Hollywood studios spend millions of dollars on promotional campaigns for their movies. They invest in trailers, TV commercials, billboards, and product tie-ins. However, it’s often something as simple as a tagline that gets people to buy overpriced tickets to the latest blockbuster. Many taglines have become so iconic, they transcend the movies they were meant to promote. Some are even better than the films themselves!
So, without further ado, here’s my list of the top 10 best movie taglines
10. The Truman Show: “On the air. Unaware.”
Before reality TV became a thing, this film arguably showed the oxymoronic “genre” taken to its logical conclusion. Jim Carrey plays a man whose entire life, starting from birth, has been part of an elaborate, high-budget TV show, all without his knowledge. The tagline rhymes, creating a good pneumonic device, and gives a vibe that has tinges of both humor and Orwellian fear.
9. The Muppet Movie: “More entertaining than humanly possible.”
When those zany Muppets made their big-screen debut, they stepped up their game and produced a hilarious and heartfelt film. The tagline tells the audience they will be entertained more than they might expect, but it also reminds them that most of these characters aren’t “human,” per se, but puppets. Perhaps that’s how they could get away with non-stop puns and shmaltzy sentiments.
8. Blues Brothers: “They’ll never get caught. They’re on a mission from God.”
While many a zealot have used this as an excuse to do horrible things, it’s arguably true for the title characters. Jake Blues (John Belushi) reassembles his old band to save the Catholic home in which he and his brothers grew up. If ever someone needed a blessing from the Almighty, it’d be the Blues Brothers.
7. X-Men: “Trust a few. Fear the rest.”
What makes this tagline effective is it could apply to both humans and mutants. Some, but not all, humans are hatemongers. This is understandable since Magneto’s (Ian McKellen) Brotherhood is made up of mutant terrorists bent on wiping out humanity. On the other hand, there are heroic mutants like the X-Men defending humanity. It’s a double-edged sword.
6. Highlander: “There can be only one.”
Let’s be honest: the Highlander franchise—which is all about immortals fighting and killing each other to gain their foe’s power, until only one remains and becomes all-powerful—started as a borderline B-movie, albeit an entertaining one. It took the TV series to elevate it. Through it all is this famous tagline, which has undoubtedly been quoted by many a gamer while playing online. Admittedly, it seemed like Connor McLeod (Christopher Lambert) was the only immortal left, but then a long series of retcons in the awful sequels kept the series going. Too bad this line couldn’t be number one on this list. (Hopefully, it won’t decapitate me for putting it lower).
5. The Fly (1986): “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
This phrase has seeped its way into the common vernacular, and I always wondered where it came from. Little did I know it was the tagline for the 1986 version of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum. It tells the audience they should not only be scared by this film—which, considering it was a remake of a 1950s B-movie, might’ve been seen as a stretch—it insists that they should be terrified. And they were.
4. Jaws: The Revenge: “This time, it’s personal.”
Before shark movies flooded the walls of video stores, Universal pumped out unneeded sequels to the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic. By the time the fourth film rolled around, it was the mid-‘80s, and slasher movies about seemingly immortal psychos were the rage, so they turned the infamous Great White into one. That alone tells you the filmmakers ran out of good ideas after writing the tagline, which has since become one of the most used movie-trailer lines ever, either as a joke or because it was stolen by schlock film producers.
3. Superman: “You’ll believe a man can fly.”
The modern superhero film wouldn’t exist if not for this groundbreaking classic starring Christopher Reeve. Superheroes were relegated to B-movies or low-budget film serials before this. The idea of seeing someone fly in a movie and making it look believable was unheard of. Director Richard Donner proved it could be done. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan owe him a debt of gratitude.
2. Star Wars, Episode 4: A New Hope: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
George Lucas set himself for life when he crafted this classic line, which is probably a variation of the fairy opening: “Once upon a time …” It’s been featured in every Star Wars film and most of its tie-ins; however, is it figurative or literal? If it’s the latter, it begs a multitude of other questions. That alone makes it one of the best taglines in the history of cinema.
1. Alien: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
Rarely does a tagline tell you everything and yet nothing. Ridley Scott’s Alien was an enigmatic film before its release, and this only deepened the mystery. Little did anyone know they’d be getting a horrific twist on what is arguably a 1950s B-movie plot, but one with a monster unlike any seen before. This was the era of flashy, upbeat science fiction films thanks to Star Wars, but Alien was the opposite, being both gothic and realistic. The tagline illustrates that, reminding audiences there is no sound in the vacuum of space. It implies isolation and helplessness, but without being on-the-nose obvious. Indeed, most people were speechless when the famous xenomorph appeared on screen—by bursting out of a man’s chest. This tagline was great in 1979, and it still sends chills down the spines of anyone who quotes it. Seriously, try saying it without shivering.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: “They’re here to save the planet. But not for free.”
Killer Klowns from Outer Space: “In space, no one can eat ice cream.”
Alien vs. Predator: “Whoever wins, we lose.”
Hardware Wars: “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll kiss three bucks goodbye.”