The question of what makes a great movie title is probably more complex than we’ll try to get into here. It has to nicely tie into the film’s subject matter without getting too cute or punny, while also offering the kind of quick and memorable punch that makes it easy to remember when you walk up to buy tickets and easier still when you’re recommending it to friends. It’s a subtle art, and it can go wrong really, really quickly.
No American critics will know until later this week whether the upcoming horror film The Bye Bye Man will actually be any good or not, but much of the pre-release discourse around the movie has posed the question: What is that name? Whether it’s a decent horror film or not, there’s a chance that some audiences might not turn out just by dint of having to go out and request one or more tickets for a movie that sounds like a kid describing robbers in a court case.
And more to the point, it got us thinking about some of the other legends within the annals of bad title history, from those which pose unanswerable questions to those that simply defy comprehension. So, with an eye toward theatrical releases over the years (meaning that the glory of Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? will not grace this list), we’ve gone back in time to bring you some of the most egregiously, notably awful movie titles that have ever managed to find their way to the movie-going public.
Enjoy, and remember: Not all of the movies within are necessarily bad, but their titles are iconically so.
Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx
We’re not actually going to speak ill of a Gene Wilder movie here, but simply of its title, which sounds like the start of a long-winded story by a grandparent about the old days of the city. Anytime a title reads more like a logline for the film’s plot, it’s probably best to dial it back just a touch.
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo
Of all the subtitles in movie history, Electric Boogaloo might be the most inappropriately overused of them. Though The Search for Curly’s Gold is certainly in the running as well, there’s something so quaintly suburban about “Electric Boogaloo” as a buzzword for youth culture that makes it all the more satisfying as a nonsense title. It’s the “hello there, fellow kids” of movie titles.
Leonard Part 6
We can only hope that somewhere in Hollywood, locked deep away with The Day the Clown Cried and that first version of Suicide Squad, are screenplays for the other Leonards. It’s the only way that this would even remotely fit in with logic.
Also, insert your own damn jokes from here. We’re not going for it.
What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
Well, shit, that was answered about two months ago now.
Thank you, and remember to tip your waitresses.
Operation Dumbo Drop
Here, Disney promises a gritty, ground-level war film about a famed paratrooping pachyderm who saved a band of resourceful but stranded Americans, only to cut down our grandest ambitions for the future of cinema with an underwhelming family film.
The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Oh, we can’t stay mad at this frustrating title. Just look at that roguish grin. Opened a lot of comedies in the 1990s, that did.
One can only hope that at Blockbusters the nation over, clerks once refused to rent this out to anybody who wouldn’t request the title in full.
Santa With Muscles
Yeah, this is goofy, but at least unlike quite a few of the films on this list, Santa With Muscles is nothing if not transparent about its intentions, and what can be found within. The implication that the ever-busy St. Nick wouldn’t see some gains over time is a little bit presumptuous, though.
Also, if you know anything about wrestling in the ’80s/early ’90s, you know that this Santa’s muscles probably came from a number of special ingredients.
In 2002, a franchise began that would sully the search histories of well-meaning film editors the world over and would finally create the action film that’s far more difficult to pirate than anyone could have imagined. That middle X being capitalized is key here, as not only does it denote the Xander in xXx (and the extent and extremity of the film’s take on “extreme”), but it ensures that this is the only film title in history that can easily double as an awful belt buckle.
Great movie, brutal turn-of-the-millennium title.
Can you even imagine what it’s like to sit down and play a video game with David Cronenberg, though? It’d be like showing television to E.T.
Dude, Where’s My Car?
This is a title that actually worsens in context, as Dude Where’s My Car? turns the titular question onto what might be the absolute nadir of the “Who’s On First?” joke template. Also, this is a stoner movie that goes out of its way to have no weed in it, and the sun will go out before that makes sense to us.