Obsessed with Tag Lines

I’m obsessed with tag lines. It’s the third plan of attack in marketing a motion picture. You’ll usually see it, right there on the movie poster. Of course, a creative movie title would be marketing’s first priority. Second comes an image that defines what the movie is about. Now, arguably some might say that the poster image is more important than the title because it’s the most visual aspect of the movie poster. I’m not here to argue that point.

My assignment today is to focus on that third hook. It’s called a “tag line” and it’s the promotional “catch phrase” that if done correctly, will stick in your head like a repetitive commercial jingle. Sometimes it’s only a few choice words, like in the case of American Beauty (1999) which is “… look closer”. It’s simple but it says something meaningful about the film. Lester Burnham needs to “look closer” at his life. Now, you don’t want it be too long, I think if you find common ground somewhere between two words and three sentences, you’ll be ok. In the movie Dazed and Confused (1992) they have a witty tag that captures the drug theme of the movie, “It was the last day of school in 1976, a time they'd never forget... if only they could remember”. It also feeds you year 1976, which tells you when the movie is taking place so you know it’s a period piece. So, just by that tag line, it tells us everything we really need to know about film, it’s about school age kids taking drugs in the 70’s. I’m sold. Here’s another movie that uses a year in it’s tag line, Goodfellas ( 1990 ) “As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster." -- Henry Hill, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1955.

Now, tag lines can be many things but they don’t always have to be statements, they can also be questions. Here’s a great example of a movie tag asking a questions to it’s audience. When Harry Met Sally ( 1989 ) “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?” This is the perfect hook because your first reaction after reading the question is to think about the answer or how you would answer it. Then you look up at both Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal on the movie poster, and think to yourself, can THEY? Automatically, it’s a reason to see the movie and find out the answer. Now, some tag questions have answers that are just plain obvious, and "Who you gonna call?" from Ghostbusters (1984) is one of those. There are some questions that people can personally relate to. If you are ever late on a car payment, then you might just relate to Repo Man (1984) when it poses the question, "It's 4 A.M. — do you know where your car is?" Here’s a tag question that doesn’t need an answer from one of my favorite movies, "Stealing, cheating, killing... Who said romance was dead?" True Romance (1993).If you watch the flick, you’ll catch a few more grade A questions from one Dennis Hopper. Ha!

I’ve mentions some comedies and a few dramas but there is no genre in movies that uses tag lines better than that horror industry. You’ll find some of the most outlandish phrases in horror movie tag lines. I’ve whipped up a wicked orgy of tag lines for you enjoy.

Let’s start with number ten on our scary list. A Nightmare on Elm Street ( 1984) brought a new meaning to nightmare and tagged “If Nancy Doesn't Wake Up Screaming She Won't Wake Up At All...” was guaranteed to make a sound sleeper have insomnia. Does anyone know what the tag line is going to be for the remake? Just curious.

Here’s another tag that puts the emphasis on the word, “scream” and rightfully so. The Birds (1963) "...and remember, the next scream you hear may be your own!" makes me want to go out and buy a feline. Cat’s do have 9 lives, you know.

I really like our eighth thriller. The Last House on the Left (1972) "To avoid fainting keep repeating: it's only a movie, it's only a movie" This tag tells you that this movie could actually render you unconscious and make you drop your popcorn, spill your coke, and smash your nose on the floor. That’s intense.

Frankenstein (1931) "A Monster Science Created — But Could Not Destroy!" This is the grand daddy of all monster movies comes in seventh place. It’s incredible that in this short tag, but it really tells you the plot of the movie. It’s got some monster information wrapped up in a nice little package and tagged.

I discovered this horror gem on VHS shortly after we got on first VCR back in the 80’s. Here’s six - Re-Animator (1985) "Herbert West Has A Very Good Head On His Shoulders... And Another One In A Dish On His Desk" It’s such a dark and vivid statement. I read this and I can SEE the head in the dish and on the desk.

Alien (1979) "In space no one can hear you scream."This is the number one tag line on sooooooo many movie lists, and it’s really hard to argue it’s greatness. It’s like, If I put this as my number one, am I just a sheep following the rest. If I don’t put it as number one then I’m purposely not doing it, just to be different. Here’s my take: It’s all in the wording. This is the third time in our top ten list that the word “scream” is mentioned in some form. It’s a powerful word. When you scream, you scream for help or you scream in horror, but when you add the dimension of space and the possibilty that no one will hear your cries, well that’s what just makes this tag line so potent. This is my number five as I think there are a few more horror tag lines that really do the trick.

