Who you gonna call?
If there's somethin' weird... and it don't look good
Who you gonna call?
The settingnote is modern day New York City, which has become overrun with supernatural creatures of every description. Some ghosts are mere annoyances or even benign, but all too many of them are dangerous, and a few are bent on causing The End of the World as We Know It. There's only one force that can stop them: A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who protect humanity with high-tech weaponry — and entertain generations of viewers with their quirky personalities and witty dialogue.
The franchise started with Ghostbusters (1984), a film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson; Aykroyd and Ramis also wrote the script. It was a smash hit which led to a sequel, Ghostbusters II, in 1989. Both films were directed by Ivan Reitman.
The films produced a popular Animated Adaptation — The Real Ghostbusters in 1986, which had its own Spin-Off, Extreme Ghostbusters in 1997. As a rule of thumb, they aren't in continuity with the movies and the later video game (one episode of the cartoon even had them watching the original movie) but are otherwise based on the same story and internal principles that the movies introduced.
There was also The Role-Playing Game developed by West End Games in 1986; set after the first movie, the players were cast as owners/employees of a Ghostbusters franchise in their local community. In addition to ghosts, adventure hooks could feature encounters with other paranormal creatures and incidents, including vampires, aliens, and time-travelers. A revised version of the game, Ghostbusters International, was published in 1989 following the release of Ghostbusters II. It was eventually named as one of "The Millennium's Most Underrated Games" by Pyramid magazine.
A theme park show, Ghostbusters Spooktacular was yet another product of the franchise, being one of the opening day attractions at Universal Studios Florida in 1990. However, it was later quietly closed in 1996. Along with the attraction, the Ghostbusters used to be involved in a lot of the park's street entertainment, most notably in an Intercontinuity Crossover show where the team clashed against Beetlejuice. The latter show continued to operate until 2005, when Universal gave up the theme park license for the series.
The franchise had numerous video games made for it. Practically every video game system that existed in the mid-eighties had an adaptation of the first movie created for it, in addition to at least one adaptation of the second movie, an arcade game and a game with an original story created in 1990 for the Sega Genesis. In 2009, a video game adaptation was released, written and performed by the original cast, which acts as a third story. Two years after the second movie, the Ghostbusters are doing well. The new mayor rode into office on pro-Ghostbusting legislation: New York directly pays the Ghostbusters for doing their job, and insures all of their collateral damage. In addition, their research on paranormal activity has given them enough cash to develop new technology, which allows them to hire a young intern (the player character) to test it out for them. However, a Gozer exhibit at the local museum triggers a reawakening of the forces unleashed in the first movie...
Because Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were a key part of developing the story, they have stated that this game is in the same continuity as the movies. Interestingly, there are still some variations to the plot that occur with three distinct versions: a "Realistic" version for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows (which was remastered for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2019); a "Stylistic" version for the PlayStation 2, PSP and Wii; and a version for Nintendo DS that has totally different gameplay (and doesn't even have the rookie). The console games were very well received and applauded for being a unique and dynamic gaming experience. Tropes relating specifically to the Video Game (especially video game tropes) should go on the page for the game.
There was also a comic book series by long-defunct NOW Comics which used the animated series' art style but had its own story lines. IDW Publishing, after a couple of miniseries, is now publishing an ongoing comic series picking up a few years after the second movie.
Talk about a third film persisted for decades, and seemingly ended with the death of Harold Ramis in February 2014. Ghostbusters, a Continuity Reboot with female leads, was announced in October; it was released on July 22, 2016. In December of that same year, the franchise received its second theme park attraction spin-off, Ghostbusters: Battle for New York, a Light Gun Game ride that opened with the Motiongate Dubai theme park.
After having been hinted at by Dan Aykroyd a couple of months prior, it was announced in January 2019 that Jason Reitman would be directing a sequel to the first two films entitled Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The film stars Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, and Paul Rudd, with some of the original cast appearing in some capacity. It was the final Ghostbusters project to involve Ivan Reitman before his death in February 2022.
A new animated series, Ghostbusters: Ecto Force, is also in development. An animated film, to be directed by Fletcher Moules (best known for his Clash of Clans commercials), is also planned, and Ecto Force (which was originally scheduled for 2018) has been put on hold until it's completed.
A new Ghostbusters film (later titled Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire) was teased at CinemaCon 2022. On Ghostbusters Day of that same year, Jason Reitman and Afterlife co-writer Gil Kenan confirmed the sequel would return to New York City. The pair also confirmed that they would collaborate with Sony Pictures Animation on both an animated film to be directed by Titmouse founder Chris Prynoski and Hotel Transylvania: Transformania co-director Jennifer Kluska AND an animated series for Netflix. It is unknown if these projects are related to the ones mentioned above.
Works in the Ghostbusters franchise includes:
- Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted (2008) — Manga published by Tokyopop.
