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Ghost World is a 2001 film directed by Terry Zwigoff, based on the graphic novel of the same name and screenplay by Daniel Clowes. The story focuses on the life of two teenage friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who are outside of the normal high school social order in an unnamed district of Los Angelesmarker.

Although the film was not a major box-office success, it was praised by critics and has established a strong cult following.


Enid and Rebecca (best friends and outcasts among their classmates) graduate from high school. The class throws off their graduation hats, and Enid and Rebecca wander off in the distance and give the finger to the school they've managed to survive. After checking her diploma, Enid is angered to discover that it was awarded only conditionally and that she must attend a remedial art class that summer.

Later, Enid and Rebecca attend the graduation party, where they are annoyed by various students they don’t like, including Melora, an overly enthusiastic would-be actress.

The next day, while in a 1950s-style diner, Enid and Rebecca decide to make a prank call to a lonely man named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) who has placed an ad in the personals section, pretending that they are the woman he is infatuated with. He shows up at the restaurant (where Enid and Becky are waiting with their friend and reluctant accomplice Josh), and Enid begins to feel sorry for him. In the next few days, Enid and Rebecca follow up on Seymour and go to look at a garage sale, where Seymour is selling vintage records from his own collection. Enid purchases one 33 1/3 RPM blues record from him. He wraps it in his own plastic bag, which delights her.

Enid also begins to attend her art class, which is taught by Roberta Allsworth, an arty, self-important performance artist. She dismisses Enid's talented drawings as cartoons, preferring the conceptual artwork of another student because it is "serious" and "political." Enid becomes more depressed and withdrawn. Rebecca, on the other hand, finds a job in a coffee shop which appears similar to a Starbucks. She seems more and more content to lead an ordinary life.

Despite her growing alienation, Enid finds some solace in her growing friendship with Seymour, becoming increasingly infatuated with him as her relationship with Rebecca fades. She learns more details about Seymour's life, including his middle management position with a fast food franchise called Cook's Chicken. Seymour informs Enid of Cook's secret racist past (it was originally called "Coon Chicken" also known as Coon Chicken Inn) after Enid discovers an old poster from Cook's depicting a grotesquely caricatured black man. Enid asks to borrow the poster and Seymour reluctantly lets her. Enid brings the poster to her art class, presenting it as a found art object. Her classmates are appalled, but Roberta is impressed with the concept behind Enid's project and later offers her a scholarship to an art college.

As much as Enid grows to like Seymour, she is not entirely honest with him. First, she sets out to arrange dates for him and eventually encourages him to develop a relationship with Dana, the woman he originally became infatuated with. However, Enid becomes jealous when Dana works to end Enid's friendship with Seymour. After Seymour turns down Enid's invitation to her art class's end of term show, Enid is too upset to attend the show alone and skips it, unaware that her contribution, the racist poster, has created a scandal. The next day, Roberta tells Enid about the scandal and that she has lost the scholarship because of it. Enid goes to Seymour for solace and they have a drunken one-night stand. Seymour, whose feelings towards Dana have been fading anyway, now hopes to have a serious romantic relationship with Enid. Enid, on the other hand, flees Seymour's apartment the next morning before he awakens and refuses to take his calls.

In the meantime, Enid and Rebecca get in a heated fight, and the two, who originally wanted to rent an apartment together, reconsider; Rebecca thinks she would be better off living on her own, but Enid, after discovering that she has lost the scholarship and that her father's former girlfriend is moving back, insists that she still wants to live with Becky. On the night before she is to move in with Becky she is unable to finish packing, and she does not show up at Becky's the next day. Seymour turns up though, frustrated because Enid has been ignoring his calls and he has lost his job because of the art show scandal. Becky, angered by Enid not showing up, spitefully tells him about the telephone prank she, Enid, and Josh were in on. Seymour turns up at Josh's workplace, a convenience store, to take out his anger by destroying the merchandise, but a customer intervenes and injures Seymour, putting him in the hospital. Enid visits Seymour and lets him know her true feelings for him ("You're, like, my hero!"), showing him how prominently she has featured him in her sketchbook. Enid and Rebecca also have a reconciliation of sorts, half-heartedly speaking of “calling each other” sometime. As time passes, Seymour has a therapy session with a bored psychiatrist to work out his issues. Enid, who is still trying to figure out what to do with her life, boards a bus — once thought to be on a defunct line — and the bus drives off into the distance.


