The Ghostbusters have been doing their paranormal duties for nearly 40 years. Released during Hollywood’s 1984 hot streak, Ghostbusters became an instant classic that has inspired several iterations, some better than others.
Here is our ranking of everything in the Ghostbusters franchise, from the ghoulish missteps to the eternal successes.
This ill-fated reboot of your favorite NYC-based spectral expungers brought a promising cast of comic actors together for an entry that haunts the Ghostbusters franchise.
The film brings together a new team of female Ghostbusters composed of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.
After years of struggling to pull Ghostbusters 3 together, Columbia Pictures opted to reboot the franchise. The female cast drew polarized responses even before the film’s release, but its high-profile cast carried promise.
Upon its release, Ghostbusters became a box office bomb that derailed the studio’s reboot plans.
This movie is probably not as bad as most like to say; it has a cast led by some of Hollywood’s funniest actors, but its script fails to capture the magic. It has its moments, but on the whole, this reboot is better off staying buried.
Extreme Ghostbusters (1997 series)
In the late 90s, Extreme Ghostbusters emerged as an edgier animated follow-up to the 80s’ The Real Ghostbusters series. It follows a new team of college-aged Ghostbusters mentored by original team member Egon Spengler.
The show is made for children, but it pushes the boundaries of kid-friendly cartoons. Some critics praised the show for its fearlessness in the kids’ horror market, but the show ultimately failed.
Many argue that programming missteps set the show up for failure, making Extreme Ghostbusters an interesting but unpopular take on the classic concept.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
The first true sequel to Ghostbusters was… well, a bust. Though it fails to reach the heights of the original, Ghostbusters II still has some fun to offer.
Ghostbusters II begins with the team out of business. After being sued for damage to New York City during the climactic events of the original film five years prior, the gang reunites to stop a malevolent force brewing beneath the city, a pink slime fueled by pervasive human negativity that is empowering sinister spirits.
The balance of humor, horror, and sarcasm that the first film strikes so deftly is traded in for a broader, more family-friendly approach in the sequel. It was received as a critical and box office failure, halting the franchise dead in its tracks for years.
It is a bit of a letdown compared to the first film, but Ghostbusters II is still well worth a watch.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
After the 2016 fiasco, the Ghostbusters franchise was wayward for a few years. The story shifted directions again, bringing in original director Ivan Reitman’s son, Jason Reitman, to carry on his father’s legacy.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows the grandchildren of Egon Spengler as they discover their ghost-busting roots and resume their father’s work in protecting the world from the return of Gozer. The film updates the franchise for the 21st century while blending heart, humor, and horror into a fresh take on the source material that honors its roots.
The film made about $204 million during its theatrical run, enough to make a profit against its $75 million production budget. A follow up to Afterlife is in the works that will continue the Ghostbusters legacy and bring its characters back to their New York City home.
The Real Ghostbusters (1986 series)
The Real Ghostbusters delivers genuine fun, making it one of the best works to come out of the Ghostbusters franchise. Though it dials back the more adult elements of the film that spawned, the series manages to capture the spirit character dynamics that made the original so beloved.
With a fun cast of zany ghost villains, The Real Ghostbusters was a perfect way to scratch the itch between the first Ghostbusters and its sequel. It provided thrills and high stakes while never losing its comedic bent, making it a beloved addition to a lineup of cartoon classics that endures in the hearts of fans to this day.
Who you gonna call? The original, of course.
The original Ghostbusters was a cultural phenomenon that put classic quotes and images into the zeitgeist forever. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script together, but struggled for a while to get anyone on board with their vision. Eventually, Ivan Reitman boarded the project to direct.
The risk was well worth the reward. Ghostbusters walks a tightrope of action, horror, and comedy that makes it a film of pure fun. This lighting-in-a-bottle film is what the franchise has been aspiring to ever since.
It raked in piles of money, but the cultural impact it continues to have is what makes Ghostbusters a true success.