Ghost (1990 film)

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Ghost (1990 movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jerry Zucker
Produced by Lisa Weinstein
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin
Starring Patrick Swayze
Demi Moore
Whoopi Goldberg
Tony Goldwyn
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Walter Murch
Distributed by Paramount Pictures[1]
Release dates
  • July 13, 1990 (1990-07-13)
Running time
126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $505.7 million

Ghost is a 1990 American romantic fantasy film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Tony Goldwyn, and Whoopi Goldberg. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker.[2] The plot centers on a young woman in jeopardy (Moore) and the ghost of her murdered lover (Swayze), who tries to save her with the help of a reluctant psychic (Goldberg).

The film was an outstanding commercial success, grossing over $505.7 million at the box office on a budget of $22 million.[3] It was the highest-grossing film of 1990.[4] Adjusted for inflation, as of 2015 Ghost was the 93rd-highest-grossing film of all time domestically.[5]

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Score and Best Film Editing. It won the awards for Best Supporting Actress for Goldberg and Best Original Screenplay. Swayze and Moore both received Golden Globe Award nominations for their performances, while Goldberg won the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Saturn Awards in addition to the Oscar.


Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) and Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) are a young couple in love who are in the process of renovating an apartment in New York City as the film begins, as they are taking a step by moving in together. However, Molly cannot get Sam to say he loves her when she says the same to him.

Sam, an executive at a Manhattan bank, discovers unusually high balances in obscure bank accounts. His colleague and close friend Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn) offers to assist him in investigating things but Sam will not allow him to. That night, while walking home, Sam and Molly are mugged by a street thug who pulls a gun and demand's Sam's wallet. Sam struggles with the attacker and is shot. After pursuing the street thug, Sam runs back to Molly who is crying over his body. He suddenly realizes that his soul has left his body, and that he has become a ghost.

Later on, the mugger returns to the apartment looking for more information. Sam is able to spook his and Molly's cat into scaring the mugger away, then follows him back to his apartment in Brooklyn where he discovers the man's name is Willy Lopez. He then comes across the business of a con artist named Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), who is running a psychic scheme claiming she can communicate with the dead. An unimpressed Sam makes a sarcastic remark about Oda Mae, who hears him. Now knowing that her ability to communicate with the dead is real, Sam tries to get her to help him warn Molly of the danger she is in. After keeping her up all night by singing, Oda Mae finally obliges.

The next day, Oda Mae tells Molly what Sam said, but when she follows up with the local police she discovers just how much of a con artist Oda Mae is. She talks to Carl about the meeting, and he decides to head to Brooklyn to talk to Willy. As Sam follows and watches Carl talk to Willy, he discovers the truth about his murder. Carl had set up the accounts Sam had been investigating to engage in money laundering, and hired Willy to steal Sam's wallet so he could get the password for his computer (although he never intended for Sam to die).

Meanwhile, Sam decides to seek out a mentally unstable poltergeist (Vincent Schiavelli) that he met during his earlier travels through the city as a ghost. Since the poltergeist has the ability to make objects move, Sam asks him to teach him his methods. It takes some time, but Sam is able to master them and uses his newfound ability to monitor Carl's actions more closely. After learning the name Carl is hiding the money under, Sam convinces Oda Mae to go to the bank posing as "Rita Miller" to withdraw the funds and close the account and then give the balance, totalling four million dollars, to charity. When Carl discovers what Sam has done, he nearly loses his mind. He gets even more upset when Sam starts to toy with him in the office, so much so that he goes to Molly asking about Oda Mae. Molly tells him that she had been at the bank earlier as Oda Mae was leaving and drops the name "Rita Miller" to Carl.

Knowing now what happened, Carl heads back to Brooklyn to find Willy. Realizing what they plan to do, Sam goes to Oda Mae's apartment to try to intercept them. He is able to get them to safety before Willy can get into the apartment, then terrorizes his killer to the point where he runs out into the street screaming. Willy is then killed by oncoming traffic, and the shadows he left behind come to life as demonic figures to carry him to Hell.

Oda Mae and Sam head back to the apartment, where Sam is able to convince Molly that Oda Mae can actually communicate with the dead. Oda Mae even allows him to use her body so he can share a private moment with his lover. The happy times are interrupted, however, by a now-infuriated Carl, who has returned looking for the money. The women escape to a loft above the apartment while Sam is violently thrown from Oda Mae's body and temporarily loses his power.

Carl makes his way to the loft and catches up to the women. Before he can shoot Oda Mae, Sam recovers his strength and begins to fight back. Holding Molly at gunpoint, Carl demands Sam give him the money back. Sam continues to fight, and a desperate Carl swings a huge metal hook in his direction. The hook swings back toward a window, shattering it into a mess of shards, and as Carl tries to escape the window falls and the broken glass pierces his stomach and kills him. Sam can only shake his head in disappointment as the shadow demons come for Carl as well.

Checking on the women, Sam discovers that Molly can hear him now as well. He then becomes illuminated in a heavenly light, which makes him visible to Oda Mae and Molly. Free now to cross into Heaven, Sam bids Oda Mae and Molly good-bye, but not before kissing Molly one more time and finally telling her he loves her before crossing over.



The music for Ghost was written by veteran composer Maurice Jarre. The soundtrack also contained use of the 1955 song "Unchained Melody", composed by Alex North with lyrics by Hy Zaret, which appears in both instrumental form and the 1965 recording by The Righteous Brothers. Jarre's score was nominated for the 1990 Academy Award for Best Original Score, though it lost to John Barry's work for Dances with Wolves.[6]

The soundtrack album was issued on Milan Records (and licenced to Varèse Sarabande for North American release); it was subsequently reissued in 1995 with two extra tracks, and later as part of Milan's Silver Screen Edition series with the extra tracks and an interview with Maurice Jarre.