  • Thora Birch as Enid, an alienated teenage girl—intelligent, witty, artistic, cynical, sarcastic. A keen observer of the world around her, she has been compared to Holden Caulfield .
  • Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca, Enid's best friend since childhood, also alienated though slightly less so.
  • Steve Buscemi as Seymour, Enid’s partner in loneliness. A record collector, only Seymour can understand Enid’s trouble with individualizing herself while, at the same time, trying to find some happiness because he has had the same problem all of his life.
  • Brad Renfro as Josh, the unhappy convenience store clerk, whom Enid and Rebecca enjoy tormenting. Low key and mature, he often disapproves of the two girls' pranks but is usually cajoled into going along with them.
  • Illeana Douglas as Roberta Allsworth, Enid's art teacher. Affected and pretentious, she nevertheless comes to Enid's defense when Enid is attacked for her politically incorrect found art project.
  • Bob Balaban as Enid's kind but ineffectual father.
  • Stacey Travis as Dana, Seymour's love interest. She is attractive and likable, but her conventional tastes bore Seymour and he eventually dumps her.
  • Teri Garr as Maxine, the girlfriend of Enid's father. Enid dislikes her, as she does most adults.
  • Dave Sheridan as Doug, an eccentric loiterer who frequently clashes with Josh's boss at the convenience store.
  • Tom McGowan as Joe, a housemate and garage-sale partner of Seymour's.
  • David Cross as Gerrold, the Pushy Guy
  • Brian George as the irritable Greek owner of the convenience store where Josh works
  • Debra Azar as Melorra, an aspiring actress who graduated with Enid and Rebecca
  • Rini Bell as the self righteous, handicapped graduation speaker
  • Ezra Buzzington as Weird Al, a nickname Enid and Rebecca give to their waiter, Allen, because his hair style reminds them of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Buzzington additionally appears in Art School Confidential, another film directed by Terry Zwigoff also based on a short story by Daniel Clowes.
  • Ashley Peldon as Margaret, another student in Enid's art class, the teacher's pet.


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 Montrealmarker.

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.

Critical reaction

Its critical reception was far greater than a certain degree of films released that year, significantly praised in many reviews. It 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". 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". 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". In his review for The Chicago Reader, 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". 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".

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". In her review for the L.A. 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". Sight and Sound magazine's 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". 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". 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".


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


The score to Ghost World is composed by orchestrator and arranger David Kitay, an excerpt of his work for the film is heard on the last track of the soundtrack album.

Music in the film includes the Bollywood dance number, "Jaan Pehechan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi and "Devil Got My Woman" by Skip James, 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.

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."

There is one Track missing on the soundtrack, "What Do I Get" by The Buzzcocks. It can be heard when Enid dresses up like a punk. Also missing is the song "A Smile and a Ribbon" by Patience and Prudence. In addition, the majority of David Kitay's score is missing.

Track listing

  1. "Jaan Pehechan Ho" (Mohammed Rafi) – 5:28
    • From the opening sequence of the film, during which Enid is watching and dancing to a video clip of a dance number from the 1966 Bollywood musical Gumnaam. Also featured on the CD "Bollywood Steel Guitar", a various artists compilation released in 2008 by the Sublime Frequencies record label.
  2. "Graduation Rap" (Vanilla, Jade and Ebony) – 0:32
  3. "Devil Got My Woman" (Skip James) – 3:00
  4. "I Must Have It" (Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks) – 2:59
  5. "Miranda" (Lionel Belasco) – 3:02
  6. "Pickin' Cotton Blues" (Blueshammer) – 3:35
  7. "Let's Go Riding" (Mr. Freddie) – 2:55
  8. "Georgia On My Mind" (Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks) – 3:11
  9. "Las Palmas De Maracaibo" (Lionel Belasco) – 3:15
  10. "Clarice" (Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks) – 3:29
  11. "Scalding Hot Coffee Rag" (Craig Ventresco) – 3:02
  12. "You're Just My Type" (Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks) – 2:33
  13. "Venezuela" (Lionel Belasco) – 3:15
  14. "Fare Thee Well Blues" (Joe Calicott) – 3:12
  15. "C. C. & O. Blues" (Pink Anderson & Simmie Dooley) – 3:08
  16. "C-h-i-c-k-e-n Spells Chicken" (McGee Brothers) – 2:59
  17. "That's No Way To Get Along" (Robert Wilkins) – 2:55
  18. "So Tired" (Dallas String Band) – 3:20
  19. "Bye Bye Baby Blues" (Little Hat Jones) – 3:10
  20. "Theme From Ghost World" (David Kitay) – 3:58



  • Chicago Film Critics Association—Best Supporting Actor (Buscemi)
  • Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay (Clowes and Zwigoff)
  • Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor (Buscemi)
  • L.A. Film Critics Association—Best Screenplay (Clowes and Zwigoff)
  • New York Film Critics Circle—Best Supporting Actor (Buscemi)
  • Toronto Film Critics Association—Best Actress (Birch)
  • Toronto Film Critics Association—Best Screenplay [Runner-up] (Clowes and Zwigoff)
  • Toronto Film Critics Association—Best Supporting Actor [Runner-up] (Buscemi)
  • Toronto Film Critics Association—Best Supporting Actress (Johansson)


  • 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
  • Independent Spirit Award—Best First Feature–Terry Zwigoff
  • Writers Guild of America—Best Adapted Screenplay–Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff

See also



External links

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