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« Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Linkdown | Main | 50th anniversary: Mothra vs. Godzilla »
Friday
May022014

What's the Best Film Title of All Time?

I posed this question on Twitter the other day and got some interesting responses. The question popped to mind because The Film Society is hosting a Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective this month and I've always worshipped the title The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972). It's just unbeatably evocative and memorable. Hollywood prefers more generic titles of course; recently John Carter of Mars, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, How To Catch a Monster, and Can A Song Save Your Life were abbreviated and drained of all specificity and interest.  

Here were some responses I received to challenge those "bitter tears" from awesome people like Shane, Clara, and Conor ...

 

I have to admit they're true contenders. Maybe you'd like to add a film title to this honored list?


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Reader Comments (81)

I know it was originally a book so I don't know if it would count, but The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is about as wonderful as you get.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I add The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom to the list.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

John -- yeah, i was trying to leave adaptations off but that is such a perfect title. You know they'd just like it "Miss Jean Brodie" or even "Miss Brodie" or "Prime" if they released it today (sigh)

James T - YAAASSSSS.

May 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I like Star Wars - simple, but encapsulating.

Also, Back to the Future.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I really like J'ai tué ma mère (I Killed my mother), Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is an awesome title for a film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjjablo

"Back To The Future" is a great title. As a writer myself, I've always respected Tarantino for thinking of "Pulp Fiction". Imagine how hard it must have been to think of a title for that script, yet it works perfectly. Literally no other name would have worked.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and There Will Be Blood are two that, I think, perfectly capture their movies. The former might as well be Lacuna's company slogan and the latter shows that violence that will come long after the period the film is set in has past.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdoughyjunn

All of Almodovar's titles, both in English and Spanish qualify. "Tacones lejanos" (High Heels), "Átame!" (Tie me up, Tie me down),..... And his poster art is second to none.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

'The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain' springs to mind.
I also really like 'Bunny Lake is missing', 'The killing of a Chinese bookie' and of course that much underappreciated gem of a Polanski movie 'The Fearless Vampire Killers, or: pardon me, but your teeth are in my neck'.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDieter

I agree that some of the best movie titles come from novels -- one of my favorite being The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

distant voices, still lives

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

You, The Living
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
A Man Escaped (the full title - Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il - translates roughly as A Man Condemned to Death Escapes or The Wind Blows Where it Will)
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Love Affair or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
Beware of a Holy Whore

...and of course, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Thinking about recent titles, I don't know if you could leave Martha Marcy May Marlene out.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLucky

400 BLOWS

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Byszkiewicz

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMuniel Muniel

Great question! Here's a smattering of some of my favorite titles...

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Boogie Nights
Wild Strawberries
Frances Ha
Death Race 2000

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterT-Bone

Also, yes. Definitely Martha Marcy May Marlene.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterT-Bone

2046 is one I appreciate for its multiple levels of meaning-
it references the sci-fi time period
it references the last year Hong Kong will be a separate administrative region
it sounds like "to owe for sex," a central conceit of the movie

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I LOVE collecting great move titles, so here are some more:

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
House of Laughing Windows
Joe Versus The Volcano
The Year of Living Dangerously
Memories of Murder
Blissfully Yours
The Sweet Smell of Success
I Was Born But…
Swept Away (by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August)
Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors
2 or 3 things i know about her
I Walked with a Zombie
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Die! Die! My Darling
Love Is Colder Than Death
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover
So I Married An Axe Murderer
Me And You And Everyone We Know

...and of course, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I love specific titles, and I love proper nouns.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
O, Brother, Where Art Thou?
Good Night, and Good Luck.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

"COP GIVES WAITRESS 2MILLION DOLLAR TIP"

....


sterilized into "It Could Happen to You". :-(

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDAVE

I always loved Romeo is Bleeding

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPodunk

Death becomes Her
To Wong Foo, thanks for everything, Julie Newmar

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I can't do of all-time, but I can choose one from every decade
40s, Citizen Kane
50s, A Streetcar Named Desire
60s, Persona (...or Belle de Jour??)
70s, Taxi Driver (...or Nashville??)
80s, Tootsie
90s, The Piano
00s, The Wreslter

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

And favorite title is probably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I've never seen it but "Who is Harry Kellerman, and Why is he Saying Those Terrible Things About me?"