- The Real Ghostbusters (1988-1992)
- NOW Comics:
- The Real Ghostbusters (1988-1990)
- The Real Ghostbusters Starring In Ghostbusters II (1989)
- The Real Ghostbusters Vol. 2 (1991-1992)
- Slimer! (1989-1990)
- The Real Ghostbusters 3-D Slimer! Special! (1993)
- The Real Ghostbusters (1988-1990)
- 88MPH Studios:
- Ghostbusters: Legion (2004)
- IDW Publishing:
- Ghostbusters: The Other Side (2008-2009)
- Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression (2009)
- Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future (2009)
- Ghostbusters: Tainted Love (2010)
- Ghostbusters: Con-Volution (2010)
- Ghostbusters: What in Samhain Just Happened?! (2010)
- Ghostbusters (2011-2012) — A series taking place after the second movie and the game.
- The New Ghostbusters (2013-2014)
- Ghostbusters: International (2016)
- Ghostbusters Times Scare! (2012)
- Infestation (2011) — Crisis Crossover event with other IDW series.
- Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters (2013)
- The X-Files Conspiracy (2014) — A six issue series Crossover with other IDW licenses with The X-Files.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters (2014-2015) — Crossover with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Ghostbusters 2 (2017)
- Ghostbusters: Get Real (2015) — A Crossover with the Ghostbusters meeting their animated counterparts.
- Ghostbusters: Deviations (2016)
- Ghostbusters: 101 (2017)
- Ghostbusters: Funko Universe (2017) — A tie in comic with the Funko Pop! toys.
- Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2017)
- Ghostbusters Crossing Over (2018)
- Ghostbusters 20/20 (2019)
- Ghostbusters 35th Anniversary (2019)
- Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron (2019)
- Ghostbusters: Year One (2020)
- Dark Horse Comics:
- Ghostbusters: Back In Town (2024) — set between Afterlife and Frozen Empire
- Ghostbusters by Larry Milne (1984) — Novelization to the original movie.
- Ghostbusters: The Supernatural Spectacular by Richard Mueller (1985) — More detailed novelization of the original film.
- Ghostbusters II by Ed Naha (1989).
- Ghostbusters: The Return by Sholly Fisch (2004) — A Broad Strokes sequel to Ghostbusters II giving it a Setting Update so it took place at the Turn of the Millennium.
- Ghostbusters by Nancy Holder (2016) A novelization to the 2016 film.
- Ghostbusters Movie Novelization by Stacia Deutsch (2016) — A novelization to the 2016 reboot aimed at children.
- Proud to Be a Ghostbuster by David Lewman (2016) — A picture book based on the 2016 reboot.
- Who You Gonna Call? by David Lewman (2016) — Another picture book based on the reboot
- Ghostbusters: Who You Gonna Call? (2016) — A Little Golden Book that retells the 2016 movie.
- Tobin's Spirit Guide: Official Ghostbusters Edition by Erik Burnham (2016) — A Defictionalised in-universe guide to ghosts.
- Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal (2016) — Similar to Tobin's Spirit Guide, it's a defictionalisation of Erin's book about ghosts in the 2016 movie.
- The Real Ghostbusters (1984)
- Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game (1986)
- The Real Ghostbusters: The Game (1989)
- Ghostbusters: The Board Game (2015)
- Ghostbusters: The Board Game II (2017)
- Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (2016) — Board game based on the the German game, Ghost Fightin' Treasure Hunters (Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister!)
- Monopoly: Ghostbusters edition (2016)
- Ghostbusters: The Card Game (2018)
- Ghostbusters: Blackout (2019)
- Men In Black/Ghostbusters: Ecto-terrestrial Invasion (2019) — Crossover with Men in Black.
- Zombicide: Ghostbusters Pack (2022) - Expansions for Zombicide
- Ghostbusters (1984) — A multiplatform game based on the first movie.
- The Real Ghostbusters (Data East) (1987) — A top-down run-and-gun arcade game
- Ghostbusters II (1990) — An action video game for the NES, developed by Imagineering and published by Activision.
- Ghostbusters (1990) — A licensed game for the Sega Genesis.
- New Ghostbusters II (ゴーストバスターズ２, Gōsutobasutāzu 2) (1990)
- The Real Ghostbusters (1993)
- Extreme Ghostbusters (2001)
- Extreme Ghostbusters: Zap The Ghosts! (2001)
- Extreme Ghostbusters: Creativity Centre (2001)
- Extreme Ghostbusters: Code Ecto-1 (2002)
- Extreme Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Invasion (2004)
- Ghostbusters (2005)
- Ghostbusters: Ghost Trap (2008)
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) — The video game, set after the second film. Reunited near all the cast to reprise their roles. Its success brought the franchise into the 21st century.
- Ghostbusters Sanctum of Slime (2011) — A downloadable game. Designed as a twin-stick arena shooter.
