So to keep appreciation for taglines alive and definitely not as filler, I'm going to compile a list of the best 100 and worst 100 movie taglines of all time, 1 each a time, every day. I'm definitely going to do this every day just as sure as you're going to read it every day. But first, what are some of the criteria that makes a movie tagline good or bad? Of course a lot of the time it just comes down to 'sounds cool' versus 'sounds stupid', but apart from that there are a few recurring categories:
- Extraordinary Hyperbole: This method is all about telling you that you absolutely have to see this film, and every other film and every other life experience up to now has been a complete waste of your fucking time and why are you still reading this poster just buy a goddamn ticket already. The preferred tagline method from the more emphatic and sincere 1930s up to the 1960s. Also popular among trashier horror movies of the kind that stop just short of telling you that you are literally going to be murdered in the cinema for real. Expect exclamation marks.
- Succinct Summary: What is the movie about? The tagline will tell you. If the cinema-goer is in some doubt as to whether the two dudes on the poster are a pair of mismatched detectives, the Succinct Summary will be sure to let them know that "One's from the streets. One's an alpaca. Now they've gotta team up and take down the bad guys. In space."
- The 'Be Sharps' Principle: For when you need a tagline that's witty at first, but less funny every time you hear it. The better puns can be filed under this category. Possibly when the people who write tabloid headlines die, they all go to their own Valhalla to come up with pithy one-liners for summer movies.
- Puneth The Hour, Punish The Man: This is where all the rest of the puns can be filed. For when it's ten to five on a Friday afternoon and you've still got a stack of posters for kid's comedies. If a joke falls flat on the poster, there's a strong chance the actual film isn't going to fare much better, and egregious use of bad puns should of course be punishable by death (please don't read the titles of any of my film reviews). The scourge of the smug 90s.
- ???: Maybe the grammar doesn't properly scan, or maybe the sentence doesn't make any sense once you actually think about it. Or maybe it just doesn't explain anything about the actual movie. Regardless, someone's tried to be too clever by half and ended up with a messy pile of word salad.
- The 'Our Audience Are Idiots' Principle: Often used for sequels, remakes or rip offs, these taglines are a futile attempt to hide the obvious truth of their film from the suckers paying for tickets. A modern example of this would be the line 'There was never just one' which was all over promotion for The Bourne Legacy, an assumption by the studio that if they told you that Jason Bourne was not actually that central to a series of movies all titled 'The Bourne Something', you'd believe it, like the popcorn munching simpleton you are.
With that in mind, here are the respective #100s on the lists of the Best and the Worst Movie Taglines of All Time!
Which: Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States.
Where: The Day of the Dolphin
What: Succinct Summary
Why: Because unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States, that's why. Exactly the kind of self serious line you want for The Day of the Dolphin, a film with the surprising pedigree of starring George C. Scott, being directed by Mike Nichols and being nominated for two Academy Awards, that nevertheless is about dolphins trying to kill the President on accident.
Which: Not to be confused with King Kong
What: The 'Our Audience Are Idiots' Principle
Why: Not only is it unlikely that anyone would confuse A*P*E, alternatively (and classily) titled Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla with a famous name like King Kong, even the remake that was released the same year, it's also generally a bad idea to remind people of a better movie when you're trying to get them to watch your movie.