A good movie title is one that will give viewers a hint at what is to come, but there are also those movie titles that give away or spoil the ending. The best are mysterious until a person actually reaches the end. A good title of this sort will make sense after the movie plays out, and the viewer has connected all the dots. At that time, the title will make all the sense in the world. A good example is Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell, which ends with a scene that pays off the title with a bang. In that case, it also works as a perfect horror title.
However, in others, the title completely spoils the ending of the movie, making sure that the viewer knows what is going to happen before ever walking into the theater. The title of the last Lord of the Rings movie clearly states the king will return. In some cases, as in John Dies at the End, it does give away the ending of the movie (and the book it is based on), but the ending is the least interesting part of this movie-watching experience. The important part of using movie titles that give away the ending is to offer more than just that one spoiler to hold the viewer’s attention.
10 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan follows a group of U.S. Army Rangers who search for the titular missing paratrooper, the only surviving member of his four-man team in Normandy. The film is thrilling, emotional, action-packed, and sentimental, with Steven Spielberg at his absolute best. In the end, Private Ryan is ultimately saved, which is hardly surprising given the title. However, not only is the film completely unrealistic, as there’s no way a whole crew of soldiers would go behind enemy lines to save one man, but the film’s title totally spoils the ending too. In fairness, the title doesn’t answer whether the squad is successful, but it’s heavily implied.
9 Lone Survivor (2013)
Lone Survivor is a war movie based on a true story that follows a four-man SEAL team in Afghanistan. The group is tasked with taking down Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, but they get trapped on a mountain and surrounded by Taliban forces, and what follows is one huge hour-long battle between the SEAL team and the Taliban. After Lone Survivor‘s many heroic acts and some absolutely mortifying sequences that depict the horrific realities of war, all but one member of the SEAL team is killed, but that was clear to anyone who paid attention to the title. And given that Mark Wahlberg is a much bigger star than anyone else in the movie, it spoils the fact he’s the lone survivor.
8 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back has a completely opposite ending to A New Hope. Where the 1977 movie ends with the heroes literally being awarded medals for saving the day, the sequel ends with Darth Vader getting the best of almost everyone. The Empire particularly affects Han, who is frozen in carbonite, and Luke, who has his hand severed and learns the horrific truth about his father. The film is full of Star Wars‘ darkest moments, such as C-3PO getting dismantled and the Wampa attack, but nobody was prepared for the empire actually winning, even though it was fed to fans in the movie’s very subtitle.
7 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption is a prison drama that sees Andy Dufresne wrongly accused of murder, and the final act reveals that he has been digging a hole for 20 years and he finally escapes. There’s no obvious clue Andy is trying to escape throughout the film, but the most obvious clue is given to audiences before they watch it. Though “redemption” is a vague term and could allude to other things, paired with the fact that the poster is a shot of Andy after he escaped, it is not just the movie titles that give away the ending. Shawshank Redemption is a masterclass on how not to spoil a movie.
6 There Will Be Blood (2007)
A lot of near-fatal disasters occur in There Will Be Blood, whether it’s Daniel Plainview breaking his leg or the huge explosion when Daniel realized how lucrative the land is. But there isn’t really any bloodshed until the final moments of the film. The movie ends abruptly when Daniel beats Eli to death with a bowling pin, but the title did give away the final scene all along. However, among movie titles that give away the ending, this one doesn’t make it clear whose blood will be spilled. In that respect, the title brilliantly adds to the suspense, especially in the last scene, as audiences know that something is coming.
5 Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Just as Kill Bill Vol. 1 explained that it’s the first half of the story, Kill Bill Vol. 2 delivered on its title promise. Following the events of the first movie, there’s no way the sequel could have subverted expectations by having Bill survive. The movie was full of surprises, such as the Bride’s daughter being alive, but Kill Bill Vol. 2 ultimately followed the typical formula of a revenge flick. And that isn’t a bad thing, as the two-part movie is an epic martial arts and kung-fu flick. After all, at the end of Vol. 2, Bill is killed, so what more is there to say?
4 Free Willy (1993)
Free Willy is the story of a child trying to free a captive orca from an amusement park. But, as one of the movie titles that give away the ending, there’s almost no point in watching it. The poster has the shot from Free Willy that has become iconic, which is Willy diving over the rocks and Jesse, who reaches out to the killer whale. That’s the very shot of Willy escaping, and while it might not be clear to children, who is the movie’s target audience, the title and the poster spoil everything. The sequel even pulls off the same trick.
3 Flight Of The Phoenix (1965 & 2004)
Flight of the Phoenix follows a group of men trying to survive in the Sahara desert after their plane crashes. The team attempts to build a new plane that will get them out of the desert, which they call the Phoenix. The movie has audiences wondering if they will survive, but the answer is right in front of them. Among movie titles that give away the ending, this survival movie literally tells viewers the team of survivors succeeds in their mission. When remaking the movie in 2004, it’s surprising that 20th Century Fox didn’t consider renaming the film, especially considering the original wasn’t all that successful in the first place.
2 Jack The Giant Slayer (2013)
Jack the Giant Slayer is based on Jack and the Beanstalk, and it has an almost identical premise. The film is more padded out to turn it into a feature-length movie, but for the most part, it’s the same story. However, the difference is that it’s one of the movie titles that give away the ending. The film was probably given its title because “Giant Slayer” has more pizazz and sounds more exciting than “Beanstalk,” but it seemingly had a reverse effect. Jack the Giant Slayer is one of the biggest box office bombs of the 21st century, as it failed to recoup its giant $200 million budget (Box Office Mojo).
1 The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
This 2007 biopic had one of the most spot-on movie titles that give away the ending. The movie has such a long title that it spoils every part of Jesse James’ fatal end. The movie could have just been titled The Assassination of Jesse James, but for some strange reason, the studio decided to add By the Coward Robert Ford. And as the film bombed at the box office, making only half of its budget back (Box Office Mojo), it could simply have been called Jesse James, or as “vs.” movies are so popular right now, Jesse James vs. Robert Ford.
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