If there’s one thing both generations of Ghostbusters films have in common — and there isn’t, there are loads of things like ghosts and jumpsuits — it’s the fact that the casts are stacked. Both generations include breakout Saturday Night Live stars, hilarious scene-stealers and solid dramatic actors.

But just because they’re top talent doesn’t mean they don’t bottom out occasionally. This list is a breakdown of what I believe to be each Ghostbuster’s best and worst non-Ghostbusters roles.

One important and arbitrary rule that I gave myself: I’ve only listed Ghostbusters. Which means, in my definition, someone who has worn a jumpsuit. Unfortunately it means I’m leaving off Sigourney Weaver (her best is Alien and let’s say her worst is Abduction) but luckily it also means I’m leaving off the very talented Annie Potts, whose work I’ve seen very little of. So let’s say her best is Ghostbusters and her worst is Ghostbusters II.

It also has the added benefit of keeping the already-kinda-long list from being ridiculous. So, let’s get things started.

Bill Murray

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Murray

Best: Groundhog Day

Murray has a murderer’s row of fantastic performances. Whether it’s scene-stealers in Caddyshack and Tootsie or late-period classics like Lost in Translation or any Wes Anderson film. I chose a movie that showed all the sides Murray excelled at. It was between Groundhog Day and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and the former won. Murray plays a fantastic asshole. His odd, unexpected charm lets him get away with way more than you’d expect, which definitely helps us relate to his prickish newscaster through the sleazier parts of the film. Luckily it pays off because Murray unfolds the layers of his personality throughout the movie. We get morose sadness, defeated depression and finally that deep layer of goodness you know he’s hiding somewhere. It really is a tour de force performance.

Worst: Garfield: The Movie

Murray has said he signed up for the film because he thought the movie’s writer, Joel Cohen, was actually Joel Coen, of the Coen Brothers. Whether or not that’s true, it’s really no excuse for a pretty lazy performance. It’s a great example of celebrity voice casting, trading any skill or nuance for name value. The laziness of the performance especially comes through when you compare it against Murray’s very good vocal performance in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Dan Aykroyd

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Aykroyd

Best: Grosse Pointe Blank

There are a few solid choices for this slot. The warm humanity of My Girl or the quiet cool of Blues Brothers both could have slotted in here just fine. Instead I chose Grosse Pointe Blank. As the villain in the movie Aykroyd is able to put his penchant for playing a fast-talking huckster to great use. He’s loquacious enough to be annoying and borders on fed-up and unhinged from the second he’s on-screen.

Worst: Nothing But Trouble

There are a lot of options for this slot. Aykroyd has had more than his fair share of bombs. I’m singling out Nothing But Trouble for two reasons: 1) it was written and directed by Aykroyd and 2) it’s a viscerally off-putting nightmare to watch. Nothing But Trouble is a disgusting fever dream that makes you want to clean your TV screen when it’s done. As the driving force behind the film he makes it pretty evident that a guiding hand like John Landis, John Belushi or Harold Ramis is exactly the kind of thing Aykroyd needs to keep his crazier stuff in check.

Harold Ramis

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Ramis

Best: Orange County

This spot would probably go to Stripes if that movie didn’t have a pretty mediocre second half that most people forget about. Instead I’m giving it to Orange County, an underrated Colin Hanks and Jack Black film in which Ramis makes a late yet welcome appearance as a college admissions officer. I remember not even realizing it was Ramis when I first watched this movie. His transition from lanky goof to lovable teddy bear is so complete, but also so natural. His accidental drugging in the movie is one of the best parts and he plays it with aplomb.

Worst: Year One

Ramis as a fantastic writer and director, his work included SCTV, Groundhog Day, National Lampoon’s Animal House and Ghostbusters itself. So it’s really unfortunate that his last directorial effort is Year One. It’s a biblical comedy with a killer cast that just completely whiffs in almost every sense of the word. It’s a huge disappointment and not in any way indicative of the actual talent Ramis possessed.

Ernie Hudson

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Hudson

Best: Oz

Hudson is a very solid performer in every movie in which he appears. Even in some of the direct-to-DVD stuff he’s appeared in lately Hudson comes across as professional. His role as Warden Leo Glyn in the HBO TV series Oz is one of my favourites though. Hudson gets a lot to do over the six seasons, peeling back the layers of the authority figure type that’s his bread and butter. He also shows off his guns any time he hits the prison gym, which was a cool surprise.

Worst: God’s Not Dead 2

Ernie, Ernie, Ernie. Has it really come to this? The sequel to a Christploitation film starring Melissa Joan Hart? He’s certainly not the only disappointing appearance in the film (lookin’ at you, Ray Wise) but he comes off as one of the most embarrassed to be there. I don’t begrudge an actor working for a paycheck, I just hope the paycheck was very, very good.

Rick Moranis

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Moranis

Best: Little Shop of Horrors

Rick Moranis has a solid body of work. His performances in Strange Brew, Parenthood or even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids could all conceivably take this spot. While on the face of it Moranis seems to always play the nerd or the loser he always manages to find different shades and variations. The best example of this is Seymour in The Little Shop of Horrors. Moranis plays a kind-hearted desperation that spirals out of control. Even though the majority of the awful things that transpire in the movie are Seymour’s fault it’s really, really hard to hold it against the little guy.

