Non-descriptive movie titles
February 7, 2008 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Can you name other films, like Cloverfield, whose titles seem to have nothing to do with the movie itself?

Lots of Internet hype preceded the releases of Snakes on a Plane and Cloverfield. Snakes on a Plane's premise-describing title captured the imagination of the movie-going public- at least until it was released. Cloverfield's title, on the other hand, was so non-descriptive, that it made the movie all the more mysterious. Other movies have titles which, like Snakes on a Plane, perfectly encapsulate the entire film in only a few words (Voyage To The Center Of The Earth, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Home Alone). There have been some sequels which retained the title of the famous original, even though the title no longer made sense:Can you name some other feature films whose titles seem to have nothing to do with the movie itself?
posted by Lord Kinbote to Media & Arts (71 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
dog day afternoon?
posted by modernnomad at 8:10 AM on February 7, 2008


Reservoir Dogs
posted by rmless at 8:12 AM on February 7, 2008


Off the top of my head (and the titles might have some meaning, just none that I can think of):
- Magnolia
- Half Nelson
posted by puritycontrol at 8:15 AM on February 7, 2008


Grand Canyon (1991)
Inland Empire
posted by Pastabagel at 8:22 AM on February 7, 2008


The Beer Drinker's Guide to Fitness and Filmmaking comes to mind.
posted by leapfrog at 8:23 AM on February 7, 2008


Clockwork Orange
posted by Pastabagel at 8:25 AM on February 7, 2008


American Graffiti.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:26 AM on February 7, 2008


The Pink Panther is a stolen diamond which only appeared in the original 1963 movie and none of the sequels;

Return of the Pink Panther (1975) features the diamond as a key plot element.
posted by biffa at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2008


Eraserhead (?)
posted by Mister_A at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2008


Animal Crackers
posted by artdrectr at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2008


Trainspotting
Beaches
I am Legend
posted by Pastabagel at 8:30 AM on February 7, 2008


Dog day afternoon: if I remember correctly, the story takes place on a very hot summer day, a dog day.
posted by bluefrog at 8:31 AM on February 7, 2008


Brazil.
posted by ZeroDivides at 8:32 AM on February 7, 2008


Primal Fear.
posted by futility closet at 8:32 AM on February 7, 2008


Eraserhead (?)
posted by Mister_A

Don't people's heads end up being mushed into erasers at the end?
posted by Grither at 8:33 AM on February 7, 2008


Trainspotting
posted by craichead at 8:36 AM on February 7, 2008


Kalifornia
posted by AJaffe at 8:36 AM on February 7, 2008


Laughterhouse, re-released as Singleton's Pluck because the original title made no sense whatever.
posted by Phanx at 8:37 AM on February 7, 2008


Naked in New York.

Funny thing is, many of the titles suggested here really do have something to do with the movie, it's just not obvious.
posted by adamrice at 8:38 AM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kalifornia
posted by AJaffe at 11:36 AM on February 7


Isn't the premise of that movie that Duchovny and Michelle Forbes are moving to California?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2008


Adamrice
"Funny thing is, many of the titles suggested here really do have something to do with the movie, it's just not obvious."

I was gonna say the same thing, but i'll be nice and play along:

Baraka
Koyaanisqatsi
Powaqqatsi
Naqoyqatsi

.
posted by jmnugent at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2008


Gummo.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 8:46 AM on February 7, 2008


Okay, technically at the end of Grand Canyon, all the characters go to the grand canyon, but that isn't mentioned earlier in the film, if I recall correctly. And Inland Empire, ot the best of my knowledge, has absolutely nothing to do with the Inland Empire (unless that's where it was shot, which the audience wouldn't know).
posted by Pastabagel at 8:47 AM on February 7, 2008


Naked Lunch
posted by box at 8:58 AM on February 7, 2008


Sideways

AFAIK the title wasn't [directly] referenced. Interpret it as you will, but it wasn't specifically taken from the film.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:58 AM on February 7, 2008


Grither: really? I don't remember there being an end to Eraserhead (I saw it like 2.5 decades ago...)
posted by Mister_A at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2008


Oldboy as a title doesn't have much/anything to do with the film.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2008


Don't people's heads end up being mushed into erasers at the end?

