TIME movies

When Ghostbusters Came Out 30 Years Ago, Reviews Were Scarily Mixed

Ghostbusters
Archive Photos / Columbia Pictures / Getty Images

Critics couldn't agree on who they were going to call

This weekend, on the 30th anniversary of its June 8, 1984, release, Ghostbusters is a pretty uncontroversial movie to love. It’s got highly recognizable comedians, catchphrases, a theme song, huge amounts of money earned and a 96% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s even getting a theatrical re-release this summer and there’s a third installment in the works.

But when Ghostbusters first materialized into theaters, not everyone could predict that it would have such spooky staying power.

The New York Times was pretty firmly against it:

Put Mr. Murray in any setting where order, tidiness and rationality are taken seriously, and he becomes the consummate anarchic slob; that’s enough to keep ”Ghostbusters” going, like ”Stripes” and ”Meatballs” before it. But Mr. Murray would be even more welcome if his talents were used in the service of something genuinely witty and coherent, rather than as an end in themselves.

Variety didn’t even bother to get the title (one word!) correct:

Ghost Busters is a lavishly produced ($32 million) but only intermittently impressive all-star comedy lampoon of supernatural horror films.

The Globe and Mail was sure it would be forgotten:

As summer twaddle, Ghostbusters is perfectly okay — you may enjoy it and then find you have forgotten it
before your theatre seat has had a chance to snap back into place

The Miami Herald, too:

But Aykroyd and company are now movie stars, so we get a Ghostbusters that is both long and expensive. Actually, it’s no longer than the average movie; it just seems so because it drags until its climactic ectoplasmic confrontation gets rolling. Make no mistake: Ghostbusters is sometimes very funny. You’ll laugh a lot. You’ll also probably find your attention wandering during the slow spots in this strange hybrid of a movie, neither all-out parody nor play-it-straight comedy.

The Washington Post was just plain bored:

Opening today at area theaters, “Ghostbusters” leaves itself at the mercy of far more specialized, lavish pictorial elaboration than one wants in a smartly cast comedy vehicle. The effort to incorporate supernatural spectacles may have lifted the production costs into the stratosphere (I’ve heard an estimate of $35 million), but outside of an omnivorous little green spirit found gorging himself on hotel food and the wonderfully silly specter of a gigantic marshmallow man, it’s debatable if the effects make a difference in the humor. Indeed, in some respects, they’ve grown dreadfully predictable; you feel as if you’ve been watching the same demons and ominous electrical storms rattle around for the past decade, from “The Exorcist” through “Poltergeist.”

But, not to toot our own horns, someone got it right. Here’s what TIME had to say:

Whoever thought of having evil’s final manifestation take the form of a 100-ft. marshmallow deserves the rational mind’s eternal gratitude. But praise is due to everyone connected with Ghostbusters for thinking on a grandly comic scale and delivering the goofy goods, neatly timed and perfectly packaged.

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