So as mentioned yesterday, I'm compiling a list of the best 100 and worst 100 movie taglines of all time, 1 each a time, every day. I've done two days in a row successfully which means I'm free to skip the next 98 for doing so well, right? 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.
Which: They're young, they're in love...and they kill people.
Where: Bonnie and Clyde
What: Succinct Summary
Why: It's all about that ellipses. The romance film setup and violent punchline conveys a lot of the spirit of Bonnie and Clyde, and it's Hays Code killing approach to taboos. It neatly sums up the appeal: beautiful Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, combining a romance and crime drama.
Which: Great things come in bears.
Where: Yogi Bear
What: Puneth The Hour, Punish The Man
Why: Because when you're looking for some simple nonsense to distract your kids for a little while, the last thing you need is the image of cartoon bear loving, and the poster does not help.
The Best Movie Taglines of All Time
100. "Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States", The Day of the Dolphin
99. "They're young, they're in love...and they kill people", Bonnie and Clyde
The Worst Movie Taglines of All Time
100. "Not to be confused with King Kong", A*P*E
99. "Great things come in bears", Yogi Bear