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R.I.P. Ramis

5 Harold Ramis movies to watch (or re-watch) immediately

Ghostbusters with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
In remembrance of Harold Ramis, we suggest you add Ghostbusters to the Netflix queue. Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse

The world lost a respected filmmaker and generally brilliant human in Harold Ramis, who passed away early Monday morning. Let’s all pause, here, for a moment of silent reflection on the brief flicker of flame that all living things share, and, if it applies, to recall in solemn remembrance that time we got to second base while watching Ghostbusters.  

And hereafter, in honor of the deceased, may we all take off work early and spend the evening revisiting his legendary body of work until our sides hurt. What better way to celebrate the man’s memory than with some of the best comedy movies of the last 30 years?

Without further ado, in chronological order:

SCTV
Ramis status: Writer, Actor

Okay, sure. SCTV is technically not a movie. You should, however, not let this stop you from watching fresh-faced versions of top-tier comedy actors dropping irreverent riffs on Canadian television viewers. Ramis shares the screen with John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and more in this legend of sketch comedy that’s available in part on the Second City YouTube channel.

Animal House
Ramis status: Writer

You might know this one from the short list of feature films in the John Belushi catalogue, but it’s got a lot more going for it than just mashed potato-spitting, guitar-smashing toga parties and that COLLEGE sweatshirt from all the posters. A 19-year-old Kevin Bacon is in it, for one thing, and nowhere else can you watch Kiefer Sutherland's dad smoke from a roach clip while he blows the mind of the kid who played Mozart in Amadeus.

Caddyshack
Ramis status: Writer, Director

It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! Besides being the undisputed champion of quoted movies in sports bars (and on sports recap shows), Caddyshack stands as a particular triumph of artistic innovation on the fly. Both Carl Spackler and Al Czervik (Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield, in case you don’t know) were originally scripted as just bit players, but they stole the show with improvisation during filming. It also includes maybe the best monologue about the Dalai Lama in comedy history, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

Ghostbusters
Ramis status: Writer, Actor

As if its adaptation for the stage by Austin’s premier outdoor theater troupe weren’t enough, there’s one test you can run to verify the American cultural status of Ghostbusters. Wait until someone starts to dial a phone, or someone asks if you’ve seen their phone, or there’s any mention of someone wanting to use the phone. At that moment, say “Who you gonna call?” and see what happens.

Groundhog Day
Ramis status: Writer, Director

The story of one TV weatherman doomed to repeat a single day over and over until he improves his unfriendly personality could’ve been bad or it could’ve been good. Under Ramis’s direction, it was great — so much so that it continues to ring surprisingly profound notes with believers and spiritual teachers the world over. Ramis was quoted in a 2003 article as having received letters from Jesuit priests, rabbis, Buddhist leaders and more, each one expressing how well it illustrates some fundamental aspect of their faith. It’s also hilarious, naturally, and at one point the groundhog drives a car.

There are others, of course — Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters II, Analyze This, etc. — so be sure to check out his filmography and get whatever you can from Vulcan or I Luv Video before they run out. Unfortunately for most of us, Ghostbusters was the only one up on Netflix instant streaming at the time of this writing.

Harold Ramis did so much good for the world of jokes and silly yet intelligent ideas that it’s only fitting for us to spend a few hours appreciating his work, not least of all as a gesture for hope of safe passage into the great beyond.

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