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Movie Titles

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about movie names. Woody Allen has said one of the hardest things he does is come up with a name for his movies. Apparently he had the hardest time coming up with the name “Annie Hall,” even though that was the name of the lead woman character. I thought that was interesting.

Woody Allen has had movies with fantastic names (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Radio Days, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters) and some that were just kind of blah (Match Point, Scoop, Celebrity, Husbands and Wives, To Rome With Love). Here, again, I’m only talking about the NAMES of the movie, not the movies themselves. But he has a generally good record. He obviously puts effort into it.

Most movie names these days seem pretty terrible. Delivery Man. Gravity. Frozen. All the sequels. I think American Hustle is a good name. Anthony Lane at The New Yorker did a hilarious turn on movie titles a couple of years ago when the horrendously named movie “Bad Teacher” came out. “Bad Teacher?” Really? Gee, what’s that one about? Let’s see if we can come up with some other names for movies using this Bad Teacher labeling style of movie names:

— Underdog Boxer.
— Murderous Gangster.
— Corrupted Newspaper Owner.
— Brainwashed Army Guy.
— Autistic Guy And His Selfish Brother
— Lost Kansas Girl

There is a movie out right now that might have the worst name in the history of Hollywood. At least for me. Others will wildly disagree, and I’m telling you right up front that they’re right and I’m wrong. But it’s my blog. And for me, if you were assigned to come up with a combination of any four words (well, one of them is not technically a word) that would absolutely guarantee that I would never, ever see the movie, not even at gunpoint, you could not do better than “The Desolation of Smaug.”

“The Desolation of Smaug.” Whew. They might as well have called it, “Not For You,” or “Stay Home,” or “You Will Not Get This.”

Now, I do realize this is not fair at all — I don’t get any part of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings thing and so I’m not the target of this movie. This movie is for our pal, Hobbit/Lord of the Ring Enthusiast Michael Schur, who I’m sure was totally fired up by the title and has already seen the movie three times even though he’s producing half the shows on television. Me, I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie, sort of. About 10 minutes in I was already entirely lost and I don’t really remember watching the rest of it. I remember seeing a ring of some kind.

I have tried to start The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books because I feel so stupid for knowing NOTHING about this stuff, and I have never been able to make it through three pages. It’s like reading mandarin Chinese. I am fully admitting this is a failure on my part. I love the Harry Potter books and have now read the Hunger Games (review coming! Oh, wait, those have been out for a while) and so I don’t think I’m entirely tied to realism and unable to follow at least basic fantasy plots. But for some reason i don’t get this Middle Earth stuff at all*.

*This is Middle Earth, right?

The Desolation of Smaug. Every word in that title makes me want to run to a cave somewhere far away. Desolation? Can you make a good movie with the word “Desolation” in the title? Desolation Wilderness. Desolation Angels. Desolation Canyon. Desolation Island. I say no. I’m not seeing any of these movies. And where to begin on “Smaug.” It’s one of those words that looks misspelled even when it isn’t. And I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even know until my buddy Tommy Tomlinson told me that “Smaug” is not a place. I thought it was this desolate city somewhere in middle earth with, you know, lots of desolation. But that’s wrong. It’s like a creature or something. I guess it’s the creature that opens one eye in the commercials.

This reminds me of when I watched the awfully named “Ronin” with Robert De Niro and for 45 minutes or so I kept wondering, “Which of these guys is named Ronin?”

All of which leads to the question: What are the best movie titles ever? Put your nominations below in the comments and we’ll try to do a poll on it.

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227 Responses to Movie Titles

  1. The Shawshank Redemption….sums up everything that’s great about the movie.

  2. jim says:

    Gone Wiith the Wind

    • Anon Ymous says:

      I vote that any title that goes with a book first and the movie second (regardless of which was more popular) can’t be on the list. People went to see GWtW because of the Margaret Mitchell book, not because of a great title. It’s a fabulous movie with a fabulous title, but I don’t think it counts.

  3. Anon Ymous says:

    I can’t think of any best movie titles at the moment, because I’m still floored that you’re this much against Lord of the Rings.

    • DjangoZ says:

      I love sci-fi and fantasy, grew up playing D&D, etc. and I got really, really bored watching The Lord of the Rings. The first one seemed okay, but I rented the second one and I actually stopped it half-way through. I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

      Lots of spectacle, but no character or story to hang on to.

  4. John Franco says:

    I actually thought Ronin was a good title. I think they explained what it meant in the movie.

    It’s not a work of cinematic genius but I think Gone In 60 Seconds is a really good title.

    If The Shawshank Redemption had its literary title (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption) I might nominate that for best ever.

    I think I would nominate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MInd.

  5. jacobus says:

    Was it really Nathan Lane who wrote that? Or was it Anthony Lane?

  6. Robert Hay says:

    (Nathan Lane is the actor from The Producers. The New Yorker critic is Anthony Lane)

  7. Adam says:

    Gross Pointe Blank

  8. Uncle Stu says:

    Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb

  9. LP says:

    Cool Runnings is the best movie name of all time

  10. Dazed and Confused … Truly captured the essence of high school (with the overture of marijuana that ran through the film)

  11. jbruegs says:

    Apocalypse Now
    The Bridge on the River Kwai
    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    12 Angry Men
    The Great Escape

    and I much agree on Shawshank

  12. Die Harder says:

    Highlander 2: The Quickening

  13. “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, and “North by Northwest”.

  14. Tbone says:

    Snakes On A Plane

  15. Anon Ymous says:

    “Cecil B. Demented”, “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Frost/Nixon”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and of course “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb”.

    Honorable mention for being campy to “Snakes on a Plane” and “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo”.