Not exactly, but there is a sequence (a dream or hallucination or visit to the spirit world that Henry originally came from) featuring a head being fed into a machine that makes it into erasers for the ends of pencils.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:12 AM on February 7, 2008


Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows

Huh? What book?
posted by saintsguy at 9:13 AM on February 7, 2008


Naked Lunch
posted by box at 8:58 AM on February 7


I can think of at least two things wrong with that title.
posted by ssmug at 9:31 AM on February 7, 2008


I don't think there's a dog in Un Chien Andalou never mind an Andalusian one...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2008


Un Chien Andalou

But that's sort of cheating.
posted by The Bellman at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2008


D'oh!
posted by The Bellman at 9:34 AM on February 7, 2008


Straw Dogs
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:37 AM on February 7, 2008


Bellman... yeah, I did think it was pushing it...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on February 7, 2008


Inland Empire

Going to have to disagree on that one, but I realize that may require a bit of Lynchian philosophizing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:39 AM on February 7, 2008


Duck Soup.
posted by champthom at 9:50 AM on February 7, 2008


Bang the Drum Slowly
posted by worker_bee at 9:54 AM on February 7, 2008


Eraserhead (?)
posted by Mister_A

Also not true, as "Eraserhead" is a scene in the movie. Literally.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:00 AM on February 7, 2008


My Own Private Idaho
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:00 AM on February 7, 2008


Naked Lunch (re: box) - As a kid with unsupervised access one night to Cinemax, I was highly disappointed about the true nature of this film.

Ok I'll come up with some of my own:

Matrix 2, and 3 :P
posted by samsara at 10:04 AM on February 7, 2008


"I am legend" is referenced at the end of the movie, something along the lines of "I created the cure so I am legend"

Which is actually a weak spin on the original from the book where the main character realizes that he has become the boogie man who haunts society, so he has "become legend"
posted by bitdamaged at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2008


Raising Arizona doesn't make much sense before you see the movie.
posted by hilby at 10:15 AM on February 7, 2008


Ghost World
posted by herbaliser at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2008


Elephant? The title isn't directly related to the content of the film, but it is an alusion to the subject matter being the "elephant in the room".
posted by burnmp3s at 10:22 AM on February 7, 2008


The title of Elephant is pretty unrelated to the subject, at least if you confine yourself to the context of the movie itself. Once is very non-descriptive as well, although a brief song with that title plays at the very end of the closing credits.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:23 AM on February 7, 2008


Well, at least one of mine was original.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:24 AM on February 7, 2008


Cloverfield takes its name from the fictional code name of the incident that occurs in the movie. Most movies probably derive their title from a central event, character, location, or theme of the movie. So, I don't think Cloverfield is a notable exception. In the same category could be many other movies like Million Dollar Baby, Braveheart, or Seabiscuit. These titles do not directly reveal anything about the plot of the movie either.
posted by daser at 10:28 AM on February 7, 2008


I thought the title of The Grand Canyon had to do with the grand canyons that exist between people.

Anyway, with the idea of something not obvious, I thought immediately of The Name of the Rose. The book ends with the line "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus", and my Latin's not very good, so I thought maybe that line explains the name. Otherwise I don't get it.
posted by MtDewd at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2008


I am Legend

Only because they changed/ruined the ending. The ending of the book is 100% tied to the title.
posted by jbickers at 10:37 AM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Beaches, Brazil

Several scenes in the first film take place at a beach. And the song 'Brazil' features prominently in the second.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:38 AM on February 7, 2008


If the question is about film whose title don't seem to relate to the the film, then Chariots of Fire. The hymn is sung in the film, but otherwise the title is not referenced, and it is a line from a Blake poem that references a legend about Jesus visiting Glastonbury. Pretty oblique.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2008


Most of the Marx brothers movies (they deliberately chose nonsense names)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, tho it's a well-known story, has nothing to with cats and most of the dialogue is not from Maggie, the character known as the cat

Good Will Hunting doesn't make sense as a title, really, tho that's the main character's name

Pulp Fiction?

Steel Magnolias, sort of

Birth of a Nation covers much more than the country's birth

Singing in the Rain reveals nothing about its plot about transitioning to talkies

The Color Purple (if you haven't read the book)

Dr. Strangelove is not the main character

Five Easy Pieces?

The Grapes of Wrath (if you haven't ready the book)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (if you haven't...)

Some Like it Hot?

I dunno, I guess there's a fine line between being able to read into an obscure part of the movie to understand the title, or not...
posted by Melismata at 11:07 AM on February 7, 2008


Elephant is as in an Elephant never forgets.

