For those of you who grew up loving it as much as I did, you’ll be pleased to know that The Real Ghostbusters animated series is now streaming on Netflix. The Real Ghostbusters began its run in 1986, two years after the release of the first film, and aired until 1991, with 140 episodes in total airing over the course of seven seasons. With five long years between films, this series was a godsend to rabid Ghostbusters fans and became an immediate hit.
Compared to other cartoons produced at that time, the look of The Real Ghostbusters had distinct anime touches and boasted a variety of awesomely creepy ghost designs and atmospheric painted backgrounds. The show also featured writing talent like J. Michael Straczynski, whose wildly imaginative and ambitious storylines made this series arguably better than Ghostbusters II, and, in some ways, indirectly affected elements of the sequel, as the appearance of Janine Melnitz (played by Annie Potts), the Ghostbusters jumpsuits, and even their gear were tweaked as a result of the popularity of the animated series and toy line.
Now that The Real Ghostbusters has found a new home on Netflix, here’s a look at 15 great episodes to get your binge-watching off and running. This list is by no means absolute—just a few personal favorites that I think will get you hooked. (Note: the season and episode numbers reflect the Netflix listings, which seem to be different from when they originally aired on ABC.)
“The Collect Call of Cthulhu” - S1E41: Horror fans, start right here: Ghostbusters vs. Cthulhu. No further explanation necessary. This episode name-drops Lovecraft, Arkham, and Miskatonic University, and also features the Necronomicon, Shoggoths, crazy cultists in octopus masks chanting “Cthulhu FhTagn,” and of course, the Great Old One himself. There’s even a character named “Alice Derleth” who helps our heroes face the unimaginable horror from the deep. This episode also blurred the lines of fantasy and reality (in my young mind, anyway) by presenting the idea that, while H.P. Lovecraft was an actual person who wrote (questionably) fictional stories, the Necronomicon in his mythos was in fact a REAL book of arcane knowledge. Remember, this was a KIDS’ cartoon!
“The Boogieman Cometh” - S1E6 / “The Bogeyman Is Back” - S2E3: The Ghostbusters face the legendary Boogieman who lives in the closets of children everywhere! He’s like the Freddy Krueger of the Ghostbusters universe, but instead of a hat, sweater, and glove, the Boogieman rocks a sick mullet, tuxedo jacket, and goat legs. We also learn that this is the same Boogieman who used to terrorize Egon as a little boy, which sparked his interest in the paranormal! Additionally, I think Monsters Inc. owes a lot to this episode, as the Boogieman’s realm of closet doors did it way first.
“When Halloween Was Forever” - S1E8 / “Halloween II ½” - S2E7: These fan-favorite episodes featured Samhain, the spirit of Halloween, being loosed upon New York City on All Hallows’ Eve. His head is a jack-o’-lantern and he flies through the air, using his supernatural powers to bring about everlasting night and make everything more Halloween-y. I see no problem with this, but the Ghostbusters feel differently. These two episodes make any Halloween video mixtape complete!
“Ragnarok and Roll” - S1E32: In this unusual-even-by-TRG-standards episode, a jilted lover takes out his frustrations on the entire world by selling his soul and calling for the apocalypse with a magic flute. Only the Ghostbusters, his ex-girlfriend, and his Quasimodo-like best friend can stop him... by telling him to check his privilege and stop being such a wuss. It sounds ridiculous, but it really is quite an emotional episode and one of the best.
“Beneath These Streets” - S1E29: The Pillar of New York is a constantly turning gyroscope that prevents Manhattan Island from sinking and needs a steady flow of ectoplasmic axle grease to run smoothly. Those pesky ghosts cut off the flow of lube, and like a car engine that needs an oil change, the pillar starts to break down. Ray travels deep beneath the city to, um, get to the bottom of things. I really like the way the series uses New York as a sort of “recurring character,” and this is one of my favorite city-based episodes.
“Knock, Knock” - S1E14: While digging a new subway tunnel, workers unearth a talking door that informs them, “Do not open till doomsday!” It’s the Doomsday Door, most likely located somewhere under the Upper West Side. Of course, they open the door, which is basically a portal to the Netherworld and the Ghostbusters must go through it to close the door and save the world. At one time, early drafts of the Ghostbusters script included deleted scenes with a similar premise. This episode is probably the closest we’ll ever come to seeing anything even remotely like it, and it’s still good.
“The Thing In Mrs. Faversham’s Attic” - S1E44: Kindly old lady Mrs. Faversham asks the boys to help rid her of a disruptive spirit residing in her House of Leaves-esque attic, which she was forbidden to enter since childhood by her occultist father. This episode boasts some neat ghost designs that are probably a little too frightening for a children’s cartoon show, but hey, it was the ’80s.
“Citizen Ghost” - S1E11: This episode features the most direct link from the movie to the animated series, picking up the story immediately after the Ghostbusters defeated Gozer. While the boys are rebuilding the firehouse and containment unit, their old beige uniforms take on an afterlife of their own and cause havoc all over town. We also learn how Slimer got his name and how he came to become the Ghostbusters’ official mascot.
“Cry Uncle” - S1E19: We meet Egon’s uncle Cyrus, also an acclaimed scientist, who thinks Egon is too brilliant to be a mere Ghostbuster. Yeah, whatever, science snob. Smarty-pants uncle then proceeds to accidentally open the Containment Unit and release the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man! This is the first time Stay Puft is seen in animated form outside of the episode intros. He also pops up in later episodes, but as a big, gentle galoot.
“Xmas Marks The Spot” - S1E13: It’s a Ghostbusters Christmas! The guys pass through a time slip and accidentally bust the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, preventing Ebenezer Scrooge from having his Christmas Eve catharsis, and effectively ending Christmas in the future. Knowing Christmas itself hangs in the balance of them undoing their screw-up, Egon dons a funky looking spacesuit and actually travels into the Containment Unit to retrieve them! Awesome concept, and perfect for your holiday video mixtape!
“The Brooklyn Triangle” - S3E8: In this episode we meet Winston’s dad, a blue-collar construction worker who excavates a strange anomaly (it's always a portal) at a jobsite. Much like the Bermuda Triangle, things go in and don’t come out. A portal to a place where all the lost things in the world go happens to be in Brooklyn? It must be Williamsburg.
“Janine’s Genie” - S1E12 / “Janine Melnitz, Ghostbuster” - S1E48 / “Janine You've Changed” - S5E2: Janine Melnitz wasn’t just a wisecracking geek-chic secretary… she was also the First Lady of the Ghostbusters, at times putting on a jumpsuit and proton pack and busting alongside the guys well before the 2016 reboot, or even Kylie from Extreme Ghostbusters. Janine even had her own action figures as an official Ghostbuster. The episode “Janine You’ve Changed,” cleverly canonized all the different incarnations of her character, from film to animated series, covering the different voice actresses and appearances.
So, which ones did I miss? What are your favorite episodes of The Real Ghostbusters? Comment below and let us know!