- Ghostbusters: Paranormal Blast (2012)
- Ghostbusters Beeline (2013)
- Ghostbusters Pinball (2014) — A Digital Pinball Table created by re-skinning a classic Pinball table.
- Ghostbusters Puzzle Fighter (2015)
- LEGO Dimensions (2015) — A Massive Multiplayer Crossover video game that includes Ghostbusters as one of the many franchises involved, in both the 1984 and 2016 versions.
- Ghostbusters (2016) — A multiplatform game that takes place after the 2016 movie.
- Ghostbusters (2016 Arcade): An arcade made by ICE to tie-in with the then upcoming 2016 movie. Essentially a gallery shooter where you blast ghosts for tickets.
- Ghostbusters: Slime City (2016)
- Ghostbusters VR - Now Hiring (2016)
- Fortnite Battle Royale (2017) - Ghostbusters skins and items were added in 2020 and 2021.
- Ghostbusters World (2018)
- Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed (2022)
- The Real Ghostbusters (1986–1991) — The Animated Adaptation of the films. One of the most fondly remembered cartoons of The '80s.
- Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (1990) - This TV special Crossover extravaganza included an appearance by the Real Ghostbusters version of Slimer.
- Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) — An animated Sequel Series to The Real Ghostbusters that attempted to revive the franchise for The '90s with a new team of heroes. Notable for treating the horror elements more seriously than the rest of the franchise while retaining the humor.
- Ghostbusters: Ecto Force (TBA)
Not part of the official franchise, but still worth mentioning:
- The Ghost Busters. A live action Filmation series from The '70s that was so obscure that the creators of the original movie weren't aware of it until after they started production. Other than the title and the basic premise, it has no relation to the films and their spinoffs.
- Filmation's Ghostbusters. An animated Sequel Series to the show above. It owes its existence to the success of the films.
- The Real Spoofbusters, a trope for Stock Parodies of this franchise.
Tropes pertaining to the franchise as a whole:
- '80s Hair:
- Ghostbusters: People with pink, blue, and big hair are all seen milling about through New York City in various scenes, particularly at the climax.
- Ghostbusters 2: The saleswoman at the Orrefor's fine crystal store seen in the montage.
- Admiring the Abomination: Ray and Egon are regularly enthralled or intellectually intrigued by the pandimensional beings they deal with, which contrasts with the deadpan or mundane approaches from Peter and Winston.
- Aerith and Bob:
- To some degree. Our main characters include Winston, Peter, Ray, Louis, Dana, Janine... and Egon. While Egon is an actual name of Teutonic origin (meaning "formidable" or "mighty with a sword"), it sounds a little bit out of place surrounded by more common names.
- The cast has this, too! Ernie, Bill, Dan, Rick, Harold, Annie... and Sigourney.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Apparently all spirits capable of interacting with the physical plane are malicious or at least mischievous. The least harmful ghosts the 'busters encounter are only benign until someone gets their attention, like the library ghost. This makes indiscriminately locking them up in the containment system more justifiable.
- Ambiguously Jewish: Egon, Janine and Louis, who all have Jewish-sounding surnames, and Egon in particular has a hairstyle that was common among Jewish men in the '80s. The cartoon runs with this, giving Egon a Jewish Mother who feeds the boys a homemade Foul Medicine when they get sick.
- Ammunition Backpack: The Proton Packs probably count, since all the particle accelerating takes place in the Pack.
- Author Appeal: Aykroyd's fascination with ghosts and the supernatural is well known. Thus leading to the dream sequence …
- Bad "Bad Acting": In the Ghostbusters' TV ads. In the first film, Peter, Ray and especially Egon read their lines in a very stilted manner. In the second film, Janine and Louis do this in their new commercials. In the same in-universe ad, Egon looks down before stepping forward and back, looking for his mark.
- Badass Boast:
- "Who you gonna call?"
- "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!"
- In the first movie, when they confront Gozer: "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!"
- The franchise's motto is used for this in the second movie during the courtroom scene: "Sometimes, shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who you gonna call?"
- They get two after busting the Scoleri brothers.Ray: Two in the box!
Egon: Ready to go!
Peter: We be fast...
All: And they be slow!
- Also in the second film, after exiting the courtroom in triumph: "We're the best, we're the beautiful, we're the only... Ghostbusters!"
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
- Played straight: Dana Barrett. Despite being possessed in the first movie and dealing with empathic slime in the second, the worst she gets is a little dusty and her hair mussed.
- Played with: Peter Venkman. Venkman gets slimed once very lightly, and is the only Ghostbuster to end up not covered in ectoplasmic toasted marshmallow when Stay Puft is defeated. Winston, Egon, and Ray all get Covered in Gunge repeatedly throughout both movies.note
- Berserk Button: Slimer really doesn't take well to being called ugly...
- Big Applesauce: Considered one of the quintessential New York City films. The last line of the first film summarizes it perfectly:Winston: I LOVE THIS TOWN!!!
