing upwards from the explosion at the Ghostbusters' firehouse or the psychokinetic vortex above Dana's building.
- Ironic Echo: Near the end of the movie Venkman tells Ray to Get her!
- Try as he might to attract the attention of a disinterested Dana, poor Louis Tully has no luck getting into her pants until both of them are possessed by evil transdimensional entities.
- For all of the lovesick Tully's failed attempts to interest Dana, he seems completely apathetic to the attractive blonde woman at his party. But to even the outside viewer, she seems extremely annoyed when his attention isn't on her.
- ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: Dana carries a bag of them (including celery stalk) into her apartment.
- It Has Been an Honor: In conjunction with using the Forbidden Chekhov's Gun.Peter: See you on the other side, Ray.
Ray: Nice working with you, Dr. Venkman.
- It Is Beyond Saving: In the Back Story told by Egon, Ivo Shandor believed society was "too sick to survive" after he experienced World War I, which is why he wanted to cause The End of the World as We Know It.
- It Was Here, I Swear!: Dana sees a temple and terror dogs in her fridge. Later, she brings Peter to investigate:Peter: [peeking inside] Oh, my God... Look at all the junk food!
Dana: No, Goddammit! Look, this wasn't here...
Peter: [holding a piece of salami] You actually eat this?
Dana: Look, this wasn't here! There was nothing here! There was this... space! And there was a building or something with flames coming out of it, and there were creatures writhing around, and they were growling and snarling. And there were flames, and I heard a voice say "Zuul"! It was right here!
Peter: Well, I'm sorry, I'm just not getting any reading.
- It's Personal: Venkman alludes to this while the guys are busting Slimer.Venkman: Maybe now you'll never slime someone with a positron collider, huh?!
- Jerkass: Walter Peck is a rude, self-important, power-tripping, blame-throwing jerk. While Venkman certainly didn't help matters by being as uncooperative as possible, Peck's smug attitude (and repeatedly referring to Peter as Mr. Venkman and not Dr. Venkman) showed he wasn't really looking to play nice either.
- Jerkass Genie: Gozer. He puts it to those nearby to choose the form of the destroyer. Its size, however, is at his discretion.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Despite his attitude, and the fact that he's essentially the personification of government overreach in America, Peck, as the head of environmental safety, is entirely right to be concerned about people using unregulated and potentially dangerous equipment. Even the Ghostbusters admit their tech isn't exactly safe. Peck loses points because he's clearly biased in his attempts to have the Ghostbusters shut down, and he sails right over the line when he shuts off the containment unit despite being explicitly told by the designers that it will explode without power, and further by the ConEd technician (the closest thing Peck has to an expert) who says that he recognizes just enough of the hardware to know he doesn't feel comfortable screwing with it.
- Dean Yeager is unnecessarily caustic when kicking the future Ghostbusters out of their university, but he's right that they hadn't provided any confirmation of any of their theories, and we've already seen that Venkman's Establishing Character Moment gives ample reason for the administrator to want the group off-campus.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Walter Peck had a point being concerned about the environmental safety of the Ghostbusters' facility, considering Egon had parallel concerns of his own. However, Peck barging in with a court order, ordering the containment grid turned off despite the warnings of the Busters and the reticence of a Con Ed technician and arresting the Busters for the resulting explosion on spurious charges puts him beyond the pale.
- Kitschy Local Commercial: The commercial the Ghostbusters put out. It has no music, the characters are wooden and it looks like it was shot for about 5 bucks.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre:Dana: That's the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there.
Peter: What a crime.
Dana: ("Did he really just say that?!" look)
- Let's Split Up, Gang: In the hotel.Peter Venkman: Yeah, we can do more damage that way.
- Like Reality Unless Noted: We are supposed to assume this world is like our own, excepting there is an actual scientific, verifiable evidence of the paranormal (while the existence of such is a contentious issue in real-life). Such as the fact that Egon already had built/bought a PKE meter suggesting someone had detected the energy previously, however, their world appears to have the same amount of belief and skepticism as here.
- Long List:
- Ray's list of repairs the Cadillac needed and Egon's similar list of problems with their building.
