Ghost Dad

Bill Cosby ghost movie has some iffy humor, profanity.
  • Review Date: July 9, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1990
  • Running Time: 84 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Through talk and example, the main character learns the importance of putting family over career.

Positive role models

Elliott Hopper learns to put his family ahead of his career.


A man is presumed dead after the cab he is riding in rolls off a bridge after the cabbie drives recklessly throughout the city. A teen girl falls down the stairs after slipping on a pair of roller skates and ends up in a coma in the ER.


A man and a woman are in a bedroom, making references to "afternoon delight" and "performance anxiety."


"Jesus Christ." "Eat s--t." "Crappy." A teen boy calls the house of a teen girl, and when the girl's father answers, he asks him to "put the bitch on the phone." The father, in ghost form, goes through the phone wires and screams the expression at the boy several times.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A ghost pours himself a drink of scotch. He tries to drink it, but it literally goes through him and falls to the floor.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Ghost Dad is a 1990 comedy starring Bill Cosby as a father who, after becoming a ghost after a ludicrous car accident, must learn to put his family ahead of his career. There are some moments of inappropriate behavior -- for instance, after emerging from the car accident seemingly unharmed, a police officer approaches Cosby and urinates on him, because he has now become an invisible ghost. The cab driver who leads Cosby's character to his apparent death behaves like a psychopath, swerving his cab through a series of near-accidents while screaming "Do you worship Satan?" Aside from this, there is occasional profanity ("s--t," "bitch), and a scene where a man and woman hint at having sex while in a bedroom.

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What's the story?

Elliott Hopper (Bill Cosby) is a widower with three kids who has been neglecting his kids for the sake of his career. All this changes when a cab ride with an insane Satanist leads to him falling to his apparent death off a bridge. Hopper emerges as a ghost who can only be seen in the dark. He discovers, via a mad scientist in London named Sir Edith Moser, that he only has two days left to be a ghost before he goes into the afterlife, which is just enough time to close the final deals at work that will insure that he'll have a retirement and pension to provide for his kids' future. Meanwhile, his kids still need help -- his son needs help as an aspiring magician, and his teen daughter is being pursued by a juvenile delinquent. With the help of Moser and his kids, Hopper has one last chance to come back to life and be the dad he knows he should be.

Is it any good?


While some of the clothes and technology haven't exactly aged well, GHOST DAD is a still-enjoyable comedy, due in no small part to Bill Cosby. After playing Cliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show for a number of years before the release of this movie, it wasn't a big stretch for Cosby to play a dad -- even a dad who becomes a ghost -- and he brings his trademark humor and style to the role, and Sidney Poitier's directing brings out the best of the other characters.

There are times when the movie veers into utter absurdity, even by ghost story standards, and some of the humor is a bit iffy for younger kids, but overall the movie is funny. It's pure entertainment, and taken for its own sake, Ghost Dad is a fun movie for older kids and parents.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about ghost stories. How is this movie similar to and different from other ghost movies?

  • What are some aspects of the movie that make it seem a bit dated?

  • As a well-known comedic actor with a unique style, what did Bill Cosby bring to his performance as a "ghost dad?"

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 29, 1990
DVD release date:June 1, 2010
Cast:Bill Cosby, Christine Ebersole, Denise Nicholas
Director:Sidney Poitier
Studio:Universal Studios
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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