- Big Damn Heroes: In the second movie, the Ghostbusters arriving via skylight to stop Oscar being turned into a new host body for Vigo the Carpathian.
- Big Eater: Uh, Slimer. (Called "the Green Ghost" in the first movie and was officially named "Peanut", but given the name "Slimer" in the cartoon and the credits of the second.) The cast thought of him as the ghost of John Belushi. He's seen eating hotel food in his first scene, then later he eats a whole lot of hot dogs.
- Bowdlerise: In reverse. In the '80s, commercials for the first movie ended with Venkman saying, "We came, we saw, we kicked its a--" cut to logo. Now on just about any cable channel allows him to say 'ass'. Trailers for the 30th Anniversary keep this, certainly as an homage to the earlier censoring.
- Built with LEGO:
- In 2014, six years after LEGO Rock Band featured the theme song, an official LEGO set was approved via LEGO Cusoo, featuring Egon, Venkman, Ray, Winston, the Ecto-1, and Slimer.
- The Series also features in LEGO Dimensions, with the Level Pack including a condensed version of the first film as a playable level- although in this case, as a consequence of Lord Vortech's plans to conquer the multiverse, General Zod is the villain who's wreaking havoc.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Ray and especially Peter, who both have Ph.Ds, in Physics and Parapsychology/Psychology respectively. Ray is more childlike, but Peter is full-on childish. Both of them are, despite Peter's professions to the contrary, fairly unprofessional.
- Butt-Monkey: Several.
- Louis Tully, who has doors shut in his face, doors locking him out, and other comical misfortune.
- Walter Peck, hereafter known as "dickless".
- The student involved in the ESP test that was repeatedly shocked.
- The Cameo: Dan Aykroyd briefly appears as Ray Stantz in the 1995 Casper film.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Egon is a master of this, usually as a way of flatly commenting that he's scared out of his mind despite being overly calm and talking plainly.Venkman: Okay, Ray's gone bye-bye. Egon, what've you got left?
Spengler: Sorry, Venkman, but I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.
- He manages Casual Danger Laughter in 2. Ray and Peter laugh nervously while waiting for the Scolari Brothers to strike, and Egon chimes in with a monotone "Ha. Ha ha."
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite being a major character in both movies, Dana Barrett almost never shows up in spin-offs, being absent from both The Real Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the IDW Ghostbusters comic book. She may get a brief mention, if she's lucky.
- Complete Immortality: Almost all ghosts that are not at least a Class 7 are this, which is why they get trapped and sent into the containment unit.
- Crossover: The series has been involved in several, particularly in but not exclusive to the IDW comics:
- Numerous internal crossovers with the various incarnations of the team (original version, Real, and Answer the Call).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at least twice.
- Beetlejuice by way of a live show.
- Transformers: The Ecto-1 has been made into a Transformers toy from the Transformers/Ghostbusters series.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Early on in the first movie, Egon tells the others not to "cross the streams" (i.e. make the streams from the proton packs touch), since "it would be bad", but later, they have to do it anyway.
- Destructive Saviour: The Ghostbusters are very effective at capturing ghosts, but their primary weapons, the proton packs, are terribly inaccurate and burn through whatever they hit when they miss (which is often). That's not even getting into the larger threats, which tend to end up leveling city blocks before the Ghostbusters stop them. Gozer blew up the top few floors of a high rise building as a consequence of stopping her.Venkman: Yeah... we can do more damage that way.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: To the point where insulting the villains, despite them being powerful entities, is standard operating procedure... right before arming the proton packs.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
- Dope Slap: At the beginning of the film, Peter slaps Ray when Ray interrupts his "moment" with a beautiful young test subject. Ray gets him back later, when Peter doesn't understand the significance of the blueprints of Dana's building.
- Eccentric Exterminator: The Ghostbusters are an odd bunch of mad scientists.
- Extranormal Prison: Their containment unit holds all the ghosts they capture.
- Fan Film: Has inspired a whole slew of fan films based on the idea of Ghostbusters becoming a franchise business and organized in other cities. This includes Freddy Vs. Ghostbusters, The Denver Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters SLC.
- Fantastic Religious Weirdness: The church does not want to take an official position on the paranormal events happening in New York in either movie, though in the first movie, multiple religious figures are seen praying: Priests, Nuns, Rabbis, and an Imam.
- Fantastic Science: Two of the three original characters, Ray and Egon, are legitimate paranormal researchers that channel their knowledge into the business of "paranormal investigations and eliminations." Peter for his part is both a psychologist and parapsychologist, so he contributes the human relations and Only Sane Man elements. Word of God is that Egon and Ray are legitimate practitioners of their field (albeit Egon is far better at it) while Peter didn't believe in the supernatural until he was confronted with it.
- First-Name Basis: The Mayor and the Archbishop of New York have this with each other. The Mayor is taken aback when Peter tries to invoke this with him as well.
