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Ghost World (film)

Ghost World
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Produced by Lianne Halfon
John Malkovich
Russell Smith
Screenplay by Daniel Clowes
Terry Zwigoff
Based on Ghost World 
by Daniel Clowes
Starring Thora Birch
Scarlett Johansson
Brad Renfro
Illeana Douglas
Steve Buscemi
Music by David Kitay
Cinematography Affonso Beato
Editing by Carole Kravetz
Michael R. Miller
Studio Granada Film
Jersey Shore
Mr. Mudd Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box office $8,761,393

Ghost World is a 2001 American comedy-drama film directed by Terry Zwigoff, based on the comic book of the same name and screenplay by Daniel Clowes. The story focuses on the lives of Enid and Rebecca, two teenage outsiders in an unnamed American city. The film experienced limited commercial success but has since gained a cult following.


Best friends Enid and Rebecca face summer after their high-school graduation. The girls are both social outcasts, but Rebecca is more popular with boys than Enid. Enid's diploma is awarded on the condition that she attend a remedial art class. Even though she is a talented artist, her art teacher, Roberta, believes art must be socially meaningful and dismisses Enid's sketches as "light entertainment".

The girls see a personal ad in which a lonely man named Seymour asks a woman he met recently to contact him. Enid makes a prank phone call to Seymour, pretending to be the woman and inviting him to meet her at a diner, and when he goes there, the two girls secretly watch and make fun of him. However, Enid begins to feel sorry for him, so a few days later they follow him to his apartment building, where they find him selling vintage records in a garage sale. Enid buys an old blues album from him, and they gradually become friends. She tries to find women for him to date. Meanwhile, Enid has been attending her art class. In order to please Roberta, Enid persuades Seymour to lend her an old poster depicting a grotesquely caricatured black man, which was once used as a promotional tool by the fried-chicken franchise where Seymour holds a management position. In class, she presents the poster as a social comment about racism, and Roberta is so impressed with the concept that she later offers Enid a scholarship to an art college.

At this point, Enid's and Becky's lives seriously diverge. While Enid has been spending time with Seymour, Becky has found a job and become more interested in clothing, boys, and other material things. Enid finds a job so the girls can rent an apartment together, but she is fired after only one day. Finally, Becky gives up looking for an apartment with Enid after their personal differences erupt into an angry argument. Sometime after Enid loses her job, Seymour receives a phone call from Dana, the woman he had written to in the personal ad. Enid encourages him to develop a relationship with Dana, but becomes jealous when he begins avoiding Enid to spend time with Dana. At the end of the summer, Enid's and Seymour's lives fall apart. When Enid's poster is displayed in an art show, school officials find it so offensive they force Roberta to give her a failing grade; when Enid discovers she has lost her scholarship, she visits Seymour for solace, resulting in a drunken one-night stand. Seymour then breaks up with Dana before realizing he has no chance with Enid, and loses his job after the poster is displayed in a newspaper. Becky tells Seymour about Enid's phone prank, and he is hospitalized after attacking a boy who was with the girls at the time.

Finally, Enid gives in to her childhood fantasy of running away from home. She sees an old man named Norman, who was waiting at an out-of-service bus stop for days on end, finally board a bus that arrives at his bench. The next day, while Seymour discusses the summer's events with his therapist, Enid goes to the bench and gets on the bus when it arrives.



Ghost World premiered on June 16, 2001 at the Seattle International Film Festival, to lower than average recognition by audiences, but admiration from critics. It was also screened at several film festivals all over the world including the Fantasia Festival in Montreal.

With a limited commercial theatrical run in the United States, Ghost World’s commercial success was minimal. The film was released on July 20, 2001 in five theaters grossing $98,791 on its opening weekend. It went on to make $6.2 million in North America and $2.5 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $8.7 million, just above its $7 million budget.[1]

Critical reaction

The film's critical reception has been highly positive; it currently has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 88 metascore on Metacritic. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "I wanted to hug this movie. It takes such a risky journey and never steps wrong. It creates specific, original, believable, lovable characters, and meanders with them through their inconsolable days, never losing its sense of humor".[2] In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott praised Thora Birch's performance: "Thora Birch, whose performance as Lester Burnham's alienated daughter was the best thing about American Beauty, plays a similar character here, with even more intelligence and restraint".[3] Kevin Thomas, in his review for The Los Angeles Times, wrote, "Buscemi rarely has had so full and challenging a role, that of a mature, reflective man, unhandsome yet not unattractive, thanks to a witty sensitivity and clear intelligence".[4] In his Chicago Reader review, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "Birch makes the character an uncanny encapsulation of adolescent agonies without ever romanticizing or sentimentalizing her attitudes, and Clowes and Zwigoff never allow us to patronize her".[5] Time magazine's Andrew D. Arnold wrote, "Unlike those shrill, hard-sell teen comedies on the other screens, Ghost World never becomes the kind of empty, defensive snark-fest that it targets. Clowes and Zwigoff keep the organic pace of the original, and its empathic exploration of painfully changing relationships".[6]

Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Ghost World is a movie for anyone who ever felt imprisoned by life but crazy about it anyway".[7] In her review for the LA Weekly, Manohla Dargis wrote, "If Zwigoff doesn't always make his movie move (he's overly faithful to the concept of the cartoon panel), he has a gift for connecting us to people who aren't obviously likable, then making us see the urgency of that connection".[8] In Sight & Sound, Leslie Felperin wrote, "Cannily, the main performers deliver most of their lines in slack monotones, all the better to set off the script's wit and balance the glistering cluster of varyingly deranged lesser characters".[9] In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote, "It is an engaging account of the raw pain of adolescence: the fear of being trapped in a grown-up future and choosing the wrong grown-up identity, and of course the pain of love, which we all learn to anaesthetise with jobs and mundane worries".[10] However, in his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris disliked the character of Enid: "I found Enid smug, complacent, cruel, deceitful, thoughtless, malicious and disloyal. Worst of all, she's rarely funny and never charming ... Enid's favorite targets are people who are older, poorer or dumber than she is, which is to say that the California wasteland fashioned by Mr. Zwigoff and Mr. Clowes seems made up almost entirely of stooges for Enid and Rebecca to tease and taunt".[11]


Ghost World topped MSN Movies' list of the "Top 10 Comic Book Movies",[12] it was ranked number 3 out of 94 in Rotten Tomatoes' "Comix Worst to Best" countdown (where #1 was the best and #94 the worst),[13] ranked 5th "Best" on IGN's "Best & Worst Comic-Book Movies",[14] and Empire magazine ranked the film 19th in their "The 20 Greatest Comic Book Movies" list.[15]


Ghost World: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released August 14, 2001 (2001-08-14)
Genre Bollywood, string band, blues, jazz
Length 62:58
Label Shanachie
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[16]

Music in the film includes "Jaan Pehechan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi, a dance number from the 1965 Bollywood musical Gumnaam (which Enid watches and dances to early in the film), and "Devil Got My Woman" by Skip James in 1931, as well as "Pickin' Cotton Blues" by the bar band, Blueshammer.

There are songs by other artists mentioned in the film, including Lionel Belasco, which are reflective of the character Seymour, and of director Terry Zwigoff himself, who is a collector of 78 RPM records, as portrayed by Seymour. Other tracks are by Vince Giordano, a musician who specializes in meticulous recreations of songs from old 78 RPM records. Track 14-19 are not in the film, being selections from Zwigoff's collection.

Referenced in the film is R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders, a band that Zwigoff played in. Enid asks Seymour about the band's second album, Chasin' Rainbows, and Seymour replies, "Nah, that one's not so great."

Missing from the soundtrack is "What Do I Get?" by Buzzcocks, which can be heard when Enid dresses up like a punk, and the song "A Smile and a Ribbon" by Patience and Prudence.

Ghost World: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No. TitleWriter(s)Performer(s) Length
1. "Jaan Pehechan Ho" (1965)Shankar Jaikishan (music);
Shailendra (lyrics)
Mohammed Rafi 5:28
2. "Graduation Rap"  Nicole Sill, Guy Thomas (music);
Daniel Clowes (lyrics)
Vanilla, Jade and Ebony 0:32
3. "Devil Got My Woman" (1931)JamesSkip James 3:00
4. "I Must Have It" (cover of King Oliver, 1930)Davidson Nelson, Joe "King" OliverVince Giordano and the Nighthawks 2:59
5. "Miranda" (1933)Thomas Pasatleri, Louis PhillipsLionel Belasco 3:02
6. "Pickin' Cotton Blues"  Terry Zwigoff, Steve Pierson, Guy ThomasBlueshammer 3:35
7. "Let's Go Riding" (1935[17])Freddie SpruellMr. Freddie 2:55
8. "Georgia on My Mind"  Hoagy Carmichael (music)
Stuart Gorrell (lyrics)
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks 3:11
9. "Las Palmas de Maracaibo" (1930)BelascoLionel Belasco 3:15
10. "Clarice" (cover of Tiny Parham, 1928)Tiny ParhamVince Giordano and the Nighthawks 3:29
11. "Scalding Hot Coffee Rag"  VentrescoCraig Ventresco 3:02
12. "You're Just My Type" (cover of King Oliver, 1930)Nelson, OliverVince Giordano and the Nighthawks 2:33
13. "Venezuela" (1931)Victor ColonLionel Belasco 3:15
14. "Fare Thee Well Blues" (1930)CalicottJoe Calicott 3:12
15. "C. C. & O. Blues" (1928)Anderson, Brownie McGheePink Anderson and Simmie Dooley 3:08
16. "C-h-i-c-k-e-n Spells Chicken" (1927)Sidney L. Perrin, Bob SlaterMcGee Brothers 2:59
17. "That's No Way to Get Along" (1929)WilkinsRobert Wilkins 2:55
18. "So Tired" (1928)Lonnie JohnsonDallas String Band 3:20
19. "Bye Bye Baby Blues" (1930)JonesLittle Hat Jones 3:10
20. "Theme from Ghost World"  KitayDavid Kitay 3:58


  • 74th Academy Awards—Best Adapted Screenplay – Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff
  • Golden Globe Awards—Best Actress—Musical or Comedy – Thora Birch
  • Golden Globe Awards—Best Supporting Actor – Steve Buscemi
  • American Film Institute—Best Screenplay – Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff
  • American Film Institute—Best Supporting Actor – Steve Buscemi
  • Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics
  • Independent Spirit Award—Best First Feature – Terry Zwigoff
  • Writers Guild of America—Best Adapted Screenplay – Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff

See also


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
  • The Comics Journal review (compares it to the graphic novel)

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