- Peck's injunctions against the 'Busters.
- The list of paranormal beliefs during Winston's job interview.
- Mathematician's Answer: When asked where the stairs go, Venkman says, "They go up."
- Meaningful Background Event: Overlaps with Foreshadowing. When Dana first described Zuul to the Ghostbusters, she was subject to a test involving a makeshift headpiece and a monitor that displays her human image. When Louis Tully, after becoming possessed by Vinz Clortho, is subject to the same test, the monitor shows an image of a Terror Dog, signifying their true/upcoming form.
- Ms. Fanservice: Now we already know Dana Barrett is physically attractive, but once she gets possessed by one of the Terror Dogs she becomes EVEN MORE smoking hot than she was.
- Muggles Do It Better: See Magic Versus Science. Ancient god, meet unlicensed nuclear accelerator.Peter: Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!
- Mystical City Planning: Ivo Shandor designed a building in New York for the sole purpose of channeling mystical energy, to open the gateway for Gozer to enter Earth. He then disguised this building as an apartment complex.
- Naïve Newcomer: Subverted by Winston, who adjusts to his new job very quickly.
- Nerd Glasses: Louis Tully in both movies. Janine gains a huge pair of Harry Potter specs in the sequel, to match her animated counterpart (and make her a more plausible romantic match for Louis).
- Never My Fault: Walter Peck condemns the Ghostbusters for causing the explosion he himself had caused, in spite of the warnings from both them and the Con Edison technician.
- Never Recycle a Building: Even though it's a major deathtrap in the middle of New York City, the abandoned firehouse remains conveniently available until Venkman et al need a place of business.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In the climax, Ray screws up majorly twice - first by nearly getting his team zapped off the tower by confessing to not being a god and later Gozer tells the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the Destructor. Ray thinks of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (whom he believes to be totally harmless), whereupon Gozer (reading Ray's mind) assumes the form of the Marshmallow Man and wreaks havoc.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: All hell breaks loose on New York City when Jerkass Walter Peck brings out the paperwork ordering the containment unit to be shut down, believing it to be a dire environmental hazard, thereby making sure the city needs to Ghostbusters to fix things in spite of his attempts to shut them down.
- Noble Demon: Vince is the Keymaster charged with opening the gates of Armageddon, and he's pretty destructive in terror dog form. In Louis' body, however, he's fairly affable and curious about the world he finds himself in. He also seems to have a moral code, displayed when he encounters a horse in "slavery".Coachman: Hey, he pulls the wagon, I make the deals. You want a ride?
Vince: [growls at the driver as his eyes flash red, turning to whisper to the horse] Wait for the sign, then all prisoners will be released. [screams at the driver as he runs away] You will perish in flames! Gozer will destroy you and your kind!
Coachman: What an asshole.
- The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: When Gozer demands that the Earth choose the shape of its destroyer, Ray immediately thinks of The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, being the one thing that he believes could not possibly ever hurt us. Unfortunately, that's not quite so.
- Not So Stoic: Egon, normally nerdy and clinical in demeanor, absolutely flips his shit at Peck when he blames the Ghostbusters for causing the containment unit explosion.
- Oh, Crap!: The look on Mr. Stay Puft's face when the Ghostbusters cross the streams.
- Alternatively, the Ghostbusters' reaction to Stay Puft.
- And again when Stay Puft turns to face them with its maniacal grin
Winston: Oh, no.
Peter: Mother pus bucket
- When Walter Peck turns the containment grid off, the result is an Oh, Crap! combined with a This Is Gonna Suck. The electrician even says, "Oh, shit!" while Egon makes a little "kaboom" motion with his hands.
- One-Winged Angel: Gozer, initially appearing in a female humanoid form, turns into a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for the second half of his fight with the Ghostbusters. Not the most menacing One-Winged Angel, but still a threat to the city.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Egon, of all people, tries to start a fistfight with Peck while dropping a Precision F-Strike (although it may also be heard as him insulting his mother, considering the soundtrack censors it a bit) after Peck's stupidity causes a catastrophe and Peck blames it on the Ghostbusters.
