I have no intention of seeing Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the new documentary about world-famous sushi chef Jiro Ono, but I suspect I’ll be thinking about the film for years to come, on account of its fantastic title. Movie titles are too often comprised simply of
(The) [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN]
(The) [NOUN] and (the) [NOUN]
(The) [NOUN] in/of the [NOUN].
The effect is mundane, utterly forgettable.
But add a verb in the present tense (thus forming a complete sentence and thought), and suddenly there’s movement, desire, action, narrative:
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
The Kid Stays in the Picture
Horton Hears a Who
Mars Needs Moms
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle/Escape from Guantanamo Bay
These evocative titles inform potential audiences about the movies’ plots, while lending a sense of immediacy about the characters’ wants.
- Negative verbs (e.g., Boys Don’t Cry, This Film Is Not Yet Rated) don’t add movement or action.
- Linking verbs also make verbs moot (The Kids Are All Right, I Am Legend).
- Gerunds are generally good (Raising Victor Vargas, Finding Nemo), but not necessarily so (Seeking Justice).
- Imperative statements are a toss-up. Oblique but plot- or theme-specific titles work (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Let the Right One In, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead). Vague ones don’t (Whip It*, Step Up, Pump Up the Volume).