What makes a title "pretentious"? After all, you could pronounce just about any movie's title in a mock-serious voice and make it sound like the most pompous film ever: "Ah, Foreign Correspondents! Pshaw pshaw!" But some filmmakers pick the silliest, most self-important titles for their films – which are often equally silly and self-important. Here are a few egregious examples.
- The Loss of Sexual Innocence (1999). Even without the strained title, this softcore garbage gets four stars in art house flatulence: it was directed by the insufferable Mike Figgis, its main character is a troubled film director (so it's "autobiographical"), and it even intercuts scenes of Adam and Eve as our hero looks back on his own relationships!
- Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995). Something a lot of pretentious movie titles have in common is an abundance of words, as well as abstract nouns such as dream, fate, soul, and destiny. Plus any film that has Quentin Tarantino in the cast automatically gets an "O" for "Overbearing". Oh yeah – and QT plays a character named Johnny Destiny who is a magical, Christlike figure. Oy.
- Prayer of the Rollerboys (1991). Grade-Z schlock starring Corey Haim as a futuristic roller skater. No more needs to be said about this film's quality, but it follows another rule of cinematic pretentiousness: slipping a nonce word into your title and presuming the audience already knows what you're talking about. Rollerboys?
- Dream for an Insomniac (1998). Another over-serious indie with too many words in the title, one of them "dream". It's also shot in both color and black and white – usually a bad sign – and one of the main characters is a writer.
- eXistenZ (1999). This minimalistic title earns Pretentious Points for its artsy-fartsy spelling and capitalization. In this case, "eXistenZ" is the name of a virtual reality video game that starts affecting people's lives or something. David Cronenberg made this film, and he's a good filmmaker, but everybody overreaches once in a while.
- Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins... (1985). Beware of titles that use both colons and ellipses. Talk about wishful thinking: I suppose everybody at the studio was hoping the film would be such a big hit that Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues... would follow shortly. No dice. Not even with Joel Grey in yellowface as a Korean martial arts guru.
- The Myth of Fingerprints (1997). This dysfunctional family talkathon stole its title from a 1986 Paul Simon song – and Simon had his share of pretentious song titles. (I'm still waiting for the movie version of "Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War".)
- Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969). Wow! This tongue-twister of a title might be cute for a kiddie movie, but alas, this alleged comedy is, as Leonard Maltin called it, "a Fellini-inspired mess" about a comic (writer/director/producer/composer/star Anthony "who?" Newley) looking back on his innumerable sexual conquests. Joan Collins, Newley's then-wife, was the female lead ("Polyester Poontang" – yes, really). Her career survived this bomb; Newley's, thankfully, did not.
- Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983). Here you have all the ingredients for a pretentious title: a colon, a nonce word ("metalstorm"), and a reference to something nobody has ever heard of (is "Jared-Syn" a city, a planet, a man, a cat?). Plus it's in bad 1980s 3D.