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Ghostbusters Movies Ranked Worst To Best

The "Ghostbusters" film series, which started with "Ghostbusters" in 1984, is really two different sets of films in a quartet. The original box office smash directed by Ivan Reitman and written by stars Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd was followed by "Ghostbusters II" five years later, a self-titled remake in 2016, and 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," which continues the original story over 30 years later. Unlike the more direct movie franchises that follow one sequel after the next, here is a series that evolved across four decades.

Paul Feig's 2016 reimaging was a step forward for diversity as it featured an all-female cast replacing the all-male cast of the original feature. But returning to the original canon of films proved to be the best step forward for the fourth entry in the series, which proved to be successful since it is getting a sequel. Since different generations have now been around to experience the set of four, it is worth pondering which entries are the best and worst? Grab your P.K.E. Meters as we investigate and rank each movie from worst to best.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

The sequel to the first movie in the franchise is not a terrible film; it's just not as exciting of a story as was told in the debut movie. "Ghostbusters II" arrived in theaters in the last year of the 1980s, and recreated many of the quirky moments that were first seen in "Ghostbusters." It currently holds the lowest rating of the quartet on IMDb with a 6.6 out of 10 based on user reviews, and critic reviews aren't much better.

Jonathan Rosenbaum of The Chicago Reader said of the sequel, "There's very little energy in the follow-through, and this time [Bill] Murray's listlessness seems more anemic than comic." Although Murray is just as comical with his return to Peter Venkman as seen in the original, the movie does suffer from a more slowed-down supernatural plot this time around. Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg) is not nearly as fun as Gozer (Slavitza Jovan) or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from "Ghostbusters," but the cast and writing are the movie's redeeming features – the soundtrack is another standout.

Ghostbusters (2016)

After "Ghostbusters II" came and went from theaters, it would be another 27 years before the film series was revived – but this time, it would be a reboot instead of a second direct sequel. Paul Feig, who previously directed "Bridesmaids," co-wrote the screenplay with Kattie Dipold and directed an all-new story that featured an all-female cast in place of the four male Ghostbusters from the '80s movies. Melissa McCarthy (Dr. Abby Yates), Kate McKinnon (Dr. Jillian "Holtz" Holtzman), Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan), and Kristen Wiig (Dr. Erin Gilbert) all gave hilarious performances despite some glaring plot holes.

No matter how misguided the backlash was against the casting of women in the lead roles –- which Leslie Jones spoke about at length –- the feature's problems come down to a feeling of deja-vu when villain Dr. Rowan North goes on his rampage (another giant supernatural kaiju attacking the city). It's not nearly as bad as some toxic viewers would have someone believe, but it's not top-tier Ghostbusters lore either thanks to how it virtually rehashed the narrative of the first movie for the 21st century.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is, in many ways, the reboot that the 2016 feature should have been. It takes the action out of New York City for the first time and moves to the wide-open spaces of Oklahoma, where we focus on the family of the now-deceased Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), who dies in the opening scenes. His daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and grandchildren Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) find themselves in over their heads as they move into Egon's farmhouse and discover supernatural hauntings led once again by Gozer (Olivia Wilde).

The movie does suffer from some of the same pitfalls as the previous two entries on this list, as it seemingly recycles plot points from the earlier films. But this time, it is the performances from Grace, Wolfhard, and Coon –- along with comic relief from local teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) –- that add a new dimension to the horror-comedy set up outside of a core of four ghost fighters. But it's the appearances of the three living Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson) from the first two features that add a nice balance between nostalgia and passing the supernatural fighting torch to a new generation.

Ghostbusters (1984)

It is no surprise that the absolute best feature in the "Ghostbusters" film series is the film that started it all nearly 40 years ago. Working from a screenplay from Ramis and Aykroyd, in which the former conceived and the latter reined in from some of its more otherworldly aspects, the final product turned out to be one of 1984's highest-grossing movies. Its catchy soundtrack featured the Oscar-nominated title track from Ray Parker Jr., and the comedy remains one of the most distinctive feature films of the 1980s.

All of this is and was well-deserved simply because "Ghostbusters" tells an incredibly entertaining story. The supporting cast featuring Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett), Rick Moranis (Louis Tully), and Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz) was equally as memorable as the four leads, with Alice Drummond's quirky librarian, William Atherton's sleazy environmental inspector Walter Peck, and David Marguiles' no-nonsense NYC Mayor Lenny Clotch standing out in smaller parts.

According to Vanity Fair, the film was never expected to become the pop culture phenomenon it became, with one mishap after the next nearly ruining the production. But thanks to a hefty dose of comedy, unique gadgets, a giant marshmallow man, and more, "Ghostbusters" still stands the test of time.