Ghostbusters Characters and Cast from the Original, 1989 and 2016 Movies
Who’re you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
With its first film released in 1984, Ghostbusters is a franchise considered as a cultural phenomenon and with a strong existing fan base today. Regardless if you’re a ‘90s kid or have a thing for goofy movies released in the mid-’80s, fans of this franchise are always rooting for its memorable cast of characters as they duke it out with New York City’s most nefarious ghosts. As we steadily approach the June 2020 release date of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we can’t help but look back at the original characters who helped launch the franchise to what it is today. While we don’t cover characters from the 1986 animated series or the 2009 video game in this guide, we bring a blast to the past with the cast from the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie, its sequel Ghostbusters II, and the more recent 2016 Ghostbusters reboot.
Doctor of parapsychology, womanizer, and most importantly, the leader of the Ghostbusters 1984 cast, Peter Venkman is a laid back and blunt scientist who takes the role of protagonist in the first release of the franchise. Portrayed by Bill Murray, Peter Venkman is the least serious about the academic and scientific side of the ghostbusting gig, especially in comparison to his fellow doctor-compatriots. Despite his aloof personality and his antics while on the job, Peter Venkman eventually develops feelings for Dana Barrett within the course of the Ghostbusters film.
Portrayed by Dan Aykroyd, Raymond Stantz, also just known as Ray, is the most enthusiastic of the Ghostbusters. As one of the three doctors of parapsychology, his specialty is paranormal history and metallurgy, or the study of metals and their chemical as well as physical properties. While he doesn’t have Peter Venkman’s charisma or Egon’s smarts, Ray has an outspoken, positive demeanor when it comes to anything related to paranormal activity. Because of his optimistic and cheerful attitude, it’s easy to say that Ray is the heart of the team.
With any movie involving teamwork in an action-packed setting, viewers can typically expect a character who is the brains of the group, and for Ghostbusters, that character is Egon Spengler. Played by Harold Ramis, Egon is the second-in-command of the Ghostbusters and plays an essential role in creating the team’s ghost-butt-kicking equipment with Raymond Stantz. Though the movie script depicts Egon as more maniacal, in the movie itself Egon is shown to be more of a socially awkward parapsychology researcher who focuses primarily on scientific pursuits.
Though Winston Zeddemore would only make an appearance after the Ghostbusters’ business starts to thrive, his character would play an important role in being the voice of reason. Often displaying an ample amount of common sense compared to his fellow teammates, who each have their quirks for the ghostbusting profession, Winston Zeddemore is the no-nonsense fourth member of the Ghostbusters team. Played by Ernie Hudson, Winston Zeddemore is also the only member of the Ghostbusters team to not be explicitly introduced with connections to an educational institution. While we don’t get much of his backstory in the first film, the novelization of the film as well as the 2009 video game provide more details and hints to his background: both pieces of media suggest that he was a former Marine and did studies related to anthropology during his time in college.
One of the first customers of the Ghostbusters and famously played by Sigourney Weaver, Dana Barrett is a single cellist who lives in an apartment building (550 Central Park West), which also happens to be an interdimensional gateway to an evil deity named Gozer the Gozerian. Due to her living circumstances, Dana is the first target of Gozer’s minions. She reaches out to the Ghostbusters for help after a slew of incidents that occur in her apartment and seeing their advertisement on television. However, Peter Venkman’s romantic advances as well as laid back attitude make her question her decision until she is later possessed by Gozier’s gatekeeper, Zuul, who plays an essential role in opening the interdimensional gateway and summoning Gozier back to Earth. While Dana does not make a reappearance in the animated series or the 2009 video game, long-time fans, as well as newer ones, will be pleased to know that Sigourney Weaver will be reprising her role as Dana in the new Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
The dry and wry secretary of the Ghostbusters 1984 team played by Annie Potts, Janine Melnitz helps in managing the business by keeping track of clients and answering calls while on the desk. She actively flirts with Egon, though the scientist doesn’t pick up on her flirting due to his lack of social skills. While her flirting goes unrequited in the first installment of the franchise, in the sequel Ghostbusters II, Janine later goes on to date Louis Tully.
Dana Barrett’s neighbor, nerdy accountant, and later on, a semi-Ghostbuster wannabe, Louis Tully ends up involved with the Ghostbusters after being possessed by a ghost called Vinz Clortho, or the Keymaster, who also plays a large role in summoning demonic overlord Gozier back to Earth. Depicted by Rick Moranis, Louis later becomes the legal representative of the Ghostbusters and a de facto fifth member. In Ghostbusters II, he also cultivates a romance with Janine, the Ghostbusters’ secretary, which ends up with them dating.