Our fourth pick is Jaws 2 (1978) “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” It’s plays on the original Jaws (1975) tag line which was simple and to the point, “don’t go in the water” and I loved it. Too bad Jaws II the movie was not as good as the tag line. Remember he ate a helicopter? And the kids in the movie were so annoying you wanted the shark to eat them.

The countdown of horror tags get close to our number one spot. We are down to the top three. Poltergeist ( 1982)“They're here”

It’s two simple words but it’s all in the pronunciation. It’s so simple it’s clever, and I hear the little girl’s voice just reading it.

This tag is highly recognizable and I think it has been quoted more than any other tag on our list.

Second tag choice is Suspiria (1977) "The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Of This Film Are The First 92. " What are you trying to tell me? The last 12 minutes of this movie is boring and sucks. No, I don’t take it as that. This tag spells out so much information, not only does it give you the movie’s run time but it give you the percentage of time that you are going to be scared out of your wits. That’s over an hour and a half of terrification! Is that a word? This tag just might be my personal favorite.

First and finally, every writers alter-ego has typed these words at one time or another. Have you? The Shining (1980) made this phrase terrifying, “all work and no play make jack a dull boy”. I swear… anytime of I have writers block. Ha! You just can’t get better. I love “Here’s Johnny” but I don’t think that was an actual promotional tag line. It’s more of a quote. Hmmm, that gets me thinking. I’ll be back before long with a fan-tabulous list of some of movies most awe inspiring quotes. You just wait and see.

Honorable mentions : Halloween (1977) “The Night HE Came Home” , Dracula (1992) “Love Never Dies” , Psycho (1960) “Check in. Relax. Take a shower.” , The Thing (1982) “Man is the warmest place to hide” , Army of Darkness (1992)"Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas." , Feast ( 2005 ) “They're Hungry. You're Dinner” , Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) “The Eight Wonder of the World” , The Lost Boys (1987) "Sleep all day, party all night. It's fun to be a vampire" … RIP our friend, Corey Haim!

I’m a horror junkie and that’s why I picked ten personal favorite horror tag lines, but there are so many to choose and so many other genre’s to explore. I just mentioned the tag for The Lost Boys and it really makes me think of all the incredible work Corey Haim did as a young actor. Licence to Drive (1988) had a tag that tied into the film’s title and the car theme, "Some guys get all the brakes!". Those 80’s teen movies that we all know and love, and watch EVERY single time that they are on television, hit us with some cool and cute tags. Here’s a hidden goodie ( or goodies ) in Just One Of The Guys (1985) "She is about to go where no woman has gone before." Pretty in Pink ( 1986) “He's good. She's good. He's just Duckie” , ah good ol’ Jon Cryer. Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (1991) "No rules. No curfews. No nagging. No pulse." Well, the name of the movie can’t be topped by it’s tag line, but the tag fits the situation perfectly. Sixteen Candles ( 1984 ) tag“This is Samantha Baker and today is her 16th birthday. The problem is, nobody remembers.” I’m undecided here. Do you think it gives away too much information? Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)"Before they could stand together, they had to stand alone". This tag has a good inspirational message. I love the statement here in The Last Starfighter(1984) too, "He didn't find his dreams...His dreams found him". This one puts it all on the table, Valley Girl (1983)"She's Cool, He's Hot, She's from the Valley, He's not". Our next fast tag comes from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) “Fast Cars, Fast Girls, Fast Carrots...Fast Carrots?” I think they could have come up with a better tag, but that’s my opinion. I think I could have nailed a better tag line. I think YOU GUYS can come up with a better tag line!!!! That’s an idea. If anyone who reads this wants to suggest a possible better tag line for this movie, or any of the movies listed… be my guest. The Last American Virgin (1982) "See It Or Be It!". Nope, don’t want to be it. The Graduate (1967)"This is Benjamin. He's a little worried about his future." It’s give a hint, maybe this one doesn’t give enough information? Hmmm. Another movie that’s a little worried about the future is Back to the Future (1984) has definitely stood the test of time, outstanding tag “He's the only kid ever to get into trouble before he was born” . I’ll stop while the getting is good.

Ok, a few of those films weren’t 80’s, sue me. Well, I hope you enjoyed my little trip down tag line lane. Next time you see a movie poster, don’t forget to read the tiny writing. That’s all for now from Mike Joy. Entertainment Earth


Popular posts from this blog


The Best Halloween T-Shirts

Marketing Macabre - $50 Press Release Sale on Fiverr