Harold Ramis: Ghostbusters star's five greatest films

Feb 25, 2014

Writer and director Harold Ramis presided over some of the most successful comedies of the 1980s and 1990s

Columbia Tristar

HAROLD RAMIS, best known for the films Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day, died in Chicago yesterday after battling a long illness.

Ramis shot to fame in the role of Dr Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters films. He was also a successful writer and director, presiding over some of the highest-grossing cinematic comedies of the 1980s and 1990s.

The actor died in his home yesterday "from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis", The Times reports. The disease attacks blood vessels in the body.

Fellow actors and comedians reacted with tributes in the media and on Twitter.

"Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend, co-writer/performer and teacher Harold Ramis," Dan Aykroyd tweeted.

Long-term collaborator Bill Murray told Time: "Harold Ramis and I together did The National Lampoon Show off-Broadway, Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. He earned his keep on this planet. God bless him."

Billy Crystal, the actor and comedian wrote on Twitter: "Sad to hear my friend Harold Ramis passed away. A brilliant, funny, actor and director. A wonderful husband and dad. Big loss to us all."

Critics celebrated Ramis with tributes that touched on some of the actor's cinematic highlights. Below are five films that defined Ramis's career in Hollywood.

1) Ghostbusters, 1984 (actor and writer)

Ramis brought "cleverness to silly comedy, and form to anarchy", writes Hadley Freeman in The Guardian. Ramis leaves behind him "an incomparable work of seminal comedies" but none are greater, Freeman says, than Ghostbusters.

Caitlin Moran, writing in The Times in 2009 argued - only partly with tongue in cheek - that Ghostbusters is the greatest film of all time:

"To those who still deludedly think they prefer Star Wars over Ghostbusters, all I need do is ask you this: you don't really want to be a Jedi, do you? In a greige cowl, getting off with your sister, without a single gag across three films? I think if you thought about it a little while longer, you'd realise that you'd far rather be a Ghostbuster: a nerd in New York with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back, and a one in four chance of being Bill Murray."

2) Groundhog Day, 1993 (writer, director and producer)

Groundhog Day defined Harold Ramis's career as a writer and director, and simultaneously revived that of long-time friend and collaborator Bill Murray. Robbie Collin, writing for The Telegraph, describes it as "one of the few perfect comedies we have, and even a brief summary of its plot, which is equal parts Franz Kafka and Frank Capra, reads like an unimprovable cosmic joke".

3) Stripes, 1981 (actor and writer)

Ramis proved that he wasn't just a peddler of simple gags with his satirical army comedy Stripes in 1981. Rolling Stone's David Fear writes: "When you think of late 70s, early 80s comedy, you're thinking of Ramis' sarcastic, snarky voice; to quote a line he wrote for Stripes 'That's the fact, Jack!'"

4) Caddyshack, 1980 (writer and director)

Though it may not have aged as well as some of Ramis's other comedies, Caddyshack was an enormous hit when it came out and "for years, it defined American comedy", Freeman says. Fox Sports notes that the golf-themed film is "consistently voted as one of the funniest and all-around best sports movies ever conceived."

5) Analyze This, 1999 (writer and director)

While his biggest hits came in the late eighties and early nineties, Ramis maintained his ability to keep a finger on the comedic zeitgeist with movies such as Analyse This, a Billy Crystal "mobster-in-therapy farce that eerily predicted The Sopranos", notes Fear.

Ramis went on to direct episodes of the American version of The Office, and became an executive producer towards the end of his career.

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Analyse This, a Billy Crystal "mobster-in-therapy farce that eerily predicted The Sopranos"

The Sopranos's first episode came out in January 1999 while Analyze This came out in March 1999. Also, Sopranos had been conceived years earlier and the pilot was filmed in 1997.