    Worst ever goes to “The Constant Gardener”. Refused to see this movie for years, just because of the title. It was awesome.

    • Shao Ping says:

      Good call on “There Will Be Blood”

      from “In the Loop”

      Jamie: I went to see that film There Will Be Blood, right? I mean, it’s a fucking great title. If someone says to you, “Do you fancy going to see that film?” “Oh, well, I don’t know, will there be blood?” “There Will Be Blood, right?” “I’m in! I’m in!” I mean, that is a fucking great title for a film. You couldn’t have a better title for a film, apart from maybe There Will Be Tits. You could have a cinema that just shows There Will Be Blood and There Will Be Tits — you don’t need any other films. That’s the end of film right there.

      Malcolm: Is this fucking going anywhere?

      Jamie: Yeah, yeah, you know, I went to see There Will Be Blood…and there wasn’t any fucking blood!

      Malcolm: There was some blood.

      Jamie: Ahh, there was hardly any fucking blood.

      You can watch it here.

      • Jason N. says:

        “There Will Be Tits”. He’s right, everyone would have to see that. I can’t imagine the porn industry hasn’t latched on to that title yet, ala “Forrest Hump” or “Pulp Friction”, etc. Seems like a natural fit.

  16. Jake Bucsko says:

    A Ronin is a samurai without a master, which held significance in that film.

    Best movie title…I want to say something like Casablanca, my favorite film, but the name isn’t especially impressive. Just the name of the setting.

    I’ll cheat a bit and go with a tie between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. Both tell you basically what you need to know about the general thrust of the movie without giving away too much. After the first Star Wars, you see the name of the sequel, which has also become synonymous with doing a good sequel (“we want to go all Empire on it” is used by nearly every producer/director when talking about a sequel). Empire Strikes Back. Ooo, the bad guys are back! I need to see that. And then the finale: Return of the Jedi. Here comes Luke Skywalker to bring balance to the Force. Perfect titles to two of the better sequels ever made (Jedi has flaws, but everything about the Luke-Vader-Emperor showdown is pure magic).

    • Anon Ymous says:

      You see, if you’re already a Star Wars fan, you’re absolutely right.

      But if you don’t like Star Wars, those aren’t going to draw you in.

      As a LotR fans, I love “Desolation of Smaug”, but JoePoz hates it. I think you’re running into the same thing with Star Wars.

      Versus, I think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a great title (though mediocre movie), and those who didn’t see Raiders of the Lost Ark and don’t know the character are still drawn in by the title.

  17. Michael David Smith says:

    I’ve always thought “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is pretty much the perfect title.

  18. Sam says:

    If you buy the argument that The Desolation of Smaug is a terrible title, how can The Shawshank Redemption be the greatest title? It’s the exact same title!

    Raging Bull. Kiss Me Deadly. Those are great titles.

  19. John says:

    I’m not blown away that someone couldn’t get through Lord of the Rings, in book or movie. The story is big and over-complicated with lots of characters whose names blend together, with this huge magical back history.

    I’m blown away someone could enjoy Harry Potter, and then not like Lord of the Rings. I read the Potter books years ago, and I just watched the 6th film last night. It was awful. If I hadn’t read the books I might not have known what was going on, and even then, the introduction of the Horcruxes is just sloppy. And while I’m all for killing off characters, I prefer if character death has meaning, rather than just playing on our emotions.

    Best movie titles? I don’t know. Gone with the Wind seems like a good one. I never get worked up over the titles, though trailers and billboards can lure me in.

    • forsch31 says:

      Very simple…Harry Potter was written for a younger audience than Lord of the Rings, which also was actually written more as a mythology for England than a traditional story. The novels are very hard to get into (although I read the Hobbit as a young adult, I’ve only gotten through Fellowship of the Ring as an adult), and while Peter Jackson and his writers worked to make Lord of the Rings more of a traditional character-driven story with the films, they still carried over the mythological traits of the original novels. So, the atmosphere, language, and tone of the Lord of the Rings is a lot different than Harry Potter.

      For great movie titles, here’s a few (leaving off those that got them from the literary source):

      My Man Godfrey
      Knightriders (remember, this is before the talking car)
      Young Frankenstein
      Bubba Ho-Tep
      Carnival of Souls
      Murder by Decree
      Reign of Fire
      The Right Stuff
      One Way Passage
      This is Spinal Tap
      Girl Shy
      A Better Tomorrow
      Ikiru (To Live)
      My Favorite Year
      Once Upon a Time in the West (how many times has this been aped?)
      Shall We Dance?
      Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

    • David Runyon says:

      Well, the 6th movie is most likely the worst one, since they took the magic of Harry Potter and turned it into a teen romance flick. (3-4-5 are clearly the best in some order; 4-3-5 if you ask me.)

      • BIP says:

        People will probably think I’m as insane as Poz, but the first two Harry Potter movies were the best for me, and it’s a steady downward trajectory with each successive movie (though I didn’t dislike any of them).

        Yeah, the first two movies are a bit childish at times, but two huge aspects of them elevate them well above the rest for me. First, Richard Harris as Dumbledore completely destroys Michael Gambon. Harris perfectly captured Dumbledore’s charm and wit, while Michael Gambon almost always came off as way too serious. And second, the first two movies are much more faithful to the books, both in terms of dialogue and content. In particular, the 4th movie not actually showing the Quidditch World Cup match was the greatest disappointment I have ever felt in a movie theater.

  20. Cris E says:

    Single word titles that work are rare and cool but you get the chance for more subtlety with a phrase.

