Great movies with awful taglines

Taglines are a subtle but important part of our favorite films. They provide a succinct way for a curious audience to understand what an upcoming movie will be like—and in special cases, like Alien's "In space, no one can hear you scream," it becomes a work of art entirely unto itself. But sometimes movie studios miss the mark, and you get poster phrases that run the gamut from the bafflingly misguided to the unintentionally hilarious. Here are some of the worst taglines for great movies.

Marley and Me

Marley and Me is a movie ostensibly for dog lovers that ironically has the exact ending dog lovers hate to watch. Spoiler alert? Either way, the story (based on a massively popular memoir) of a couple's evolving relationship after the addition of a ridiculously cute golden retriever has a pretty wide range of great tagline possibilities. This wasn't one of them.

"Heel the Love" is obviously trying to play off "feel the love," but it's less of a pun and more like your deaf grandpa trying out some newfangled slang that he doesn't understand. What does "Heel the Love" even mean when it's divorced from the pun? It's a nonsense phrase, the type of work you put in when you show up late to give a presentation you forgot about.

In fact, since the movie is about a family healing, while teaching their dog to heel, why didn't they use something like "This Puppy's Going to Teach Them to Heal?"

Winter's Bone

Oh, Winter's Bone. The world was so ready for Jennifer Lawrence's first step into the world of Oscar-bait cinema that we were ready to overlook any flaw in the movie, squirrel-eating and all. The tagline, unfortunately, is inexcusable. "Talking Just Causes Witnesses"? What does this even mean? It's a four-word soup. It's the type of nonsense phrase that kids playing with ouija boards spell out.

Even beyond the pure non sequitur randomness of the phrase, why would they use the verb "Causes?" How is a witness "Caused?" Avalanches are caused, global warming is caused, but witnesses? They may be alerted, they might even be attracted, but they can't be caused. The only thing "caused" by this movie's tagline is the creation of this article—which, ironically, brings witnesses to its poor work. Hey, maybe talking does cause witnesses after all.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

What would you choose as Indiana Jones' defining characteristic? His oft-repeated belief that artifacts "belong in a museum"? What about his whip, or his penchant for fighting Nazis or cult leaders? If you found yourself nodding your head along to any of the above, you clearly know more about the franchise than whoever wrote the tagline for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "The Man with the Hat Is Back. And This Time He's Bringing His Dad."

First off, since when does anyone call Indiana Jones "The Man With The Hat"? Did he guest star in a Curious George film when we weren't looking? Was the tagline writer so unfamiliar with previous movies that he had to describe the main character in the style of a five-year-old who only recognizes people by their headwear?

Worse is the follow-up that he's apparently "bringing his dad." Assuming moviegoers weren't privy to the casting of former James Bond Sean Connery as Jones Sr., the tagline makes it seem like the new film is shifting into wacky family hijinx instead of the action adventure we all love. Plus, not to be pedantic, but the movie's about Indy looking for his dad, not bringing his dad on one of his adventures.

Ocean's 12

Sequels don't really need a tagline to sell their movie to an audience since they've already clearly been successful enough to warrant a sequel in the first place. Bearing that in mind, we can almost forgive the laziness of "Twelve Is the New Eleven" as the tagline for Ocean's 12. On the other hand, it might as well just say "See the New Movie That Is a Sequel to the Movie You Already Like."

Since the movie's about a con man putting together a group of specialists for one more heist, why not head down that route and do something like "One Last Job Needs One More Person?" That's rhetorical, obviously. The reason they didn't do that is because they didn't bother to spend more than 30 seconds thinking out this poster.

Octopussy

Ocean's 12 might have a bad tagline, but it's got nothing on the tagline for Octopussy: "Nobody Does It Better… Thirteen Times." While there's a noble effort to reference "Nobody Does It Better," Carly Simon's phenomenal title song for previous James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, it doesn't quite make sense when Octopussy is not a direct sequel to The Spy Who Loved Me, or really in any way related beyond Roger Moore's return as Bond.

What's more, the Bond films have never really been continuity-driven, so reminding the audience that this is the 13th entry in the franchise doesn't accomplish anything beyond scaring especially superstitious moviegoers. Still, considering Octupussy is one of the most blatant sexual references in a film series full of double entendres so single-minded in sexual thoughts that they might as well be single entendres, well … maybe this was the best tagline they could think of that wouldn't have led to showings exclusively in the red light district.

Sherlock Holmes

Imagine that you're the tagline writer tasked with conveying to a curious audience that this Sherlock Holmes movie is different than any that came before. It's an action-packed romp by a famously gonzo director (Guy Ritchie), and starring two bankable stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, whose careers are on an upswing. More than that, this Holmes takes off his shirt and fights people! It's about as much of a departure as you can make without ending up with an animated movie about a mouse detective, and even that would probably be more faithful to the source material.

Okay, got your tagline? Was it "Holmes for the Holiday"? It wasn't? Well, that's good, because it can't possibly have been worse. This conveys nothing about the movie beyond the release date, and even then, it doesn't say which holiday (it's Christmas, for the record). We've seen plenty of bad taglines, but at least they usually try to relate to the subject matter in some way.

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane! Everyone's favorite pick for best movie ever made, especially people who haven't actually seen the movie. Still, it's hard to argue against the exalted status earned by Orson Welles' magnum opus, no matter how conflicted your feelings might be about it's hallowed place in American cinema. It's much easier, however, to argue against the quality of the tagline: "It's Terrific!"

"It's Terrific!" sounds like a film major stalling for time when they're called up to the front of the class to discuss Citizen Kane's impact. Sure, it's terrific, but can you tell us anything else about the movie? Anything about the plot, its themes, or even just a pithy phrase that will look good against the poster? No? Well, at least we've definitively answered the question about whether the film is terrific, despite what some would say.

Lethal Weapon 2

Shane Black is a brilliant writer and director, and Lethal Weapon is easily one of his best movies. The action, the brisk script, the easy chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the magic … Wait, what? There's no magic in Lethal Weapon?

Nope, it's not about two dueling magicians in the 1800s, and the only magic in the movie is the magic of curing suicidal depression by having a shirtless fistfight on the rain-drenched lawns of the suburbs.

As to why the poster for Lethal Weapon 2 uses the phrase "The Magic Is Back," there's no easy answer. The sequel's plot doesn't revolve around magic any more than the original—which, once again, is zero—so we can only assume that the copywriter tasked with the job was getting too old for this.

The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums brilliantly showcased writer-director Wes Anderson's exacting, perfectionist style. Unfortunately, we've got a bone to pick with the tagline: "Family isn't a word. It's a sentence."

First of all, "family" is absolutely not a sentence. It has a subject, but no predicate, which means it quite literally can't be called a sentence. Second, "Family" is absolutely a word! Now, we understand the point is that family occasionally feels like a prison sentence, but surely there's a better way to make that point. You could even keep the majority of the tagline intact by just changing the wording to "Family isn't just a word. It's a sentence." Sure that second part is still a lie, but at least the pun isn't undermined.

There you go, Wes Anderson. You can have that one for free.

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western and a brilliant reimagining of another classic movie, The Seven Samurai. Plus, it's easily one of the best movies with a title that also serves as a numbered descriptor of the protagonists (coming just ahead of The Dirty Dozen, 13 Assassins, and Seven Psychopaths). Considering the pedigree of the film and the obvious elevator pitch of the story (seven men against an army!), you'd think the tagline would be a slam dunk.

Sadly, no—it's a nonsensical mess. "The Magnificent One!" screams the poster, in a font almost as large as the title of the movie. There are some bad taglines, but this might be the only one that was also made to look like the wrong title for the movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is one of those rare films whose title is a solid description of what actually happens in the movie. Steven Spielberg's WWII drama follows a platoon of soldiers whose mission is to save the eponymous Ryan, but the tagline is strangely hazy for such a straightforward movie: "The Mission Is a Man." That's the sort of vague tagline that could be used for anything from Inglorious Basterds to Kill Bill. What does the tagline add to the movie that the title doesn't?

Considering the simplicity of the title, maybe something like "No Man Left Behind" or "Ryan Won't Be Lyin' in the Trenches" would be better. Well, that last one's not so good, but you get the idea.

Titanic

On the list of things people most like about Titanic, it seems safe to say the iceberg that the ship crashed into is definitely near the bottom of the list. The James Cameron-helmed love story made a generation fall in love with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It also made people hate Billy Zane for some reason, which makes no sense considering how wonderful he is on Twin Peaks and The Phantom, but we digress.

The movie's tagline, "Collide with Destiny," seems like a cruel joke considering actual people died in the actual tragedy of the Titanic's maiden voyage. We don't think any of them really thought it was their "Destiny" to crash into a giant iceberg, especially when it was more likely incompetence and poor technical work that doomed the ship.

What's more, the tagline barely references the love story that anchors the film, instead going for a cheap pun about an actual disaster that killed thousands of people.

Mothra

Old-school Kaiju (Japanese for "strange beast") movies can be a ton of fun, with all the cheesy special effects and melodrama those types of films entail. Mothra is a perfect example, with some surprisingly great shots and a novel presentation of a monster whose only crime is being too protective of the subjects who worship her like a god.

The tagline even does a pretty decent job of describing the film, which puts it ahead of most of the films on the list: "Mightiest Monster in All Creation! Ravishing a Universe for Love!" Unfortunately, there are two big problems there. Number one, Mothra hangs out with Godzilla, so we know for a fact that she's not the "Mightiest Monster." She's probably the mightiest moth, or even the mightiest mother if we count her tiny worshippers as her children, but definitely not the mightiest monster.

Number two, "Ravishing" as a verb is a pretty far cry from what Mothra actually does. "Ravishing," especially in the older vernacular, has a lot more to do with rape or kidnapping than the kind of building-crashing action that Kaiju movies are known for. While a giant moth monster ravishing an entire universe seems like the kind of movie that would attract a particular fanbase of its own, it doesn't really describe Mothra.

Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh's follow-up to the indispensable hitman comedy In Bruges, took everything viewers loved about the first movie (Colin Farrell incredulously watching extreme violence, a witty script, and a surprisingly gentle look at characters that find killing easier than talking), and made it into a biting satire of American cinema and the thirst for violence.

Unfortunately, the subtle joys of McDonagh's film get a bit hazy due to a tagline that seems like it might be a better fit for a Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson vehicle about rival pet shop owners. What's worse, "They Won't Take Any Shih Tzu" doesn't even relate to the actual movie, which involves two characters literally taking a Shih Tzu. Like the tagline writers for the Pitch Perfect franchise realizing that "pitch" sounds similar to another word that isn't allowed on movie posters, the tagline for Seven Psychopaths is so enraptured with getting away with almost swearing that it misses the entire point.

Total Recall

You've got Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his muscle-covered popularity, along with a cult director like Paul Verhoeven and source material packed to the brim with memorable quotes—so why does Total Recall have such a boring dud of a tagline? "Get Ready for the Ride of Your Life" sounds like a phrase bored theme park employees are contractually obligated to say before you go around the merry-go-round, not words written to promote a movie that involves fake memories, triple agents, Mars mutants, and a robotic disguise that has to be seen to be believed.

For a movie as relentlessly outlandish and surprising as Total Recall, this forgettable tagline is a terrible missed opportunity. We're guessing someone at the studio must have vetoed "Get Your Ass to Mars"?