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Best and Worst Titles


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As much as we love the classic movie era, sometimes you've got to wonder who came up with the titles. Boys in the Boardroom? Folks at a Preview? Fellas on a Barstool? Do you have any faves for best and worst that come to mind? Here's some suggestions to get us started.


Best: Gone With the Wind

Worst: Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

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O.K., I'll play. But, I think Best and Worst are ambiguous terms. For instance, do you mean best or worst sounding or least applicable to the actual movie? If I follow the latter, I'd have to say:


Best - It's A Wonderful Life (it is, after all;- )

Worst - Kind Hearts and Coronets


Nothing about the "worst" title above gives you any clue as to what the film is about ... in fact, at first glance I wouldn't want to see it. However, it's a fantastic film!

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Well, it's hard to top "Gone With the Wind" in my opinion, but I did think of two others that I like....


Best: "Arsenic and Old Lace" -- Perfect title for that movie! "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" (taken from the Song of Solomon) -- also a fitting title for the movie.


Worst: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" -- Yeah, I know Ian Flemming got the title from a series of race cars built around World War I; but it still irritates me. "The Beast with Five Fingers" -- this one's so bad it's good.

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  • 1 month later...

Worst: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" -- Yeah, I know Ian Flemming got the title from a series of race cars built around World War I; but it still irritates me."


My Dad saw this movie while he and my Mom were dating and, as the story goes, they left the movie theater and my Dad (always so eloquent) says to my Mom: "That was the chittiest movie I've ever seen." A movie title like that is just BEGGING for it to be laughed at! :)

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Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying These Terrible Things About Me? (If you made up this name, I can answer the latter part!)


The Strawberry Statement (huh?)


Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (sounds like Jacqueline Susann goes sci-fi)


XXX (is that stocked in the front or back of the video store?)


The Patriot (2000) (With a number of films by that title, one only two years before starring Steven Seagal, they couldn't come up with a more original and striking name for a stirring Revolutionary War drama?!)


Manos: The Hands of Fate (which translates as "Hands: The Hands of Fate"...okayyyy)


I Married a Witch (love the film, but he doesn't marry her until near the end, so it seems a bit premature, to say nothing of goofy)


I Was a Male War Bride (same as I Married a Witch. A broad comedy about transvestism reeeeally needs a more subtle title to warm more viewers to it)


Magnolia (LOOOOVE the film, but what does the flower have anything to do with the stories, apart from providing yet another cipher in a story overloaded with them?)

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I'm not sure where this lands in this topic, but the title "Them". It is one of my favorite B si-fi's. I picture in my mind some guys in 50's attire sitting around trying to sell this idea.

"Listen JB, we have these giant ants walking around the desert."

JB:"Gaint ants?" Where in the hell did giant ants come from?

"Radiation! JB, radiation! They start attacking people...Families, JB! They make this WEE-WEE sound.

JB: A WEE-WEE sound?

Yeah, JB! It will scare the s@#t out of the movie goers! And will call it... "THEM"

JB: THEM? Huh? I like it!

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Bad titles:


He Who Gets Slapped -

This title makes you figure the movie to be either sadistic or comedic. And granted, there's an element of sadism in many Chaney films, but this tale is overhwelmingly tragic. Chaney's performance was so heartbreakingly beautiful, certainly a more sensitive title should have been considered.


Wild Strawberries -

I really like this Bergman film, and do remember strawberries being on screen at some point, but the story's relation to the title is never really explored. Was it supposed to be a Rosebud-type reference to a childhood locale? The casual observer might see "wild" in the title and wonder what it describes, only to find out that the main character is . . a lonely, elderly man.


Others: just about any Garbo title (the studio-created ones, not the established ones, i.e., Tolstoy). Most were so short, so trivial and so meaningless (Love, Romance, etc). With a talent and presence as huge as Garbo's, she deserved more respect and creativity than MGM showed her.


Favorite titles:


Of Human Bondage -

Now here's another title that suggests sadism, but in this case, it fit, considering Bette's scary, mesmerizing hold on Leslie Howard.


Citizen Kane -

The title Citizen (fill in the blank) has become redundant over the decades, used to describe politicians, sports stars and just about every other type of public figure, but it'll always best suit the character of Charles Foster Kane, plus the magnetic presence and voice of Mr. Welles that will forever be associated with it.

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Strange . . hours after I typed the two below titles, He Who Gets Slapped and Wild Strawberries, I realized that the director (Victor Sjostrom) of the first title, by coincidence, happened to be the star of the second one. Which left me wondering, are these strange titles a matter only the Swedish understand, or should they just be written off as bad translation . . ?

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How about the June Allyson movie, Two Girls and a Sailor, and the Deanna Durbin movie, 100 Men and a Girl.


There are enough badly named movies like these two that you could probably start a thread of old movie titles that sound like modern adult movies.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My favorites:


Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

North by Northwest (1959)

M (1931)

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

Either one: Gun Crazy or Deadly is the Female (1949)

8 1/2 (1963) - I also like other title that Fellini considered, The Beautiful Confusion


Best Use of a Movie Title (for how it relates to the film):


La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) (1960)

Persona (1966)

The Hours (2002)




The Flaming Teen-age (1956)

Kazaam (1996) - did anyone see this title and mistakenly think it had anything to do with Gomer Pyle?

The Incredibly Strange Creature Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies (1967)

I Dismember Mama (1974)

Crazy Fat Ethel II (1987)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) - why not just "Gold Diggers"?

The Opposite Sex and How to Live With Them - strange because it's semantically incorrect

Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1965) - was supposed to be Rat Pfink and Boo Boo but the person who designed the titles made a mistake and the budget was too small to correct it


And Just Plain Weird:


Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Eraserhead (1977)

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (1966) - from the Arthur Kopit play of the same name


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Great titles from James Whale:

Sinners In Paradise(1938)

The Kiss Before The Mirror(1933)

Impatient Maiden(1932)



Kiss Of Death(1947)

The Bitter Tea of General Yen(1933)

Where Eagles Dare(1968)



Bad titles:


The Patriot(2000) Unless it was meant to be ironic, this is a horrible title, as Mel Gibson's character is not fighting out of patriotism, but to satisfy his thirst for vengeance.


Dangerous When Wet(1953)Another classic film title that would be misconstrued today.


Duck Soup(1933) ...may be why this wasn't a hit at the time.



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  • 2 weeks later...


The Innocents ('61)

History is Made at Night ('37) (so cute!)

Arsenic and Old Lace ('44) just because it's funny

Gun Crazy or Deadly is the Female('50) great movie also

The More the Merrier ('43)

I See a Dark Stranger ('46)

The Quiet Man ('52)

If Winter Comes ('49)

If This Be Sin or That Dangerous Age ('50)

Count Your Blessings ('59)

Only the Lonely ('91)

Letter from an Unknown Woman ('48)

Under Capricorn ('49)

The Reckless Moment (?)

...and so many more



You Gotta Stay Happy ('48)

Adventure ('45)

I Love You Again ('40)

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation ('62) love the movie, but not the title

many of Garbo's titles, as someone said before

Made for Each Other ('39)

Love Affair ('39)

Crisis ('50)


That's all I can think of now




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From my useless fact(?) file.




Published in a 'book of lists' twenty or so years ago.


List: "Worst Movie Title Translation"

Translated from English into: Portuguese

Portuguese title: "The Boy Who Masqueraded as his Mother"


English language title: "Psycho"



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