Also "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"
"Death Becomes Her"
"A Place in the Sun"
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Big Trouble in Little China
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Team America: World Police

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGregarius

Dieter-I LOVE "The Fearless Vampire Killers." Sharron Tate was so beautiful.

"La Habitación del Pánico" is one of my favorites (The Panic Room in Spanish). With Spanish as an acquired language, the natural confusion of the semantics produces a title that is more accurate than either the pure English or Spanish.

"Irréversible" is another title that perfectly encapsulates the film.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

"Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo."

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKEVIN M.

I don`t know about the Chinese title, but Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is the best I can remember.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

"The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond" - now there's a beautiful title!. I liked the movie too.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I forgot to add

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Things you can see by just looking at her

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Sorry, one word is wrong:

Things you can TELL by just looking at her

*drop*

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

A handful that jumped into my mind:

The Night They Raided Minsky's
Savage Messiah
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Two or Three Things I Know About Her
The Far Country
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Third Man

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Here's 5:

Kind Hearts and Coronets
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Magnolia
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Distant Voices, Still Lives

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Hobo With A Shotgun - because it makes me laugh.

Okay, on a serious note, I always liked
Breakfast on Pluto
Me And You And Everyone We Know
What We Do Is Secret (even though that movie sucked)
Away From Her

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

The Consequences of Love

swoon

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

HISTORY
IS
MADE
AT
NIGHT
1937, Frank Borzage, director.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Fassbinder's filmography is full of wonderful titles: 'Angst essen Seele auf' might be the greatest title ever, and its English title 'Fear Eats the Soul' doesn't get half the impact the purposefully ungrammatical title has in its original German form (a more literal translation would be 'Fear Eat Soul'). Besides this one and the one you already mentioned, there are also, among others, 'In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden' ('In a Year of 13 Moons'), 'Warum läuft Herr R. Amok?' ('Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?), 'Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss' (which translates as 'The Yearning of Veronika Voss') and 'Liebe ist kälter als der Tod' ('Love Is Colder Than Death').

A non-Fassbinder title I always loved for some reason is 'Maria Full of Grace'.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Even Dwarfs Started Small

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

In The Mood For Love

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGolden

She Married Her Boss. I love high concept titles, especially ones that are reflective of their time. In 1935, I guess marrying your boss elicited much pearl clutching.

I also love the title Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman. I rented that one as a teenager just based on the title alone. I was like..."Yes, please. Sign me up."

The Brother From Another Planet (John Sayles)

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
The Marriage of Maria Braun

Whistle Down The Wind

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Psycho Beach Party

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

I love "Kiss of the Spider Woman" for its mystery and sensuality, "The Shop Around The Corner" for it sweetness and familiarity, and "A Single Man" for its multiple connotations. Also "Lambada: the Forbidden Dance" gives me the lolz.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb or the even more amazing Spanish version´(I refuse to call it translation) Teléfono rojo, ¿volamos hacia Moscú?

Eyes Wide Shut
Lost in Translation
His Girl Friday
Arsenic and Old Lace

or following the Almodóvar trend the godawful (or just awful) movie Perdona bonita, pero Lucas me quería a mí. :)

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

iggy: So, it's an active Almodovar knock-off in the same way Go by Doug Liman is a knock-off of Tarantino?

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Argentinian movies:
"Esperando la carroza" ("Waiting For The Hearse", which is an Argentinian way of saying something is taking too long).
"Cien veces no debo" ("I Shouldn't, One Hundred Times").
"Un novio para mi mujer" ("A Boyfriend For My Wife").
"Güelcom" (It's "Welcome" written phonetically in Spanish).
"Historias mínimas" (Translated for the US as "Intimate Stories", but something more accurate to its original title would be "Little Stories").
"Esa maldita costilla" ("That Damn Rib").
"Fuga de cerebros" ("Brain Drain").
"Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta" ("Andrés Doesn't Want To Take A Nap").
"¿De quién es el portaligas?" ("Whose Suspenders Are These?", this was directed by Cecilia Roth's ex-husband).
"Nos otros" (it's a play on words: nosotros = us/we, nos = us, otros = others, so a close translation would be: "We, The Others").
"Que parezca un accidente" ("Make It Look Like An Accident").
"Las viudas de los jueves" ("The Thursday Widows").

And that's all I can think of right now.

May 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

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