A movie title plays an essential role in a film’s popularity and endurance in the zeitgeist. It should be memorable and catchy, as well as original. With movie titles, concision is key, as that makes the film that much easier to remember.
While some movies try to explain their whole plot in the title, others go for a sharper, more succinct approach. Including some of the greatest movies ever made, these unforgettable films only need one word for their title.
10 ‘Beetlejuice’ (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
A frenzical farce with frights fit for the full family, Tim Burton’sBeetlejuice is a certified classic. Busting with creativity that many other 1980s hits sorely lacked, Beetlejuice is a one of a kind that could only be made with Burton’s skill set at director. The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple who employ the help of the titular ‘bio-exorcist’ to scare new inhabitants out of their house.
Although the couple have to say the name three times, one time is enough for the title which, while not giving much information about the movie itself, does give off the eccentricity the film holds. Michael Keaton is splendid as the obnoxious ghoul in a film that merges whimsical mirth with outlandish creeps and terrors.
9 ‘Platoon’ (1986)
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Informed by the experience of its writer-director, Platoon is a vicious insight into the moralities of war from the inside. The first of Oliver Stone’s ‘Vietnam Trilogy’, the film became a sleeper hit and went onto win Best Picture at the Oscars. Opposed to most war films of the time, Platoon explored the terrors of war through the eyes of innocence.
Stone’s films have always been visceral, but Platoon is much more poetic than many of his other works. At 2 hours on the nose, the film really flies by with its taut pacing and each scene being more gripping than the last. With both excellent battle scenes and human ones, Platoon is one of the best war films the 20th century had to offer.
8 ‘Zodiac’ (2007)
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Considering the infamousness of its subject matter, Zodiac only needs one word for most viewers to understand the endeavor that the David Fincher thriller will go down. Although Fincher is best known for his filming fastidiousness, ambient music, and psychological ferocity, Zodiac, like many of his best works, is very talky.
Like Fincher himself, his protagonists are often very meticulous. That’s part of what makes Zodiac so enthralling, its ability to make laborious work seem so exhilarating. Fincher films are inherently timeless and Zodiac, although a chillingly evocative period piece, adheres to that. It may not be his flashiest, but it’s easy to argueZodiac as Fincher’s masterpiece.
7 ‘Vertigo’ (1958)
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Ranked the greatest film of all time in Sight and Sound’s 2012 poll, Vertigo saw a steep decline in 2022’s poll all the way down to number two. Although contemporaneous reviews were not as kind as many may have expected, the film has since been given its flowers. Named after the condition suffered by its protagonist, Vertigo is one of cinema’s most studied works.
Revolutionary at the time, Vertigo was the first film to employ the dolly zoom, used in the movie to help convey the disorientation felt by its main character. While most know what having vertigo is, it can almost not be thought of now without its association to the film.
6 ‘Fargo’ (1996)
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
The films of the Coen brothers are typically manneristic, but perhaps none more so than Fargo. The film combines the duo’s typical craft of characters and sense of absurdity with one of their most sharply plotted narratives. Set in the homely town of Fargo, North Dakota, the Coen’s picture of the town is now almost the dominant one.
Fargo’s expression of Minnesota nice and its accent has helped shape a whole generation when they think of the state. This was even accentuated by the successful television show of the same name, which was inspired by the film. Nominated for 7 Oscars, many place Fargoup there with the Coen’s best movies, as well as the best of the 90s.
5 ‘Argo’ (2012)
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Detractors didn’t think Ben Affleck could pull it off. One of the hottest young actors of the 90s, Affleck’s career waned in the 2000s before he directed the phenomenal mystery Gone Baby Gone in 2007. From there, Affleck starred in and directed the heist thriller The Town before winning Best Picture at the Oscars for Argo.
A tensely gripping thriller with a great mix of humor and performances, Affleck was the perfect person to helm the project seeing as he had expertise on the movie industry, as well as had studied Middle Eastern Affairs. Making a movie that has the blend of intensity and levity of Argo is an impossible mission, almost as impossible as the mission it portrays.
4 ‘Unforgiven’ (1992)
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
The script for Unforgiven by David Webb Peoples had been circling around since the early 80s. A revenge Western about age and morality, the film seemed tailor-made for Clint Eastwood, who only decided to make it after doing “some other things first”. Picking Unforgiven turned out to be a good choice as the movie won the Oscar for Best Picture, and is one of Eastwood’s most celebrated films.
Originally developed under the title The Cut-Whore Killings, it’s fair to say that Unforgiven may have more commercial appeal as a title. That would bare out, as the movie would gross over $150 million. Thematically resonant, inspiringly shot and deeply lyrical, Unforgiven sees Eastwood find the culmination of his image and artistry.
3 ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Martin Scorsese’s opus, Goodfellas is made with such astounding vitality, as if it was the last movie Scorsese would ever make. What’s equally unbelievable is how Scorsese has continued that vitality throughout his recent movies, more than 30 years later. Running about 2 and a half hours, Goodfellas is one of cinema’s most meteoric, sharpest, and electric rides.
Based on the novel Wiseguy by co-writer Nicholas Pileggi, the film was initially titled Wise Guy but was later changed to Goodfellas, perhaps because it would have clashed with the crime series Wiseguy that was running at the same time. Deemed the “best mob movie ever” by Roger Ebert, Goodfellas lives in a class of its own.
2 ‘Sideways’ (2004)
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
People love Sideways because it’s a very relatable and enviable movie. The movie figured out that there’s a large audience out there of wannabe writers who want nothing more than to hang out with their buddies, drink wine and meet some women. However, Alexander Payne’s charm and thoughtfulness disallows Sideways from entering the realm of misanthropic men wallowing.
Although the movie has a lot of wining, as well as whining, it is actually very fun and comical. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor make their characters very vivid and connectable to the audience. A breakout for much of its wonderfully talented cast, Sideways is nothing but an upwards accomplishment for everyone involved.
1 ‘Chinatown’ (1974)
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Few movies are as crisp start to finish as Chinatown. For all its webbed corruptions and deceits, it’s a movie with a very clear vision. It’s a detective story, but with a real sense of the stakes. Legendary among scholars and fellow filmmakers alive, many directors have circled making their own films about the neo-noir mystery, including David Fincher and Ben Affleck.
Its final line, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown”, was ranked 74th in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list. Once the film has concluded and take in its final breathe, its title brings on a whole new feeling. It becomes a metaphor for the despondency, hopelessness, and pessimism that Chinatown holds to be lasting and true.
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