Nine Examples of Films Getting Their Titles Changed

The movie formerly known as $3000

I worked on a film called Claustrophobia for two years, only to be forced to start referring to it as Serial Slayer because some stranger in Lionsgate marketing decided that this would be a better title. It's a strange situation for me, the writer/producer/director, to find myself in. But I'm not alone. Cinema history is filled with features that, for one reason or another, went through one or more title changes during development. So many, in fact, that I had to abandon my original idea of just listing nine films, and instead divide this phenomenon into nine separate categories.

  1. Typical studio buffoonery. Some of these changes are legendary, such as $3000 becoming Pretty Woman, The Madness of George III becoming The Madness of King George (there were fears that American audiences, unfamiliar with George III, would think it was a sequel), and the awkward Harry, This is Sally morphing through a series of variations before finally winding up with the equally awkward When Harry Met Sally...
  2. Let's not scare anybody. A lot of movies had original titles that were a bit more graphic than the studios felt was appropriate. Solution? Tone down one of the words. So Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death became Temple of Doom; Honey, I Blew Up the Baby became Honey, I Blew Up the Kid; and Killing Mrs. Tingle became Teaching Mrs. Tingle.
  3. The Miramax name-changing machine. During the '90s, Miramax was infamous for acquiring independent films, then altering their titles to be more multiplex-friendly. Many of those films flopped anyway, including Playing By Heart (original title: Dancing About Architecture), The Mighty (original title: Freak the Mighty), She's So Lovely (original title: She's De-Lovely) and Music of the Heart (original title: 50 Violins).
  4. Occasional studio improvements. Once in a while, studios' marketing departments actually do the right thing by changing a title. If not for them, instead of Casablanca we'd have Everybody Comes to Rick's, instead of Shadow of a Doubt we'd have Uncle Charlie, and instead of Billy Elliot we'd have the generically-named Dancer.
  5. What were they thinking? - studio version. Some movies had some great titles that were dumbed-down needlessly by particularly uncreative studio types. So the Disney cartoon Kingdom of the Sun was changed to the awful The Emperor's New Groove, while the clever title for the lesbian-themed romantic comedy Seeking Same was thrown out in favor of the clumsier Kissing Jessica Stein. And even though there's nothing wrong with calling the Beatles film Help!, its original title Eight Arms to Hold You was much sassier. Why the change? The studio felt it was too suggestive of group sex!
  6. What were they thinking? - filmmaker version. Filmmakers in rare cases should be down on their knees, thanking the suits for retitling their work. Otherwise Garden State would've been known as Large's Ark, Seabiscuit would be stuck with Four Good Legs, the action/adventure The Thirteenth Warrior would have the disturbing moniker Eaters of the Dead, and the wilderness-based thriller The Edge would be remembered by the slightly less thrilling title Bookworm.
  7. The Nazis will tell you what to call it. As uncomfortable as it is to admit now, back in the 1930s the Nazi party had a lot of influence over art and commerce, not only in Germany but even in the US. (That's a story for another time.) So one of the finest thrillers ever made, Fritz Lang's M, was called such because its original title - Murderer Among Us - made Nazi officials suspect that it was a dig at their party.
  8. The irony department. Kevin Williamson wrote a screenplay spoofing horror films and called it Scary Movie. Miramax bought it and retitled it Scream, seeing it more as genuine horror. But they obviously liked the name, since after the Scream trilogy was finished, Miramax spoofed that with, you guessed it, a comedy called Scary Movie.
  9. My all-time favorite. A sad tale surrounds Sarah Kernochan's little-seen 1998 teenage comedy Strike! Miramax bought it, shelved it for over a year, then barely released it, even though it starred such up-and-coming actresses as Kirsten Dunst and Gaby Hoffman. Not only that, but they gave it the truly dreadful title All I Wanna Do. Ouch! But compare that to the real original title, which was so weird that I wondered why Miramax even looked at the movie in the first place: The Hairy Bird. I mean seriously, Ms. Kernochan.