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10/8/2020 • 4 min read
Incredibly, GHOST is 30 years old! The supernatural romance, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, was a phenomenal hit, and thanks to that pottery-spinning love scene, quickly became a constant point of reference. In its original release, GHOST was the third highest-grossing movie of all time. It was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and won Best Supporting Actress, for Whoopi Goldberg’s indelible performance, and Best Screenplay for Bruce Joel Rubin’s nimble, tightrope-walking script.
Now, what's better than celebrating GHOST’s 30th anniversary is actually seeing it on the big screen once again. Whether it’s been a while since you’ve watched the movie, or you've seen it again recently, there’s nothing quite like watching GHOST in the theater. Need a list of reasons why? We’ve got those, too.
Though Patrick Swayze died more than 10 years ago, and the actor's character exists between life and death in this movie, his presence in GHOST in particularly alive. Swayze plays Sam Wheat, a murdered banker who longs to reconnect with his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) while simultaneously trying to figure out who murdered him – and why. It’s a remarkable performance that requires a lot from the actor, and he puts everything into it. There's no doubt that his work is a large part of why the movie was a huge hit, and why we're eager to watch it again now.
Everything that made Swayze so special – his charisma, his physicality, his enthusiastic earnestness – is in this performance. (The fact that he didn't score an Oscar nomination seemed like a reaction against his matinee-idol looks.) Re-watching GHOST means celebrating the life of one of the most charming and underrated actors in recent memory.
Quite frankly, there has never been a movie like GHOST before or since. Yes, there have been attempts at supernatural romances, but nothing that has connected with audiences like GHOST did. Rubin’s screenplay threads the needle between the romantic and the otherworldly, never letting the balance tip too far in one direction or the other, and director Jerry Zucker treated the material seriously but never lost sight of the story’s magical elements. It really is miraculous.
Watch GHOST again, then stop and think about other movies that have aimed for the same mixture of the sentimental and the supernatural, and how many have missed the mark. None have hit quite like this. And consider Whoopi Goldberg’s performance, which stands outside of the otherwise more measured drama, but fits in perfectly to the film's overall tone. She gives the entire movie a shot in the arm. For a movie so consumed with death, Whoopi made it live. GHOST boldly went places few films go and it is pulled off brilliantly.
Whether or not you've seen the movie, you've probably seen the most famous scene from GHOST, when Moore’s character, who is a potter, interacts with Swayze’s ghost, while “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers plays on the soundtrack. The sequence was instantly iconic and has been endlessly parodied, copied, and satirized. And the song is still so good, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, or in what context.
But the score to GHOST is also a barn-burner, composed by French musician Maurie Jarre. (At the time, he was in the midst of an insanely creative streak that also resulted in FATAL ATTRACTION and DANCES WITH WOLVES.) Part of the reason we feel so much while watching GHOST is because of Jarre’s music – it’s beautiful and stirring.
GHOST returns to theaters at the end of October, which is actually perfect. Because, while GHOST is remembered as a romance, it is actually pretty scary. Not only is the death of Swayze’s character Sam super intense, but there’s also his interaction with the great Vincent Schiavelli (credited only as "Subway Ghost"), who teaches Sam about his new existence.
And, of course, there’s the resolution of the whole mystery. (If you don’t know or remember who the villain is, we don’t want to spoil it now.) That scene is both surprisingly violent and also far more supernatural than you'd be likely to see in a similar movie today. Overall, it’s actually a really fun, scary movie to watch during the spooky season. GHOST still hits nearly every emotional button, and it is just as powerful after 30 years.
All images courtesy of Paramount Pictures / Fathom Events.
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