Last night I was perusing Netflix. Adjusting my queue as I often do. (More often than I watch the movies I place in the queue.) As I flipped through the movies chosen just for me based upon my previous selections (I totally see the connection between Shaun of the Dead and Reservoir Dogs!) I could not help but notice how many great titles there were.
And I mean the titles. Not the movies.
Some marketing genius realized the movie was crap and designed a title to get you to see a flick you would not normally go see. Or pay money for. But you did both. This thought inspired today’s blog entry. I am offering up my list of the greatest movie titles. Content not withstanding. As there are so many movies that would qualify, I decide to narrow it down to titles that best represent a particular genre of title.
So, in no particular order:
Hobo With A Shotgun represents the category of ridiculous situations as set forth in the title. The title is the logline. The next best example of this genre is Snakes On A Plane — a film which drives home the point that as great as the title is, Wesley Snipes is still your lead actor so watch out. Honorable mention: Eight Legged Freaks.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. The blaxploitation era spawned some of the greatest titles of all time. (See: Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold) But profanity in the title gives this one the edge. But adding three extra “s” to the offending word won’t let you escape an X rating. (Neither will depicting sex between a minor and a prostitute.) The 70’s western The Legend of Nigger Charley also went the profanity route but for historical accuracy. Later, the title was changed to “Black” for TV. I guess that’s less offensive.
I Spit On Your Grave — Indie horror stole a page from blaxploitation in regards to the catchy title. From the late 70’s to the early 80’s they nearly cornered the market.
Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (not to be confused with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). This title falls into the category of overly long sentence titles which are the lazy filmmaker’s way to a great title. More words = better image. But a longer title can go horribly wrong. Something the producers of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford know plenty about. Honorable Mention: Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (*But Were Afraid to Ask). A must see if you are into 30 foot high boobs.
Spanking the Monkey. An awesome title. A disturbing and pretentious movie. But the title is giggle inducing.
The Hitcher. This is the best two-word title of all time. I had no idea what the film was about but I was creeped out. Then I saw the film. I had every reason to be. (Special note to the youngsters: I’m referring to the classic Rutger Hauer version not the recent Sean Bean blasphemy.)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Grindhouse and exploitation films always knew their titles were going to be way better than the actual movie so they put a lot of effort into them. I have always dug this movie title…but not enough to actually see the movie. Unfortunately, this awesome title was bastardized by a mediocre 80’s hairband. Honorable mention: The Candy Snatchers. It’s about a girl named Candy who is abducted for ransom. Not for the faint of heart.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Before there was grindhouse and exploitation there were the 50’s and 60’s B-Movie classics. This title is ridiculous. So is the movie. Honorable mention: The Brain from Planet Arous. It might not be a great title but I saw this as a kid and I still fear that styrofoam brain with eyes will float out of my closet.
Snatch. I dig titles that have double meaning. Especially if one of the meanings is dirty and would not be acceptable in normal conversation. It reminds me of the George Carlin “Two Way Words” bit: ‘It’s OK to say Roberto Clemente has two balls on him but you can’t say I think he hurt his balls on that play.’ This title was enough for me to overcome my usual disdain for all things Brad Pitt. On a side note I saw Snatch while working on a film in Utah. Nothing like seeing a movie in the Mormon state with a title like that. Unfortunately, the story was not as clever as the title. And for those keeping score the “snatch” to which the title is referring is the verb…not the noun. (Honorable mention: Blow. This time the noun, not the verb)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A horrifically obvious title. One look at the marquee and you know what you’re getting into. This movie is a prime example of why titles are sooooo important.
Freddy Got Fingered is the runaway winner for the best movie title for an abomination of a film. Never before has a movie single-handedly killed the careers of everyone involved. This is the reason Rip Torn began drinking. If there were a spectrum upon which to grade movie titles, where on one end would be how awesome the title is and the other end how crappy the movie — this pile of dog doo-doo would set the curve.
Although I did not rank the previous entrants I will say this last title is hands down, bar none the number one movie title of all time:
Did the MPAA go to sleep on this one? You have a mainstream movie starring cinema’s number one chick hound and you let them name it Octopussy? I almost understand the more recent blunder regarding the South Park movie Bigger, Longer and Uncut. To be honest I didn’t get it until someone pointed it out to me. But Octopussy? I have hard time discussing the film in mixed company because of the title. The film poster features a woman — presumably the pussy — with eight arms molesting James Bond. Hello? Octopussy sounds like the title for the porn version of the movie. But even porn producers threw their hands up on this one. Octopussy sounds not only sexual but vaguely insulting. “He’s not just a pussy. He’s an Octopussy!” I could go on and on. And I think I have.
There you have it. Not the definitive list but my list. Which to me makes it definitive. Please feel to comment and add your own titles below. And I am taking suggestions for a future list: the Best Movies with the Worst Titles.