So, I think titles are one of the most important parts of storytelling (and please forgive me using such a bland one here, I don’t think it can really be helped with lists). It’s the beginning, it’s the first impression, it is what your work will be known by. I’m gonna go ahead and recommend all of these shows/movies. They are all amazing in some way, but I’m specifically here to talk about titles, so I will try not to get lost in gassing them up too much.
To me, a good title has multiple layers, that are meaningful to the story that they refer to. That’s just about the only prerequisite (or two). I don’t think titles can do much else. in terms of when you’re getting into a story.
I’m also going to go ahead and say this list is ever changing. There is far to much media to take in for a single lifetime, so I’m sure there are a lot of gems out there that I haven’t heard of. This is just what I have so far, though they are very strong entries, that I challenge you to beat! That way I’ll get to see more cool and creative titles. Hehe
Lastly, an obligatory -SPOILER ALERT- If you plan to take a look at any of these stories do so first. If I could have one mundane superpower it would be to erase things from my memory so that I can experience things for the first time more than once. You can’t get it back, so don’t let it go to waste.
5. Holy Sheet – Letterkenny
Letterkenny is a show that has many strengths, but among its greatest is its dialogue. Over the course of eight seasons they’ve managed to write exceedingly clever dialogue, and it is perhaps the most clever I’ve ever heard. This is amplified by the fact that the show focuses on a group of Canadian hicks that like to fight; based on that description I didn’t expect it to be the wittiest writing I’d come across in my life so far.
While their dialogue is top tier the titles are usually just themed or straight forward, but Holy Sheet is one that’s closer to their style of dialogue and has multiple layers. Holy sheet is the second to last episode in the show’s most recent season. The episode is about the hicks going to help a family of Mennonites with chores. One of them brings up a rumor that sometimes Mennonites seek out men to lay with their wives, but it would be done through a hole in a sheet, and thus we have. Holy Sheet. Holy sheet as in a more PC way of saying “holy shit!” because wow what a surprise it would be to be invited over for that (the hicks wouldn’t go through with it). Holy sheet as in the holey sheet that would be used to accomplish this act. And Holy sheet as in this is the holy sheet, this sheet is sacred, because it makes this act acceptable.
There you have it! Three whole layers for one ripped sheet.
4. Parasite (2019)
Parasite is a film by director Bong Joon Ho. I want to try to talk about this one with as little spoilers as possible because I like to go into movies knowing as little of the plot as possible (for this reason I don’t watch trailers as they have become movie speed runs at this point), and I’m really glad I did so with this movie. I had no idea where the movie was going to go. I’m going to have to at least talk about how the title relates to the premise which will take away from its mystery so if you haven’t seen it I encourage you to skip this one and come back. It has amazing sound and set design, imagery, genre blending, suspense, an awesome premise and more. I try my hardest to not watch anything with subtitles, because my eyes abnormal, but i made an exception for this bad boy.
The reason the title is good and multilayered is because it first of all has a pretty huge air of mystery. Are we talking alien parasites? Ones found in nature? Maybe supernatural ones? In order to continue I must tell you that it’s about people. As you’re watching the movie you arrive there, and you say to yourself, “Okay, they’re the parasites.”, but there is still one more layer to go. By the end of the film you find that everyone is. Young and old, rich or poor we all depend on others to take care of certain things either directly or indirectly.
It may not have been a big revelation to go from a group of people to all people as you read it here, but the movie does a excellent job of taking you where it wants you to go, and I can’t pull something like that off in a blog post. Its just another reason why you should watch this film if you haven’t.
Community is a show by writing genius Dan Harmon. If you haven’t heard of Community (first of all, you’re welcome!), you’ve probably heard of Rick and Morty, which is another show Dan Harmon deserves a lot of praise for in his writing ability (though he didn’t write it alone so shoutout Justin Roiland as well).