- Forbidden Chekhov's Gun: Crossing the streams. They are warned never to do it, and it becomes their Finishing Move.
- In the "eggs frying on the counter" scene, among Dana's groceries can be seen a bag of "Mr. Stay Puft" marshmallows.
- There's an unoccupied fourth seat at the table where the Ghostbusters eat what would've been their last meals before going out of business, hinting at the eventual addition of a fourth member.
- For Science!: Generally the reason why Egon runs oddball experiments.
- Funny Background Event:
- After blowing up the poor housemaid's cart, while they stand around talking, you can see her trying to spritz out the fires they started with a bottle of cleaner.
- During the cutscenes in the video game, The Rookie can be seen reacting to the situations in humorous ways, especially when Mr. Stay Puft first appears.
- During the Kitschy Local Commercial, you can see Egon continuously looking down at the marks he's supposed to stand on. This was an actual mistake made by Harold Ramis, who agreed to keep doing it for subsequent takes when everyone agreed it fit Egon's character.
- When Peter is informing the hotel manager about the cost of their operation, Egon is subtly flashing him hand signals about how much to charge; this can usually only be seen in widescreen presentations, as other cuts tend to crop out Egon from the frame.
- When they're investigating the library ghost, Ray freezes and says "Listen! Do you smell something?" Behind him, Peter draws back, then rolls his eyes and shakes his head.
- During the "Ghost Fever Grips New York" montage, a bearded bystander in blue notices the man-on-the-street reporter talking about the Ghostbusters and sways for a few moments before making a hand sign and moving on.
- Gate Guardian: Zuul (who looks like a large demonic dog) is the Gatekeeper of the dimensional portal that Gozer the Gozerian arrives through. Its (her?) counterpart, Vinz Clortho, The Keymaster, also looks like a giant demon dog.
- Ghastly Ghost: The various ghosts fought by the team are typically very destructive, and can vary from simply malevolent spirits to monstrous and aggressive entities to borderline Eldritch Abominations, depending on their individual power and origin. A given ghost's rampage may be limited to annoying pranks, or it may involve violent mayhem or the very real threat of a localized apocalypse.
- Harmless Villain: Vigo becomes this in the Ghostbusters video game. The best he can do is insult you and try and make you feel uncomfortable.
- Hero's Classic Car: The Ecto-1, a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance, refurbished and tricked out with Science!
- Inevitably Broken Rule: Egon strongly cautions to never "cross the streams" while firing their power-packs, as it could potentially kill them all and cause massive destruction. However, at the end of the movie, they do it anyway in order to defeat the Big Bad. They survive.
- Insignificant Anniversary: The Ghostbusters, who had to mortage the childhood home of their resident Nice Guy Ray to even afford the decrepit fire-station that housed their flegeling business, sadly toasted "to our first and only customer" in a month and imminent bankruptcy with takeout noodles and beer... and then the usually grumpy secretary downstairs happily shouted "WE GOT ONE!!" as the phone rang downstairs calling from a posh hotel plagued by a green ectoplasmic eating machine... and three heroes began their journey proper that night.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Venkman.Venkman: "Type somethin', will ya? We're payin' ya for this stuff. And don't stare at me, ya got the bug-eyes…" (pauses) "Janine, sorry about the bug-eyes thing, I'll be in my office."
- Just in Time: As the Busters realize they are broke and about to go out of business, Janine gets a phone call.Janine: Hello, Ghostbusters. Yes, of course they're serious. You do? You have?... WE GOT ONE!
- Leitmotif: The Ghostbusters have a theme tune when they're going around the city outside of work.
- Licensed Pinball Tables:
- For a franchise ripe with licensing potential, it took 30 years before an official Pinball table was released. And even then, Ghostbusters Pinball was made by digitally retheming an existing game, Gottlieb's Haunted House.
- There are also rumors that The Party Zone was intended to be a Ghostbusters pinball game, but was changed when a licensing deal could not be reached.
- It took until 2016 for a real licensed pinball table to be released, Stern's Ghostbusters.
- Lovable Coward: For all his charm and bravado, Peter Venkman is not the bravest of men. With a few exceptions any acts of heroism on his part will usually be very very reluctant ones. That said, he will step up to the plate if necessary; he just won't be very happy about it.
- Mad Scientist: Mostly Egon, but a little bit in Ray as well. Capitalism and a general sense of the good of mankind steers this towards positive and constructive directions.Peter: Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole through your head. Remember that?
Egon: That would have worked if you hadn't stopped me.
- At the end of the first movie, after rescuing Louis, he asks him if he'd like to donate a sample of his brain tissue, which Louis, still dazed, agrees to.
- Magic Versus Science: Ghosts and gods vs. scientists with nuclear accelerators; the scientists win.
- Magnetic Plot Device: In all three films, the only reason New York appears to be swimming in ghosts is because something is empowering them.