If not as one of the mascots of the series, many fans remember Slimer for his deformed blob-like form and shenanigans around New York City. Voiced by the movie’s director, Ivan Reitman, Slimer is described within the film as a “focused, non-terminal repeating phantasm or a class 5 full roaming vapor.” However, the movie depicts him more as a radioactive green creature with two skinny arms, plenty of chins, and no legs. Interestingly enough, Slimer received his name from the 1986 animated Ghostbuster series as the original movie script did not give this winsome ghost a name, though he was fondly referred to as the Onionhead Ghost by members of the film crew.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
Mascot-ception comes to true form as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is considered not only one of the mascots of the Ghostbusters franchise, but is also a mascot of the fictional Stay Puft Marshmallows company in the movie. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is the chosen form of Gozer after their re-awakening on Earth, thanks to Raymond Stanz being told to think about something he considers harmless. Though the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man looks more like an eerie combination of the Michelin tire man and the Pillsbury Dough Boy, its iconic design is given a second life in the Ghostbusters 2016 reboot.
Gozer the Gozerian
The main antagonist of Ghostbusters, Gozer the Gozerian is an apocalyptic, shapeshifting deity whose history dates back to 6000 BC, and is depicted to have been actively worshipped by the Hittites, the Mesopotamians, and Sumerians. Known by several nicknames such as Gozer the Destructor, Volguus Zildrohar, and the Traveler, Gozer is re-summoned into the human world by their minions Zuul and Vinz Clortho, who respectively possess Peter Venkman’s flame Dana Barrett and her neighbor Louis Tulley. While Gozer’s original form is that of an androgynous human-like woman, since they take on a new form when entering any dimension based on the thoughts of those who first witness their arrival, they reincarnate as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man after glimpsing Ray Stanz’s thoughts. In the 2009 video game, more light is shed on Gozer’s backstory as the game reveals the demise of the god and their followers by Babylonian goddess Tiamat.
Fans of the franchise know Gozer best for the following lines:
“Are you a god?”
Ray Stanz: No.
Zuul and Vinz Clortho
Respectively known as the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster, Zuul and Vinz Clortho are demigods who were worshipped alongside Gozier in 6000 BC. Both demigods have similar forms as horned dog-like monsters with fiery red eyes and faces resembling gargoyles. Considered Gozer’s main henchmen, Zuul and Vinz Clortho successfully carry out their mission of reviving Gozer with a sexual ritual by respectively possessing Dana Barrett and Louis Tully in the original film. While both of these memorable antagonists don’t reappear in the 2016 film, Zuul was given a brief mention via a recording machine.
The first ghost encountered by Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler in their pre-Ghostbuster days, the Grey Lady scares the scientist trio from the New York Public Library during one of their investigations at the beginning of the film. She is depicted as a matronly grandma at first glance, however, she can easily transform into a more terrifying skeletal form. While the film never indicates whether or not the Ghostbusters catch the Grey Lady, the Ghostbusters can build their ghost-catching equipment as well as their ghost containment grid thanks to a scan of her. The 2009 video game also elaborates more on her backstory, revealing her name to be Dr. Eleanor Twitty and her role as head librarian of the NYC Public Library in the 1920s.
Briefly mentioned in the first film, Ivo Shandor is a physician and architect who plotted for the re-awakening of Gozer. Convinced that humankind was doomed after witnessing the consequences of World War I, the scheming physician started a Gozer cult that managed to amass thousands of followers within the 1920s. With a distinct fondness for the macabre, Ivo also designed the 550 Central Park West building as a summoning point for Gozer. On top of this, with the placement and creation of the New York Public Library, the Museum of Natural History, the Sedgewick Hotel, and the fictional Shandor Island as nodes of a summoning ring, Ivo steadily made plans to build enough energy to bring back Gozer in New York City. However, though an accumulation of energy was successful in awakening Gozer’s minions to cause havoc around the city, the Ghostbusters were ultimately able to foil Gozer and his minion’s return.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Ghostbusters II was a direct sequel to the first Ghostbusters film, featuring a five-year time skip from the events of the original installment. While fans were able to see the original Ghostbusters cast as well as their original actors in action once again, the film also introduced new shifts in character background and dynamics, such as Dana Barrett becoming a curator at the fictional Manhattan Museum of Art and a budding romance between Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz and the Ghostbusters lawyer-turned-fifth-member Louis Tully. Though Columbia Pictures considered the film a flop and financially unsuccessful, fans who retrospectively look back on the sequel appreciated the film as an opportunity that gave more screen time for a memorable cast of characters. In the sections below, we specifically want to highlight the new characters who also got a chance to shine on the screen.
Played by twin baby actors, William T. Deutschendorf and Hank J. Deutschendorf II, Oscar Barrett is the baby boy of a now single mother and divorcee Dana Barrett. Chosen as a host by the antagonist of Ghostbusters II, Vigo the Carpathian, the Ghostbusters can foil the evil prince before he can actualize his plans of possessing Oscar.
