Despite generally mixed reviews from critics, the film grossed $112.5 million in the United States and $215.4 million worldwide, becoming the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1989.
After saving New York City from the demi-god Gozer, the Ghostbusters—Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, and Winston Zeddemore—are sued for the property damage they caused, and barred from investigating the supernatural, forcing them out of business. Ray owns an occult bookstore and works as an unpopular children's entertainer with Winston, Egon works in a laboratory conducting experiments into human emotion, and Peter hosts a pseudo-psychic television show. Peter's former girlfriend Dana Barrett has had a son, Oscar, with an ex-husband, and works at the Museum of Modern Art. After an incident in which Oscar's baby carriage is controlled by an unseen force and drawn to a busy junction, Dana turns to the Ghostbusters for help. Meanwhile, Dana's colleague Dr. Janosz Poha is indoctrinated by the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian, a powerful legendary sixteenth-century tyrant and magician trapped in a painting in the gallery. Vigo orders Janosz to locate a child that Vigo can possess, allowing him to return to life on the New Year.
The Ghostbusters' investigation leads them to illegally excavate First Avenue at the point where the baby carriage stopped. Lowered underneath, Ray discovers a river of pink slime filling the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit line. Attacked by the slime after obtaining a sample, Ray accidentally causes a citywide blackout, and the Ghostbusters are arrested. They are found guilty of investigating the supernatural, but before they can be taken away, the slime taken as evidence reacts to the judge's angry outburst and explodes, releasing two ghosts who were murderers that the judge had executed that proceed to devastate the courtroom. The Ghostbusters imprison the ghosts in exchange for the dismissal of all charges and that they be allowed to resume their Ghostbusting business.
Later, the slime invades Dana's apartment and attacks her and Oscar. She seeks refuge with Peter, and the two begin to renew their relationship. Investigating the slime and Vigo's history, the Ghostbusters discover that the slime reacts to emotions, and suspect that it has been generated by the negative attitudes of New Yorkers. While Peter and Dana have dinner together, Egon, Ray, and Winston explore the underground river of slime. While measuring the depth, Winston gets pulled into the flowing river, and Ray and Egon jump in after him. After they escape back to the surface Ray and Winston begin arguing, but Egon realizes that they are being influenced by the slime, so they strip off their clothes. They also learn the river is flowing directly to the museum.
The Ghostbusters go to the mayor with their suspicions, but are dismissed; the mayor's assistant, Jack Hardemeyer, has them committed to a psychiatric hospital to protect the mayor's interests as he runs for governor. Meanwhile, a spirit resembling Janosz kidnaps Oscar from Peter's apartment, and Dana pursues them to the museum alone. After she enters, the museum is covered with a barrier of impenetrable slime.
New Year's Eve sees a sudden increase of supernatural activity as the slime rises from the subway line and onto the city streets, causing widespread paranormal activity with ghosts attacking citizens. In response, the mayor fires Hardemeyer and has the Ghostbusters released. After heading to the museum, they are unable to breach the power of the slime barrier with their proton packs. Determining that they need a symbol of powerful positivity to rally the citizens and weaken the slime, the Ghostbusters use positively-charged mood slime, and a remix of "Higher and Higher" to animate the Statue of Liberty and pilot it through the streets before the cheering populace. As they arrive at the museum, the slime begins to recede and they use the Statue's torch to break through the museum's ceiling to attack Vigo and Janosz.
Janosz is neutralized with positively-charged slime, but Vigo immobilizes the Ghostbusters and attempts a transfer into Oscar's body. A chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" by the citizens outside weakens Vigo, returning him to the painting and freeing the Ghostbusters. Vigo momentarily possesses Ray, and the other Ghostbusters attack him with a combination of proton streams and positively-charged mood slime. Dressed in full Ghostbusters attire, Louis attacks the weakened slime barrier around the building with a proton stream of his own. This combination destroys Vigo and changes the painting to a likeness of the four Ghostbusters standing protectively around Oscar. Outside, the Ghostbusters receive a standing ovation from the crowd and, at a later ceremony to restore the Statue, the Key to the City from the mayor.
