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Movie Title Ideas: 3 Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With a Cool Screenplay Title

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by Script Reader Pro in How To Write A Screenplay
November 22, 2018 18 comments
movie title ideas screenplay

3 Ways To Come Up With a Cool Screenplay Title: Intro

While you’ve probably heard a lot about how the first page of your story is the most important when it comes to first impressions—it’s not. It’s actually the title.

Screenplay titles matter. A lot.

When your script lands on the desk of someone important—like a manager, producer or exec—the very first impression they form of your script is from the title.

Here are a few examples of bad screenplay titles

  • Too close to an existing movie title. Kill Phil, Naughty Santa
  • Already been used. The Sunshine Boys, While You Were Napping
  • Too complicated. The Attenuation Dispersion Code, Puranas and Itihasas
  • Too simple. Hope, Conflict
  • Something you’d never see on a billboard. The Magnet Pulls, Portmanteau Antlers

Movie titles like these give the reader an immediate signal that you’re not sure what you’re doing—before they’ve even had a chance to read the first page of your script.

Great writers choose great movie titles. And needless to say, your script’s title needs to be pretty great. Not just good. Not just okay. But great.

How do you come up with great movie title ideas?

In this post we’re going to break down how to write a movie title for a screenplay into six main areas:

  • Coming up with a great movie title ideas by nailing the story’s essence
  • Generating movie title ideas method #1: Characters
  • Generating movie title ideas method #2: Locations
  • Generating movie title ideas method #3: Situations or feelings
  • How to find out if your screenplay title idea is any good
  • Screenplay title page format best practices

So let’s dive on in.

Coming Up With Great Movie Title Ideas By Nailing the Story’s Essence

best movie titles ideas screenplay

A good way into coming up with a great movie title is to consider what the core essence of your story is. What’s it really about? What’s the core conflict? What’s the overall emotion you want to convey in your script’s title?

For example, here are some famous movie titles that are perfect fits to the material:

  • Blade Runner
  • Citizen Kane
  • Eyes Wide Shut
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Jaws
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Rear Window
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Truman Show

In each of these cases, we get a sense of genre and of the movie’s sensibility because the movie title speaks to the core essence of what it’s about. The title signals what’s at the heart of the movie and what makes it stand out from the pack.

3 screenplay title templates

When trying to come up with a name for your screenplay, you want to make sure it similarly conveys the core essence of the story.

A good way to do this is to consider a potential screenplay title from three different angles:

  • Character(s)
  • Location
  • Situations or feelings

Yes, some movies have great titles that don’t fall within these parameters—Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for example—but we’ll discuss these later in the post.

For now, sticking to one of the three screenplay title templates above is a good starting point. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail. (We’ll be focusing mainly on recent movies in order to give you an up-to-date idea of what makes a great movie title.)

Generating Movie Title Ideas Method #1: Characters

best movie titles ideas screenplay

The first option is to simply name your script after the protagonist, antagonist or stakes character or some variation on who they are or what they’re about.

Here’s a list of some of the best movie titles using this formula from recent years:

1. Atomic Blonde. Lorraine is the protagonist—the subject of the title—but it also encapsulates her style, personality and forcefulness. Probably a better title than the actual movie.

2. Baby Driver. This movie title encapsulates Baby’s name and occupation in a nice play on words.

3. Black Panther. Hard to imagine this movie having any other previous working titles. This just sums it up to a tee.

4. Creed. Short and punchy—pun intended.

5. The Disaster Artist. Here’s an example of naming the movie after the antagonist rather than the protagonist. Tommy Wiseau is the heart and soul of this film, not Greg.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie title focuses on a team rather than just a single character and screams sci-fi, action and adventure. Just what the movie delivers.

7. The Hateful Eight. Another title about a group of characters and another great use of rhyme. This is extremely effective and is used in a lot of the best movie titles.

8. Neon Demon. Two words that perfectly encapsulate the cool, detached persona of the protagonist and the horror of the movie.

