Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best and Worst: Movie Taglines of 2010

Taglines are one of the more curious aspects of film marketing. Often they're absolutely pointless additions, but every once in a while a real winner sneaks in - regardless of whether or not that's because they're hilariously wrong or delectably witty. The following are ten taglines I feel represent the best and worst 2010 had to offer. From the simplistic and intellectually stimulating to the hilariously campy - let's get this show on the road!


"Read between the lies" - The Ghost Writer

In my opinion the best taglines are always the ones that say the most about a film without trying to force any sycophantic ramblings or self indulgent humor. Ghost Writer does just that. It takes an old saying we all know, drops one letter, and tells you everything you need to know about the film.

"An epic of epic epicness" - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

What allows this tagline to work is that it is, regardless of your personal inclinations, a perfect setup for the film. It presents you with the exact zaniness you can expect if you choose to watch it, while at the same time doing the film justice.

"Retribution" - True Grit

Short, sweet, and to the point. What more could you possible want? No caustic wordplay, or cheap punchlines. This movie is about retribution, the end.

"Your mind is the scene of the crime" - Inception

Why is this such a great tagline? Because it is a pure, unadulterated, hook. The second the commercials aired this tagline had everyone canvasing the internet, trying to find out everything about the movie they could. It worked too. Inception is the fifth highest grossing film of 2010 for a reason. The marketing team knew how to create hooks to get you wanting more.

"You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies" - The Social Network

The thing I really love about tagline isn't just the fact that it fits the film so beautifully, it's also that it creates a mood for the viewer. The tagline draws you into the world Sorkin and Fincher create, and keeps you guessing on how these characters will ultimately act against one another.

To be honest I could have done a top 500 on the worst taglines from this year, but here are just a few samplers.

"Justice is Swift. Vengeance is Faster" - Faster

Wait a second, did you just try and express superiority through the use of a relative term based on an arbitrary measurement!? This tagline is all sorts of wrong. Not least of which is their desire to sneak in 'swift' when they could have just gone ahead and used 'fast,' nobody would have cared that much. The alternative Faster tagline - "Slow Justice is No Justice" is equally bad (yes Slow Justice is Justice like Slow Humans are Humans - speed is an attribute not a defining quality)

"Be The First To Meet Fourteen New Characters" - Toy Story 3

There's a very good reason this tagline was reserved for foreign markets, only a few ads, and even less posters - it's atrocious. So what if I'm not the first to meet the new characters? What if I'm the 232,102,887th person to meet them, are they going to change? By then will they be hardened, downtrodden beings meandering through the cruel world, forced to repeat the same shtick night in and night out? Partly, but they're animated and it's only a movie so calm yourself down there studio. Luckily enough the other Toy Story 3 taglines were demonstrably better.

"When God couldn't save The King. The Queen turned to someone who could." - The King's Speech

Lighting, eye direction, coloring, and second hand photo editing aren't the only issues this King's Speech poster features. It also features a presumptuous tagline that bores way into the realm of counterproductive. Does God show up about ten minutes into the film for a quick cameo and go "wait, you've got the stutters? Woah, yeah, nothing I can do for that - maybe you should try calling Geoffrey Rush." If not, why bring God into the discussion at all? I get you're trying to do a spin on "God save the King/Queen" but still... just say no. Luckily the followup tagline "The Nation awaits..." is at least more apropos.

"Just like real spies... only furrier" - Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Just like real spies? Are there spies flying around major metropolitan areas in jet packs? What the hell am I doing wasting my time here!? I can tell you other ways their not like real spies beyond fur, but it would be a greater waste of time than this film already is. The movie had a wide collection of horrid taglines including: Pawsitively Nuts, Purr-fessional Spy, and Bone-a-Fied Hero. To be fair, I'm generally against the use of substituting letters in a word for obscure dog traits anyways.

"Titans Will Clash" - Clash of the Titans

Yeah, uh, I know... it's already there in the title. Didn't really need you to just toss the title in reverse and substitute "of the" for "will" to get the point across. I mean, why not go with "Clashing Titans Here" or "Titans Clash, Yo!" Unfortunately for the producers, their followup tagline "The Clash Begins " wasn't any better because now everyone's going in expecting a little bit of The Clash (I know, I'm shocked I know the band too). Instead they get stuck with a lot of scenery being chewed up and a dreadfully flopped together plot with even less interesting action. How this movie managed to make a cool $163m domestically and set itself up for a sequel is well beyond my mental comprehension. They did just about everything wrong (bad 3D conversion, lackluster film, worse feedback, disinterested viewers, etc.) and viewers still flocked to it!