    The Lion In Winter
    A Bridge Too Far
    Back to The Future
    The Sting

  21. Best movie title ever:
    A Hard Day’s Night

    American Graffiti
    The Color of Money

  22. jarathen says:

    High Fidelity is one of my favorite titles.
    The Prestige is another.

    The Desolation of Smaug is less a good title and more of a promise. Smaug is the centerpiece of The Hobbit, so getting his name in one of the titles is key at this point. The only “good” title in the entire six film saga is “There and Back Again”, for my money, but I love all of the movies anyway.

  23. mark says:

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

  24. Aaron says:

    Chopping Mall

  25. Brendan says:

    Night of the Hunter
    Touch of Evil
    The Maltese Falcon
    Cool Hand Luke

  26. Uncle Stu says:

    Once Upon a Time in America

  27. Chris K. says:

    Sincerely yours — The Breakfast Club

  28. jagarrett says:

    “Back to the Future” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” are two good ones, IMO.

    On the flip side, I always admired the simplicity of “Alien.” Tells you everything you need to know about the movie, and then delivers in a big way.

    • Andrew says:

      I saw a making-of for Alien once, and the writers were talking about how they arrived at it. It really is a perfect title: simple yet full of menace, works as both a noun and an adjective

  29. beearl says:

    Others have already mentioned why “Ronin” worked as a title for that particular film, and I agree. There was even a scene EXPLAINING the significance in the film. But, whatever…

    And “The Desolation of Smaug” would be a horrible title, except that is only the subtitle portion of the film. It’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” just as the first film was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and the final film will be “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”. Makes sense when they are all taken as a whole. No one should want to see the second film without having either seen the first film (where Smaug was mentioned prominently) or if they are familiar with the book. So, yeah…it’s bad. Just not historically bad.

    Just a few great names, off the top of my head:

    Pulp Fiction
    The Big Lebowski
    Lost in America
    Office Space

    All kinda perfect.

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      I saw Ronin. I thought the fact that they had to have a scene EXPLAINING the significance of the title was one of the main reasons why the title was terrible. Also, I don’t really think the deep analogy the film was trying to draw between Ronin and Robert DeNiro’s band of possibly country-less ex cold war spies worked. At all. On any level. So I’m with Joe…Ronin was an awful title.

      • beearl says:

        Fair enough. I didn’t think the scene was necessary, but I suppose they put it in there for viewers who weren’t familiar with the name or concept. Does DeNiro’s character really embrace the ideology of the 47 Ronin who were willing to sacrifice themselves for something more? Maybe. Maybe not.

  30. Michael says:

    Since its the quentisential American classic Film of all time “The Godfather” must be mentioned. But the title is only great if you understand the meaning of the movie.

  31. NYMHall says:

    I’ve always had a special fondness for “That Thing You Do.”

  32. Blade Runner
    Bull Durham
    Chariots of Fire
    The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Dances with Wolves
    Men in Black
    The Milagro Beanfield War
    Secondhand Lions
    Waking Ned Devine

  33. TS says:

    10 Great Movie Titles, pretty much off the top of my head:

    Cool Hand Luke
    Stand by Me
    The Breakfast Club
    The Day of the Jackal
    Good Fellas
    Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    Dog Day Afternoon

  34. Mickey Eye says:

    Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. Okay film, great title.
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
    And the Indiana Jones movies, particularly Raiders, have great titles. But old pulp stories and B movies had great titles anyhow, so working in that idiom kind of makes it easy.

    • Of course “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” is a great title. Warren Zevon came up with it when he wrote the song they stole it from, and Warren Zevon wrote great songs with great titles.

      • Mickey Eye says:

        “Of course “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” is a great title. Warren Zevon came up with it when he wrote the song they stole it from, and Warren Zevon wrote great songs with great titles.”

        Oh, learn something new every day. (Like, it’s time to listen to more Warren Zevon.)

    • Nick O says:

      “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” was the first thing that came to mind, and I’ve never even seen that movie.

  35. dglnj says:

    Saying that “The Desolation of Smaug” is the worst movie title in the history of Hollywood while also saying that you don’t get any part of the whole Hobbit/Lord of the Rings thing would be like a sportswriter saying that sabermetric analysis misses a key point about Jack Morris while showing that he doesn’t get one of the key tenets of sabermetric analysis.

    Wasn’t your whole point of that post that if you’re going to critique something, you have to have at least a basic understanding of it?

    C’mon, Joe. You’re better than this.

  36. Roughyed says:

    “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia” must make more appearances in the film club round of “I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue” ( than any other movie so it has to be in the discussion somewhere……….

  37. Jim says:

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Incongrous, but a perfect description of what is to follow.

  38. Steve says:

    “Rear Window” “Dirty Dozen” “The Hustler”

  39. Joe’s the guy who keeps asking which member of the band is Pink Floyd.

    Seriously though, I don’t get The Hobbit either. I once watched one of the movies in my gym while riding a stationary bike. Since I was forced to pay attention to it, for lack of anything else to do, I did enjoy it somewhat & it started to make more sense. But my initial reaction is like Joe’s. Five minutes in, I’m not interested, move on to the next.

  40. KingHaris says:

    The worst title in recent memory – worse even than Bad Teacher – was Horrible Bosses.

    My personal favorites in recent times were probably No Country For Old Men and Quantum Of Solace.

  41. Debbie Does Dallas. Simple. Explains the movie entirely.

  42. BobDD says:

    I can see why someone says no book titles, otherwise it is just about the best book title. But then, I do not know which titles are the same as books or not. Maybe there should be a separate one for book titles. Anyway, this is from a book first, but I have always thought it was a marvelous title – too distinctive to be campy (though close): A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

    I don’t think this is a book title and I nominate it as the greatest all-around title (5ToolPlayer/TripleThreat?): Back To The Future

    The movie title that made me groan right off (I was a teenager at the time): Snow White and the Three Stooges

  43. I would think that Joe is really sticking his neck out on this one. In a room full of Sabermetric nerds, do you really want to be saying how much you don’t get the uber-made-for-propellerheads movie series of all time?