Ray: The whole building is a huge super-conductive antenna that was designed and built expressly for the purpose of pulling in and concentrating spiritual turbulence. Your girlfriend, Pete, lives in the corner penthouse of Spook Central.
- In the first, Dana Barrett's high-rise apartment building is essentially a supernatural magnet. Ivo Shandor, the leader of a cult of Gozer worshipers, designed it specifically to give Gozer a doorway into our world. It also neatly explains just where the vast majority of the unleashed ghosts went, since the building used them as a power source.
- In the aftermath, things quieted down so fast that the whole thing was written off as a mass hallucination - which everyone save them accepted - the 'Busters couldn't get enough business to stay open, and they were even slapped with a restraining order keeping them from practicing as paranormal investigators or eliminators. Only when Vigo's painting was shipped to the MOMA - and he began turning the city's bad vibes into his "mood slime" - did things start up again.
- In the reboot, the whole plot only happens because one of the 'Busters' rivals builds a machine to amp up supernatural activity.
- Mascot Villain: Slimer is a partial example. He starts off as a Starter Villain in the first movie, but by the time he became a true mascot in the animated adaptations he became the Team Pet and sidekick. A more fitting (in and out of universe) example is the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, or rather, Gozer the Gozerian, who took the form of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man in a bid to start The End of the World as We Know It.
- The Merch: In-universe examples. In the first film's credits, there are kids waving Ghostbuster logo t-shirts. Ghostbusters II has the gang offer branded thermal mugs and balloons in their commercial.
- Monochrome Apparition: Most of the human-esque ghosts are depicted in one colour.
- Muggles Do It Better: the title characters are Science Heroes who take on ghosts and extraplanar creatures. Furthermore, they are able to because they are able to study them scientifically and develop effective weapons that are relatively easy to use.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Part of the joke of the franchise is that dealing with supernatural entities like ghosts, otherworldly demons and Lovecraftian Eldritch Abominations becomes, once the Ghostbusters have come along and applied a little practical science to the matter, basically a form of glorified pest control.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ray gets this a lot.
- He chooses Gozer's destructive form as Stay Puft.Peter: Did you choose anything?!
Peter:: Did you?!
Winston: My mind's a total blank.
Peter: I didn't choose anything! [Beat, then everybody looks at Ray]
- Knocking out all the lights in New York in the sequel. Ray is quite the klutz.
- Later, when they're about to call the final battle a victory, he looks into the painting and gets possessed by Vigo.
- Venkman's antagonism towards Peck spurs him to come back with a warrant, specifically to cause as much trouble as possible. The clash was probably going to happen anyway, but Peter makes it a personal feud.
- He chooses Gozer's destructive form as Stay Puft.
- Night-Vision Goggles: A slightly modified set of actual night vision goggles is made to be the "ecto goggles" and part of the Ghostbusting gear, supposedly allowing them to see ghosts who have turned themselves invisible. It's seen on everyone in the first movie, used memorably by Ray in the hotel and seen briefly a few times in the second movie. The game makes it into a major gameplay mechanic in tracking down ghosts.
- Non-Action Guy: Rick Moranis' character, Louis. Though he does take a level in badass in the second movie.
- Noodle Incident: Mentioned in the first film is that time Egon tried to drill a hole through his head. This is an actual procedure, called trepanation, which is sometimes claimed to confer psychic powers. "That would have worked if you hadn't stopped me." (This was allegedly a Throw It In by Murray which Ramis seamlessly responded to.)
- Not Quite Dead: Justified since this is a franchise about ghosts. Also notable in the account of Vigo's death.Ray Stantz: He didn't die of old age, either. He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered.
Ray: There was a prophecy. Just before his head died, his last words were "Death is but a door. Time is but a window. I'll be back."
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The worst kind of nonbelievers.
- Walter Peck from the first movie ignores the very real paranormal phenomenon around him in favor of his insistence that it's all a scam. His actions in service of this belief directly trigger Gozer's arrival. Then he blames everyone but himself and has them arrested.
- Hardemeyer takes this role in the sequel. He has the Ghostbusters committed to avoid bad press for the mayor.
- Peck is back as the city official appointed as a liaison between the Ghostbusters and the mayor in the video game.
- Oddly Small Organization: The scientific ghost-fighting security agency for the entire New York area is three (later four) men in an old firehouse. Franchise rights are briefly discussed but nothing ever comes of it in the films.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: Venkman's ghost-sniffer, also known as the "Bacharach Chemical Sniffer", which is used primarily for detecting gas leaks. This also carries over into the guys' Homemade Inventions (a kitchen colander with wires and things on it, for one).
- The ectoplasm was made from methylcellulose ether, a thickening agent used in processed foods.
- The "marshmallow" goo was actually shaving cream. More than 50 gallons was dumped on William Atherton, almost knocking him to the ground.
