Movies

'Ghostbusters' turns 30: Revisit film's supernatural wisdom

June 6, 2014 at 12:52 PM ET

Who you gonna call when you need some serious life advice? These guys, if you're smart. It’s been 30 years since Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore saved the world from ectoplasmic destruction, and we’re still finding nuggets of wisdom in their supernatural comedy. Below are a few of our favorite lessons. Discover more when "Ghostbusters" marks its milestone anniversary with a limited return to theaters Aug. 29.

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures
Aim high! Inspiring messages abound in "Ghostbusters."

Lesson 1: Believe in your own potential
In today’s startup culture, we all could use some of Venkman’s entrepreneurial hustle. Early in the film he eagerly describes his plans for a company built on “professional paranormal investigations and eliminations” that “will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.” The hitch is finding a headquarters. “I think this building should be condemned,” Egon (Harold Ramis) tells Bill Murray’s Venkman when a real estate agent shows them a ramshackle dwelling. “There’s serious metal fatigue in all the load-bearing members, the wiring is substandard, it’s completely inadequate for our power needs, and the neighborhood is like a demilitarized zone.” Venkman, though, is unswayed in his vision. “I think we’ll take it,” he announces.

Lesson 2. Know your worth — and how to fight for it
The three founding Ghostbusters enjoy an early win when they trap Slimer in the dining room of a snooty New York hotel. Flush with victory, Venkman bursts into the lobby. “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” he shouts. That’s a smart strategy in itself — showing you’re a results-driven team player is a proven way to move up in the workplace. Still, the miserly hotel manager balks at their $5,000 fee. “That’s all right,” Venkman counters. “We can just put (Slimer) right back in there.” As Ray (Dan Aykroyd) starts to carry the smoking trap back to the dining room, the manager relents. “No, no!” he yells. “All right.” Sometimes you gotta play hardball.

Image: Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett in "Ghostbusters"
Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection
Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) experimented with a bold new look and personality, but Peter Venkman wanted the old Dana.

Lesson 3. Accept change in others
Venkman learns this the hard way when he shows up at the apartment of Ghostbusters client Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) for a date — and discovers she’s been possessed by a paranormal being. Dana answers the door looking febrile and distant, draped in a peculiar dress. “Are we still going out?” Venkman asks uncertainly. Dana informs Venkman there is no Dana; there is only Zuul. Yet Venkman continues to ask for Dana, calling Zuul a “nut” and telling her to “just relax.” Bad move, buddy. With eyes rolled back, Zuul levitates from the bed, writhing and snarling in fury as Venkman stands helplessly to the side. Fact is, everyone — even the Gatekeeper — needs to feel supported in a relationship.

Lesson 4: Leverage little white lies
When Gozer the Destructor alights on Dana’s roof, Ray tries to rein her in with a warning: “I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension!” Nice try, but Gozer doesn’t heed just anybody. “Are you a god?” she asks. Ray meekly answers no. “Then DIE!” she growls, nearly knocking the four Ghostbusters off the roof with bolts of purple body lightning. Winston (Ernie Hudson) offers Ray a tip as the four clamor back from the brink: “When someone asks if you are a god, you say YES!” Also handy when someone asks if you made that cherry pie from scratch.

Image: Mr. Stay Puft in "Ghostbusters"
Ronald Grant / Columbia Pictures
Mr. Stay Puft is sweet, adorable, and all too happy to wipe out civilization.

Lesson 5: Never assume based on looks
Following her battle with the Ghostbusters, Gozer informs the crew she will reappear in a new form and destroy the world, embodying whatever thing they think of next. Seconds later the earth begins to quake under the heavy footfall of a baby-faced marshmallow colossus. What the…? "I tried to think of the most harmless thing,” Ray explains tearfully. “Something I loved from my childhood, something that could never ever possibly destroy us: Mr. Stay Puft!” Few assumptions have been so wrong: The chuckling mascot stomps up Manhattan’s West Side, crushing cars, sidewalks, even a church — proof that even the sweetest-looking creatures can commit terrible acts.

Lesson 6: Don’t cross the streams
Until you have to.


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