Naming can be difficult, whether it’s a newborn or a startup company. You have to weigh certain qualities: originality, specificity, impact. “Google” doesn’t mean anything, but it worked regardless. Naming a film can be just as cumbersome, and in unique ways. There are copyright issues. You want to choose something, in many cases, that will tell people a little something about what kind of movie this is (The Amityville Horror is pretty straightforward). Or, in other cases, you want something short but memorable so it sticks in people’s heads, like Boyhood. Another strategy, however, is to build on top of an established brand by naming your movie after a song. This practice has a long history in cinema, and music remains a great resource for studio heads and creatives to either find something that captures their movie or build a movie off in the first place. In honor of The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby‘s release on DVD and Blu-ray, here are some of the best films with song titles.
Sixteen Candles (1984) | Directed by John Hughes
Choosing the music for your film is a crucial process that can help to establish mood, atmosphere, meaning, interpretation, and many other aspects of the message you want to get across. Putting a song in your film is significant, because it immediately conveys that this is important in some capacity to understanding the movie. Choosing to then name your movie after that song is another story altogether, for you have now decided that this song best encapsulates the essence of your film, better than anything else could. “16 Candles” by Stray Cats fits with John Hughes’ film in terms of subject matter, obviously, but its hokey rockabilly attitude is typical for a Hughes film and is exactly the kind of goofy romanticism he was so interested in, making it an unquestionably appropriate choice.
Dazed and Confused (1993) | Directed by Richard Linklater
Linklater’s film does, indeed, get its name from the Led Zeppelin song, though no Zeppelin songs appear in the movie. Linklater tried to get “Rock and Roll,” but Robert Plant refused (classic Robert). At any rate, the song works perfectly to set the vibe for the film, bringing to mind the ‘70s rock style that the actual soundtrack contains (Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath) and reflecting some of the film’s themes. Not only is it one of the funniest movies ever made, but it has become a cult hit for young people and a launching pad for Matthew McConaughey’s catchphrase. It’s not every time that the choice in titling your movie after a song is such a deliberate choice, but this is one case where Linklater had something in mind that was very specific to his film and he got it.
Stand By Me (1986) | Directed by Rob Reiner
Reiner’s film was originally under the same name as the Stephen King novella it’s based on, The Body, but the studio thought that name was misleading (presumably because it seems more like a horror film). A number of options came and went, but Reiner must have been a fan of the Ben E. King song because he suggested Stand By Me and then put the song in the film over the credits. Luckily, it fits perfectly with the theme of young friendship that is so central to the film. It’s a title with an impact, a demand but also tender in its earnestness, which surely resembles the bond between the film’s four boys.
One thought on “Sight/Sound: 6 Films Whose Titles Come from Songs”
What about I’m Not There about Bob Dylan which is named after a famously then-unreleased song that Dylan did during The Basement Tapes sessions?