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Ergocinema / Screenwriting / Movie Titles

The perfect Movie Title

Filmtitel und Film

The title of your script is the first thing your reader notices. It has that in common with the film: A viewer sees the film title first and decides either for it or against it. Therefore, you should always pay special attention to the title.

Movie Title Ideas

You have many options for designing an appealing title. You can choose a symbol, such as a character (THE GODFATHER), an object (THE SCARLET LETTER), or a quote (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN). It is also popular to choose the name of the main character as part of the title (HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE), to take the starting point of the film (HANGOVER) or the main character’s task (THE CLOU). Film titles with numbers can work amazingly well (8 MILE), sometimes even in sequels (OCEAN’S 11, 12, 13).

Each film title is a working title

Until the film is released in cinemas under this name, its title is also a working title. I therefore recommend not to use the “AT” label in the usual screenplay layout:

Title (AT)
by Alan Smithee

By adding AT you show that you are unsure about your title. The reader does not like your chosen title right away, and this award will not change his prejudice. On the other hand, if your book is written absolutely brilliantly, it will not fail because of a less good title.

Bad movie titles

Bad titles don’t fit their films or don’t do them justice. We see that, among other things, in German translations of American film titles.

The flat title

The American CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE becomes BORN 2 DIE in Germany. A good example of how a title can be made even flatter. Flat means that the title uses commonly used terms and images.

Your film genre is an important factor when choosing your title. Thematically, you can already tell that it’s probably about crime/action. With CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE, however, there is still an individual touch.

If you’re writing a comedy, be sure to hint at the joke or absurdity in your title. Parodies of well-known titles are popular, but come to nothing if the target audience doesn’t know the originals and therefore can’t make the connection. Film titles for thrillers want to create suspense, film titles for love films want to create a certain warmth, eroticism or (in the case of unfulfilled relationships) heaviness and forlornness.

The meaningless title

I can’t infer the content from the title BUDDY. The term is a subgenre (buddy film), the character “buddy” is a friend or buddy. One might expect buddy comedy at best, but that’s mere surface and says very little about the film. The situation is similar with film titles such as LOVE. They can mean anything and everything.

The Complicated Title

(D)RAUMSCHIFF SURPRISE – PERIOD 1. It couldn’t be more complicated, but that seems to have been the goal. Here we have a parody of the intricate titles of the STAR WARS saga, but purely on the intellectual level. The bracket is difficult to read. You want to have both, spaceship and dream ship, but that doesn’t work. Instead you have a tongue twister. Both DREAMSHIP SURPRISE and RAUMSCHIFF SURPRISE are combinations that sound strange and don’t work out that way.

Title with subtitle

A subtitle is not mandatory. English film titles are usually poorly translated into German and this bad title is then explained afterwards. A good title stands on its own and needs no further explanation. Unless the subtitle is content-related, then it can of course make sense.

Movie title checklist

Finally, a short checklist for creating your film title:

  • Show something from your story
  • Don’t use phrases
  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it short

If you follow these tips, you’ll find a title that fits your story and makes the reader want to read your script.