  44. Chad says:

    Can’t believe nobody said “Pulp Fiction”, just a cool name.

    First Blood



    Good Will Hunting

    No Country for Old Men

    Twelve Monkeys

  45. Bobby A says:

    The Dirty Dozen
    Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
    Raiders of the Lost Ark
    Smokey and the Bandit
    Gentlemen Prefer Blonds
    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    The Bad News Bears
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Monkey Hustle
    For a Few Dollars More

  46. Kevin says:

    Always been fond of the the word play in the title Good Will Hunting.

    All About Eve
    The Best Years of Our Lives
    It Happened One Night
    Citizen Kane

    I’m an enormous Tolkien fan and to me the title of all of the Hobbit movies are like a warning to non-Tolkien fans: “If you’re not already a fan, don’t bother.” The Desolation of Smaug might as well have been called “For Tolkien geeks only.” And, I say that as someone who has read the Silmarillion several times.

  47. Adam says:

    “Wait Until Dark”.

  48. Ron says:

    Deep Throat. Forget what the movie was about, it inspired the nickname for the White House leaker who went unidentified for almost 40 years.

  49. Will3pin says:

    The Man Who Would Be King
    Once Upon a Time in the West
    Twelve Angry Men
    Up In Smoke
    Harold and Maude
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    Star Wars

  50. beearl says:

    Since this is Joe’s blog, how about a mention of the worst baseball movie title.

    Trouble With the Curve.

    Not only is the title historically bad, they actually got Clint to say it in the film. Instead of just saying that a character can’t hit a curve, he grins and tells the stat jackoff “That’s known as…trouble with the curve.” Ugh…one of the many times I wanted to throw my remote across the room while watching that piece of crap.

  51. Andy says:

    Shawshank is very interesting as a title. The story’s title “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” would have been terrible as a movie title both for marketing and because it essentially gives away the surprise of the prison break, as opposed to the story, which tells you up front that the story is about a prison break. But the movie was actually a failure at the box office and many people, in trying to come up with a rationale for that, blamed the title, saying it was too esoteric, turning people off. The same was said about the original poster, which shows a stylized version of Andy Dufresne ripping his shirt off in the rain and doesn’t feature any movie star faces. The film has since become one of the better regarded ones of the past 25 years and I think both the movie title and original poster have a beautiful feel to them that comes across once you’ve seen the film a time or two (or more). So the title is excellent in retrospect from a moviegoer’s perspective (IMO), but wasn’t so great from a studio/marketing perspective.

    And I definitely concur on the perfect title of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

  52. Hungus says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss “The Horse Whisperer” as the worst title of all time.

  53. chuck says:

    High Noon
    The Best Years of Our Lives

  54. Hungus says:

    As far as best, if I knew nothing about the movie and were just flipping through channels, no way I wouldn’t stop for “Deep Throat.”

  55. Ron in NM says:

    The Usual Suspects
    Agree that “Shawshank” and “The Good, Bad Ugly” titles are great
    Raising Arizona
    No Country for Old Men

  56. Rick says:

    Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid
    Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama

    • NRJyzr says:

      Don’t forget about “Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town,” “The Toxic Avenger,” or the immortal “Surf Nazis Must Die.”

      In terms of pure title entertainment, it’s hard to compete with Schlock Cinema. Especially the world of Troma, or so it seems.

  57. nick says:

    I did not read Lord of the Rings nor Hunger Games. I found the Lord of the Rings films to be extremely fascinating. Artistically, some incredibly powerful shots and scenes. I think Peter Jackson really hit it out of the park. Though winning the Oscar for the 3rd, I found the 2nd to be the most interesting. The Hobbit is WAY bloated. Making it into 3 films is a joke, but I still enjoyed most of the 1st and will be seeing the 2nd.

    Hunger Games? I tried to like the characters but it was hard. A little girl was killed off early before I knew anything about her, therefore I felt no impact. Creative premise, but fall flat for me.

    Good movie titles:

    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
    The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
    Buffalo 66
    Raising Arizona

  58. Joe Huber says:

    Groundhog Day

  59. DakotsLard says:

    How about the Cohen brother’s
    Blood Simple
    Raising Arizona
    Oh Brother Where Art Thou

    Billy Wilder
    Some Like It Hot
    Double Indemnity
    Stalag 17

    John Sayles
    The Return of the Sracacus 7
    The Brother From Another Planet

  60. trad66 says:

    The best movie title ever:
    Every day except Christmas.

    Bonus point for anybody who would guess what is this movie about 🙂
    Two bonus points for anybody who’s seen it.

    Other good titles: Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Belle de Jour. Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood is fine too.

  61. Richard says:

    Ah, for the days when a movie company would come up with a title, design a poster based on that title, and *then* get someone like Roger Corman to make the movie…

    Oh, worst title ever? “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever”….

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      Ha ha. Yes. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is definitely on the short list for worst title of all time. Rush Hour is also on that list. I think originally it was just going to be called Ecks vs. Sever, which is much better. But some studio guy must’ve decided that didn’t sound action-y enough.

      One of my favorite examples of this is when the studio decided to change the name of the Bruce Willis film from Three Rivers, which is a great title for a film set in PIttsburgh, to Striking Distance, which is just a generic action movie title and means nothing at all. At the time I hated the change, but the movie was so bad it doesn’t deserve a good title like Three Rivers. Someone should make a good film set in Pittsburgh and call it Three Rivers.