Enslaved by Vigo the Carpathian into bringing Dana Barrett’s baby, Oscar, to the sinister prince, Janosz Poha is an art restoration expert at the fictional Manhattan Museum of Art who also has unrequited feelings for Dana. Though Vigo is successful in subjecting Janosz to do his evil bidding while the artist is restoring a painting of the power-hungry prince, the Ghostbusters can both put a halt to Vigo’s plans as well as free Janosz from Vigo’s control.
Vigo the Carpathian
Ghostbusters II introduces a new antagonist, played by German actor Wilhelm von Homburg, that terrorizes New York City and its denizens. Full name Prince Vigo von Homburg Deutschendorf, Vigo the Carpathian was the bloodthirsty and sadistic tyrant of Carpathia, a fictional ancient city most likely set in central Europe. Though he was born in 1505, Vigo was able to live past the average human lifespan for the time by dabbling in black magic and sorcery until 1610 as his people “poisoned, stabbed, shot, hanged, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered” him. However, Vigo’s spirit managed to live on despite such a gruesome death, eventually transfiguring into the form of his life-sized portrait. As shown at the beginning of Ghostbusters II, Vigo’s portrait ends up in the Manhattan Museum of Art’s restoration department where his spirit is eventually able to become more active via psychomagnetheric mood slime. By using positive mood slime, the Ghostbusters crew are successful at the end of the film in foiling his attempts to possess a new human vessel, which is Dana’s baby boy, Oscar.
Convicted murderers who received the death sentence via electric chair, Nunzio and Tony Scoleri make a minor appearance at the beginning of the movie. They show up as ghosts who disrupt the courtroom while the Ghostbusters are being tried by Judge Wexler.
While Ghostbusters 2016 is not a direct replication of the first installment’s plotline and suffered a storm of controversy before its release, the movie still received a decent amount of fair reviews from fans and critics alike, especially as a standalone film with the franchise’s first all-female Ghostbusters crew.
Portrayed by Kristen Wiig, Erin Gilbert is the second-in-command of the Ghostbusters but has traits similar to Peter Venkman in the earlier films such as getting slimed and having romantic advances towards the opposite sex. Before joining the Ghostbusters, she is an assistant physics professor at Columbia University pursuing tenure, but fails in the process as her paranormal research with long-time friend Abby is exposed to the university.
Dr. Abigail Yates, shortened to Abby, is played by Melissa McCarthy and is considered the leader of the Ghostbusters. A friend of Erin and a researcher of paranormal activity, the film opens with Abby planning to publish a book that she and Erin worked on in the past, but without Erin’s consent. Abby only agrees to stop her publishing plans if Erin helps her with a paranormal investigation with Jillian Holtzmann at the Aldridge Mansion Museum, starting off the events in the film. Similar to Raymond Stantz from the first film, she is overly enthusiastic about studying the paranormal.
The equivalent of Egon in this reboot of the Ghostbusters, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann is the brains of the group and a nuclear engineer. Depicted by Kate McKinnon, her main role in the movie is designing the team’s equipment such as proton packs and weapons. In a first for the Ghostbusters franchise, Jillian is shown to have romantic feelings for Erin, dropping flirts and hints throughout the movie.
Patricia “Patty” Tollan is a New York MTA subway booth attendant as well as a municipal historian who becomes the fourth member of the Ghostbusters team. Like Winston Zeddemore, Patty does not have the same academic credentials as her teammates but provides support with her detailed knowledge of New York’s history. She also borrows a hearse from her uncle’s funeral home to serve as the Ghostbuster’s ectomobile.
Janine Melnitz’s male counterpart, Kevin Beckman is a ditzy and humorous guy who gets hired as the receptionist for the Ghostbusters’ business. Played by Chris Hemsworth, Kevin falls victim to film antagonist Rowan North later on.
Played by Neil Casey, Rowan North is a former employee of the Mercado Hotel as well as an occultist who was inspired by Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates’ book on the paranormal. Due to being mistreated through life, Rowan’s end goal is to release a ghost army in New York City by creating an interdimensional vortex via ley lines in NYC. However, the Ghostbusters team can stop his nefarious plans from becoming a reality.
Bearing a similar role to the first film’s Grey Lady, Gertrude Aldridge is the first ghost encountered by Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann during their investigation at the Aldridge Mansion Museum. Depicted by Bess Rous, the film reveals that Gertrude is the traumatized daughter of a New York aristocrat who regularly murdered his servants. Gertrude would also show up later on in the film during the final battle scene between the Ghostbusters and Rowan.
Also called Sparky, the Electrocuted Ghost is the second ghost Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann encounter. The film suggests that the Electrocuted Ghost was a victim of an electric chair death sentence, similar to the Scoleri Brothers of Ghostbusters II. In the final battle scene at the end of the film, the Electrocuted Ghost makes another reappearance alongside Gertrude Aldridge.