A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A rare movie where scientists save the day. Friendship is also an important theme, though the friends are far from perfect. Curiosity and teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Main characters use science and work as a team to save NYC. But Peter Venkman especially is a flawed role model. He and Dana's neighbor Louis both chase women in ways that are now widely recognized as harassment. It's played for laughs, seemingly chalked up to "boys will be boys." Dana winds up receptive to Peter's aggressive advances, which include kissing her on the chest while she's unconscious and a barrage of innuendo-laced comments while he's on this job and she's his client.
No meaningful diversity, especially among speaking roles, despite setting in ultra-diverse NYC. Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore does get hired as a Ghostbuster midway through the film and doesn't fall into stereotypes about Black men, but he has minimal dialogue. Fatphobia in the form of Slimer, a green ghost whose voracious appetite and rolls of fat are meant to incite disgust in viewers. Casual on-screen ableism -- several disparaging remarks about people being "crazy" or "schizo" -- is slightly offset by the knowledge that one of the film's writers and leading actors, Dan Aykroyd, is neurodivergent and has Tourette's. Most flagrant is the film's objectification of women, in one case a college student who is hit on by a male professor. Sexual harassment by two men in important roles, including main character Peter Venkman, is played for laughs. Venkman still "gets the girl" as if Dana is a trophy to be won.
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Violence & Scariness
Plenty of blasting from special ghost-busting lasers. A hotel ballroom is destroyed, and another building explodes, with main characters running for their lives. Ghosts take over NYC, many scary-looking (with decomposing skeletal appearances and wicked grins). Two characters are possessed by large dog-like creatures. One has arms and grabs a character through a chair; she screams as she's hurled through the room. A building crumbles; pieces fall on a crowd below, who also almost get smashed by a 50-foot walking marshmallow. Mentions of religious sacrifice. A demi-god attacks with lightning bolts coming from her arms. Dana is possessed and, without her consent, writhes, sensually bares her shoulders and leg, and makes sexual advances on Peter. While she's unconscious, Peter puts her to bed and kisses her clothed chest before leaving. Dana's neighbor follows her down the hallway to her apartment door, repeatedly asking her out and ignoring her polite declines; she has to literally squeeze into her apartment and slam the door in his face. The film doesn't critique the harassment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A fantasy scene implies Ray receives oral pleasure from a ghost; you see his pants mysteriously unzipped down to his underwear and his eyes cross in pleasure. Dana makes bold sexual advances while possessed, writhing around and showing lots of leg. She even says, "Do you want this body?" "Take me now," and "I want you inside me" to Peter, who jokes that she already has more than one person inside her. Plus a few kisses and plenty of innuendo, including a joke about getting the Stay Puft Marshmallow "laid."
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"S--t" is said three times, "bitch" once, "ass" and other versions a few times, "pissed," "hell," "mother puss bucket," "schizo," and jokes about an EPA official having no "d--k."
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Products & Purchases
Coke is seen a few times, a Twinkie is used as a metaphor, and one of the Ghostbusters shouts, "it's Miller time." Cheez-Its and Budweiser are consumed. A montage shows the Ghostbusters on the cover of some prominent magazines like Time and The Atlantic with voices of Casey Kasem and Larry King in background.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of smoking, mostly by Peter and Ray, who often have a cigarette dangling from their lips while catching ghosts. They also share a bottle of hard alcohol after being fired from their jobs and are seen drinking beer a few times. A ghost chugs wine that goes right through him.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ghostbusters is an iconic '80s movie that mixes a ton of humor -- some of the jokes holding up poorly over time -- in with its story about catching scary ghosts and the possible end of the world. The scariest part is probably the large dogs with glowing eyes that attack and possess two characters, though the now-dated special effects may not faze older kids. There's some strong language (including "s--t" a few times) and some sexually charged scenes, including one in which a character fantasizes briefly about a ghost giving him oral pleasure and another where a possessed woman writhes around and says "I want you inside me" to a male character, who laughs it off. Keep an eye out for two male characters who aggressively pursue women and cross professional and physical boundaries; their behavior is played for laughs and even presented as romantic, at least for the main character. Two Ghostbusters do a lot of smoking, often dangling a cigarette out of their mouths while trying to catch ghosts. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Ivan Reitman's movie succeeds in combining comedy, action, and some scary stuff. Although Ghostbusters has some frightening moments -- and its "boys will be boys" handling of romance holds up extremely poorly -- Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis provide enough comic relief to lighten the fears. Considering its 1984 release date, the film's special effects are impressive, though today's kids may find them eye-roll-inducing. Younger kids might need their eyes covered during scary moments, and post-viewing conversations about what constitutes sexual harassment would not go amiss.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.