Box office[edit]

The film was a huge box-office success, grossing $505,702,588 on a budget of $22,000,000.[7][8][9][10] It was the highest-grossing film of 1990.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Ghost has received generally favorable reviews and has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 65 critics.[11][12][13] It has a score of 53 on the review site Metacritic, indicating mixed or average reviews.[14] The film has been criticized for featuring the Magical Negro stereotype with Oda Mae Brown.[15] However, in spite of this, Goldberg's performance was highly praised. Janet Maslin in her review for The New York Times comments, "Ms. Goldberg plays the character's amazement, irritation and great gift for back talk to the hilt. This is one of those rare occasions on which the uncategorizable Ms. Goldberg has found a film role that really suits her, and she makes the most of it."[16] Goldberg went on to win the Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe for her performance.


American Film Institute lists
Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Picture Lisa Weinstein Nominated
Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
Best Film Editing Walter Murch Nominated
Best Original Score Maurice Jarre Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Bruce Joel Rubin Won
BAFTA Award Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Whoopi Goldberg Won
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Won
Best Actor – Musical or Comedy Patrick Swayze Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Demi Moore Nominated
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Lisa Weinstein Nominated

Musical adaptation and parodies[edit]

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, in one of the most famous scenes from the movie[20]

The film has inspired a musical stage version, Ghost the Musical. The show had its world premiere in Manchester, England, in March 2011[21] before transferring to London from June 2011 and having its premiere on July 19, 2011.[22] Richard Fleeshman created the role of Sam, with Caissie Levy as Molly and Sharon D. Clarke as Oda Mae Brown. The success of the West End production led to a Broadway transfer in March 2012. This run was short-lived however, closing August 2012. Subsequently, the original production closed on October 6, 2012. A national tour of United Kingdom launched in April 2013, with a tour of the United States also announced.

The pottery wheel scene is very well known[20] and often parodied, with examples occuring in In Living Color ("Ghost II: Sammy Davis, Jr.'s Spirit"), Two and a Half Men,[23] Saturday Night Live, Family Guy ("The Story on Page One" and "Baby Not on Board"), All's Well, Ends Well, Naked Gun 2½ (directed by David Zucker, brother of director Jerry Zucker), Loaded Weapon 1, The Penguins of Madagascar, Futurama ("Bendless Love" and "Bender's Game"), Community ("Beginner Pottery"), Victorious ("Survival of the Hottest"), Wallace and Gromit ("A Matter of Loaf and Death"), 6teen ("Unhappy Anniversary"), Ellen ("Alone Again ... Naturally"), Glee ("Girls (and Boys) On Film"), Bob's Burgers, and 30 Rock ("Governor Dunston").


  • DVD
    • Region 1: 24 April 2001
    • Region 2: 11 December 2001
  • Blu-ray: 30 December 2008


In November 13, 2010, Paramount and Shochiku released a Japanese remake of Ghost, titled Ghost: In Your Arms Again (ゴースト もういちど抱きしめたい Gōsuto Mouichido Dakishimetai?).[24] The remake stars Nanako Matsushima and South Korean actor Song Seung-heon, along with veteran actress Kirin Kiki.[25] In this film, the ghost is a woman, played by Matsushima.

TV series[edit]

In November 2013, it was announced that Paramount Television is developing a television series adaptation of Ghost, with Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner writing the pilot.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cieply, Michael; Easton, Nina J. (1990-09-11). "Paramount Reels in Power Struggle After Hits, Misses". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  2. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (1990-07-13). "Director Leaves Laughs Behind to Capture Spirit of 'Ghost' : Movies: A suspense drama about the afterlife is the last film you'd expect from Jerry Zucker, one of the crazy guys who dreamed up 'Airplane!'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  3. ^ "Ghost (1990) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "1990 Worldwide Grosses". Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Clemmensen, Christian. "Ghost soundtrack review". Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-07-17). "'Ghost' Performing Solidly at the Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  8. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-07-25). "'Ghost': Sentimental Choice as Summer Hit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  9. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (1990-08-07). "'Ghost' Tops Box Office Again". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  10. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1990-09-05). "Hollywood's Summer of Love : Romantic 'Ghost' Outguns Macho Movies to Become Season's Biggest Hit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  11. ^ "Ghost". Variety. 1989-12-31. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  12. ^ "Ghost". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  13. ^ "Immaterial Affections". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  14. ^ "Ghost Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  15. ^ Gabbard, Krin (2004). Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 154. ISBN 0-8135-3383-X. OCLC 53215708. 
  16. ^ "Ghost(1990)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  18. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  19. ^ American Film Institute. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  20. ^ a b Cox, Gordon (2009-03-06). "'Ghost' getting musical treatment". Variety. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  21. ^ "GHOST The Musical – About - Opening in Manchester 28 March 2011". Retrieved 2011-01-09. 
  22. ^ "Ghost The Musical announces Manchester dates pre-West End". The Stage. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  23. ^ "Kutcher parodies Demi’s iconic ‘Ghost’ pottery scene". New York Post. 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  24. ^ Shiso (2010-11-14). "Japanese Remake of Ghost to Be Released in 5 Different Countries". Tokyohive. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  25. ^ Fischer, Russ (2010-06-09). "Paramount to Remake Ghost in Japan". Slashfilm. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  26. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2013-11-12). "Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner To Adapt Movie ‘Ghost’ As Series For Paramount TV". Deadline. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 

External links[edit]