What’s in a name? For movies, they can be the determining factor when it comes to deciding what to watch. Some can be overly simplistic and straightforward, like Scary Movie or Men in Black, while others are absolutely absurd, like The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?
Yes, that last one is a real movie, all the way down to the question mark. But a bizarre title doesn’t necessarily equal a good movie. We’re taking a look at movies that have odd and lengthy titles, but are also quality films worth watching. Every movie on this list sits at 70% or above with both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, with the majority being Certified Fresh.
Just to clarify, we’re only going to be looking at featur-length films, so unfortunately Ben Affleck’s directorial debut – I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meathook, and Now I Have A Three Picture Deal at Disney – will not be making an appearance. To keep things interesting, sequels and franchise entries aren’t be included, either. The entries are listed in order of increasing word count, ranging from six words all the way to 21 (yikes!).
Here are 15 Great Movies With Terribly Long Titles.
15. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This is a title that’s surely confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the movie. Is it about birds? What’s the “one” that flew over the nest? What is this movie even about?
Fortunately, there are not many people who aren’t already familiar with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s widely considered to be a classic – just take a look at its Rotten Tomato scores. When it was released in 1975, it swept the “Big Five” at the Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman), and, of course, Best Picture.
If by some chance you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t know about this film, don’t let the title put you off. Nicholson plays a convicted criminal, Mac, who untruthfully pleads insanity and winds up in a psychiatric hospital where meets the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. He initially enjoys toying with her, but when he discovers how abusive she is towards the other all-but-helpless patients, he takes it upon himself to team up with them and give them a voice of their own.
Nicholson portrays his character wonderfully (as always), and Mac’s character arc is truly inspiring. Fletcher portrays Nurse Ratched just as well, and makes the justice served to her all the more satisfying. Between the magnificent performances, the compelling story arc, and the outstanding direction, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has become a household name in cinema.
14. Me and You and Everyone We Know
This quirky independent film is far less known than Cuckoo’s Nest, but certainly made a splash at film festivals in 2005. Despite winning the Caméra d’Or (“Golden Camera”) award at the Cannes Film Festival, the long, vague title may be one of the key contributing factors to this film being largely unheard of. Other factors may include the simplistic and “real” the nature of the film, but those same traits are what make it so charming and admirable.
Exploring topics like the innocence of childhood, sexual curiosity in teenagers, and the complex emotions of adulthood, Me and You and Everyone We Know depicts a series of events and encounters of various characters as they deal with everyday, real-life situations. Using a recently divorced shoe salesman and his children as the centerpiece of the web of characters, we get to see how imagination can transform the mundane situations in our lives into something far more interesting. While there are no explosions or tension-filled conflicts, the amazing development of characters makes this a film that literally anyone can relate to. And with such a down-to-earth tone, the generic nature of the title is surprisingly appropriate (although surely not attention-grabbing).
13. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
This film’s arguably pretentious title is likely still fresh in people’s minds after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. The complex title may be appropriate, though, considering the introspective story that’s portrayed. The film tells the story of Riggan, a washed-up actor who’s trying to re-establish himself as an artist by writing, directing, starring in, and producing his Broadway debut. As his insecurities grow throughout this daunting process, he’s haunted by his own manifestations of the superhero character Birdman, who he portrayed earlier in his career.
One of the things that make this film so great is how it addresses the rise of superhero films – specifically how the fame of the superhero characters can begin to overshadow the actors who portray them. After all, who’s to say Robert Downey Jr. couldn’t experience a mental breakdown in 20 years, after Iron Man is long gone from the MCU?
Given the complex and deep nature of this film, simply calling it “Birdman” could have been misleading by making it sound like a run-of-the-mill super hero flick. But considering that’s pretty much all it’s ever referred to as, the full-length title may have been a wasted effort. Either way, Birdman is an extremely well-made film that’s not afraid to take an inside look at the not-so-glamorous side of the entertainment industry.
12. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Another entry that may leave some people scratching their head in confusion is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Most people have probably never heard of something like a “demon barber”, and the film itself is equally unique. To reinforce that notion, all you need to know is that this movie is a musical about a barber who evolves into a serial killer. Leave it to director Tim Burton to direct a film with such a premise.
This sort of farfetched concept is not unheard of when it comes to Tim Burton. But Sweeney Todd is actually an adaptation of the Tony-Award winning musical of the same name, which helped instill confidence in the potential success of the story with such an obscure title and premise. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine a film studio would have jumped on the opportunity to green-light a project like Sweeney Todd.
To Burton’s credit, the film earned an Oscar for Best Achievement in Art Direction, and his go-to man Johnny Depp earned a nomination for Best Actor, as well. So if you’re a fan of wonderfully crafted musicals as well as poetic violence and gore, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is definitely one worth checking out.
11. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
One of the older and lesser known titles on this list, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is another musical adaptation, following both a stage musical and a book of the same name. There are no murderous barbers in this tale, however, but instead a comedic story of a young New York window washer named Ponty who attempts to climb the corporate ladder after finding a book called called – you guessed it – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
To anyone whose ever been a victim of the 9-to-5 grind, watching Ponty climb the ranks of the very company he once washed windows for (without really trying, no less) is quite amusing. The whole “stick-it-to-the-man” approach of How to Succeed is relatable and refreshing; much in the same vein as 1999’s Office Space (although much more upbeat).
The film does touch on some more serious issues, though, particularly when Ponty becomes a bit too confident and fails to read the book in its entirety. Overall, How to Succeed is a comical and musical joy ride, just as the book and stage musical were before it. And sure, the title is long, but with a concept that so many of us can relate to, it’s hardly forgettable.
10. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
For this gut-wrenching film, there’s actually a bit of back story that explains its lengthy and seemingly redundant title. Precious originally debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival under the name Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, and after it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for best drama at Sundance, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey announced they would be providing promotional support to the film. One of their first orders of business was to change the name in order to prevent confusion with the action movie Push that was released the same year.
Many would argue that the new title is more appropriate, as it highlights the main character of the story. For some movies, that might not be all that important. But this film is all about the titular Precious, and her emotional struggle to overcome her abusive parents and her unfortunate circumstances. “Unfortunate circumstances” does not do the story justice, though, and to get a real understanding of how powerful this young woman is and how difficult some people actually have it, you’ll just have to give this film a watch. Just make sure you have some tissues handy.
9. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore was just recently released on Netflix, and it’s already receiving a ton of praise. As the lengthy title implies, it’s about human depression and the effects the condition has on human behavior. Before you write this one off as too boring or dramatic, though, know that it’s also a dark comedy in every sense of the phrase.
In fact, it’s the main character’s state of depression that sets this story’s ridiculous chain of events in motion. After being burglarized, depressed Ruth sees an opportunity to find new purpose in life by bringing justice to the burglars. With the help of a neighbor (played hilariously by Elijah Wood) the two find themselves in over their head against a group of degenerates.
I Don’t Feel at Home capitalizes on the core qualities of a good black comedy by trivializing situations that, in actuality, are quite morose. To add to the dark tone, there is also a gratuitous amount of over-the-top and unexpected gore, much like other classic black comedies like In Bruges or American Psycho. If you’re a fan of this dark comedic approach, I Don’t Feel at Home surely won’t disappoint.
8. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Yes, this movie is actually as ridiculous as the name implies. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is the simple tale of Dr. Banzai, a physicist/brain surgeon/pilot/rock star who has to save the world from inter-dimensional aliens called the Red Lectoids who heil from Planet 10. Luckily, Banzai has the help of the Black Lectoids, as well as an elderly physicist who had his brain hijacked by the Red Lectoid’s leader while trapped in the 8th dimension. If you’re confused, it helps to remember that all of the Red Lectoids are disguised as caucasians named “John”, while the Black Lectoids all appear as Rastafarian Jamaicans.
First of all, if you kept up with that synopsis, good for you. And if you’re intrigued at all by the ridiculous premise, just know that this film exceeds as well as any film could with that kind of plot summary. Meaning, it’s clever, silly, self-aware, and anything else that has ever elevated a B-movie to cult status. Sure, it’s no Citizen Kane, but what do you expect from a film with a main character named Buckaroo Banzai?
7. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Three years after Rusell Crowe starred in the Best Picture-winning Gladiator, he kept the momentum going in this epic historical war-drama film. Although criminally underrated today, Master and Commander received critical acclaim and was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 2004. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’s famous sweep of 11 golden statues.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s, Crowe stars as British Captain Jack Aubrey, who sets out to track down the French ship Acheron and “sink, burn, or take her as a prize”. After an initial battle with the French ship, Aubrey and the Brits quickly realize that they are outmatched in both size and speed. Aubrey is quite brash, however, which puts him at odds with his best friend, the much more prudent Dr. Maturin.
What makes Master and Commander work so well is the time spent devoted to developing the characters on board the British ship after we see the first showdown with the opposing French vessel. By the time the two ships clash for a final battle, the stakes are high and the impact is meaningful. Despite the fact that this film sailed a bit under the radar, the epic story that’s told is powerful, compelling, and satisfying in all the right ways.
6. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
There must be something about musicals that lends themselves to lengthy titles. Another musical film based on a stage play, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the story of Pseudolus, who’s the “lyingest, cheatingest, and sloppiest slave in all of Rome”. In addition to not being very popular, Pseudolus’ only interest is to escape from slavery. His plan to do this is? Help his young master woo the tantalizing girl next door.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is unique in that it puts a comedic twist on a story set in ancient Rome. Considering Pseudolus is the “lyingest and sloppiest” slave in Rome, his mission includes hilarious hijinks rather than heroic sword battles. In addition to the tonal contrast of typical Roman period pieces, A Funny Thing Happened doubles up on this concept by putting a comedic twist on the topic of slavery. In fact, if it weren’t for the musical numbers, you could almost call this one a black comedy. That said, this unorthodox combination of unorthodox story elements makes this film one of a kind.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea took a lot of people by surprise late last year, but before he put forth his Oscar winning performance, he had already garnered a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in this gratuitously titled recount of the death of famous outlaw Jesse James.