9. The Revenant. The easy option would have been to call this movie The Frontiersman, but who is Hugh Glass really? Here’s the dictionary definition of revenant: “One that returns after death or a long absence.” That’s how to elevate an ordinary movie title to a great one.

10. Ted. John’s the protagonist, sure, but the heart of this film lies in its antagonist—a talking teddy bear. That’s the hook and this title says it up front.

Generating Movie Title Ideas Method #2: Location

best movie titles ideas screenplay

An equally effective option is to name your screenplay after a prominent location in the story. These can be either general or specific as well as the real names of places or made-up titles given to places.

Here are some popular examples from recent movies.

1. 10 Cloverfield Lane. The title of the original spec script one which this film was based was The Cellar—again, focusing on the location, but without the allusion to the Cloverfield franchise.

2. 21 Jump Street. If you’re adapting a script from existing material, as in this case, the process of coming up with a cool movie title is often taken out of your hands. Nevertheless, this is a great example of an eye-catching use of story setting to give a sense of genre.

3. Bridge of Spies. Rather than simply extract the name of the script’s main location, another good option is to zero in on a place where something significant happens—and give it a name.

4. Brooklyn. This title gets even more specific than Woody Allen’s Manhattan. It’s simple and does the job of evoking this part of the city as an extra character in the movie.

5. Dunkirk. Three perspectives of the Dunkirk evacuation told from the land, sea and air, all in one simple title.

6. Hacksaw Ridge. Another war movie title, this time one that zeroes in on the location of the core conflict in the movie: the 77th Infantry Division’s goal of securing Hacksaw Ridge.

7. La La Land. A more melodic, memorable and catchy way of describing the city that provides the setting for Mia and Sebastian’s romance and musical dreams.

8. Manchester by the Sea. A beautifully simple yet lyrical title that hints at the sadness of the movie’s main characters.

9. The Place Beyond the Pines. This title is derived from the English meaning of the Native American word “Schenectady”—which roughly translates as “place beyond the pine plains.”

10. Room. A deliberately simple, one-word title that incorporates not only the location of the movie but its core conflict. Unusually, the title survived the adaptation from the book of the same name on its way to the big screen.

Generating Movie Title Ideas Method #3: Situations or Feelings

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Finally, you may want to get to the core of your movie’s essence through the characters’ feelings or the situation they find themselves in. These type of movie titles offer much more scope in which to intrigue the reader.

Here are some examples:

1. The Beguiled. Is “the beguiled” Corporal McBurney? Or Miss Martha and her daughters? Or all of them? The original movie was also called The Beguiled, but the novel on which it was based was named, A Painted Devil.

2. Darkest Hour. Not much room for intrigue here as the story is based on the true-life events surrounding Churchill’s refusal to make peace with Hitler before the start of World War 2. A fantastic summation of conflict, feeling and situation, nonetheless.

3. Don’t Breathe. Three teenagers break into a blind Gulf War veteran’s home intent on robbing him and inadvertently become his prey. What’s the perfect phrase that encapsulates their situation as they creep around the house trying not to make a sound? “Don’t breathe.”

4. I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore. The general advice when it comes to creating a great screenplay title is to keep it short. But here’s an example of how to break the rules to give a great sense of this quirky protagonist’s state of mind.

5. The Edge of Seventeen. This title expertly hints at the anxiety felt by the teenage protagonist, Nadine. She’s suicidal, and the use of the phrase “the edge” conjures up images of the edge of a cliff, or the edge of madness—while juxtaposing them with her age.

6. Game Night. A classic trope for comedy movie titles is employed here: describing a single event or situation in two short words. These kinds of screenplay titles often write themselves as they’re based on high concepts: Date Night, Due Date, Knocked Up, and so on.

7. Get Out. Much like Don’t Breathe, this title acts as a warning to the protagonist and is an intriguing call to read the script and find out just who wants to get out of what situation.