- Personal Arcade: In the first night of the franchise, the guys' upper-level loft includes two arcade video games (Missile Command and Star Castle) and a Star Gazer pinball machine next to the fireman's pole.
- Pillar of Light: Rises over the city when the ecto-containment unit explodes, releasing all of the ghosts trapped.
- Plot Time: It's a good idea to use the MST3K Mantra for those of us who pay attention to time:
- As Dana walks in to ask for help Ray is working on the Ecto-1, which is unpainted. She and Peter leave to check out her apartment. After that scene, the three are eating Chinese with the last of the petty cash and speaking as if the Dana incident had only just happened and was a failure. Then they get their hotel call and the Ecto-1 is ready to roll - completely fixed and painted.
- Tully mentions before Dana's incident that he's having a party coming up in two weeks. He throws a party on the night Gozer arrives. In between, the Ghostbusters do a variety of jobs and become a major media sensation, seemingly spanning a few months at least. It's unclear if Tully's party is supposed to be the one he's talking about at the beginning of the film or a second one.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Venkman gets two of these in rapid succession
- Precision F-Strike:
- The containment grid's shut down, and ghosts are streaming into the atmosphere in a pillar of blinding light. What drives home how bad the situation isn't the ensuing montage, or that a possessed man escapes in the crowd. It's that what's happening is enough to tip Egon over into angrily insulting Peck's mother.
- Winston gets a good one in on the Mayor:Winston: Mr. Mayor, I was a lot like you, but since I joined up with these men I have seen shit that will turn you white!
- Product Placement: And how.
- Nestle Crunch, Nabisco Wheat Thins, Sunshine Cheez-Its, Oscar Meyer, Budweiser, Bud Light and Hostess Twinkies are all prominently displayed in Dana's and the Busters' kitchens. Miller High Life gets an actual Shout Out when Venkman triumphantly says, "It's Miller Time!" when they think they have easily dispatched with Gozer.
- They initially wanted to use the Pillsbury Dough-boy as Gozer's final form but couldn't get the rights; Pillsbury didn't want their lovable mascot portrayed as a world-destroying villain. Thus was born the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
- And all the Coca-Cola products seen- Coke, Diet Coke, and Tab- are because, believe it or not, Coca-Cola actually owned Columbia at the time! (But unlike Sony's current ownership, it was never referenced on theatrical movies or on video; the TV division (and subsequent acquisitions, such as Merv Griffin Enterprises) did have the byline.)
- Raised Hand of Survival: Dana Barrett is transformed into a dog demon when during her possession she and Louis Tully opened the portal for Gozer. After Gozer is destroyed the demon's charred, stone body is found. Her hand breaks out of the body, showing that she's still alive inside it.
- Reality Ensues: The Ghostbusters have their Big Damn Heroes moment, arriving to cheering crowds at Dana's apartment building. Cut to them dragging themselves and their heavy gear up twenty-two flights of stairs.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Venkman is sometimes given the Ron the Death Eater treatment for using Thorazine to pacify a possessed Dana, since it seems like he brought a powerful tranquilizer with him on a date. While psychology is not a field of medicine, psychologists can indeed prescribe medication if they've gotten sufficient medical training (as for how he got it, Louis earlier mentioned a nearby pharmacy that delivers to the apartments).note
- This may be more a case of Properly Paranoid given that Venkman has PhDs in Psychology and Parapsychology and works in a profession where running into someone who is possessed and dangerous is a rather realistic possibility.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dean Yeager tells Venkman off resoundingly as he evicts them from the university, calling him and his team frauds and shysters. It's clear he's been relishing the notion for some time.Dean Yeager: Doctor... Venkman. We believe the purpose of science is to serve mankind. You however seem to regard science as some kind of dodge... or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable! You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning
- Gozer's dog demons Zuul and Vinz Clortho both have glowing red eyes.
- After Tully is possessed by one of the dog demons, his eyes flash red when he becomes angry. Dana Barrett's eyes also become red after she is possessed.
- While in his female human form, the evil deity Gozer the Gozerian has red eyes.
