The Correct Order To Watch The Ghostbusters Movies 

The "Ghostbusters" franchise may be small when compared to the likes of the "Star Wars" saga or the ongoing films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But because the original movie is one of the greatest films of all time, the name still resonates across generations, and the film series now spans decades. 

Beginning back in 1984, the original "Ghostbusters" from director Ivan Reitman and writers Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd (who also star in the movie as the titular paranormal exterminators alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson) follows a trio of scientists who have been trying to figure how to detect and capture ghosts. Banished by the school funding them, they head out into the private sector of New York City and become paranormal exterminators who suddenly find themselves dealing with an apocalyptic scenario in the middle of the Big Apple. After a so-so-sequel in 1989, the franchise came back to life in 2021 with a new installment that picked up where the original movies left off, but with a modern twist. There's also more than the primary film series out there, due to the 2016 attempt to reboot the franchise. 

So where should you start watching the "Ghostbusters" franchise? The answer is simple, but there's also a potential opportunity to give younger fans a whole new experience. Before we get to that, let's dig into the correct order to watch the "Ghostbusters" movies. 

The correct order to watch the Ghostbusters movies

It only makes sense to start with the beginning, which is the original "Ghostbusters" from 1984. Then, you'll want to follow it up with the direct sequel, "Ghostbusters II," which came out in 1989. The story unfolds in order, and the film takes place after the events of the first movie, and it makes direct reference to them when catching up with the crew five years later. 

After that, you'll jump forward a few decades for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," which was released in 2021. This picks up roughly 30 years after the events of the first two "Ghostbusters" movies, and while it might feel like an entirely different film series because it focuses on new characters, there are direct ties to the original franchise, especially when the third act rolls around.

There is out outlier among the "Ghostbusters" movies, and that's the 2016 reboot from director Paul Feig, starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Though initially known as "Ghostbusters," it was eventually given the title "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call" to help differentiate it from the original. You can actually watch this one at any time, and you'd be totally fine. Why? We'll dig into that below. 

Why this is the correct order

"Ghostbusters" from 1984 is the best place to start, because the film was actually quite the innovative blockbuster at the time. Though they're ubiquitous in theaters now, high-concept comedies that blended big setpieces with hearty laughter were not very common before "Ghostbusters" came along. They were either straight-up comedies that didn't dig into the kind of blockbuster territory that we'd expect from today's movies, or they were flat-out sci-fi or fantasy movies with only the slightest tinge of humor here and there. But "Ghostbusters" basically kicked off a new kind of comedy, one that takes the plot-driven narrative just as seriously as the jokes by putting comedy legends Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis in the middle of a high-stakes sci-fi story without losing their trademark wit and sarcasm. It's a good place to start because it sets the stage for the entire franchise, as well as all the movies that would come in its stead. 

"Ghostbusters II" is the next logical step, because it picks up five years after the events of the original "Ghostbusters." The sequel takes an interesting turn, because it finds the characters somewhat down on their luck after saving New York City. That's because, at the heart of the "Ghostbusters" movies is a franchise about a bunch of guys just trying to make some money while dealing with the bulls**t bureaucracy surrounding them, so it only makes sense that the government hold them responsible for the damage done to the city while completely disregarding the fact that they saved New York from a catastrophe that was caused by the Environmental Protection Agency. Unfortunately, the sequel doesn't quite measure up to the greatness of the original, so it's a mixed bag of solid humor and trying to capture blockbuster lightning in a bottle again.

Flash forward!

After 1989, the "Ghostbusters" franchise laid dormant for decades. Sure, there was "The Real Ghostbusters" animated series, as well as the short-lived, more modern "Extreme Ghostbusters" that followed, as well as several books, video games, comic books, and other media. Throughout the years, there were rumblings about Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis getting a third "Ghostbusters" movie together, but it never came to fruition. Instead, it took Ivan Reitman's filmmaker son, Jason Reitman (director of Oscar-nominated films like "Juno" and "Up in the Air"), to step up and claim his father's legacy by reigniting the franchise with "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," shortly before the elder Reitman sadly passed away.

This is the next step in the series, because even though it primarily follows characters we've never met before, everything is tied to the legacy of the original "Ghostbusters." The series follows a single mother (Carrie Coon) and her two children, the teenage Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and precocious adolescent Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) as they leave New York City to inherit a dusty old farm in Summerville, Oklahoma that belonged to their estranged relative, who just so happens to be Egon Spengler, Harold Ramis' character from the first "Ghostbusters." 

In the movie, Phoebe and Trevor slowly discover who their late, absent grandfather actually was, as they find themselves caught up in another surge of paranormal activity that only a gang of aspiring Ghostbusters could deal with. And yes, there are plenty of references to the original movie, including the return of almost all the key cast members (sadly, Harold Ramis passed away before the movie was made, but his presence is more than felt in this sequel). 

Meanwhile, in another universe

That brings us to "Ghostbusters" (2016), or "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call" as it's also come to be known. Remember how I said that you could basically watch this movie at any time? That's because this isn't a sequel to any of the other "Ghostbusters" movies. Instead, it's a total reboot featuring an entirely new cast of characters with zero narrative ties to any of the "Ghostbusters" projects that came before it. But it basically follows the same story beats as the original, just with some contemporary additions. 

Though it's entirely possible for you to watch this movie without seeing the original "Ghostbusters," the dynamic between the characters, as well as the cameos from the stars of the 1984 movie might not be appreciated as much. Of course, you'll still recognize them because they're big stars, but you may enjoy them more if you've seen the first movie. 

At the same time, seeing the original may give you an unfair comparison, as "Answer the Call" has a difficult time climbing out from the shadow of the greatness of the original "Ghostbusters." It has nothing to do with the primary "Answer the Call" Ghostbusters being comprised entirely of women, as some of the worst "Ghostbusters" fans will have you believe. But "Answer the Call" struggles with trying to replicate the success of the original movie while forgetting what made it great. There's a little too much replication of the original formula and a disregard for establishing a logical sci-fi universe for the action to unfold with any real stakes. 

So in the end, it's up to you when you want to watch "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call," but it's worth it for the comedy alone, even if the sci-fi stuff doesn't work as well as we'd like. 

A potential remix?

Here's where we offer up a potential remix to try out if you have a young new "Ghostbusters" fan who may find it hard to get into the concept of three scientists and a blue-collar worker trying to make a buck by catching ghosts in 1984. 

Since "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" takes place over 30 years after the original movie, and it follows a pair of young characters, it might be more accessible to younger viewers. There's an Amblin Entertainment vibe to the movie that has a vibe like "The Goonies, "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" or "Gremlins." Because the majority of the movie has our kid characters discovering the legacy of the "Ghostbusters" themselves, so can a new generation of kids who aren't familiar with the original movies. If they're sufficiently entertained by "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," then maybe the original movies can act as "Star Wars" prequels that dig them even further into "Ghostbusters" mythology. 

Don't forget, there's another "Ghostbusters" movie on the way in the form of a sequel to "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," though it was delayed a bit from its original release date.

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