Well ladies and gentlemen I could be here all day but you would get bored of me (hopefully you aren't already), so take a moment and just enjoy the above. Let them all come in, good and bad, and hope that we see a more cautious approach to tagline use in 2011!

20 better thoughts:

Cheri Passell said...

Seriously - Disney couldn't have done any better than that?

Aiden R. said...

Wow, Clash of the Titans and Toy Story. Someone must have had an aneurysm coming up with those gems. And the Faster tagline I saw was "Slow justice is no justice." Either way, horseshit. I think Social Network and Scott Pilgrim are my faves this year. Good post, man.

Univarn said...

@Cheri: They did - their main tagline was "The Toys are Back in Town" - I just felt that this one existed at all was a bit saddening.

@AidenR: Yeah that was the one they adopted in most markets - When picking I went with anything that was deemed part of their taglines at all.

Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

I love taglines of The Ghost Writer, The Social Network and Inception. And do agree about the worst ones. I wonder why they wouldn't do a better job with The King's Speech.

Rich said...

Eh, 'The King's Speech' tagline isn't so bad. It's light and seems to fit the mood of the film (or at least the trailer; haven't seen the film yet). There's no excuse for 'Clash of the Titans' though.

Brittani Burnham said...

Holy, I didn't realize Toy Story's was that lame. I didn't like the tagline for The Expendables. "Every movie has a hero, this one has them all."

Maybe it's because I hate Stallone so much.

Chase Kahn said...

I'll argue that "The King's Speech" tagline is actually pretty good. Think about it: how else are you going to explain to somebody in one sentence what the film is about? I think it works.

Now, the poster? Just embarrassing on all fronts...

Univarn said...

@Leysa I guess the Weinstein brothers just couldn't find the right marketing company to get the job done.

@Brittani As I mentioned in an earlier comment they had others which they used more, but that was my first exposure to the film's taglines and it was bad. As for the Expendables, I thought the tagline was fun and a good inclination of what the film SHOULD have been.

@Rich & Chase: My general rule of thumb with marketing - Don't bring 'god' or any other religious figure in unless your film deals with that very issue. It's a messy road, and people love to drive crazy down it.

SugaryCynic said...

Wow, could Toy Story 3 be pandering to kids to buy all the new toys any more painfully? The Faster one just makes me giggle when I say it in my Don LaFontaine voice. Go on, try it, it's fun!

ps. I'm digging the site redesign, the old was definitely starting to get over-cluttered.

Castor said...

Ahah "Titans wlll clash" has to win the prize of worst tagline of the year. It just can't get any more unoriginal and campy.

Nice new template Uni!

Sebastian Gutierrez said...

Hey now! Clash of the Titans redeemed themselves with the "Damn The Gods" tagline... or, rather, they would have, if the movie were any good.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sad to say I was one of those suckers who paid money for the Titans remake. It was awful.

Robert said...

Hahahaha! This made me laugh. Eeek. The Clash of the Titans one was horrendous! :D

Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

@Alex J. Cavanaugh, my friend's brother fell asleep during the screening. At least, his eyes were closed. As for me, I was struggling with the sleep. Yeah, that movie was that bad.

simoncolumb said...

i love the 'best' ones. It can be so important if you get it right! And then that TOY STORY 3 one ... I guess couldn't have "the boys are back in town ... again"

Univarn said...

@Sugary Thanks and Toy Story 3 did have an alternate slogan: "No toy gets left behind"

@Castor Does this mean I shouldn't be looking forward to a "Anomalous Will Materialize" tagline for your blog anytime soon?

@Sebastian Somehow I missed the opportunity to stand outside a screen of this film with the sign "DAM the Film!" (that's not a typo)

@AlexJ Look on the bright side - at least you got to watch Liam Neeson for about 5 minutes.

@Robert Glad to hear, I always try to keep my audience riveted.

@simon I thought about making an honorable mention for the "... again" taglines or the "word. word. word." taglines which plagued this year, but I thought better of it.

Simon said...


God, that Toy Story 3 tagline...

Tom said...

14 characters? I hope that includes the cymbal-banging monkey.

Fletch said...

Titans will epically clash when a vengeful God won't help them read between the 14 furrier lies.

Excellente post, sir. That was a fun little trip (although at times excruciating) down memory lane.

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