8. It Comes At Night. The horror genre is unmistakably conjured up with this mysterious title—one that also lets the reader know the protagonist is going to be placed in a terrifying situation.

9. Trainwreck. A wonderful metaphor here for Amy’s life in general as she shuns commitment in favor of drinking too much and sleeping around well past her college days.

10. Wild. A short and clever movie title with a clear double-meaning which nods at both Cheryl’s past and her present as she treks through the wilderness on her way to redemption.

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Great movie titles that break the mold

Of course, not every movie title neatly fits into one of these three boxes. You’re welcome to come up with whatever title you like and break the mold.

Here are some unusual and famous movie titles that manage to pull this off:

  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
  • Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Good Will Hunting
  • The Men Who Stare At Goats
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Requiem For a Dream
  • The Shape of Water
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

If you want to create a solid screenplay title, though, you can’t go far wrong by sticking with one of the three screenplay title templates outlined earlier—a location, the main characters(s) or their situation or feelings.

How To Find Out If Your Movie Title Ideas Are Any Good

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Bear in mind that if your screenplay gets bought and produced, the title may be changed down the road before it hits the big screen. However, this doesn’t mean you should just make do with any old script title that comes along.

Movie title ideas should be rigorously tested before deciding on a final one, and here’s an outline of how to do it.

Brainstorm screenplay title ideas

Come up with as many movie title ideas as possible. Try to write a list of at least ten for your screenplay

Edit the list down to your top three screenplay titles. Make sure you have a character-based, a location-based and a situation/feelings-based idea in there if possible.

Get feedback on your movie title ideas

Get feedback from people you know. Show the three titles to your writer friends, acquaintances, family members, etc. and get them to rank them in order of preference. Give them the logline too, so they know what it’s about

Get feedback from people you don’t know. Repeat the exercise with strangers in order to get an impartial opinion on their favorite titles. Post the titles to websites like Stage32 and other screenwriting forums

Ask professional readers. If you get script coverage on the completed screenplay, make a point of asking if the reader can give you a note on the title. We’d be happy to do this if you purchase one of our script coverage services.

This exercise will give you a solid idea of which movie script ideas are working and which aren’t. And from here it’s just a question of refining your titles and finally picking the very best one for your script.

A note on “working titles”

Don’t send out your script to anywhere important like a manager, exec or producer with the caveat “working title.”

You need to own the screenplay title you pick, but adding “Working Title” in brackets gives the impression it’s a work in progress—like you haven’t yet formed a solid idea of what the story’s actually about.

Instead, take your time and make sure you come up with a rocking movie title first, and then send it out.

Screenplay Title Page Format: Best Practices

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Some people insist the script title should always be written in caps, or always underscored and so on. In actual fact, no one cares. It doesn’t matter whether you write the title in uppercase or lowercase, or whether you underscore it or not, or wrap it in quotation marks or not.

All that matters is that it’s centered 4.0 inches from the top of the page and, like the rest of the screenplay, is written in Courier 12-point.

Movie title punctuation

The whole meaning of a screenplay title can change with the stroke of a punctuation mark, so make sure it’s grammatically correct. For example, take the imaginary screenplay title, Come Back Clarity.

And let’s say in the script the antagonist is named Clarity, and the protagonist wants her back. This means the title needs a direct address comma in place to make it: Come Back, Clarity. Without the comma, the phrase could also mean the protagonist is only seeking clarity. Or even a comeback and needs some clarity in order to achieve it.

Always make sure your movie title punctuation is correct. And always use direct address commas.

Formatting the name(s) on a script title page

Your name should be spaced four lines below the screenplay title. Again, don’t get too hung up on the finer details. You can write: “written by” or just “by” but this should be in lowercase.

If you co-wrote the script, simply add an ampersand (&) in-between your names. (Putting “and” instead indicates one of the writers was brought in to do a rewrite on the other’s work.)