Butterfield 8?
posted by A189Nut at 11:09 AM on February 7, 2008


I've read many times that Gus Van Sant named his film Elephant after being inspired by the style of Alan Clark's film, Elephant.
posted by popcassady at 11:14 AM on February 7, 2008


Kiss of the Spider Woman?
posted by iviken at 11:22 AM on February 7, 2008


Oldboy as a title doesn't have much/anything to do with the film.

Uhh...it's a reference to the central relationship?

Except for the kinda-cheating Un Chien Andalou, most of these titles have something to do with the film. Unless we're looking for "examples of titles that are not blisteringly obvious summaries of the plot"-- which is a large category indeed.
posted by desuetude at 11:28 AM on February 7, 2008


Even Trainspotting is questionable - the title recalls an incident that occurs on the book, but which they left out of the film. I wouldn't count it.
posted by goo at 11:44 AM on February 7, 2008


Wow daser, you missed the point I was trying to make!

Cloverfield takes its name from the fictional code name of the incident that occurs in the movie.

Yah, I am aware where the title comes from. Unless the screenwriter decided that the government picked the word "Cloverfield" as a code name because the camera was found in a park, then the code name is completely unrelated to the content of the film, just like all those Marx Brothers movies.
posted by Lord Kinbote at 11:48 AM on February 7, 2008


Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. "Dead men don't wear plaid...I still don't know what it means"

technically at the end of Grand Canyon, all the characters go to the grand canyon, but that isn't mentioned earlier in the film, if I recall correctly

Regret to inform that there's a conversation between Kevin Kline and Danny Glover about the Grand Canyon both as a place and how it's a metaphor for the spaces between people.

Raising Arizona doesn't make much sense before you see the movie.
Plus it should really be called Raising Huffheins, but then would you see a movie called Raising Huffheins?

posted by kirkaracha at 11:57 AM on February 7, 2008


Buñuel's El Ángel Exterminador. Might be Andalusian cheating.

Also, several of the Thin Man movie titles employ the term properly, if "the Thin Man" is understood to be the name given to the case in the first movie. Just saying.
posted by thinman at 12:00 PM on February 7, 2008


Wha? Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi are all very meaningfully named. Just google or read their descriptions.

That's like saying "Das Boot" answers the question because it's not about boots....
posted by allterrainbrain at 12:25 PM on February 7, 2008


Fargo.

It takes place in Brainerd and Minneapolis. Wikipedia says:
On an interview on the Special Edition DVD, the Coens claimed that they titled the movie "Fargo" because it sounded more interesting than "Brainerd."
posted by Dec One at 12:38 PM on February 7, 2008


Syriana
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:43 PM on February 7, 2008


While not technically a single movie, Neon Genesis Evangelion is probably the most counter intuitive title for a show about giant robots. The words in it tie into the show thematically, and the robots are called Evangelions, but it was picked out by the director to be deliberately obscure.

Sword of Doom is an awesome movie, and the title is perfect for it, but there isn't anything that is special about the protagonist's sword aside from his technique and personality. This one might be cheating because it was renamed from the Japanese title which actually made sense.

Pistol Opera is another Japanese movie with a wonderful title that hasn't got anything to do with the movie directly. Again, the title refers more to the thematic elements rather than the action of the piece.
posted by CheshireCat at 1:12 PM on February 7, 2008


The Postman Always Rings Twice
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 1:33 PM on February 7, 2008


Strangers With Candy
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:32 PM on February 7, 2008


Vanilla Sky
posted by tomble at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2008


"The movie's website states that "‘Syriana’ is a very real term used by Washington think-tanks to describe a hypothetical reshaping of the Middle East."

The film is about the effect of global political machinations on the Middle East. The title of that film read only a little less literally as "Snakes on a Plane" to me.

The titles of Claire Denis's Chocolat, Claude Chabrol's La Ceremonie, Fassbinder/Ozon's Water Drops on Burning Rocks are pretty esoteric.
posted by desuetude at 7:47 PM on February 7, 2008


Minority Report - I don't think they ever talked about such a report
posted by royalchinook at 8:44 AM on February 18, 2008


Snatch. One, tiny part of the movie a dog "snatches" a ball, that's it. Unless you consider the multiple diamond thefts "snatching"...
posted by whiskey point at 2:28 PM on February 25, 2008


« Older Hallelujah Bebop, give me a job   |   Name a eries of artworks Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.