The Perfect Movie Title (as judged by SCIENCE)

I recently came upon a list of the top 508 movies of all time (basically any movie that had grossed over 100 million dollars by the end of 2011).

Armed with this information (which I adjusted for inflation – bonus SCIENCE step), I sat and looked at the list, and pondered.

What makes a movie successful?  Is it a timeless story, unforgettable characters, eye-popping visuals?

No!  All of those things happen during the movie itself, AFTER you’ve already bought your ticket.  How could they possibly influence the movie-going public to buy a ticket, if they happen AFTER?  Post hoc, ergo propter hoc!  (I’m 90% confident this means what I think it means.)

The main thing that people know about movies, before they go to see them, is the title.  It’s on all the posters, in all the ads, and often it is the only thing you see at the movie theater just before you buy your ticket.

Ergo, it is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect in how many tickets your movie will sell (and therefore how much money you will earn) .

And, as making money is the primary goal of all art, the following findings should henceforth be used for all movies, in the interest of making the films as profitable products as possible.

Faced with a list of film titles, and a list of (inflation-adjusted!  SCIENCE!) grosses, I was at first daunted by the task.  Where to start?

Then… inspiration struck, like… something inspiring (note: I will need to become inspired about inspiration metaphors – perhaps if I youtube videos of lightning striking and light bulbs lighting up?).

I would start at the beginning – a very good place to start!*

And the very beginning of movie titles is – the lead letter of the title!

My first guess was that movies that started with A would do well – as they would gain the alphabetical order advantage that I never incurred with the last name of Warrenfeltz.

However, the trendline sees a rise in average gross revenue until about the letter “J”, and then a fall off.

Obviously, to ensure a better chance for your film, it should start with J.  People like things that start with J.  Jam.  Jeeps.  Jim.

Note: Never start your movie with Z.  No movie that starts with Z ever grossed more than 100 million dollars.  If only they had been called Jombieland, or Jookeeper, or Jack and Miri Make a Porno, then maybe they would have stood a chance.

On to the next part of the analysis: The number of words in a title!

People like words – which is fortunate for me, because I like to talk.  Unfortunately, like when I talk, after a certain point, the more words you use, the less return you get.

The golden number of words in a title?  Seven.  Note:  Not Se7en.**  Se7en is only one word(?).  Only one quasi-word.  Pseudo.

Ah, but you think that I’ve overlooked something!  “The number of words is correlated to, but not the same as, the actual LENGTH of the title!”  If that describes what you are shouting at your computer, please, do yourself a favor and get some fresh air.  Then, reach down, and hold onto your socks as hard as you can.  Are you doing that?

Too late.  I’ve already blown your socks off;  The next category is the actual character length of the  movie title.

So, we know that we should have a movie title that starts with “J”, and has seven words in it.  But how long should those words be?  Are people looking for titles that contain words like “an” “it” and “up”***?  Or perhaps words like “disestablishmentarianism” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”****?

Well, if you were to use the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in your title, then you only have 8 more characters to use for the other six words, for the magic number is 42***** characters.  Guess you could use “a” and “I” a few times?

And speaking of short words, should you start your title with the word “The”?

Yes, you should, for an average bounce of just under a million dollars.  If only the movies had been “The Avatar” and “The Titanic”.  People probably saw “Titanic” and were like, “Oh?  Which one?”

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty.  And speaking of Nitty-gritty, would that be a good title?  Well, it doesn’t refer to anything concrete – it’s more of an idea.  Should we have our titles be ideas?

No.  We shouldn’t.

Well, what should the topic of title be?

One of the characters in the film?

Yes, that would be a good idea, to the tune of nearly twenty million dollars (adjusted! SCIENCE!)

What about the movie’s setting?

Sure – but that’s not AS urgent.  Only if you like earning ten MILLION more dollars.

Kinda piddling sums, if we really stop and think about it – maybe we should just let people name movies whatever they want, for the sake of the art?

ARE YOU KIDDING?  That’s ten MILLION dollars.  You could buy an island!  And some amber!  And Richard Kiley to narrate!  We’ve spared no expense!******

So… what have we learned.  The perfect title will start with the letter “J”, after the word “The”, have seven words, with a total character count of 42, and mention a movie character and setting, but not an idea.

Hollywood, you may have the following perfect title for a movie, which is copyright me, because I posted it on the internet, for five million dollars.  Which you will recoup with the fact that it includes a setting alone!

The Jim Warrenfeltz: Rocking Across The US

You know how to get in contact with me.

*The Sound of Music – 1965 – adjusted gross 1.2 billion.

**Se7en – 1995 – adjusted gross 148 million.

***Up – 2009 – adjusted gross 307 million.

****Mary Poppins – 1964 – adjusted gross 742 million.

*****Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – 2005 – not included in this analysis, as it only made 51 million.  So long, and thanks for all the fish.

******Jurassic Park – 1993 – adjusted gross 555 million.


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