    • KHAZAD says:

      @ Richard- I kind of agree with that one. I laughed out loud when I saw the first preview for it.

      I am more interested in bad titles than good ones, though if you ever have a conversation about good and bad movie titles, you will often find the same title will show up on one guy’s best list and the other guy’s worst list. (Like Shawshank in this article) Sometimes it just means they are memorable titles, which can be good.

      I am of the opinion that any title which uses a colon is a crappy title. That covers your movie, as well as the movie that is the subject of Joe’s article. Another example is “Master & Commander: The far side of the world”

      The worst title I have ever seen was on the guide on my TV. I think it was lifetime, so it is probably a made for TV movie and doesn’t qualify, but I will mention it anyway. The title was “Mother, May I sleep with danger?”.

  62. Bill Caffrey says:

    Once upon a time, in a particularly boring English class in college, I made a list of the best film titles. I think it was a top 10. I wish I still had it. The Good, the Bad & the Ugly was definitely on it. Like Water for Chocolate was on it.

    Ocean’s 11 is a pretty good title (as a kid in the 80s, I remember assuming that Frank Sinatra must play a naval officer of some kind. I had no idea the character’s last name was Ocean). The word play is kind of similar to Good Will Hunting, which is another title that I like very much. Kudos to the previous commenter who mentioned it. Three Days of the Condor is a good one.

    I believe it’s from a book and so it shouldn’t totally count, but I love the title Legends of the Fall. It just sounds great. However, having seen the movie, I have no idea what the title has to do with anything. But it sounds so great it sill makes my list.

    More generally, I think titles would be better off without the subtitles. Dodgeball is a pretty good title. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is a terrible title. Ditto for Anchorman vs. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

    I also hate any title that is just the name of the main character. This is especially true if it’s not a pre-existing character that anyone would have any knowledge of. Michael Clayton? Who the $%& is Michael Clayton? (And it was a great film, btw, but seriously). Note: this complaint does not apply to biopics.

  63. buddaley says:

    Throw Momma From the Train

  64. “Ladri di Biciclette” (Vittorio de Sica, Italy 1948)
    “Deconstructing Harry” (Woody Allen, USA 1997)
    “How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog” (Michael Kalesniko, Germany/USA 2000)
    “Three Days of the Condor” (Sydney Pollack, USA 1975)
    “Vargtimmen” (Ingmar Bergman, USA 1968) (translates as “The Hour of the Wolf,” which is nearly equally awesome)
    “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (Timur Bekmambetov, USA 2012) (It’s an awful, awful film and a decent but rather disappointing book, but it’s an AWESOME title either way.)

  65. MRCS says:

    I agree with the earlier poster who said “Chariots of Fire”. Although it tells you nothing about the subject, it perfectly captures the emotion of the story.

    • Anon Domini says:

      And not just the emotion! You know, Chariots of Fire never would have occurred to me, because it’s such a soporific film. But you’re right, that is a GREAT title. It alludes to the subject matter (they made “chariots” plural — it’s singular in the hymn — to refer, I assume, to the two protagonists) while also underscoring the religious themes of the movie AND situating the story geographically… “Jerusalem” is a Christian hymn but it is also a hymn of England (“And did those feet in ancient times / Walk upon England’s mountains green”). Again, a snoozer of a film, but its title should totally make the shortlist.

  66. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    We’re 75 replies in, and nobody’s named “From Here to Eternity”?

  67. mianfr says:

    For me, it’s either Pulp Fiction or The Seventh Seal.

    It also doesn’t hurt that those are both outstanding films with the latter perhaps being the greatest of all time, no lower than third.

  68. BadHand says:

    Live and Let Die — so very much different from the live and let live hippy business of the 60s/70s.

    “Don’t worry darling, its just a small hat, belonging to a man of limited means, who lost a fight with a chicken.” JB

  69. Al says:

    Dead Poets Society
    Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella)
    Animal House
    All the President’s Men
    Beautiful Girls
    Everything by Tarantino – Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds, Kill Bill. Seriously, this guy dominates the great name list

  70. Jake Winship says:

    “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverley Hills”

  71. Gareth Owen says:

    Chariots of Fire is a good one – extra apt ness as it’s from a hymn.
    Always liked The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a cleverer title than it appears. LA Confidential has the right air for the movie, as does The a Usual Suspects

    Loved the film Silver Linings Playbook, but that’s a rotten title.
    Similarly for Zero Dark Thirty.
    Flight is lousy title.

  72. hunsecker says:

    Two or Three Things I Know About Her
    Medium Cool
    Stranger Than Paradise
    As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty
    Lost in Translation

    …Those ones came to mind quickly—many, many more, but I’d have to think about it. Trying to avoid anything adapted from a novel.

  73. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Not sure whether it’s best or worst of all time, though.

  74. Bob Post says:

    Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
    The Long Kiss Goodnight
    Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
    Dances with Wolves
    There Will Be Blood
    No Country for Old Men
    Lost in Translation
    We Don’t Live Here Anymore
    Last Tango in Paris
    Schindler’s List
    Dog Day Afternoon
    Inherit the Wind
    Rebel Without a Cause
    but my FAVORITE title…five chilling words, “The Silence of the Lambs”

  75. Chris H says:

    I vote for “Smoke.” In one word it captures the cigar shop at the center of the movie, the stories that may or may not be true, and the evanescence of talk (and life).

  76. My vote for the greatest movie title ever, that did not come from a book first is RoboCop.

  77. BHO says:

    Field of Dreams. It manages to perfectly describes the movie while not giving anything away.