- Running Gag: Louis locking himself out of his apartment. Bonus points for this being the same guy who gets possessed by the Keymaster.
- Scenery Porn: The shot◊ of the New York City skyline with ethereal streams of ghostly essence streaming across the frame.
- Shackle Seat Trap: Dana's abduction by Zuul is facilitated by an armchair that sprouts actual, demonic arms to grab her.
- Shared Mass Hallucination / "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Discussed by Peck, who accuses the Ghostbusters of being frauds that use nerve gas to make people believe they're seeing ghosts, and then "put on a light show" to get rid of them.
- Shout Out: Several very subtle ones, best illustrated by the bleeding walls at the 53rd precinct. There is no 53rd precinct... outside of the early Buddy Cop sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?. The dynamic between Ray and Egon has numerous nods to the Ham and Deadpan Duo protagonists of the series (both Cloudcuckoolanders, in their own way), while the Ecto-1 and the scenes of it tearing through the streets of New York with siren blaring bear a strong resemblance to the namesake car 54.
- Signature Team Transport: Ecto-1.
- Skeptic No Longer: Winston is just looking for a paycheck at first and seems unconvinced the supernatural even exists. He quickly comes to feel otherwise.
- Snobs Versus Slobs: The filmmakers deliberately tried to make the Ghostbusters seem like blue-collar people, which is emphasized by their occasional run-ins with higher-class snobs.
- The drab jumpsuit-wearing Ghostbusters strike quite a contrasting figure with the fancy guests of the Sedgwick hotel. When the Ghostbusters emerge covered in sweat and bearing the smoking ghost trap, the surrounding hotel staff and guests are visibly horrified.
- Walter Peck, the somewhat smarmy government stooge who shows up in a nice suit to inspect the Ghostbusters' equipment and finds himself rebuffed by the exhausted and irritable Venkman.
- Dean Yeager, the dean of the college, representing established academia, rejects the future Ghostbusters for being too fringe.
- Venkman dismisses Dana's colleague from the orchestra as a "stiff" who talks with big words, and he makes fun of the man's nasal spray.
- Snub by Omission: When Peter Venkman introduces his team at the library:Roger Delacorte: I'm Roger Delacorte. Are you the men from the university?
Dr. Peter Venkman: Yes, I'm Dr. Venkman, Dr. Stantz, Egon
- Something Else Also Rises: A subtle and easy-to-miss one. When possessed Dana and possessed Louis finally meet up, they share a passionate kiss before ascending to the rooftop; we later see the Ghostbusters arrive at the foot of the building, the sky darkens and they are nearly swallowed up by an earthquake; in other words, the earth moves. Shortly afterward, Dana and Louis are shown lying on a ceremonial table on the rooftop, looking exhausted and Louis's belt is ripped apart.
- Soundtrack Dissonance:
- During the sequence where the ghosts escape the containment unit and start terrorizing the city, a pop ballad titled "Magic" by Mick Smiley is played.
- The "monster movie"-style music (masterfully scored by Elmer Bernstein) that plays during Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's entrance is (intentionally?) Played for Laughs when juxtaposed with Mr. Stay Puft's smiling face. However, he does turn to face the Ghostbusters a few moments later...
- Statuesque Stunner: A relative example. The woman at Louis's party who agrees to dance with him to liven things up is somewhat striking and stands about a head taller than Louis (although he is a bit short, hence the relative part).
- The Stinger: There's an inter-credits scene set right after the events of the movie, where Slimer emerges from the New York streets and proceeds to charge at the audience, emitting a horrible wail.
- Styrofoam Rocks: At the end, when debris is falling from the top of the skyscraper, in one shot you can see a rock, which had supposedly tumbled from several hundred feet in the air, fall straight down and bounce off of a wooden police barrier.
- Supernatural Floating Hair: The library ghost has this when she transforms, and the ghost Ray dreams about also has it.
- Sweet Tooth: Egon has one, that he's apparently trying with limited success to overcome. After the library ghost, Peter teases him with a Nestle Crunch bar before giving it to him as a reward and telling him he's earned it. Later, Egon is seen eating a Twinkie and using it to describe the paranormal activity to Winston.
