Movie titles are most often short and memorable. The reason is simple. You don’t want audiences to forget the movie name when they first hear or see it. You want them to remember the title for a long time so that they can tell their friends about it. As we already know, word-to-mouth publicity plays a big part in how much money a movie makes at the box office. But every once in a while, filmmakers feel the importance of having a certain title irrespective of its commercial viability. And therefore, you will find titles like ‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’. To be fair, that’s a great title. But can you remember it after reading it once. I doubt so. Anyway, we are today going to list down 10 most popular and famous long movie titles.
10. In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
I love how wonderfully this title describes lovemaking. The controversial 1976 picture was banned in many countries because of its excessive nudity and unsimulated sexual content. It is good, but it doesn’t even come close to the promise held by its beautiful title. Our senses take control of us, as we are subject to them in their kingdom, and they are elevated to such heights when sex is involved. I hate having to give a straitjacket meaning to something of such artistry, and so I’ll leave the rest of the interpreting to you. The title caught on and, along with the assurance of the content that it had, made the film successful. The French title translates to ‘Empire of the Senses’, and while the two basically mean the same thing, I feel as though there is a special something about the word ‘realm’ that can grasp our emotions on an even better level.
10. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
Part of the cult Dracula series released by Hammer Productions and starring Christopher Lee as the leading vampire, ‘Dracula Has Risen From the Grave’ sounds like the warning from a spooky, old fortune-teller who sits at the end of a pub and is otherwise silent. The feeling it gives off is quite unsettling as it is in the present tense. Dracula is no longer where he is supposed to be, and that makes one wonder, “where could he be now, and what does he mean to do?”. This is the genius of the title as it helps the film to advertise itself, claiming to be the answer to that question in all our minds. The chilling figure of a cold, blood-thirsty man resurrected from the dead is also one that is a little bit frightening. Adding to all of this the fact that the film was a sequel in a series of movies based on the character addresses the chilling idea that all is not well, yet again.
8. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)
Much like Josh Radnor’s comparatively recent feature ‘Happythankyoumoreplease’ (2010), someone who comes by a title of this nature may naturally think of it as a combination of several words, and the breaks offered by the syllables only further this notion. The film that comes along with this complicated mixture of a word is a documentary that dared to capture human life at its most realistic state. Steered by a man named William Greaves, the film works today as a time capsule that serves to show how people behaved in actuality back in the ’60s without the knowledge of cameras being present in their surroundings. The title of this movie is based on a scientific concept called ‘symbiotaxiplasm’ which is used to describe the events that affect the conscious mind of human beings and how they act upon it, and this has been conjoined with the root ‘psycho’ in order to give the original meaning a more chaotic one.
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The title of this 1975 Oscar winner speaks in reference to a children’s rhyme, part of which goes:”One flew east, one flew west.One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” This phrase is used to describe someone who has gone insane. The name of this specific bird specie has been used since the days of yore to ridicule and make fun of people by labeling them as mentally ill, usually as a joke and used more prominently amongst children. The protagonist of our story, a seemingly sane man named McMurphy is the one who “flew over”, according to most interpretations of the title. The ‘cuckoo’s nest’, hence, becomes the mental ward that he enters. This title, like some other mentions of the list, doesn’t act into the story but is poetic in its expression, due to which I find that it can be interpreted in different ways. The title was able to advertise the film, but that was mainly because it was an adaptation of a novel which bared the same name.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The second film on this list to do with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the only thing about ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ that caught my eye prior to viewing it was its title. The way it represents the story as a whole is quite beautiful. The title is a phrase that signifies a lie. A ‘spotless mind’ is one without troubling thoughts, emotions, and feelings of pain and distress, and a mind of this type is said to bring forth an ‘eternal sunshine’ or everlasting peace into the life of a person who has one. The film is a journey into a man’s head as he removes painful memories from it, only to then realize how beautiful they were. Therefore, the title is a statement that is disproven by the film and its story. A spotless mind has no worries, no motivations, and no reasons to continue on forward, and all an eternal sunshine is is happiness that we can achieve by actually doing something worthwhile with our lives.
5. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975)
‘Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels’ is an address that if followed, takes you to the residence of a lonely widow named Jeanne Dielman, who is a sex worker but keeps aside most of her time for house work and daily chores. A person’s address is the blandest, most inexpressive way to describe them. There are no emotions felt, and there are no character traits communicated. Part of what ‘Jeanne Dielman’ focuses on as a movie is the repetitive and routine nature of life as led by a homemaker and mother of one. The style of the film coincides rather well with its title, because even this is straightforward, lacking action, and in a lot of ways seemingly boring and eventless. The title works into the story and stands out because of its own qualities, independent of that of the film, which is an underrated work of art.
4. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989)
Notice a pattern here? This is another title on the list that flows along like a clear stream, and the way it establishes characters, their relation to each other, and in a couple cases their occupations and even story dynamics is just mind-blowingly clever. For one, we now know that there is a cook or a chef in the tale, and that the second character being referred to has some relation to the first (and possibly one that isn’t very healthy, given that he is named ‘the thief’). The ‘wife’, of course, is in reference to the significant other of the crook, and she happens to be cheating on him with her lover. It’s pretty interesting to point out that though we know a lot, the film still hasn’t been spoiled for us. The title is a blurb, and it confuses relating to the involvement of crime and comedy with possibly a hint of romance. It seems as though there is something in it for everybody, and that in itself is a weirdly effective form of advertising.
3. Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008)
The film bearing this title is the ‘letter’ being referred to, and that is somewhat clear (especially since this is a documentary). What isn’t are a couple of things. Who is Zachary’s father? Why is someone “writing” a letter based on the paternal figure? Why hasn’t he prepared it himself? What we can figure out is that there is a lot to say, and there is something about the father that his son needs to know. This 2008 documentary is very sad and unsettling, and it is the title that invites its audience first and foremost. The art of letter writing brings with it a sense of gentleness and grace, and the words “Dear Zachary” give us, the audience, an idea that it is written not with hate, but genuine love and care. Though after watching this disturbing film, you may wish to never have known the contents of this “letter”, the title is able to persuade us and let us know that this film holds something of importance within itself.
2. The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Right off the bat, the film holds its own opinion of the characters within it. There is a killing, and the murderer responsible is a man named Robert Ford. The victim is Jesse James, and the title gives him a respectable and elite status by referring to his killer as a coward. With just the title, character dynamics have already been created. The construction of the sentence gives the audience the idea that the film plans to display the titular assassination, and hopefully the steps leading up to it, the aftermath, or a combination of the two. We subconsciously root for Jesse James, as it has been built into us as human beings the characteristic of supporting the weaker party (despite Ford being the one who is afraid), and we look negatively at his killer. The surety and straightforwardness of the title makes it look as though this film is the one and only place where we can find out exactly what we want about the event.
1. A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (2014)
The flow of this title is one of the things about it that interests me. Everyday, every hour, every minute, events happen in this world that we don’t pay much attention to because they are mundane. The sun rising, the day slowly turning darker, and going along with this particular phrase, pigeons sitting on branches. It takes an extraordinary mind to actually figure out what those birds are doing, besides sitting there, all silent and wide-eyed. Are they thinking about something? Are they remembering a beautiful night now passed over? What if they are recalling a failed romance of theirs with a fellow pigeon, and solemnly sulking in silence? We can’t tell, but the poet in us can imagine, and Swedish director Roy Andersson believes that they are reflecting upon their very existence. He further adds that the title is merely a “different way of saying ‘what are we actually doing’, that’s what the movie is about.” I find it to be a beautiful observation of our surroundings.