I don’t have to talk a lot about the show to talk about it’s title work. I didn’t specifically pick and episode because they put effort into giving every episode a themed title. That theme was to turn the names of each episode into the name of a class. It sounds simple, but sometimes there are ones that come of pretty intelligent. You can probably figure most of it out but do you know off the top of your head what you might learn in Basic Intergluteal Numistatics? I won’t tell you. Go watch that amazing episode on Netflix, or anywhere else you can find it, then binge the rest of this amazing show.
That would have been a great place to end this section, but I have to bring up one more layer in their title work. Some of the later episodes will even call back to episodes. One of it’s signature episodes is “the bottle episode” titled Comparative Calligraphy, which was the first in a series of episode sprinkled throughout the show in which the main characerts are locked in a room and a bunch of secrets come out. The last of these episodes is titled Comparative Polygraphy, setting the premise for the episode and gracefully calling back to where this series of episodes began. As far as a show about a group of people getting into wacky antics goes this is one of the best I’ve seen.
2. Bravely Default, Where the Fairy Flies
Bravely default is a(n awesome) video game; a turn based RPG liken the early Final Fantasy games (and made by Square Enix as well). What’s important here is that I love a good twist.
This game sends you on a quest to activating some crystals to save the world (classic final fantasy). You’re guided by this benevolent fairy named Airy. The thing is, once you get to them all the world resets, and our wonderful guide tells us we have to do it again. And again. And again. You get the idea. Well it turns out just when you think to yourself “Did they just not write an ending to this shit??” Things go differently when you hit all the crystals, and you’re prompted to save your game and you go back to the title screen. Now that you’re here, and now that you know the truth The subtitle “Where the Fairy Flies” flashes red and some of the letters disappear leaving behind the phrase: “Airy Lies“. It was right there the whole GD time!
What’s more with this is that this game was originally made in Japanese, and was only translated to English, and the twist works in Japanese as well. In the original game the title is “Bravely Default: Flying Fairy” and after the twist it becomes “Lying Airy”. It is of course more accurate to say that it also works in English since it was second, but there is a long history of Japanese studios not taking care of English releases, if they even happen. Square Enix isn’t really one of them but it feels like a pretty big win when it happens in general. It’s also just awesome in general to take the time to come up with wordplay that works across multiple languages.
A lot (not all) of movies with twists nowadays are either not impactful, come out of nowhere, or are obvious, and it seems that most films try to incorporate one like their checking a box now. Stories are pretty oversaturated with twists, so when I ran into this I knew that there was still hope.
1. Felina, Breaking Bad
This is the title that got me into titles in the first place. I didn’t even watch the show when I heard about this title, but it was so damn creative. I only watched Breaking Bad way back here in 2020, I heard about the title when I was in high school which was no sooner than eight years ago.
I doubt I need to explain what this show is to anyone, and I couldn’t do it justice in a post like this anyway. If you don’t know about this show, hit it up on IMDB, or just google it. You will find all you need and a lot more. Fear not though! I will explain this godlike title at least, and give the necessary background info for it.
First of all this is the title of the TV series finale, and if you do a little unscrambling there you’ll notice “Felina” is an anagram for “Finale”. The story of BB follows a chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. That is the best way to describe this character; just that information. Since it involves chemistry whenever they can they’ll reference elements on the periodic table in the credits and things, in the same way you see it on the title card. Like the title card, most of these instances are just on theme and don’t actually serve a purpose. However, if we take a look at “Felina” well that whole thing can be broken down into elements. Doing so gives you: Fe- Iron, Li- Lithium, and Na- sodium. There’s our second layer.
The final layer immediately follows this because if you take a look at those elements and think about where you can find them (or look it up) you’ll come to see that iron is found in blood, lithium is found in meth, and sodium is found in tears. Blood, Meth, and Tears.
This title is the definition of “It’s so simple, yet so complex.” The layers are simple and right next to each other, but they took the word finale, -one long established to describe the end of things especially TV shows- and turned it into all of this. That title says “Felina”, it says “Finale”, it says “Iron, Lithium, Sodium”, and best of all it says “Blood Meth and Tears”, which is the perfect phrase to sum up this show.