To those not familiar with the historical account, Robert Ford (played in the film by Affleck) took James’ life with the simple intent of collecting a reward. And as the film’s title implies, Ford was a coward because he joined James’ gang and befriended him, all while plotting his demise. In a nutshell, the story watches their relationship grow, increasing the impact of the inevitable conclusion.
The title is lengthy, as is the film itself, with a run time just under three hours. But packed into the run time is compelling dialogue and fantastic acting from Affleck, as well as Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Jesse James. In addition to the captivating story and performances, the film is absolutely stunning, thanks to the work of master cinematographer Roger Deakins (most recently known for his work on Arrival). If you let the length of this film put you off, you just might be a coward yourself.
4. Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
This highly controversial film hit theaters in 2007, and the ridiculous title is a perfect representation of the shocking shenanigans that take place throughout. Borat is a mockumentary at its roots, and follows Kazakhstan journalist Borat in his attempt to film a documentary recounting his learning and understanding of American culture (hence the title of the movie itself).
Borat adopts the comedic approach of films like Jackass: The Movie, sending characters out into the public and putting unknowing Americans in awkward and uncomfortable situations. Sacha Baron Cohen stars as Borat, and succeeds in convincing all of the people he encounters that he really is a traveler from Kazakhstan who has no sensibilities towards what’s socially acceptable in America.
Borat is hilariously distasteful, but would be nowhere near as satisfying to viewers if they hadn’t attempted to go so far over the top. The interactions that took place between the actors and the unknowing Americans actually resulted in multiple lawsuits being filed against the filmmakers. We’d like to think that the filmmakers share our belief that it was a worthwhile venture, considering the hilarious outcome.
3. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
This mouthful of a film ventures into some serious subject matter, following a fictional nuclear arms conflict between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. In an unexpected but welcomed twist, Stanley Kubrick opted to turn the subject matter on its head and present it in comedic fashion.
What’s particularly curious about the title of this film is that Dr. Strangelove is merely a minor character. The main character is actually an insane U.S. general who deploys a rogue nuclear attack on the Soviet Union after his insanity leads him to believe they’re poisoning the United States water supply. Dr. Strangelove, on the other hand, is an ex-Nazi scientist who develops weapons for the U.S., and mostly just sits around and wrestles with his rebellious prosthetic arm.
Dr. Strangelove is a pioneer of the black comedy film genre, inspiring future films like the aforementioned I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore. This is probably the only time Kubrick ever ventured into the territory of comedy, which was a result of him not having confidence that audiences would be interested in a dramatic film about something as serious as the Cold War. Lucky for us, his take on comedy was just as magnificent as the rest of his films.
2. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were to Afraid to Ask
This eyebrow raising title belongs to one of the first movies directed by renowned comedian and filmmaker, Woody Allen. Like most of the films on this list, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were to Afraid to Ask is unique in more ways than one. First of all, the film is made up of seven unrelated stories. The only thing they have in common is they pertain to the topic of sex, which is the second thing that makes this film “special”; it delves into topics that would often be considered taboo on the big screen. Take for instance the fact that one of the skits involves Allen dressed up as a sperm inside the brain control center of a man, like some kind of sexualized version of Pixar’s Inside Out.
Some of the other sketches include Do Aphrodisiacs Work?, in which a court jester gives his Queen a love potion, only to be foiled by her chastity belt. Another called What is Sodomy? sees Gene Wilder play a man who falls in love with a sheep. The aforementioned sperm story is the last segment of the film and is called What Happens During Ejaculation?
Overall, this mash up of comedy sketches is an entertaining collection that turns typically uncomfortable sex-related questions into hysterical fictionalized stories. Don’t expect to see this one in school health classes any time soon, though.
1. Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; or, How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 Minutes
One can only laugh when reading this film’s 21-word-long title, which is appropriate, given the slapstick nature of the film. Surely everyone has seen comical footage of people attempting to fly all sorts of contraptions in the first decade of the 20th century, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines; or, How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 Minutes takes this concept and sets a story around those ambitious minds eager to become the first big names in aviation.
Like Birdman and Dr. Strangelove, this film just couldn’t decide on a name and decided the best solution was to just include two. Although confusing, the whole “double title” approach actually has more of a back story than you might think. It was quite popular in 18th and 19th century literature, and was used for many books like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Some experts attest that it was to help readers find the books more easily, while others say that it was a style that was simply in vogue. Either way, Those Magnificent Men took the concept to a new level, considering either title would be worthy of this list on its own.
Do you judge a movie by its title? Share other extremely long movie titles in the comments!