  78. Mark Daniel says:

    High Plains Drifter

  79. yatchisin says:

    The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (AKA The Teenage Psycho Meets Bloody Mary)
    Terror of Tiny Town
    Boudu Saved from Drowning
    Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000
    Scream Blacula Scream

  80. A bit off-track here, but I can’t think of movie titles (good or bad) without being reminded of the old “Farm Film Report” skits on SCTV. John Candy and Joe Flaherty portrayed two country Bubbas who rated films based on how well and how many things “blowed up!”
    One week they had been to see the movie “Blow Up”, and couldn’t believe that…in a film with a name like that..”didn’t nuthin’ blow up!”

  81. Wilbur says:

    You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man

  82. Dan England says:

    I always liked The Usual Suspects.

  83. The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Triumph of the Will
    Pale Rider
    Cool Hand Luke

  84. ajnrules says:

    Fun fact: Woody Allen’s original title for Annie Hall was ‘Anhedonia,’ which means the failure to feel pleasure (and one of the necessary criteria for depression.) The studio heads made him change it due to the fact nobody would know what it means.

  85. Jay says:

    Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

    Well there you have it.

  86. A random I’ve never seen the movie, but I love the title is How Green Was My Valley

  87. Perry says:

    Haven’t read all the comments yet to see if this has been mentioned, but “Snakes on a Plane” is the greatest. So great, it renders absolutely unnecessary the need to see the movie, which I haven’t.

  88. nightfly says:

    I think a great title is one that, after you’ve seen the movie, you can’t imagine it having been called anything else; or at the very least, the title should add something or capture something of the spirit of the film. It should also be memorable. Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example, really couldn’t be called anything else without losing something. Kill Bill wouldn’t be the same if it was called “Here Comes the Bride,” which would also be horribly generic.

  89. PF Chang says:

    Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

  90. Mark Daniel says:

    The Desolation of Smaug refers to the lands surrounding the Lonely Mountain that were burned and destroyed by the dragon Smaug, who lives in the mountain. Of course, the title is definitely for Tolkein fans because you would have to know what the word Smaug meant, and understand Smaug’s history and middle earth geography, to understand the phrase. So, I agree, bad subtitle.

  91. Jake says:

    How could a Woody Allen list leave out “Sleeper?”

    Ok, here’s my list:

    I love the title “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

    Other favorites:
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    Dr. Strangelove
    Jaws (one word says so much)
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Blade Runner
    Apocalypse Now

    And who could forget the Propeganda film “Reefer Madness?”

  92. Confused in Boston says:

    Agree that Coen Brothers, Tarantino and Hitchcock movies are at the top of this list, particularly Hitch when it comes to one word titles (Psycho, Notorious, Suspicion, Rebecca, etc.)

    Nomination for great book title turned into an awful movie title: Philip K. Dicks’ “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” adapted into “Bladerunner.”

    Also from a book, but a great title nonetheless: “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”

  93. hewetson says:

    Inglorious Basterds, Goodfellas, ET, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Carnal Knowledge, Gods Must Be Crazy, Trainspotters, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Do the Right Thing, Frankenstein

  94. Andrew says:

    I’ll throw my vote in for Kill Bill.

    Lawrence of Arabia is a movie I saw a long time ago without knowing much about, but wanting to see because the title was so majestic

    Also really like the title Atonement, especially when its full meaning becomes clear.

    Another one like that is The Bicycle Thief. I know a lot of people prefer to call it “Bicycle Thieves” (which is the direct translation from the Italian) but the singular title, “The Bicycle Thief,” becomes so much more poignant at the end of the film.

    Other really good ones:
    Do the Right Thing
    Apocalypse Now
    Interview with the Vampire
    Blade Runner
    No Country for Old Men
    Lost in Translation
    Back to the Future
    The Grand Illusion
    Let the Right One In
    12 Angry Men
    Pulp Fiction
    The Terminator

    And perhaps the all-time winner, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

  95. Munch says:

    Blazing Saddles

    Says it all…

  96. JAL says:

    Once Upon a Time in the West
    Zabriskie Point (horrible movie, great title)
    The Parallax View
    Zardoz (again, horrible movie, great title)

  97. Seiya says:

    The unbearable lightness of being
    The magnificent seven
    Enter the Dragon

  98. Brent says:

    the English translations of the Sergio Leone Sphaghetti Westerns are great, but I am pretty sure that the literal translations of the original Italian don’t sound quite so good. For instance “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is actually “The Good, the Ugly, the Bad”. Not nearly as good, in fact downright hideous.

  99. Sven says:

    Like American International in the 1950s and 60s, the porn industry is superb with titles that are descriptive, enticing and tell you EXACTLY what they’re ripping off. But out of respect for family audiences, I will not mention any except for “FLESH GORDON.” If you like that sort of thing, you already know them anyway.

    Some low-budget standouts:


  100. Matt D says:

    It’s so easy to come up with good titles, so I like to think of good movies with terrible titles:

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Bridge on the River Kwai
    Michael Clayton
    Erin Brockovich (hmm a theme…)

    There should also be a category for “great name on the wrong movie”:

    China Syndrome
    Hudsucker Proxy
    Naked Lunch (“I can think of at least two things wrong with that title”)

    • “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Sean Durkin, USA 2011) runs away with the “good movie, bad title” trophy as far as I’m concerned. “All about Eve” (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, USA 1950) and “The Parallax View” (Alan J. Pakula, USA 1974) also come to mind.

  101. Dave Hoppen says:

    Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

    You’re welcome.

  102. chuck says:

    The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies. Gotta be up there for one of the worst titles (and worst movies) of all time. Snakes on a Plane goes on some list of bad.