If the script is based on someone else’s original material, simply write “based on the novel by” or “based on the stage play by,” four lines underneath your own name and in the same style.

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Formatting contact details

Keep things simple by adding just your email address in the bottom left or right-hand corner of the title page. Some screenwriting software programs automatically populate the contact details in the bottom lefthand corner, while other professional writers and software add it to the bottom right. It really doesn’t matter too much.

You can also add your address and phone number if you wish. (Be aware that if you live in, say, Maryland, Montreal or Munich, but are pitching the script to companies based in Los Angeles, you’re immediately giving away your location, which could potentially prejudice them in some way.)

If you have an attorney, agent or manager, add their details here instead of your own.

Screenplay title page template

Your finished title page should look something like the one below:

best movie titles ideas screenplay
Don’t repeat the same mistakes many screenwriters make by including dates, draft numbers or copyright information on your screenplay title page. Leave these for when you’re writing under contract for a studio or production company.

Including copyright information on a spec script title page just looks paranoid. And dates and draft numbers could well elicit the response: “She’s been working on this thing since 2010?”

Stick to this script title page template and avoid adding artwork, photos, social media information, fancy fonts or any design at all in order to give your screenplay the best first impression possible.

3 Ways To Come Up With a Cool Screenplay Title: Conclusion

best movie titles ideas screenplay

Take care when picking a screenplay title. As a screenwriter, you’re a connoisseur of words and so whatever title you pick should reflect this. It should give a taste of the conflict, genre and essence of the story the reader will find in the script.

It should also ideally display a sense of your way with words. Screenplay titles are generally bold, sharp, witty and (usually) short summations of the entire movie: The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, Good Time, etc. These are the kind of movie titles you should aspire to create.

Also be sure to create a clean and perfectly formatted script title page. Don’t put readers off by including anything that doesn’t need to be on there.

We hope this post has helped you in coming up with a screenplay title that serves the interests of the story and gives a great first impression.

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In your opinion, what are some of the best movie titles out there? What makes them great? How do you come up with a rocking screenplay title? Let us know in the comments section below!

best movie titles ideas screenplay

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18 Comments
  1. Eric Davis says:

    Just as I was stuck trying to comeup with a title for my comedy. Thanks for this.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Eric.

  2. Vincent says:

    I write romantic comedies, and my unwritten rule for titles is to always make them two words long.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good stuff, Vincent!

  3. Rashid Sami says:

    Much helpful.
    Thanks.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Glad to hear it, thanks, Rashid.

  4. Charles Frankhauser says:

    I found out how difficult it is to sell a screenplay but I always wanted to write one so I adapted my novel, Atlantic City Nazi, to a script, wrote a treatment and published it using character names in title: RC and RUBY Screenplay for folks that like to read screenplays. Now when I watch TV I time other scenes for the fun of it. Charles

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Good move, Charles!

  5. Rossario says:

    Eyes Wide Shut is the best movie title ever!

  6. Adam says:

    Great movie title ideas! Just bookmarked and shared

  7. Chris says:

    Stay away from dates in movie titles that are too close to the current year. For example, if the year 2020 is in your script’s title and it’s year 2021, it kind of lost its momentum.

  8. Suzette says:

    I use short song lyrics as titles for my scripts

  9. April K. says:

    Thanks to the article I changed points of focus. I realized that my script is more place focused than I thought initially and that should be reflected in the movie title. Cheers!

  10. Beth says:

    Amazing post on creating script titles! There’s a plethora of information on screenwriting but I find your posts to be consistently on the money.

  11. Philip says:

    Not a great movie title: ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’

  12. Sydney F says:

    Best article I’ve seen on writing movie titles in a while. Short and sweet.

  13. Michael says:

    Good titles:
    Lethal Weapon
    Diehard
    Forgiven

  14. Jeremy says:

    Great info! It’s nice to know how writers and producers in Hollywood come up with their movie title ideas.

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