Some notable cast members in the film include one of Bill Murray's siblings, Brian Doyle-Murray, who played the psychiatric doctor, Dan Aykroyd's niece, Karen Humber, who played one of the school children, and Ben Stein, who played a public works official for the mayor. Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman, plays the boy who insults the Ghostbusters at a birthday party. Cheech Marin is the dock supervisor who witnesses the arrival of the Titanic, and Philip Baker Hall is the city police chief. Bobby Brown is the doorman to Gracie Mansion when the Ghostbusters go to see the mayor of New York City (also performing on the soundtrack). The physical role of Vigo was played by Wilhelm von Homburg, and his dialog was dubbed by Max von Sydow.
After the success of the first film and the animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures pressed the producers to make a sequel. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman were uncomfortable with this, as the original film was intended to be conclusive and they wished to work on other projects. Eventually, they agreed and created a script.
At its release, Ghostbusters II was the biggest three-day opening weekend gross in history with $29.5 million, a record that was broken one week later by Batman ($40.5 million). Ghostbusters II eventually grossed $112.4 million in North America and $102.9 million internationally for a total of $215.3 million worldwide.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 53% based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Thanks to the cast, Ghostbusters 2 is reasonably amusing, but it lacks the charm, wit, and energy of its predecessor." At Metacritic the film received a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Variety said the film had amusing visuals and a clever plot, while Nick Shager of Screengrab opined that it "Effectively slimed everyone's fond memories of the original". On their show, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the picture two thumbs down, disappointed that the film did not try anything new and like many sequels, merely re-treated the first film. Siskel stated "The film contains little comic invention. It looks as if the filmmakers, particularly the writers, simply didn't try to do anything special. As if they simply filmed the first draft." Ebert stated that he saw the movie in a theater in Michigan and out of a packed house, there was only one laugh. Murray remarked how disappointed he was with it all as "Those special-effects guys took over. It was too much of the slime and not enough of us."
The Blu-ray version, released in September 2014, was scanned and mastered in 4K and preserves the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. An earlier DVD version was also transferred in the correct scope ratio. The VHS and Laserdisc releases of Ghostbusters II were made differently, however: instead of being produced in either the original 2.35:1 or panned and scanned at 1.33:1, the movie was panned and scanned in a 1.66:1 frame. This version, often shown on television, shows slightly more image at the edges than a "proper" pan and scan version at 1.33:1.
A great deal of merchandise (such as coloring books) came out with the release of this film. As was the case with the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, the makers of this material may have wanted to avoid likeness fees and as a result, the main characters in these bear little resemblance to any other version of the characters.
As a tie-in with the release of the movie, approximately 3,100 Hardee’s fast food restaurants offered a kids meal-deal that included a toy called the “Ghostblaster”, a small noisemaker embossed with the movie’s signature logo on one side and made different sounds when one of two buttons were activated. However, officials at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed that the toy posed a potential choking hazard to small children due to the fact that the toy was operated with small watch-sized batteries and recalled at least 2 million units.
During this period, The Real Ghostbusters comic book produced by NOW Comics ran a three-part adaptation of the film, using the cartoon character designs instead of the likenesses of the actors. The overall story received minor alterations to run as a three-part series, and includes several scenes that were in the shooting script but were not included in the released movie. An example is a scene set after their first visit at the museum (and Ray's first encounter with Vigo). In this scene, Ray is momentarily possessed while driving the Ecto-1A, and as a result tries to crash the car and kill the Ghostbusters. They soon bring Ray around to his senses after speeding through New York streets, and he apologizes, unable to account for his actions. They never connect it to Vigo since, while possessed, Ray never mentions him. The comic panels further reinforce the movie's scene where Ray is briefly hypnotized by Vigo (leading to him being chosen as a host at the end).
The film also features the original versions of "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr. and "Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson, though neither appears on the soundtrack album.
The album was made available in digital form on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.
In 1999, Dan Aykroyd wrote a script for a possible third film, titled Ghostbusters III: Hellbent. In a 2004 interview, Bill Murray stated that he didn't want to appear in a potential third installment and for that reason, the cast considered replacing him with Ben Stiller.
In 2014, after Harold Ramis' death, Ivan Reitman abandoned the project. Film directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were in talks to direct the film, but passed on the project, leading to its cancellation. In August 2014, Paul Feig revealed that he was in talks for direct a third film in the franchise, but with women in the lead roles. He later revealed that the film will be a reboot and not a sequel for Ghostbusters II. The rebooted Ghostbusters was released on July 15, 2016.