Who ya gonna call? You know the answer to that question.

It has been over three decades since the original Ghostbusters and now a new film with the same name, but with a female cast takes over. The reboot probably won’t surpass the 1984 original in terms of pop culture impact. How can it?

Ghostbusters was an eclectic mix of comedy, fantasy and some horror, and was the second-highest grossing film of 1984, behind only Beverly Hills Cop. The years have been kind to Ghostbusters, and it remains popular.

The film also boasted a surprise No. 1 hit song of the same title. The theme was as much a sensation as the movie. Ray Parker Jr.’s famous ghost-busting anthem was a product of its time with a playful 80s synthesizer, catchy hook and a beat you can dance to.

The song was too big to be ignored, as infectious as Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” (Good luck getting that out of your head now.) In 1985, “Ghostbusters” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Sadly, it lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” – Wonder’s lamest song.


In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Parker said he originally had no interest in writing the theme for the Ghostbusters movie, but changed his mind when he was promised a retainer. He penned the song in a few days and even he was stunned when it became a cultural phenomenon.

One somewhat forgotten twist: Parker was sued over “Ghostbusters.” Huey Lewis and the News claimed that the music was a rip-off of “I Want a New Drug,” which was released in 1983. The two parties reached an out of court settlement.

Does “Ghostbusters” hold up? Maybe, maybe not — but that’s not really the point. For many, it harkens back to childhood memories. For others, it’s just a fun, silly song. And that’s OK.


“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

Movie: Ghostbusters
Year: 1984
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 1
Key lyrics: “Who ya gonna call”

Here are nine other important/ influential movie theme songs. (Note: Prince’s Purple Rain is the best movie soundtrack of all time and one of the best albums of all time. However, it had multiple hits, including two No. 1 songs “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” One song didn’t define the movie, so it was excluded from the list.)


“Skyfall” by Adele

Movie: Skyfall
Year: 2012
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 8
Key lyrics: “You may have my number. You can take my name. But you’ll never have my heart.”

No movie franchise has been more associated with theme music than the James Bond films. There have been 24 movies, from Dr. No (1962) to Spectre (2015), and each one has a song. Some more memorable than others. (“The Living Daylights” by a-ha ?!?)

You can make a convincing argument that “Skyfall” is the second-best Bond theme of all time (more on that later). Adele won a ton of awards for this one, including becoming the only Bond theme to win the 2013 Academy Award for Best Original Song. Only three have ever been nominated: “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney in 1974 and “For Your Eyes Only” by Sheena Easton in 1982.

“Save Me” by Aimee Mann

Movie: Magnolia
Year: 1999
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: n/a
Key lyric: “You look like a perfect fit for a girl in need of a tourniquet.”

Aimee Mann jokingly refers to herself as an Oscars loser. She lost in 2000 for Best Original Song to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart” from the Tarzan movie. Gotta be honest here. Does anyone remember this song? Perhaps I’m in the minority, but it sounds craptastic to me. (Full disclosure: I’m totally in the tank for Mann and think she’s a genius).

“Save Me” exudes depth. Mann is a gifted lyricist who specializes in writing about how strange, difficult and complex human interactions can be. This isn’t her best song, but it’s among the most memorable.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio

Movie: Dangerous Minds
Year: 1995
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 1
Key lyrics: “They been spending most their lives living in the gangsta’s paradise.”

Dangerous Minds was mediocre at best as a movie. However, it did produce a great song and an iconic video. The theme song might be the best never nominated for an Academy Award. Coolio sampled Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and turned it into something special. It’s a rare case of the original song and the rap version both being great songs.

From a commercial point of view, Coolio enjoyed tremendous success as this was the No. 1 song for 1995. Coolio also won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Interestingly, the video was directed by Antoine Fuqua who later went on to direct Training Day.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” also spawned a hilarious Weird Al Yankovic parody.

“(Somewhere) Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland

Movie: The Wizard of Oz
Year: 1939
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: n/a
Key lyrics: “Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me.”

The enduring quality of the song always surprises. It has been remade numerous times and reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart as recently as 2010. In 2006, Katharine McPhee, a former American Idol runner-up, released her own version. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s rendition has become a go-to first dance wedding song.

The original remains the best. There is something wistful and melancholy about this song. It speaks to a yearning of a better time and place. It won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song. Believe it or not, according to imdb.com, “Over the Rainbow” was almost deleted from the film because MGM felt it was too long.

“Hard Out There for a Pimp” by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson

Movie: Hustle and Flow
Year: 2005
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: n/a
Key lyrics: “You know it’s hard out here for a pimp when he tryin’ to get this money for the rent.”

Terrence Howard is kind of a hot mess. He has been in trouble multiple times and was famously fired from Iron Man 2. Howard is also gifted and this movie showcased his talent. He received a Best Actor nomination for Hustle and Flow and rapped an impressive song.

Well, maybe the credit should go to Three 6 Mafia, who stunned everyone by scoring the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2006. In the annals of unlikely Oscars, this is near the top. (Host Jon Stewart famously joked, “For those keeping score at home, Martin Scorsese: zero. Three 6 Mafia: one.”) The movie is about a Memphis pimp who becomes a rapper.

Three 6 Mafia is the first and only hip-hop group to win an Oscar. (Eminem won as a solo artist in 2003, see below.) No truer lyrics were ever written than “It’s hard out here for a pimp.” Those lyrics are also part of pop culture.

“Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

Movie: Philadelphia
Year: 1994
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 9
Key lyrics: “Ain’t no angel gonna greet me It’s just you and I my friend.”

This was an important song for an important movie. Philadelphia was the first big-budget film to directly address AIDS and homosexuality. At the time, there was no bigger rock star in America than Springsteen. This song is completely different than most of his work. It’s also extremely compelling with its somber tone and haunting lyrics.

Springsteen won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. During his acceptance speech, he joked “This is the first song I ever wrote for a motion picture, so I guess it’s all downhill from here.” Springsteen’s parents apparently had dissuaded him from trying to make a career in music. Since winning an Oscar – along with his many other accolades – he has more tangible evidence they were wrong.

“Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

Movie: Do The Right Thing
Year: 1989
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: N/A
Key lyrics: “Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me.”

Like Philadelphia, Do The Right Thing produced both an important movie and an important song. Spike Lee’s breakout movie about racial tension needed a theme and Public Enemy gave the film a powerful one.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chuck D said the song’s title was inspired by the Isley Brothers’ song “Fight the Power.” But Public Enemy has a completely different vibe, filled with primal energy, defiance and frustration. It also has some humor. The lyrics “Don’t worry be happy was a number one jam. Damn if I say it you can slap me right here.” That was a dig at Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which won the 1989 Grammy for Song of the Year.

In 1989, “Fight The Power” spoke to a generation. Given the current racial tensions, it could still speak to many today.

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Movie: 8 Mile
Year: 2002
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 1
Key lyrics: “Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”

It’s always interesting to see when an artist crosses over in to the mainstream. It was easy to see the line of demarcation for Detroit bad-boy rapper Eminem. 8 Mile repackaged Eminem into an underdog people could root for.

“Lose Yourself” earned the ultimate mainstream acceptance when it won an Academy Award in 2003 for Best Original Song. Eminem didn’t show up to accept the award, believing he would never win and was reportedly asleep. In 2004, it won a pair of Grammy Awards for Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song.

This song endures and also has crossed over into the sports world where you will often hear it at sports arenas.

“Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

Movie: Goldfinger
Year: 1964
Highest Billboard Hot 100 rank: No. 8
Key lyrics: “It’s the kiss of death from Mister Goldfinger”

Goldfinger is the greatest Bond film of them all and Goldfinger is the gold standard when it comes to movie theme songs. When those horns blast out, it immediately captures your attentions and holds it for three minutes.

Bassey sung three Bond songs (“Goldfinger,” “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Moonraker”). Goldfinger is her masterpiece. The lyrics are relatively simple and short, but this song has such a powerful tone.

In 2008, “Goldfinger” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Five years later, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Bond films, the then-76-year-old Bassey appeared on the Oscars to performed her iconic song.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.

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