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Hypothesis: Improving Movie Titles With a Simple Substitution

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 1, 2008

There isn’t enough tension in movie titles today. Everything’s too safe, non-commital. Okay, There Will Be Blood was a pretty great title–makes a tantalizing, intriguing promise, and follows through with it. But look at some of those other Oscar-heavy hitter titles. Juno. Michael Clayton. Away From Her. Hell, even No Country for Old Men, which looked promising but contianed nary a scene of Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Barden discussing how they’ve gotten progressively disillusioned with George Strait and Vince Gill as they’ve aged. Let’s get some titles that really get us excited about going to the theaters, huh?

So, I propose a rather simple solution to spruce up a healthy chunk of movie titles out there: Replace any instance of the word “And” with the word “Versus” (or better, the abbreviated “Vs.”)  The word “and” is boring, a mere space-filler–OK, so we know that both McCabe and Mrs. Miller have something to do with this Altman flick, but what’s their relation? Why should I watch a movie centered around two random people when for all I know, they could be on completely separate tips? Get that “Vs.” in there, though, and there’s automatic drama–you might not know what McCabe and Mrs. Miller are contesting over, but you’ll imagine that it’s probably a battle worth watching.

Other examples to illustrate the brilliance of this theory:

  • The Diving Bell Vs. The Butterfly
  • Charlie Vs. The Chocolate Factory
  • Lars Vs. The Real Girl
  • Chuck Vs. Buck
  • Indiana Jones Vs. The Last Crusade
  • Me Vs. You Vs. Everyone We Know
  • The Squid Vs. The Whale
  • Monty Python Vs. The Holy Grail
  • Harry Potter Vs. The Goblet of Fire
  • Kind Hearts Vs. Coronets

You’d be a lot more likely to watch those movies, no? I certainly would.

Perhaps the real question, though, is if this substitution works the other way around. Would this take the titles of some very tense, overwrought movies and maybe diffuse some of the bad vibes a little bit? Let’s look at some examples:

  • Joe and the Volcano
  • Kramer and Kramer
  • The People and Larry Flynt
  • Ballistic: Ecks and Sever

Nah, doesn’t really work, does it? Of course, there’s also Alien and Predator, which sounds like it could’ve been a touching story of the bond formed between two like-minded outcasts, instead of a disappointing, PG-13 rated failed attempt at making the ultimate cult sci-fi flick. Maybe they’ll get it right for the sequel.

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