- One-Winged Angel: Ghosts who take human form as a disguise are usually provoked into taking monstrous forms.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: In the series, "ghost" seems to be a catch-all term for incorporeal creatures, including both the spirits of the dead and extraplanar creatures that were never "alive" to begin with.
- Paranormal Investigation: Although they're more like a decontamination crew than detectives or investigators.
- Photoprotoneutron Torpedo: Proton packs, which are "positron colliders" (or sometimes "unlicensed nuclear accelerators") that shoot particles from "neutrona wands".
- Pictorial Letter Substitution: Sometimes, the "O" in the title is replaced with the main logo: a ghost under a "no" sign.
- Portal Statue Pairs: Zuul and Vinz Klortho, two giant demon dog statues that guard the portal of Gozer; they can also come to life and attack/possess people.
- Punch-Clock Hero: Pretty much all of the Ghostbusters, sans Ray, became heroes to earn money. However, they start to outgrow this a little.
- Puny Humans: Inverted in that Science Hero mortals scientifically learned about the nature of the supernatural, ranging from simple ghosts to gods, develop practical and easy to use weapons against it and totally clean its clock!
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Ghostbusters themselves; a cynical scientist, a mad scientist, a goof scientist, and someone looking for a steady paycheck.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
Ray: First of all, Mr. Mayor, it's a great pleasure to see you again. And we'd like to say that almost 50% of us voted for you in the last election.
- Lenny the Mayor fills this role to some extent in the first two movies. He's a rather cynical politician whose public image and chances of re-election / further political office are never far from mind, and is reasonably skeptical of the claims of apocalyptic supernatural phenomena, but when suitably convinced of their claims ultimately proves to be a fairly staunch ally. However, it is suggested that between the first and second movies, he either had them publicly thrown under the bus, or didn't do much to stop it from happening.
Mayor: I appreciate that.
- By the time of the game, he seems to have been replaced with a more straightforward example of this trope; the current mayor got elected on a pro-Ghostbuster platform, and now has the city covering their collateral damage.
- Red Alert: Of the "Emergency Squad Scramble" variety, the first time a call comes in.
- Reed Richards Is Useless:
- Played with. On one hand the Ghostbusters do use their tech to make money for themselves, the game has established them as contractors to New York on the verge of franchising, and they obviously help people out with it, but the potential other uses for their tech goes ignored.note
- In the cartoon, the Ghostbusters temporarily convert their gear to allow them to catch criminals for bounties, but the premise remains the same.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Standing out from a lot of the occult horror genre movies of its time, Ghostbusters is very pro-Enlightenment-esque. MovieBob says it best in a Youtube episode of "Really That Good" on this movie at the 19:14 mark.
- Sassy Secretary: Janine "I've quit better jobs than this!" Melnitz, although it varies by production. In the first film, she is a no-nonsense girl who snaps at Peter while crushing on Egon. In the second film, she's paired off with Louis and becomes super-nerdy.
- Science Heroes: Three scientists and one academic student (Zeddemore, who gets a Doctorate later) face an ancient god with nothing but high technology equipment based on intensive scientific research of their supernatural opponents' nature, and totally kick their asses.
- Science Is Useless: Inverted; the Ghostbusters' scientific methods always prove to be the only effective way of dealing with the supernatural, and the only use for other schools of thought is to provide info on what they're dealing with.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Ghostbusters' containment grid in the first film and Vigo's portrait in the second are used to trap ghosts.
- Shown Their Work: The films are very, very thoroughly researched as side-effect of Aykroyd's own interest in the paranormal. For instance, Peter's treatment of the Zuul-possessed Dana is based on advice from exorcists and psychiatrists for dealing with cases of possession and DID, respectively (i.e. you are never supposed to let the other personality remain in control; this is why he keeps insisting on talking to "Dana", and tries to ignore Zuul). In addition, all of the books Egon and Ray mention actually exist.
- Signs of the End Times:
- Part I:Winston Zeddmore: Do you remember something in The Bible about the last days, when the dead would rise from the grave?
Ray Stantz: I remember Revelations 7:12. "And I looked as he opened the 6th seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake. And the sun became as black as sack cloth, and the moon became as blood."note
Winston Zeddmore: And the seas boiled and the skies fell.
Ray Stantz: Judgment Day.
Winston Zeddmore: Judgment Day.
Ray Stantz: Every religion has its myth about the end of the world.
Winston Zeddmore: Myth? Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we've been so busy lately is 'cause the dead have been rising from the grave?
Ray Stantz: [Beat] ...How 'bout a little music?
Winston Zeddemore: [nods] Yeah.
- Part II:Peter Venkman: Or you could accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, biblical?
Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament biblical, Mr. Mayor. Real wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!
Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes!
Winston Zeddmore: The dead rising from the grave!
Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
- Played for Laughs after the firehouse blows up:Vinz Clortho: This is it! This is the sign!