Worst: Big Bully

Tom Arnold co-stars in this.

Kristen Wiig

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Wiig

Best: The Skeleton Twins

Kristen Wiig has a number of great performances, some more surprising than others. While she was a breakout star on Saturday Night Live — and probably more of a crutch to the writers than she should have been — she also had hidden dramatic depths which she brought to Bridesmaids, Adventureland and especially Skeleton Twins. Acting opposite Bill Hader as her equally depressed brother she manages to break your heart as much as she cracks you up. She and Hader are so good they make me want these comedy legends to spend more time stretching their dramatic muscles.

Worst: Extract

Extract is a pretty bad movie. It’s a bit of a misfire from the usually reliable Mike Judge. No one comes out of the film looking particularly good, except maybe Ben Affleck. Unfortunately Wiig is saddled with a pretty shallow character that the movie tries to turn around in the final act but but too much damage has been done. Wiig tries her best, but it’s a pretty thankless role and definitely not one people will remember her for.

Melissa McCarthy

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles McCarthy

Best: Gilmore Girls

I kind of had to choose Gilmore Girls. Even with her big breakout success at the box office it’s almost certainly her most beloved role. Not to say she hasn’t been great recently (Bridesmaids and St. Vincent stand out) but it’s hard to beat the giddy, passionate and supportive Sookie St. James. Sookie is so beloved to Gilmore Girls fans there was straight-up online panic when it took way too long for them to announce McCarthy’s return in the upcoming revival.

Worst: Identity Thief

Melissa McCarthy seems to be bouncing back and forth in her movie roles between playing on her type and going full-blown stereotype. Spy and Bridesmaids are great examples of the first. Tammy and especially Identity Thief are examples of the second. McCarthy’s character in Identity Thief is loud and obnoxious and lacking any of the charm that seems to come so easy to the actress. Any amount of heart the movie tries to ingrain in the character is rings completely hollow because she’s just an annoying cartoon up until then. It’s unfortunate that she hasn’t found a consistent sweet spot yet, but on the bright side Ghostbusters seems to fall in the good category.

Leslie Jones

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Jones

Best: SNL

Leslie Jones has had a long career, predominantly as a comedian, but also some smaller parts I don’t really remember in movies that weren’t that great. Jones’s big break was being added to the writer’s room on Saturday Night Live in 2013. Clearly her personality shone through because she eventually started doing Weekend Update drop-ins and is currently a member of the cast. Her biggest hits are those Weekend Update bits though, where her natural charm comes out in boisterous, flirty and hilarious bursts.

Worst: SNL

There’s a flip-side to Jones’s tenure on SNL. While she’s fantastic being an exaggeration of herself and basically doing a version of her standup over the Weekend Update desk she’s way more hit-and-miss in the sketches. When she first started she was plagued with botched lines and too-long pauses. She’s fantastic in pre-taped sketches, and has definitely gotten better during the live ones, but she’s still occasionally plagued with flubs usually only seen with first-time guest hosts.

Kate McKinnon

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles McKinnon

Best: SNL

Kate McKinnon is the current breakout star of SNL, so there’s really no other option. While the last few seasons of the show have had a ridiculously deep bench of female talent, McKinnon has time and again risen to the top. She can take the flimsiest sketch premise — which SNL is full of — and knock it out of the park by committing entirely. McKinnon is set to continue dominating the screen due to her ongoing role as Hillary Clinton and we’re all better for it.

Worst: Ted 2

McKinnon hasn’t really been in much outside of SNL. I’m certain that will change in the years to come considering she’s the next Will Ferrell or Kristen Wiig. Unfortunately that means I’m pretty much judging her on what little she has been in. That includes Ted 2. She played herself. I’m sure she was fine but I really don’t remember much of Ted 2 thankfully. This is a bit of a cop-out, but whatever, you’re not the boss of me. Don’t make me Annie Potts this whole damn thing!

Chris Hemsworth

Best Non-Ghostbusters Roles Hemsworth

Best: Star Trek

It may sound like an insult, choosing a small role where Hemsworth dies within the first 10 minutes. But I’m not. His performance as George Kirk was absolutely crucial to the characterization and motivation of Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk. And Hemsworth absolutely nails it. His performance makes you cry for someone you barely know, and it makes you sympathize with his son trying to live up to his legacy. In his short screen-time he creates a character full of heart, stoicism and humour. Some actors can’t even nail that over a full, two hour film.

Spoiler Alert: I mentioned up there that his character dies in Star Trek.

Worst: The Avengers

Probably a controversial pick, but it’s really more of a default choice. There are some good movies he gives good performances in like A Perfect Getaway or The Cabin in the Woods and some mediocre movies he gives good performances in like Blackhat or Red Dawn. The Avengers is a mediocre movie he gives a mediocre performance in. The movie just doesn’t seem to have much use for the character of Thor — despite having the closest connection with the villain — and Hemsworth seems to struggle with nailing down the character. He came off fine in the sequel, but it was a fairly inauspicious debut for those who skipped Thor’s solo effort.

Michael Walls-Kelly

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