- Tablecloth Yank: Venkman does this in the hotel ballroom, destroying everything except the centerpiece.Venkman: The flowers are still standing!
- Tailor-Made Prison: All of the ghosts who get captured get placed into the nuclear-powered Containment Unit. Instant Catastrophe? Turn off the Unit.
- Take That!: While venting to Peter after being fired from Columbia, Ray tells him that, unlike universities, private sector companies expect their scientists to produce results.
- Team Hand-Stack: The Ghostbusters do this just before entering the building to fight Gozer. They do another one when they think they've won until Egon tells them that things are about to go From Bad to Worse.
- Team Title: Ghostbusters.
- Thanks for the Mammaries: Several arms burst out of Dana's chair before dragging her off to be possessed by Zuul. Among these, one of the hands is planted firmly on her chest.
- This Cannot Be!: Ray's reaction at seeing the Stay Puft monster.
- Thought-Aversion Failure: During the climax, Gozer demands that the Ghostbusters think about the form it should take to destroy their world, and so they have to avoid thinking about anything. Ray instead thinks about the most harmless thing he can, bringing the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man into existence.
- Throat Light: Zuul's throat (in terror-dog form) emits a bright light when Dana sees it in her refrigerator.
- Trust Me, I'm an X: "Back off, man, I'm a scientist."
- Too Dumb to Live: Ray denies being a god when Gozer questions him, as a result, he and his friends are almost killed.
- The Tunguska Event: A throw-away line near the end has Ray telling Louis that he was part of the biggest crossover event since this, implying that it was a ghost thing.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: The scene wherein the Ghostbusters are heading up to the floor of their first real assignment. "Why worry? Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back." Cue the other two shuffling comedically away in the tight space.
- Understatement: Egon is prone to these. He says "bad" when what he means is "catastrophic".Egon: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Egon: Don't cross the streams.
Egon: It would be bad.
Peter: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. How would it be bad?
Egon: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Ray: Total protonic reversal!
Peter: Okay, that's bad. Alright, important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
- Unusual Euphemism:
- "Mother pus bucket!"
- "I am the Keymaster!" "I am the Gatekeeper."
- Voice of the Legion: Zuul, when Venkman makes it angry.
- Weapons That Suck: The ghost trap has some kind of astral suction function.
- Wham Line: "...I couldn't help it. ...it just popped in there..."
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The 'busters get their initial capital by mortgaging Ray's family house at an absurd interest rate. We never learn whether they earned enough money fast enough to save it from being foreclosed.
- Widescreen Shot: Ramis joked that he got cut out of most of the standard screen broadcast. Particularly in the 4-shot where the Ghostbusters are walking and talking with the hotel manager. Cropping Ramis out of the shot leaves the manager neatly flanked by the other two, and since Ramis doesn't speak during the shot
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Egon describes the paranormal activity in the New York area as "a twinkie 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds". A 600-pound twinkie would only be 6.4 feet long, and a 35 foot long Twinkie would weigh approximately 50 tons.
- X-Ray Sparks: Shown when the lightning strikes Dana and Louis atop Gozer's temple. Sparks briefly reveal their human skeletons, after they transform into Terror Dogs the sparks reveal the demonic monsters skeletons instead.
- You Have to Believe Me!: Inverted; when they finally get to see the Mayor, despite the apparent lunacy of the things they're suggesting the Ghostbusters — while still stressing the urgency of the situation to him — nevertheless present their case in a fairly calm, reasonable and level-headed manner (even if they do succumb to the dramatic at one point: "Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!"). Better yet, respected city officials like the City Fire Chief and the Archbishop of New York support the Ghostbusters' case with rational observations of the bizarre phenomena plaguing the city that defies any explanation other than the Busters' (while the Archbishop supports the Ghostbusters he states the rest of the clergy are still trying to reach a consensus). On the other hand, Peck, who on the surface has the more rational case (that these people are conmen), nevertheless comes across as twitchy, touchy, a bit irrational and clearly nursing a grudge, prone to exploding into violence (albeit after being provoked by Venkman) and on the whole rather shifty and unreliable.