I love creative movie titles. For example, The Shawshank Redemption works on several levels, and Back to the Future describes the plot in a unique way not usually found in time-travel stories. But there are also plenty of titles that don’t work because they lack creativity and overuse a number of tired words.
I’m going to go through 10 words that I think should be used extremely sparingly, if at all, in movie titles. To be fair, there are some exceptions to the rule, but most of those films are classic films or based on classic books. So let’s start making films an offender for a word with my list of 10 words that shouldn’t be used in movie titles.
Examples: Teen Wolf Too, Look Who’s Talking Too
Exception: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Anytime you see Too at the end of a title, you can be certain it’s going to be bad. It’s like the filmmakers are admitting they’re trying to piggyback on the success of the first film. “Hey, you thought that one was funny? Here’s more of the same!” No, thank you. If, however, the film is a drama or a standalone film, it’s not completely outlandish to include Too in the title. Just don’t make it too much of a habit, okay?
Examples: Another 48 Hours, Another Stakeout, Die Another Day
Exception: The Thing from Another World
This ties directly to the word Too. Never use Another at the start of your title. It is really pathetic. Sequels that say Another in their title are trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that the first film managed to miraculously pull off. You can’t expect an audience to come along for another ride unless you give them something new and interesting. The word did work for the science-fiction masterpiece The Thing from Another World, but I prefer the abbreviated title of John Carpenter’s superior remake, The Thing (1982). Now that’s not just another remake.
Examples: Next (2007), The Next Karate Kid, The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter, Next Friday, The Girl Next Door (2004)
Here we go again. Next is certainly better than Too or Another because, in theory, it denotes a continuation of the story, not a retread. In practice, however, it rarely leads to good results. We know that your movie is the next step in the characters’ journey. You don’t have to spell it out. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Star Trek: The Next Generation. That TV show is amazing. But for everyone else who tries to use that word, better luck next time.
Legend (1985), The Legend of Zorro, Urban Legend, City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, The Legend of Bagger Vance
Exceptions: The Legend of Drunken Master, I Am Legend
Legend is such a silly term. It usually denotes a mythical tale or something of otherwise great importance. But few films actually live up to what this word promises. Even the Lord of the Rings series, the granddaddy of modern mythological stories, doesn’t use Legend in any of its titles. If you have to resort to using Legend in your title, it’s usually not a good thing. Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, however, uses that word in a very clever way, and just about any movie starring Jackie Chan that’s set in China feels legendary, so he gets a pass, too. And Po, from Kung Fu Panda, can use that word as often as he likes.
Examples: Quest for Camelot, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, The Quest (1996)
Exception: Galaxy Quest
Like Legend, Quest is another example of a word that promises a lot, but usually delivers little. It has a medieval feel to it that doesn’t work for modern stories. Even when it’s used for medieval stories, it’s so antiquated that you’re better off using something else. Galaxy Quest works just fine because it’s a synonym for Star Trek. Unless your first name is Johnny, you should avoid using this word.
Examples: Problem Child, Problem Child 2, Modern Problems
This one is nothing but trouble. It’s fine to include lots of problems in your movie. After all, that’s what drama is all about. But even a character like Spider-Man, who is famously known for his realistic problems, doesn’t have those problems touted in the titles of his films. If this word is in your film’s title, it will probably be the least of your film’s problems.
Examples: After Earth, Battlefield Earth, This Island Earth
Exception: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
It’s become a cliché to put the entire Earth in jeopardy in films. I like high stakes, but it’s getting ridiculous when every other week the world is on the verge of complete annihilation. You don’t need to tout this fact in your title. Why on Earth would you want to overuse that word, anyway?
Examples: It Takes Two (1995), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Whatever It Takes (2000)
Exception: Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Takes is a word that definitely lives up to its name. It doesn’t give any interesting vibes. There are plenty of other words that are more interesting than this one. Jimmy Stewart might be able to make taking a vacation into an interesting film, but few other people have what it takes to pull off that feat.
Examples: Can’t Stop the Music, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
Movies need rhythm and momentum. Telling people what they can or can’t stop in the title is off-putting and might just bring your movie to an untimely halt. Especially be mindful not to use Stop to showcase just how ridiculous the premise of your whole movie is. Know when to stop.
Examples: Robot Holocaust, Robot Jox, Robot Monster
Exception: I, Robot
Robots are cool, there’s no denying it. But the word Robot is rather silly. To me, it sounds like a mispronunciation of rowboat. There are plenty of cooler words like Machine, Android, and Replicant that you can take advantage of. Adaptations, no matter how loose, of superb science-fiction novels get a pass, but other than that, get creative in your technology vocabulary. No ifs, ands, or robots about it.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Hey Rob, this was a very creative post. I’m not sure why the movie NEXT didn’t make your list of exceptions. It’s a bit of a vague title, and not terribly memorable, but the movie was good and I guess in retrospect the title makes sense.
Anyway, that was my only gripe. Fun read.