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Why you need to rewatch Ghost right now

Drew Turney

BY Drew Turney

18th Nov 2022 Film & TV

Why you need to rewatch Ghost right now

Take a trip down memory lane and revisit the nostalgia of the 1990s by rewatching the film Ghost. Made in 1990, it's an enduring classic!

It was a very different time in cinema

In 1990, most movies were stories, not adaptations to sell lunchboxes and streaming subscriptions. We'd had one big superhero movie (Tim Burton's Batman in 1989) but multiplexes still catered to adults as much as kids. 

"It was a very different time in cinema"

Instead of endless Star Wars, Harry Potter and Marvel sequels, the 1990 box office top ten contained Dances With Wolves, Kindergarten Cop, Pretty Woman and Home Alone, but the unlikeliest contender took the top spot. 

An unexpected box office hit

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Deep Impact, Jacob's Ladder) had been pitching his supernatural romantic drama to Hollywood studios for several years before finally getting a bite. 

"The vice president of Paramount was interested but already had a movie about ghosts and didn't want to have two of them," Rubin remembers. "The executive I'd pitched it it to showed it to her and she immediately wanted to do it so badly they got rid of the other ghost picture." 

"Bruce Joel Rubin had been pitching his supernatural romantic drama to Hollywood studios for several years before finally getting a bite"

After courting directors as varied as Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and Frank Oz (of Sesame Street and Muppets fame), the last person Rubin expected was one of the trio behind 1980's spoof comedy classic Airplane! 

"When he found out his spiritual comedy was going to be directed by the guy who directed Top Secret and The Naked Gun, he cried," director Jerry Zucker laughs now. 

But the pair agreed to meet for dinner on the condition they not discuss the movie, talking for four hours and becoming close friends. "All I could imagine was that he was going to do Beetlejuice, which I did not want," Rubin remembers. 

But the newfound respect and friendship between the two kept the film afloat throughout 19 drafts of the script, and they found a groove where both their best ideas found their way into the story. 

For example, it was under Zucker's influence that the "psychic" con artist, played to memorable (and Oscar winning) effect by Whoopi Goldberg took shape. "Oda Mae became much funnier because of Jerry pushing me to find a way to make her work," says Rubin. 

"We lucked out," Zucker agrees, "it was a great cast." 

All about the chemistry 

That's something of an understatement. Patrick Swayze was one of Hollywood's most in demand heartthrobs after 1987's Dirty Dancing—a profile he hated, wanting to make films with emotional depth that showed his range. 

Zucker had already vetoed Swayze for the lead. It was Rubin who surreptitiously called the star's agent and had him come in. Today, even Zucker admits Swayze had the room in tears doing the heartstring-tugging "the love inside…you take it with you" scene from the film's climax. 

Swayze made the role of Sam his own, but only after big names like Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford had turned it down (Ford couldn't see the point in a movie where he dies in the beginning). 

"Zucker had already vetoed Swayze for the lead. It was Rubin who surreptitiously called the star's agent"

The role of Sam's girlfriend Molly needed an actress who could make us believe in the pair's feelings as well as hold her own, and it made a major star out of Demi Moore, propelling her to become the highest paid actress in Hollywood and giving us a new standard for the "pretty cry". 

After we watched Molly lose her boyfriend, saw Sam inhabit Oda Mae's body so he could touch her one more time, and hope they could foil the villainous Carl's (Tony Goldwyn) plans, there wasn't a dry eye in the house during the pair's tearful goodbye when Sam prepares to finally enter the light. 

It wasn't just a romantic love story but a thriller and a comedy with a supernatural premise and even moments of outright horror (who doesn't remember the shadows dragging evil souls to hell?). It was also a visual groundbreaker. 

Most of the effects, like souls ascending to heaven and the aforementioned angels of hell, were done using traditional optical animation. But VFX legend Richard Edlund (Star Wars, Ghostbusters) used a then-new CGI system to create the final shot of Sam walking towards the light, souls in the afterlife waiting for him. 

Ghost was released across the world throughout October and November of 1990, grossing over half a billion US dollars from a budget of just $22m and making it easily the biggest box office hit of the year. The soundtrack further swelled the studio's coffers thanks to the new lease on life The Righteous Brothers' 1965 love song "Unchained Melody" received.

And somehow a director with no experience in the genre, a writer who feared his love story would turn into a gross-out parody flick and actors who at times wondered what they'd gotten into captured the lighting in a bottle Hollywood types are constantly chasing. It galvanised careers, gave the romantic genre a further shot in the arm (alongside Pretty Woman) and made pottery wheels breathtakingly sexy…

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