  103. chuck says:

    A Dry White Season
    The Power of One
    Usual Suspects

  104. Damon Rutherford says:

    I still don’t understand the logic behind “Philadelphia” being called “Philadelphia”. Sure, the movie takes place in that city, but that’s it. It’s not *about* Philadelphia. Still a good movie, though.

  105. Damon Rutherford says:

    More great movie titles (and I don’t care if from a book):
    “Full Metal Jacket”
    “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels”
    “Get Shorty”
    “A Fish Called Wanda”

  106. Shagster says:


    With a name like that, you’ll see the movie

  107. castlerook says:

    Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

    I mean, I’m not even particularly a fan of the movie, but that is without a doubt the best (certainly the funniest) title ever.

    honorable mention: This is Spinal Tap

  108. Ryan V. says:

    “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”

  109. forsch31 says:

    Haven’t seen this one…Better Off Dead

  110. Lo Pan says:

    I don’t think anything listed so far tops this:

    Big Trouble In Little China

  111. Matt Vandermast says:

    Can’t think of any to match The Damned Don’t Cry.

  112. Rob says:

    Terminal Velocity. A terrible movie from the 90’s starring Charlie Sheen. Great title though

  113. Jeff says:

    Here are two bad titles…

    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
    The Island

    I actually liked both movies.

  114. Ross says:

    Fight club

  115. arlie green says:

    If I had no idea what the movie was about and only knew the title, I wouldn’t be able to resist “It Happened One Night”. I’d want to know what “It” was AND I’d want to know what “happened” too!

  116. jd in kc says:

    Being John Malkovich

  117. Ross says:

    The Santa Clause
    Old School

  118. Sure, “Bad Teacher” is a bad movie with a badly descriptive title. But “The Music Man” (Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, the original one) was a great movie with a title that really fit.

    I have to agree to much fondness for “Blazing Saddles” and “Lawrence of Arabia”; I’d also pick “Young Frankenstein”, and “Ghostbusters” as titles that truly fit their movies in a good way. May I also suggest “Airplane!” as a film where the exclamation point raises it from the pedestrian to the perfect? I’ll also throw in “Animal House” and “M.A.S.H.” because I think good comedies have been underrepresented here.

    And I’ll close with “The Great Escape” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.

  119. John Gale says:

    This is tough because I think my opinion inevitably will be hopelessly compromised by how much I liked the movie. Like The Shawshank Redemption doesn’t strike me as a bad title after I’ve seen it, but it probably wasn’t a great title at the time. And at any rate, that’s an adaption from existing source material, so it should probably not be eligible anyway.

    Anyway, I think the best titles (excluding those directly taken from other source material–which rules out all comic book movies and most book adaptations) do two things. First, they should give us some idea of what the movie is about. And they should just sound really cool. Some I’d put up there are The Last Samurai, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Hunt for Red October, Jurassic Park, etc. Not a comprehensive list, but that’s what I’m looking for.

    I say the best title of all time is The Empire Strikes back, and I’ll tell you why. First, it has the above criteria that I’m looking for. Just from the title, I know some kind of empire is striking back at someone, and that sounds awesome. And the fact that it’s a sequel (one with a title that doesn’t rely on anything related to Star Wars–“Empire” is a generic term) is a feature, not a bug. Because that title is so great that I’d see the preceding movie just to get to it.

    • John Gale says:

      I just realized that after ruling out titles taken from books, I listed both The Hunt for Red October *and* Jurassic.Park. I really have no excuse. I’m an idiot.

  120. J Hench says:

    Worst title contender: Hollow Man.

    When the trailer was shown in a full movie theater, everyone was taut – until the showed the title, whereupon we all burst into laughter.

  121. Tom G says:

    Slumber Party Massacre

    The title alone leaves you in complete suspense

  122. David Buck says:

    I like “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. And I do think you could use the word “desolation” in a title and have it be awesome. If someone were to adapt Dylan’s “Desolation Row” to screen, that would be a great title.

  123. Ricky Cobb says:

    Cool Hand Luke

  124. JMAC8 says:

    Angels With Dirty Faces
    12 O’Clock High
    In the Heat of the Night
    American Graffiti
    Lethal Weapon

  125. adrian pankie says:

    the power of one
    Apocalypse now
    And just about every movie Tarantino has made

  126. Dave says:

    Some evocative one worders:

    And a longer one I think works
    Splendor in the grass

  127. Keith says:

    SHARKNADO! Right away you know you are going to get two super awesome catastrophe protagonists and yet you have no clue in the world how that could be possible.

  128. hendry says:

    “Bad Teacher” is too descriptive? Look out for original film titles translated into foreign languages (and back to english). My favourite is “Field of Dreams” in Hong Kong: “Imaginary Dead Baseball Players Live in My Cornfield”

  129. What does it say about me that the first title that came to mind was Mother, Jugs and Speed?

  130. hendry says:

    Btw, a more serious entry: I love “Black Swan”, because it somehow paints black and white, but hints to something more diverse. And it has a nice sound to it. I had it on my HDR for months and probably would have deleted it before viewing it (the ballet theme didn’t appeal to me), if it hadn’t had this cool name.

  131. murr2825 says:

    When Harry Met Sally

  132. Clayt says:

    “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is basically poetry in the form of a movie title. Absolutely beautiful and brilliant name and it ties into the movie perfectly. For me, there’s no doubt that this is the best name of a movie ever.

    On a side note, I think the best name for a band ever has to be The Garaj Mahals.

    • Martín says:

      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind gets its name from a line of poetry by Alexander Pope. Personally, I think it’s a very good title but a bit overwrought to be the best title.

