Of all the marketing aspects that go into making a movie a success, taglines probably rank near the bottom in terms of studios’ concern. But there is an art to the movie tagline, the ability to define the tone or central idea of a film in a few sentences or less. A tagline can make or break a movie poster, and while a good or bad tagline isn’t necessarily an indicator for the film’s final quality, it can be an enlightening (occasionally depressing) peek into the creative powers behind the movie. We’ve had our share of good and bad taglines this year ranging from the good: “You’re Welcome.” (Guardians of the Galaxy), the bad: “She hit the road. The road hit back.” (Tammy), and the downright misleading: “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Imagine what she could do with 100% (Lucy). But none of these hold a candle to the taglines listed below.
15.“There can only be one.” Highlander (1986)
This gets directly to the point of the movie (though it probably means nothing to those who haven’t seen it). It’s just too bad the sequels negated the whole concept.
14. “Who ya gonna call?” Ghostbusters (1984)
Besides that awesome 80’s slang, this tagline has the power to get that theme song stuck in your head for at least a few hours.
13. “The Horror…The Horror.” Apocalypse Now (1979)
It’s simple, yet effective at building up Coppola’s masterpiece as something more than just another war film. No other words could so perfectly capture the nightmarish fever dream of the film’s take on Heart of Darkness.
12. “You don’t get to 500 friends without making a few enemies.” The Social Network (2010)
This tagline, along with the film’s poster, was a remarkable way to sell the idea that the creation of Facebook would make for a compelling drama and character portrait.
11. “The picture you MUST see from the beginning… Or not at all!… For no one will be seated after the start of… Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest shocker Psycho.” Psycho (1960)
It’s a hell of a sales pitch, an initially controversial one that only the master of suspense could have come up with and still manage to create a sensation.
10. “On every street in every city, there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody.” Taxi Driver (1976)
A tagline that completely captures the sad and frightening tone of the film, while speaking to an audience that has likely felt the same way at some point.
9. “This weekend they didn’t play golf.” Deliverance (1972)
It’s a darkly funny tagline for a movie that’s anything but humorous. It’s one of those taglines that doesn’t show it’s cleverness until after you’ve seen the movie.
8. “The night HE came home!” Halloween (1978)
It’s so simple, and yet so tantalizingly terrifying. The fact that “he” was capitalized just makes the film’s creation of the slasher villain all the more iconic.
7. “The first casualty of war is innocence.” Platoon (1986)
Before I’d even seen Platoon, I knew the tagline. It’s a striking message, one the film and history live up to.
6. “You’ll believe a man can fly.” Superman: The Movie (1978)
What kid or adult wouldn’t want to believe that? It’s a beautiful sentence that captures all the hope and wonder of superheroes.
5.“The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film, are the first 92.” Suspiria (1977)
Sure the tagline doesn’t match up with the movie’s runtime, but that’s a fact I can ignore because of how awesome it is. And how many audience members in 1977 kept track of runtimes anyway?
4. “Man is the warmest place to hide.” The Thing (1982)
It may not be scientifically accurate, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t send a chill down your spine. John Carpenter is two for two on this list for having the creepiest taglines.
3. “Suppose you knew who you had been in your previous life. Where you had lived…whom you had loved and how you had died. What then?” The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)
If this doesn’t make you want to do everything in your power to track this movie down then I can’t help you with the life you’re choosing to live.
2. “He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.” Badlands (1973)
This is pure poetry, simple as that.
1. “In space no one can hear you scream.” Alien (1979)
The tagline that has worked its way into many a conversation, and the tagline that made me love taglines in the first place. There’s nothing more memorable, or special, than your first.
15.“The mission is a man.” Saving Private Ryan (1998)
It’s a distressingly cheesy tagline for what may be the best cinematic depiction of WWII. You could swap this tagline in for any number of romantic comedies and it would have the same effect.
14.“Some houses are born bad.” The Haunting (1999)
Well if houses were born this would make sense.
13. “Size Does Matter.” Godzilla (1998)
Nothing says marketing confidence like deciding the tagline for your big-budget gamble should be a dick joke.
12. “Collide with destiny.” Titanic (1997)
I imagine the pitch went something like this: Get it? Because there’s an iceberg.
11. “Love Never Dies.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Nothing attracts fans to a vampire movie like marketing it as a love story…oh wait. Well, I suppose we can view this tagline as a nightmarish vision of the future.
10. “Die Harder.” Die Hard 2 (1990)
Die Hard barely makes sense, but Die Harder…impossible.
9. “Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” After Earth (2013)
Ah, so that’s the idea M. Night Shyamalan decided to go with for his comeback. No wonder it did so well.
8. “Who is Salt?” Salt (2010)
I don’t know, but when you name your lead character Salt it doesn’t really make me want to find out. The marketing team followed this tagline up with: “Salt Kills,” “Don’t Trust Salt,” “Salt Must Die,” and “Salt Will Not Be Stopped.” I’m not confident any of these are better.
7. “Life is for living.” Charlie St. Cloud (2010)
Well so it is, imagine that.
6. “Trust a few. Fear the rest.” X-Men (2000)
Sorry to be a nerd about this, but this tagline goes against the entire concept of the X-Men. In terms of mutants, the reverse of this tagline is more accurate. To make my point even clearer, consider this tagline in context with the film’s allegory for gay rights and racial equality. See what I’m saying?
5. “Sea Evil” Ghost Ship (2002)
Maybe in the 40s or 50s this would have been kind of clever, but in 2002? It’s just kind of lazy.
4. “The Impossible True Story.” Secretariat (2010)
I’m still trying to understand what made a horse racing story so impossible. And if it’s a true story that makes the impossibility of it seem all the more unlikely.
3. “Titans will clash.” Clash of the Titans (2010)
Well I sure hope they will since that’s the name of the movie. I assume that whoever’s job this was just didn’t care anymore.
2. “Laugh. Cry. Share the Pants.” The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Remember in 2005 when there was a mass pants sharing movement. Me neither. I don’t know what the plan was here but this tagline pretty much ensured I would do none of the three things suggested.
1. “Dark. Darker. Darko.” Donnie Darko (2001)
Like a lot of people, it seems like marketing department couldn’t make sense of the movie either. But hey, props for word association!
“Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States” The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
Not going to lie…I kinda want to see this movie now.
If these lists prove anything, it’s that taglines got progressively worse over the decades. So readers, now that I’ve set the stage, it’s your turn: what are your picks for the best/worst taglines of all time?