Best examples of movie 'title reveals'?

Most films are straightforward and descriptive in their naming - Three Men and a Baby, Aliens, (sigh), Snakes on a Plane, etc. - whereas others are a bit more cryptic or downright baffling when it comes to their titles.

With the latter type of movie, there is often a point in the film where the title, which was at first puzzling, is explained by the on-screen action or dialogue in such a way that a light bulb flicks on in the viewer’s head and the connection is made clear. There have been times in the cinema where such a moment has occured and I couldn’t help but feel an (albeit completely unspoken and silent) ‘Ah!’ ripple through the audience. I expect a few heads to turn and a few 'Eureka!'s to erupt but they never do.

As an example, imagine a completely hypothetical Gulf War II movie named Blueberry Pancakes. There is no initial forthcoming connection between the war in Iraq and blueberry pancakes but there might be a key scene in which a marine, who’s been instructed to torture an Iraqi prisoner in order to discover a rebel hideout, talks to his captive about his mom’s blueberry pancakes from back in Oklahoma and how he misses these pancakes so much and that the army issue pancakes are completely different. Pining for pancakes could be signs of regret at signing up or isolation in the desert or some other symbolic allusion. The fact that the jarhead decided not to torture Ali and instead talk to him about asinine subjects such as his mom’s pancakes could be seen as important commentary. This scene could be a major focal point or hinge for the plot, themes and/or messages of the movie and thus it might be seen as worthwhile to name the film ‘Blueberry Pancakes’ despite the fact that the audience will be wondering ‘what the hell?’.

What are the best examples of those moments where the title of a film is made clear? Bonus points if the title is only said once throughout the whole movie after an overwhelming build up of some sort.

To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s set up early, when Atticus is explaining to Jem that if he wants to shoot at birds, he should shoot at bluejays because they are pests to people. Mockingbirds only sing beautiful songs, so “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” It’s meaning for the title comes at the end of the novel when Scout argues against trying to make a hero of Boo Radley because it would be like killing a mockingbird.

Several Tennessee Williams plays that became movies:

A Streetcar Named Desire
The Fugitive Kind
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Glass Menagerie
Suddenly Last Summer

Somewhat subtle – not direct giveaways:

The Parallax View
The Pelican Brief
The Eiger Sanction
Dead Man Walking

The movie The Squid and the Whale is not about sea creatures. Its title comes from a diorama at the Museum of Natural History depicting a giant squid and a sperm whale, taken as a metaphor for the battling parents in an unhappy family.

The Silence of the Lambs – there’s no clue what that means (in the book or movie) until Clarice and Hannibal have that conversation, about the lambs screaming.

I don’t know whether anyone but me remembers The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. The title refers to a science fair experiment that is a metaphor for a young girl’s life in an abusive household.

All Quiet on the Western Front is an example of that. It depicts a group of German soldiers in WW1 who volunteered straight out of school. At first they are enthusiastic about the war but soon they recognize the real horror. At the end of the film, after the last soldier of the group has been killed, we are told that the Army’s report for the day contained only the line “All quiet on the western front.”

Yeah, this was pretty much the only real-life example I could think of as I composed the OP, although I purposefully omitted it so that somebody could suggest it. :wink:

I tend to think that the majority of films with a cryptic title earn a certain cachet. If Silence had been titled ‘Skinning Women for Fashion’ or similar then I believe it would have lost some intrigue and creative ‘smarts’. Come to think of it, The Silence of the Lambs is a pretty effin’ awesome title in that regard. It’s just so cool and utterly nonsensical at the same time. Perhaps it’s just the snob in me picturing the Joe Sixpacks and Jane Boxwines feeling lost because they expected the movie title to act as a complete synopsis…

<cletus>Hey Brandine, there ain’t no mute ovines in this here motion picture</cletus>

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. Named for the final line of the film, and the perfect name for it.

Not a movie, but Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” is a great example of the technique, once again taken from the final line.

A Clockwork Orange, OTOH, doesn’t have its meaning revealed at all, though it’s explained in the book.

As for books, Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park series of books all have titles that seem to alude to one thing, and end up aluding to something completlley different and usually more important towards the end of the book.

As for movies, the only thing I can think of is Iron Eagle, where the title doesn’t get aluded to in the movie itself until after Chappie is shot down and Doug plays the tape Chappie recorded for such a scenario.

Does Chasing Amy count? (It’s been too long since I’ve seen it)

Yeah, Amy doesn’t even get mentioned until towards the end of the movie, with Silent Bob’s monologue. After that, the title gets used for a comic book in the epilogue of the movie.

I saw this movie, and loved it (I’ve been keeping an eye on Noah Baumbach since Kicking and Screaming), and I didn’t get until just now that the squid and whale were metaphors for the kid’s parents.


What is mean’t by clockwork orange?

IIRC (It’s been a long time since I read it), it’s something that looks natural but is mechanical inside: the parallel is to Alex being “reformed” not due to any conscious decision on his part but due to the mechanicalistic conditioning he has undergone. It looks like he’s reformed, much like a mechanical orange might look like a real fruit, but it’s not a true change, which has to come from free will.

While watching TV, it occurs to me that “Remember the Titans” has a good title reveal in one of the later games, while the assistant coach is giving a speech to his defensive team, though in this case, he said that they would always remember the night they played the Titans.

According to the wikipedia entry:

But also notes:

There’s a bit more discussion in the “discussion” tab. Seems that no one is able to authenticate “Clockwork Orange” pre-Burgess.
wiki link.

I saw Rain Man at least twice before I picked up on the meaning.

For those that don’t know…
Early in the movie, Charlie Babbit remembers an “imaginary friend” he had called the Rain Man who used to sing to him.

In the middle of the film, Raymond starts singing Beatles songs, and Charlie works out what a baby talk for Raymond might be.

How did you miss this? Both Charlie and Raymond say it straight out.

The Postman Always Rings Twice. John Garfield’s character explains what this means at the very end of the movie.

Oddly, the 1980s remark left this part out, so people who hadn’t seen the earlier version (like my young self) had no clue what the title meant.