20 Things You Didn't Know About 'Ghost', 32 Years Later

The Demi Moore romance-thriller first hit theaters 32 years ago this week

Photo: Getty

On paper, Ghost sounds like it should have been a niche movie. But combining the romance, thriller, ghost story and comedy genres into a single film turned out to be a formula for success when the film hit theaters 32 years ago on July 13, 1990.

The surprise summer hit raised the profiles of stars Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg and had fans across the country humming “Unchained Melody.” (It could not be determined if the film also caused an uptick in enrollment in pottery classes, but would it surprise you if it did?)

In honor of the film’s silver anniversary, we’ve found 20 things you may not know about the classic hit – and that might make you love it even more.

(NSFW warning: Some of the scenes from the film feature language and violence.)

1. It was the highest-grossing film of 1990.

Worldwide, the film raked in a whopping $505.7 million, beating even that other 1990 hit, Home Alone, which made $476.6 million. Apparently, love can conquer not only death but also slapstick action comedies about little kids brutalizing burglars.

2. Moore wasn’t sure it would be a hit.

Speaking at a 2013 American Film Institute event honoring the film, Moore said she loved the script but wasn’t sure audiences would respond to it. “It’s a love story, and it’s a guy – a dead guy – trying to save his wife, and there is a comedy part, but really, really it’s a love story, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really a recipe for disaster … It’s either going to be something really special, really amazing, or really an absolute bust.’ ”

3. Swayze called the pottery scene "the sweetest, sexiest love scene that I’ve ever been involved with."

Why? In this interview, he explained that it wasn’t about physical love as much as it was a deep personal connection. “We were very passionate about not having the love scene be about sucking face and jumping each other’s bones, but the connection between two human beings,” he explained.

4. Filming certain scenes gave Swayze flashbacks to the grief he felt over his father’s death eight years earlier.

Speaking to PEOPLE in 1990, Swayze said that seeing the plaster dummy representing his character’s body took him back to his father’s funeral, when he almost passed out from the shock of touching his father’s body as it lay in its coffin. “I had pushed that memory out of my life until that moment on location when it all came back, big time,” he said. “There were a few scenes where something happened to me that was very scary.”

5. Ghost revitalized Swayze’s career.

The downside of the success of Dirty Dancing was that Swayze had found himself typecast. That changed after Ghost, but director Jerry Zucker told PEOPLE that his roles in films such as Roadhouse made him reluctant to even consider Swayze as the male lead. However, Swayze’s reading of the film’s farewell scene changed Zucker’s mind. “We all had tears in our eyes, right there in the office – and we knew how it ends,” Zucker said. “I saw a side of Patrick that I never knew existed.”

6. Bruce Willis turned down the opportunity to play opposite his wife.

Calling himself a “knucklehead” for saying no, Willis told New York Times reporter David Sheff in 1996 that he didn’t think Ghost would work. “I just didn’t get it. I said, ‘Hey, the guy’s dead. How are you gonna have a romance?’ Famous last words.” He later played a thematically similar role in The Sixth Sense.

7. Whoopi Goldberg was initially told she wasn’t right for the part of Oda Mae.

In a 1990 Associated Press interview, Goldberg said she loved the part, but when she expressed interest in playing the psychic Oda Mae, she was told the producers wanted an unknown for the role. Six months later, producers circled back to her and offered her the role.

8. In 1990, Goldberg’s Best Supporting Actress win was an Oscars first.

Goldberg had previously been nominated in 1986 for Best Actress for her role in The Color Purple. She didn’t win, but she did become the first Black actress nominated for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. It also marked her first win toward her EGOT, which she completed in 2002 with her Tony Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie.

9. It’s one of the few supernatural-themed films nominated for Best Picture.

Traditionally, movies about ghosts and the like don’t get Oscar noms. Ghost is an exception, however, even if it lost to Dances with Wolves. Just one year earlier, there was another outlier: the fantasy baseball movie Field of Dreams. Other spooky movies nominated for Best Picture include The Exorcist and The Sixth Sense.

10. Tony Goldwyn got some hate for his role as the film’s villain.

The actor recalled to the A.V. Club in 2014 that his role as the conniving, murderous Carl prompted a waitress to refuse to serve him. He couldn’t figure out why she was shooting him death stares until she finally asked him if he was an actor. “She said, “I’m so sorry! I knew I hated you, but I didn’t know where from, and because I couldn’t place who you were,’ ” Goldwyn said.

11. There’s a surprising reason the film’s love theme is titled "Unchained Melody."

Have you ever wondered why the song is called “Unchained Melody”? It was actually written for the 1955 prison film Unchained. In that film, it’s sung by an inmate. That’s why the lyrics note how hard it is to wait for so long – because the narrator is serving time.

12. And 35 years before Ghost, "Unchained Melody" was nominated for Best Original Song.

However, it lost to “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” from the movie by the same name. But decades later, guess which one is considered one of the most moving love ballads of all time?

13. The Righteous Brothers’ cover of "Unchained Melody" didn’t come along until 10 years after the fact.

The song has been covered countless times, and the version used in Ghost, by the Righteous Brothers, is probably the best-known. However, their version only came about in 1965, a decade after the movie Unchained, and even then it was only a B-side to a different song.

14. But the success of Ghost made the song a hit again, three decades later.

Following the movie’s release, the song went to No. 1 in Australia and as high as No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

15. There was a stage adaptation of Ghost.

It kicked off in England in 2011 and hit Broadway in 2012. And yes, it features “Unchained Melody,” in addition to many new numbers.

16. There may yet be Ghost: The Series.

There hasn’t been much buzz about it lately, but in 2013 it was announced that Paramount was looking to adapt Ghost into a TV series. Hey, it’s better than Ghost Dad: The Series.

17. There was also a gender-flipped Japanese remake.

Released in 2010, Ghost: In Your Arms Again has the wife going all Casper and attempting to reunite with her husband from beyond. And yes, there’s a pottery scene.

18. A lot of other movies, TV shows and commercials have had pottery scenes too.

Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley parodied the scene in the second Naked Gun movie – and in all honesty, it's probably how real-life re-creations of the scene probably turned out. But homages, parodies and callbacks have appeared in many works, perhaps most notably in 2014 in a scene starring Moore’s real-life ex, Ashton Kutcher.

19. There’s one bit of knowledge that will make those dark spirits even creepier.

In the film, the bad people go to a bad afterlife, and they’re taken there by creepy, inky shadow things. They’re scary enough to make anyone walk a more righteous path, but the ick factor increases when you know that the horrible noise they make is actually the noise of a baby crying – played slow and backwards, according to IMDb.

20. Ghost prompted Swayze to share some life lessons that seem all the more poignant since his passing.

Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at age 57. Speaking to PEOPLE in 1990, Swayze shared what he felt was the message of the film, saying, “Ghost was about living your life for the moment, because that’s all you’ve got … If you don’t communicate with the people you love, you set yourself up for incredible pain if you lose them.”

Related Articles