No, the highest-grossing film of 1984 wasn't Gremlins, Karate Kid, or Purple Rain. It wasn't even the year's most hotly anticipated sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Rather, the scrappy supernatural comedy Ghostbusters from Stripes director Ivan Reitman came out on top, bringing a horde of sketch comedy veterans (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis) right along with it.
Speaking to EW for the film's 30th anniversary oral history, Reitman, who died in 2022 at age 75, reflected proudly on the production of the Ghostbusters. "It was one of those lucky experiences where everything just turned out to be right, and the mixture of actors turned out to be really magical together."
Now, after 1989's sequel, 2016's women-led reboot, and 2021's less-than-satisfactory Afterlife revival (plus another on the way), EW is following up with the actors of the original sci-fi blockbuster. Here's what the Ghostbusters cast has been up to between all of those cameo appearances.
Bill Murray (Dr. Peter Venckman)
Bill Murray began his storied career with Second City and the National Lampoon Radio Hour before making himself known to national audiences on Saturday Night Live. Film roles in Meatballs (1979, Caddyshack (1980), and Stripes (1981) cemented his cinematic credentials, but it was Ghostbusters that blew the actor (and the film itself) into the box-office stratosphere.
"Basically we were fortunate to have the greatest comic leading man of our generation come on and see the appeal of it and carry the ball right down and win the game for us," costar and screenwriter Dan Aykroyd told EW. "There would've been no success without Murray. We don't do these things alone, but I credit 50 percent of the success of that whole adventure to him, and we'll never see the likes of it again."
In the immediate aftermath of Ghostbusters, Murray took a dramatic turn with 1984's The Razor's Edge (which he also wrote), and made his musical debut in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) opposite Rick Moranis. After co-directing 1990's Quick Change, he gave a seminal performance in Ghostbuster scribe Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day (1993). He later breathed new life into his career with a key supporting role in Wes Anderson's second feature, Rushmore (1998). The actor has since appeared in every subsequent Anderson film (including as the title character in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), with the exception of the director's most recent work, the pleasant if frenetic sci-fi comedy Asteroid City (2023).
Murray continued to work with some of the most compelling directors of the 21st century, receiving an Oscar nomination for his textured turn in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003) and headlining Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers (2005). The actor made a round of creative reunions with roles in Jarmusch's inert The Dead Don't Die (2019), Coppola's On the Rocks (2020), and Anderson's byzantine The French Dispatch (2021).
Murray has long held a reputation for being hard to work with, which culminated in 2022 when production halted on the film set of Being Mortal following allegations against him for inappropriate conduct. Many actors, including Geena Davis and Seth Green, have since come forward with stories of alleged misconduct by Murray. Regardless of the negative press, his career has trotted onward with a Marvel debut in 2023's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and plans to join the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel.
Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett)
Sigourney Weaver got her start onstage at Yale before making her screen debut through a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in Annie Hall (1977). Just two years later, she would headline one of the most influential sci-fi and horror films of all time: Ridley Scott's Alien. Weaver returned as her iconic character Ellen Ripley for three sequels and even scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination for James Cameron's 1986 follow-up, Aliens. Then, she surprised everyone with a pivot toward comedy by playing Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters.
"Comedy actually was what I felt I did best, but after Alien, no one could imagine that I could be funny," Weaver told EW. "I'd been offered an Andy Kaufman project about two robots that fall in love, and I was so excited to work with him. But my agent convinced me that the script just wasn't good enough, so I had sort of tearfully let that go. So with Ghostbusters — which was brilliant and so funny and so full of heart — I was really determined."
And her determination paid off. Now regarded as one of cinema's most talented and versatile actors, Weaver has worked across genres (and budgets) over the last three decades and accumulated accolades from all corners of the industry. She played a back-stabbing boss in Working Girl (1988), a chilly (pardon the pun) suburban housewife in The Ice Storm (1997), an actor on an intergalactic mission in Galaxy Quest (1999), and half of a mother-daughter con artist team in the dark comedy Heartbreakers (2001), among many other films.
Then came her turn as Dr. Grace Augustine in 2009's Avatar, adding yet another seminal sci-fi franchise to her jam-packed resume. She remarkably returned to the 2022 sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, as the teenage daughter of her past character, Dr. Augustine, who has been adopted into the Na'vi community. Alongside the cast of young actors playing other alien youths, Weaver trained in parkour, holding her breath, and underwater sign language so that she could accurately perform the film's extensive demands during shooting.
In 2023, Weaver was the best part of Paul Schrader's low-stakes revenge drama Master Gardener, locating a wit and spice within the role that eludes the rest of the material. She has two further Avatar sequels on the horizon (in 2025 and 2029, respectively), as well as Scott Derrickson's upcoming action-romance for Apple TV+, The Gorge.
Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz)
Dan Aykroyd made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live as one of the original writers and performers. Prior to crafting the idea for Ghostbusters, he had worked with Steven Spielberg in 1941 (1979) and starred alongside longtime collaborator John Belushi in The Blues Brothers (1980), which he also wrote based on the pair's iconic SNL characters. The group was a genuine musical act as well, with real tours and albums. He continued his hot streak as a sought-after comedian, notably sparring with Eddie Murphy in Trading Places (1983) before writing and starring in Ghostbusters — but he couldn't have pulled it off on his own.
"Without Ivan [Reitman] and Harold [Ramis], [the script] would've had no shape," Aykroyd told EW. "Ivan did a good job of taking my whole throughline, as Harold encouraged us to do, and keep it alive: the industrial-hazard aspect of cleaning these spirits up and making sure that they don't bother us here in this dimension. That was the throughline: This is a tough job. That's why they smoke cigarettes — not because I'm promoting smoking. These guys were under stress, and I wanted to show the stress of being ghost cleaners, what it really would be like."
After many more comedy ventures, Aykroyd flexed his dramatic chops as Boolie Werthan in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He then made his directorial debut in 1991's Nothing But Trouble (a wonderfully demented horror-comedy), but things began to falter with critical failures like Coneheads (1993) and other high-profile misses (see: Celtic Pride, My Fellow Americans, the what-were-they-thinking spectacle of Blues Brothers 2000). Granted, Aykroyd still had a few hits during the '90s: Tommy Boy is solid, Grosse Pointe Blank is a classic that perhaps features his performance, and who among us had dry eyes during My Girl?
Aykroyd continued acting in the new millennium with a string of roles that accentuated his natural, present energy and often left him standing out from his costars. He appeared as a military captain in the bombastic romance Pearl Harbor (2001), as the father to Britney Spears in Crossroads (2002), and in the Terence Davies adaptation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth (2000). In a more predictable role, Aykroyd played a political official in Reitman's Evolution (2001), a spiritual successor to Ghostbusters that is a good deal of fun on its own.
In the last decade, Aykroyd has acted in Steven Soderbergh's Liberace picture Behind the Candelabra (2013), in the Melissa McCarthy vehicle Tammy (2014), and in the James Brown biopic Get on Up (2014) starring Chadwick Boseman. He will return for the Afterlife sequel, as well.
Harold Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler)
Like his costar Rick Moranis, the late Harold Ramis got his start in the early days of Second City Television (SCTV). For a time, Ramis was replaced in the cast by John Belushi before he found a niche as Belushi's sidekick. This began his historically fruitful and eventually rocky relationship with Bill Murray, as the two comedians were recruited by Belushi to work for the National Lampoon Radio Hour.
Ramis wrote the screenplays for the films Meatballs (1979) and Stripes (1981), which were both huge early vehicles for Murray's silver screen clout. The pair also collaborated in 1980 with Ramis' directorial debut, the seminal snobs vs. slobs comedy Caddyshack. He then directed (the Murray-free) National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). While Ramis enjoyed previous acting roles in some of his directing and writing ventures, his turn in Ghostbusters as Big Brain Dr. Egon Spengler remains his most culturally iconic. And, of course, he penned an incredible script with costar Dan Aykroyd.
But Ramis' best output is hands-down Groundhog Day (1993), the greatest time-loop comedy of all time. It's a terrific film that still holds up, but it led to a catastrophic falling out between Murray and Ramis that was only patched just before Ramis died in 2014 at age 69.
After Groundhog Day, Ramis directed a string of modest comedies, some of which (Multiplicity, Analyze This, The Ice Harvest) were better, or at least more interesting, than others (Analyze That, Year One, that woeful remake of Bedazzled, which no amount of nostalgia nor retrospect will render whole).
Ramis enjoyed a few film roles in his later years, including a supporting part in As Good as It Gets (1997), an amusing cameo in Orange County (2002), and playing Seth Rogen's dad in Knocked Up (2007), which is still the best of those Judd Apatow lad-with-a-bong comedies. Even so, he'll always be best remembered for his stunning contributions to comedy across decades.
"With his sly, Cheshire cat grin and twinkling, half-mast eyes hidden behind owlish glasses, Harold Ramis always gave the impression of a guy who was guarding the punchline to the world's funniest joke," wrote EW's critic in a tribute following the star's death. "After all, if anyone had the merry-prankster genius to conceive it, polish it into a jeweler-precise gem, and deliver it with crack comic timing, it was Ramis."
Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore)
Ernie Hudson had previously worked with director Ivan Reitman on 1983's Spacehunter before netting the role of Winston, a sort of everyman who gets swept up fighting the supernatural in Ghostbusters.
"I get a lot of — not just Black kids — but a lot of minority kids who will come up to me and go, 'Oh, we're so thankful because it was the first big blockbuster movie and there was a black character and he didn't embarrass us,'" Hudson told EW in 2019. "Just having him be there and be one of the guys, that meant a lot to them … I get that a lot."
After returning for the sequel and starring in the 1989 sci-fi horror film Leviathan, the actor worked steadily throughout the '90s with turns in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), The Crow (1994), Airheads (1994), The Basketball Diaries (1995), and Congo (1995). Yet it was after starring as Warden Leo Glynn on HBO's Oz (1997–2003) that Hudson's career really began to soar.
Since then, he's enjoyed extended arcs on series like Desperate Housewives, The Family Business, Grace and Frankie, and more. Hudson has also stacked up over 50 feature film roles, including 2023's genial sports comedy Champions and the recent Ghostbusters reboots. He'll also be returning for the upcoming Afterlife sequel.
Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz)
After netting a Golden Globe nomination for her film debut in 1978's Corvette Summer (opposite Mark Hamill), Annie Potts joined the cast of Ghostbusters, played the ultimate Cool Girl record store clerk in Pretty in Pink (1986), and essayed her most iconic role as barbed single-mother Mary Jo Shively on Designing Women (1986–1993). She remained active in television with an Emmy-nominated role in the CBS sitcom Love & War (1993–1995) and earned a SAG nod for her turn in Lifetime's Any Day Now (1998–2002).
Even though she's acted in her fair share of comedic roles before and since Ghostbusters, the film's singular off-beat style and improvised delivery make it stand out to Potts decades later. "It was a very unique property and I think everybody saw that," she told EW. "Even with Bill and Ivan's success, it was like, 'What is this? A comedy? Sci-fi?' It was almost unclassifiable. I'd never seen anything like it. I thought, this is just going to be totally awesome or totally awful."
Aside from appearances in every subsequent Ghostbusters picture to date (including as a separate character in Paul Feig's 2016 reboot), Potts has kept busy while voicing Bo Peep in the Toy Story movies (excluding the third film) and playing the grandmother in Young Sheldon. Though she currently has no upcoming projects, we hope she'll come back for the Afterlife sequel — and be given more to do than her somewhat regressive cameo in the 2021 installment.
Rick Moranis (Louis Tully)
Before he played Louis Tully, Rick Moranis was already a celebrated disc jockey and television personality in Canada. As one of the (several) breakout stars of SCTV, he and costar Dave Thomas became widely known as their respective on-screen personas, Bob and Doug McKenzie. A year before Ghostbusters hit theaters, Moranis made his film debut in Strange Brew, a feature-length McKenzie brothers adventure. His other notable acting credits include Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Spaceballs (1987) and Parenthood (1989).
Outside of Ghostbusters and its immediate sequel, Moranis is famous for his turn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) as family-man inventor Wayne Szalinksi, whose gadgets often bear tragic repercussions for his loved ones (the nature of which you can guess based on the title). It was followed by two franchise films: the appallingly titled Honey, I Blew up the Kid (1992) and the comparatively tame-sounding Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997).
In 1997, Moranis announced that he was taking a hiatus from the industry to raise his two children after his wife, Ann Belsky, died of cancer. In the meantime, he took on a few voice-acting gigs in projects like Brother Bear (2003). Fans were nevertheless disappointed to learn that he wouldn't return for a cameo in the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot along with other original cast members. "I wish them well," Moranis told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. "I hope it's terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?"
After sporadic guest spots in film and television during the early aughts, Moranis appeared alongside Ryan Reynolds for a 2020 Mint Mobile advert. The same year, he announced that he would be reprising his role as Wayne for a new Honey film, tentatively titled Shrunk with Josh Gad. As of 2022, the project is still in development.
William Atherton (Walter Peck)
Perhaps best known for his role as the morally debauched television reporter Richard Thornburg in Die Hard (1988), William Atherton began his career with appearances in '70s titles such as The Day of the Locust (1975) and The Sugarland Express (1974), the latter of which was Steven Spielberg's debut theatrical feature.
After appearing as supercilious EPA company man Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, Atherton completed his trilogy of goofy comedies with Real Genius (1985) and Bio-Dome (1996). Recently, the actor had small parts in movies like the Tom Cruise epic The Last Samurai (2003) and the distasteful "psychological thriller" (read: torture porn of the lowest sort) The Girl Next Door (2007).
He will return as Walter Peck in the forthcoming sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife.