Oscar Vault Monday – Ghost, 1990 (dir. Jerry Zucker)

I love this movie way too much. It has always been a favorite of mine and I think it always will be. I just feel like it is one of the most passionate films ever made. I think it has aged well (yes, even the special effects) and I think that is because of the strength of the story and the performances of all the actors involved. Ghost was ranked #19 on AFI’s 100 Years. . .100 Passions list and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two: Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre), Best Film Editing (Walter Murch), Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were Awakenings, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas and winner Dances With Wolves. There will be quite a few spoilers for this film if you haven’t seen it, so beware.

You sort of knew this film wasn’t going to win Best Picture right away because the director was not nominated for Best Director and for the bulk of Oscar’s history, you just can’t win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination (even if the two awards are sometimes split). Penny Marshall, who director fellow Best Picture nominee Awakenings was not nominated for Best Director either. Instead, their two spots went to Stephen Frears for The Grifters and Barbet Schroeder for Reversal of Fortune. I always find it odd when a film is nominated for Best Picture but not Best Director. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why they get split like that.

Patrick Swayze should have gotten a Best Actor nomination for this performance. I said that about Ray Liotta when I wrote about Goodfellas last time I wrote about 1990, and I feel the same way for both of these performances. They make these movies. But, alas, a lot of the great performances throughout history went without Oscar nominations, and so it went with these two. However, they will live on in history as both films will surely do. Swayze is one of my favorite actors and I might call this my favorite of his performances (To Wong Foo is a close second). I think if Swazye hadn’t been as great as he was as Sam and as convincing as he was in this film, there is no way it would have worked as well as it did.

Same goes for Demi Moore as Molly. Her grief throughout the film could have felt melodramatic and over the top, but it always hits just the right, tender notes. Demi Moore, like Swayze, I think is an underrated actress. She gave so many great, fearless performances in the 1990s, most of which went unrecognized by film awards, although she was one of the highest paid and highest grossing actresses of the era.

Let’s talk about the chemistry between Swayze and Moore. LET’S TALK ABOUT THE POTTERY SCENE. God, this is the most sensual of scenes. It’s been mocked over the years, sure, but it’s still one of the hottest scenes EVER. Everything about it is perfect. This is the kind of scene that cinema was made for. Also, the passion demonstrated in this scenes helps set up the motivations for Sam throughout the rest of the film, as well as Molly’s grief. We’ve witnessed this intimate, insanely passionate moment between these two friends and lovers and when they get separated and as they try to get reunited (sort of), out memories of this scene act as the glue for their relationship, just as their memories as characters do for them.


Whoopi Goldberg gives a flawless performance as con artist turned medium Oda Mae Brown, who winds up being the only person who can hear Sam after death. Godlberg won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance, as well as the Golden Globe and several other critic awards. She was nominated a few years earlier for Best Actress for her turn in The Color Purple. I’ve always been a fan of Goldberg and I am so glad she won for this performance. It really is the standout performance in a cast that is nothing shy of perfect.

Even Tony Goldwyn as best friend Carl, who, SPOILER ALERT, turns out to be the reason Sam dies, is great. He’s not overly villainous, but mostly just a guy on the edge of his rope. He was desperate and got in over his head, with results that turned out to be more than disastrous. His death scene is one of my favorite death scenes in all cinema (I’ll be talking about that a little bit later).

I had to mention Rick Aviles for at least a second, because even though he doesn’t say much and his role is very minor, it is a pivotal role and Aviles plays him so perfectly. He is a thug for hire and his nonchalance about what he does – especially when confronted by Carl later in the film – so perfectly illustrates the difference between a criminal by profession and one who gets there by greed and desperation.

Vincent Schiavelli’s performance as a subway poltergeist who helps Sam learn how to move objects with his willpower has almost a cult following. He is so otherworldly – both in looks and mannerisms. The grittiness of this part of the film helps add to its power.

Okay, so here’s the death scene. Early in the film Sam goes to a hospital where he and a ghost that haunts the emergency room watch another man die and have his soul rise through a bright light. Sam mentions something about it and the guy says, “Lucky bastard. It could’ve been the other ones. You never know.” Those “other ones” are these insanely creepy black shadows. They come for Willie Lopez (the thug) and Curt when they die. They make the most god-awful sounds EVER. Those sounds are made by. . .BABIES. It’s babies played at an extremely low-speed. That is crazy!

So let’s just talk about this ending for a second. I can’t even with this ending. I sob so hard. So, so hard. I love it so much. It’s a perfect, bittersweet ending.

It’s amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.

If this ending doesn’t make you cry, you’ve got a heart of stone!


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on October 8, 2012, in Oscar Vault Monday and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It is indeed a fabulous movie – love story, suspense mystery, comedy all rolled into one. Whoppi is perfect. This movie transcended all is so-called genres because of the performances And the ending is wonderful and very scary indeed. 🙂

  1. Pingback: Oscar Vault Monday – A Few Good Men, 1992 (dir. Rob Reiner) « the diary of a film history fanatic

  2. Pingback: Romantic Movies to Watch with your Better Half Over the Weekend |

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