Janine: Yeah, it's a sign alright: "Going out of business".
- Part I:
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Straddles the line; the funniest moments and the scariest are often one and the same.
- Smarter Than You Look: Although Venkman comes off as a cynical slacker who doesn't seem to get the gist of things as times, it's obvious that he has just as much knowledge of the supernatural as Ray and Egon.
- Spiritual Successor: Dan Aykroyd's failed attempts to get Ghostbusters 3 done led to Evolution (2001).
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The team did enough research to the paranormal, that they were able to develop the technology to properly detect and combat it.
- Supernatural Sealing: Showcases a rare technological version of this, with the Ghostbusters able to seal away malevolent spirits and even gods with Mad Science.
- Techno Babble: Brought to the point of art form: PKE valence. Focused, non-terminal repeating phantasm. Total protonic reversal.
- That Came Out Wrong:
- While Peter is checking her apartment, he goes to the bedroom. Dana, without considering the implications, says "Nothing ever happened in there." Peter quips, "What a crime." Dana realizes her mistake, but instead chooses to focus on Peter's atypical attitude for a scientist.
- After the interview with Dana Barrett:Peter Venkman: I'll take Miss Barrett back to her apartment and check her out.
[Dana Barrett looks up confused]
Peter Venkman: I'll go check out Miss Barrett's apartment. OK?
- Theme Tune: When there's something strange in the neighborhood Who You Gonna Call?? Ghostbusters!
- This Is Gonna Suck: In both films:
- I— When Walter Peck is about to shut off the containment system, the 'busters deliberately place themselves near the stairs so they can easily flee when all hell breaks loose. Also Venkman's later line "I love this plan! I'm excited to be a part of it!"
- II— In the courtroom, when the mood slime is about to explode, they slowly take cover under their table.
- Token Minority: Winston. He shows up midway through the first film and joins the Ghostbusters, being the only main black character in either film. In the second he's out of the action until business picks back up, you guessed it, halfway through, being only a part-time birthday performer with Ray thanks to the lack of ghost activity.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
- One of the buildings of New York becomes the portal to a hell dimension and nobody seems to notice or care.
- Louis Tully is pinned against the window of a fancy restaurant, then apparently devoured by a dog-like hellbeast the size of a horse. The patrons give this gruesome event a cursory glance, then carry on like nothing happened.
- Though, given how New York is depicted in these films, this is perfectly "in-character".
- Vanity License Plate: The Ectomobile has ECTO 1 on its tags.
- Weapons That Suck:
- Technically speaking, the real weapon the Busters use against the ghosts are their traps, which suck the ghosts in and hold them until deposited in the protection grid. All the proton packs are intended for is to snare ghosts in the proton stream and position them above the trap. That's also why Busters didn't need the proton packs to capture the jogging ghost; all they had to do is place the trap in his path and open it when he stepped over it.
- The one exception to this are the final villains at the end of both movies. This may be explained by the fact that unlike the vast majority of ghosts Vigo and Gozer are at least semi-corporeal and, as we saw with the maid cart while they where initially catching slimer, a tightly focused stream from a proton pack can be highly destructive. Other non-corporeal ghosts can be restrained by it or in the case of relatively weak ghosts scattered into ambient PKE (psycho kinetic energy) but it would be possible to destroy a corporeal entity assuming it isn't a god or superpowered with PKE.
- Weirdness Censor: Despite the rampant evidence to the contrary (as in, making this announcement during a mayoral meeting where everyone else in the room, including the mayor himself, is well aware of the supernatural crisis), Peck insists the Ghostbusters are frauds deluding people with chemicals and "a cheap, electronic light show." Indeed, Peck has zero evidence to back up his claims, having arbitrarily decided that they must be frauds. Had the case gone to court normally, the Ghostbusters would have won the case hands-down. In the second movie, several characters continue this attitude, which makes one wonder what they thought of the very public attack involving the very gigantic and very real Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the very gooey remains he left behind.
- The Worf Barrage: The proton packs never work against the Big Bad, or at best are a mild annoyance, which force the team to resort to different strategies to beat them.
- Gozer dodges the first shot and just vanishes the second time. Upon transforming into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, getting shot did little more than knock him down and set him on fire, arguably making him even more dangerous.
- Vigo is briefly annoyed by the packs, brushing away the beams and paralyzing the team in the process. He has to be weakened by a Care-Bear Stare/Combined Energy Attack in the form of happy, singing New Yorkers, which was the only way they were able to enter the building anyway. The final barrage of mood slime and proton packs also seems to hinge largely on the former, though the packs do provide the final push that wins the day.
- The games introduce three major modifications (complete with a secondary fire mode) to the classic backpack and most of the ghosts have a weakness to one of them: basic particle stream, dark matter generator, slime blower and meson collider. The idea is if one ghost is shrugging off any one of your attacks you can switch them up.
- "That's a big twinkie."