The power of the movie title
Cinema is considered the seventh form of art, the newest on the Olympus of human expression. Evolving from low-frame, black and white, silent films to blockbusters of mammoth proportions, movies have entertained and motivated the crudest emotions on its viewers for little more than a century.
Movies, however, are not paintings, or a mere song: they are more akin to a book, they don’t show all of their glory on the cover, or within the name. They require development, attention from its viewer and, to achieve that, the name of a movie can be adamant to cling the audience to the piece of art.
With the amount of money spent by the industry to produce, every year, extensively big films, with expensive and talented stars, genius directors, and enormous logistic bills, no one is sparing cents on the title: They know it plays an extremely important part. It what will ring inside people’s minds, it is the first association that adheres to the potential of a classic.
It’s no coincidence that nowadays many entrepreneurs invest a lot in specialists to create catchy names for their enterprises. If you don’t have that type of money, there are still alternatives, like a business name generator. You’ll see below how great names help to shape and describe the essence of iconic movies.
Sure, you cannot judge a book by its cover, but if you are going on a movie night, looking through all your options, and come across with one title such as “You Only Live Twice”, you will surely be entangled in a feeling of curiosity: how will they approach this apparent paradox? It incites your interest because it is smart, it plays with a known motto, only to reverse its meaning.
This is one way you can do it. Bond movies tend to do this a lot: The Bond saga is incredible at title choices. Take for example “The World Is Not Enough”; the effect is the same, but it adds, quite literally, something quite out of this world to the action that you already know it will happen because, after all, it is a Bond Movie.
Another, quite similar in its way of playing with words is “Natural Born Killers”. The mixing of birth and mortality in the same title is one of the coolest ways to present an action movie, and to me, the essence of its iconic status is the presence of the word “Natural”. It somehow alludes, almost subconsciously, to the cycle of life in such a way that it just sticks to your mind.
There are movie titles like “Blade Runner”, who are catchy on their own, but whose origins are unclear. Sure, now all of us think about the term and can’t help but thinking about Harrison Ford hardly living through a dystopian future of cyber technology and mercenaries. But the name, first thought to be a sentence of a book called “Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheeps?”, owes its origin to the title of a beat generation poet’s book, “Blade Runner”, written by the great William S. Burroughs. Who would have known? Anyway, the title adds to the mystery of a world unknown to the common audience, adding to the sense of strangeness that is a trademark of the futuristic world of Blade Runner.
The genius of Tarantino surely gave us a whole bunch of great movie titles: we could talk about how he can hint at the scenario and characters (“Reservoir Dogs”), the associations he makes with the time where the action happens with a twist on a common expression of those days (“Inglorious Basterds”)… But let’s stick with the simplicity of “Kill Bill”. The rhyme is instantly catchy.
And now that we know the instant classic status of the movie and its story, the title also encapsulates the sole idea on Uma Thurman’s character’s mind: vengeance. To Kill Bill. But this rhyming tactic wasn’t only used once: “Hateful Eight” rings a bell? It seems that Tarantino is as good a film writer as he is a title writer… But that’s any doubt about a man that can make a discussion about feet massage turn into art?
The film industry is constantly expanding. Some even say that it is starting to be impossible to innovate the industry in any way. Things have been done. This was surely not how some avantgarde writers thought in the 90s when movies like “Se7en” or “Face/Off“ were released. Because when you can’t compete with the stellar glory of something like “The Bad, The Good and The Ugly”, you need to start getting inventive.
(I wonder if whoever wrote this title thought he was competing with “Of Mice and Men”, or “Hamlet”). The 90s saw a lot of inventive and experimental ideas being tried on films as a way to expand and innovate, and the films mentioned above clearly did the trick.
Some more current examples of good names curiously come from the same director, Christopher Nolan. “Inception” seemed inconspicuous before seeing the movie but has since become a word used not only to refer to anything related to the movie but anything related to a parcel of the movie’s action.
This effectively grants ever new attention to the movie, consolidating its fame. And, as for the last movie he directed, “Tenet”, he uses a palindrome that – no spoiler unintended – is not only linguistically interesting but is also related to the movie’s plot.
Wes Anderson typically refers to exotic places like Darjeeling or Budapest to allude to his also exotic style, Scorsese keeps it classical, Michael Bay keeps it explosive. There are multiple ways to direct attention to your work by the sole title of it, it’s a simple matter of establishing an identity you want to direct outwards and look out for a style that embodies it.
Great titles are those who, instead of betraying the work they serve as PR, help to introduce it and then, solidifying it in a market full of great masterpieces. “Apocalypse Now” will never be buried under the thousands of films made after it. That’s the power of movie titles.