  133. Aryeh says:

    High Noon

  134. HDS says:

    To paraphrase the late, great Roger Ebert “Dirty Dancing” is the best title for a bad movie…although it is a kind of guilty pleasure. Reminds me of the movies from a bygone era, “Hey kids, let’s put on a dance show!”

  135. Anon Domini says:

    Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!
    Go, Go Second Time Virgin

  136. Zach says:

    Some of the best titles I’ve ever seen:
    Sex, Lies, and Videotape
    The Lives of Others

    A couple of others that haven’t been mentioned
    Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
    Let the Right One In

    A couple that have been mentioned, but bear repeating
    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    Legends of the Fall
    Gone With the Wind

    A really great movie title almost makes you start telling the story as soon as you hear it. I mean, any movie that could live up to a title like Legends of the Fall would be pretty great. (I don’t recall if the actual movie by that title lived up to it, though.)

  137. Zach says:

    There ought to be a special category for Brad Pitt movies. I’m not saying these are all great films, but what titles!

    12 Years a Slave
    Killing Them Softly
    Inglourious Basterds
    Burn After Reading
    The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
    Fight Club
    Seven Years in Tibet
    The Devil’s Own
    12 Monkeys
    Legends of the Fall
    A River Runs Through It

  138. Gregg says:

    There Will Be Blood

  139. Damon Rutherford says:

    Zach, I will see your Brad Pitt movies with hand-picked Paul Newman’s movie titles:

    “Somebody Up There Likes Me”
    “The Left Handed Gun”
    “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof”
    “The Hustler”
    “Hud” (and then there’s “The Hudsucker Proxy” below, plus he’s Doc Hudson in “Cars”)
    “What a Way to Go!”
    “Cool Hand Luke”
    “The Secret War of Harry Figg” (great, underrated movie, btw)
    “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
    “The Sting”
    “The Towering Inferno”
    “Slap Shot”
    “The Color of Money”
    “The Hudsucker Proxy”
    “Road to Perdition”

    Though I think Tarantino’s collection still wins.

  140. delfeye says:

    “Love With a Proper Stranger”

    Stumbled on it when I was attending a Steve McQueen film festival 20+ years ago. Nice (dated) movie, but great title.

  141. Clayt says:

    Two mentioned above that I like:
    American Graffiti (great title, amazing movie)
    and Jaws

    One of the best/worst titles:
    The Stupids

    My Top 3 Picks for Best Movie Title:
    1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    2. American Graffiti
    3. Pulp Fiction

    Another title I like is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. (Good movie, better title.)

  142. jpg says:

    I know some of these are books but:

    The Hunt for Red October

    Born on the Fourth of July – I always found it to be a powerfully sounding name. Always grabbed me for some reason.

    Glory – A one word title that truly captures the essence of the film

    American Psycho

    Fried Green Tomatoes

    Mystic Pizza

    Blood In Blood Out – Danny Trejo acting at it worst…And that’s really saying something.

    Apocalypse Now – as a few others mentioned

  143. Brian Gunn says:

    Some of my personal favorites, in no particular order (forgive the length):

    King Kong
    Citizen Kane
    The Postman Always Rings Twice
    The Night of the Hunter
    The Bridge on the River Kwai
    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
    The Wages of Fear
    The Bitter Tea of General Yen (old Frank Capra movie – might be my favorite title ever)
    Shoot the Piano Player
    8 1/2
    Touch of Evil
    Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
    The Sorrow and the Pity
    The Long Goodbye
    Dog Day Afternoon
    The Bad News Bears
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    Kramer vs. Kramer
    Raging Bull
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    The Right Stuff
    Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    True Grit
    The Usual Suspects

  144. Casper says:

    For some reason, lousy movies often have magnificent titles.

    I Was A Teenage Werewolf.
    Billy Jack Goes To Washington.
    Glen Or Glenda.
    Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
    So I Married An Axe Murderer.

  145. Josh L says:

    Nice to see “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” getting some love. First one I thought of.

  146. Clayton says:

    Has The Motorcycle Diaries been mentioned yet?

  147. Jeff says:

    Here is my candidate for the all-time worst.


    If you are old enough to remember the movie, then you certainly remember what the acronym means. I never saw this movie, but I remember it coming on HBO in the very early 1980’s.

  148. fred says:

    something about traveling pants?
    half baked

  149. TS says:

    Slumdog Millionaire

  150. wogggs says:

    Although I have not seen the movie, yet (I am anticipating a Blu Ray of this for Christmas), I think Star Trek Into Darkness is a great title, as is Octopussy (because it is so potentially vulgar, yet made it past sensors and movie studio execs).

  151. Daniel says:

    It makes me so sad that you can’t get into Tolkien’s books. They’re so good. The Desolation of Smaug is a great title.

  152. Stuart says:

    Real Steel

  153. Steve says:


    Also gets my nomination for best movie poster all time. So horrible it becomes great.

  154. Blahblahblah says:

    “Being John Malkovich” has gotta be one…
    But for my shot at the crown, ” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

  155. Gregg R says:

    Edward Scissorhands
    Repo Man
    Soylent Green
    Serial Mom
    Pink Flamingos

  156. Grzegorz Brzeszczyszczykiewicz says:

    The Killing Fields

  157. Josh says:

    John Dies in the End.

  158. Joe says:

    Sorry folks, gotta go with: Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn

  159. Brian Fowler says:

    Destroy All Monsters

    End of discussion.

  160. Chris says:

    The Year of Living Dangerously
    To Live and Die in LA
    Bodies, Rest and Motion
    Night on Earth

  161. vaujot says:

    What’s wrong with Gravity as the title of that movie. I think the word perfectly sums up one main problem the characters have to deal with.

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