Bad short film titles

Creating a great title for a film can be tough. You want the title to stand out and stick with people. Something that highlights themes, characters or actions in your story. A hint of something scary, funny, dramatic or unworldly. Maybe it’s a metaphor or something poetic. Whatever the title, once you have it you know in your gut that it’s right.

Creating a bad title, on the other hand, is far easier.

When watching hundreds of shorts each year, there’s always generic titles that pop up several times. Before even watching a film, if I see a common title I think the film is amateur or lazy. My judgement before I even watch a frame: uncreative. A title is the first thing that sells your film to an audience – and when a short is a calling card of you to the world should you really make the title that ordinary?

Today, I’m sharing a few of the most common short film titles I’ve seen. I’m not saying that you can’t have your film titled one of these words. But what I am saying is that each year, I see at least one film – often multiple films – with this title. The one word title is most common. It doesn’t matter if you put it in all caps either. It’s still the same word. I’m wondering if your film is going to be the same as every other one as well.

As you’re reading this list, imagine what kind of film it might be. Does it perk your interest at all? Do you feel you already know what the film is about? Do you feel like you need to watch it?

Some of the title offenders include:

Repeat

Butterfly

Locked

Animal

Memory

My Name is…   (and then a name)

Crossing   (or The Crossing)

Numb

Float

Change

Beyond   (this is also usually followed by another word or two… which reminds me of the next one…)

After   (Pick a word, any word, to follow After and it has probably been done before.)

Hello    (Only Adele can get away with this now. #SorryNotSorry)

and one of the worst titles I see multiple times each year:

Home

Look, I get it. Being original is difficult. There’s a lot of content out there and plenty of films that have come and gone. But the title is the hook and just as much effort should be put into that as the film itself. So please filmmakers, make an effort with your title. I want that title to make me curious.

What are some of the worst film title’s you remember? What are some of your favorite titles? I’d like to hear them in the comments!

 

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8 thoughts on “Bad short film titles”

  1. Some writer friends and I often joke about Alice Munro’s late period when she started titling her stories things like “Chance”,” “Soon,” “Silence,” “Pride,” “Train,” “Night.” But we also love her, so the point is… only a master can get away with titles so prosaic and cliche! “Arrival,” anyone? (contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t think the original story’s title was much better: “The Story of Your Life”) “Moonlight”!

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  2. My personal pet peeve is “[Verb]ing [Noun/Name]” it drives me nuts. Example: Finding Nemo, Finding Neverland, Finding Forrester, Chasing Amy, Becoming Jane… it goes on and on.

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    1. This naming convention has become mine as well. Although Eating Raoul and Raising Arizona get a free pass.

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  3. So many bad titles…. People name their shorts the same name as well known features like THE GRADUATE or THE GIFT or whatever, why would you want to invite the comparison?

    AFTER (blank) is also such a cliche, AFTER LOVE, AFTER DARK, AFTER WAR…

    ALONE.

    THE ART OF (blank.)

    BAD (blank) BAD LOVE, BAD HEART, BAD TIME…

    BEYOND (blank) BEYOND DEATH, BEYOND LOVE, BEYOND THE DAY…

    BROKEN

    COLD (blank) COLD WORLD, COLD LOVE, COLD HEART, COLD WATER

    DEAD (blank) DEAD LINE, DEAD ROAD, DEAD END

    ESCAPE

    EXIT

    GRACE

    HOME

    JOURNEY

    NEW YORK (blank) NEW YORK LOVE, NEW YORK HEART, NEW YORK TIME

    NOISE

    PARADISE

    RAIN

    REASON

    WILD

    They are all just so blah, so forgettable, you have thousands of movies in your head a forgettable title makes it just evaporate.

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  4. Seconded and thirded. Now that I’m regularly screening movies for DIFF, including a lot of shorts, I was struck by how lazy and vague (or just ineffective, if they thought they had a really good title) the titles were. I’ve always had the opinion that the more specific a title, the better, especially for short films and short stories. I like the pairing of a specific, even longish title with a short film you no absolutely nothing about. Like you said, it’s the primer and teaser and it needs to manage expectations, create curiosity or pique interest. “Home” is just bullshit.

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  5. My favorite Shorts bad titles this year are:

    ReConnect (Apparently some AOL high school alumni chatroom platform)
    Dawn
    Rooms (a sequel to Room, of course)
    The Decision
    Metamorphosis (come ON)
    Distance

    And my favorite: DUEL VISION. It conjures memories of the glorious straight-to-video actioners of my youth; if only the movie was 1/4 as good ….

    Oh, and please tell me you watched The Decision. We have to talk about The Decision.

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