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8 of the best movie taglines and what they teach businesses

8 of the best movie taglines and what they teach businesses

Posted 05th March, 2020 by Sarah

7 minute read

From McDonald’s ‘I’m Lovin it’ to Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ – all the best brands have a tag line or two. They use these phrases and sentences to encompass what they can do for their customers, explain how they can make their clients feel, and let them know how they can improve their patrons’ lives.

But getting the perfect tagline isn’t easy. Especially for smaller lesser-known businesses.

While brands like Loreal and Tesco have the luxury of being more conceptual with their taglines, small businesses need phrases that also hint at the nature of a company and what it sells.

What would a tagline like ‘I’m Lovin It’ do for a local plumbing company for example? Nada.

While inspiration for taglines can be taken from the big brands themselves, further genius can be found in the taglines of movies.

Like a perfect business tagline, a great movie tagline can encourage customers to part with their money.

So, here’s our countdown of the movie taglines that have survived the test of time and entered common parlance, helping to elevate their brands, and a few thoughts on what businesses can learn from them.

8. Clerks
Movie Taglines Clerks

Tagline: Just because they serve you doesn't mean they like you

Taken from Clerks (1994), this tagline perfectly sums-up the film’s punk attitude. These minimum-wage workers might have nothing, but they’ve got attitude. Writer/director Kevin Smith was talking to people like him, young and restless, with nothing to lose. As such, this tagline still appeals to people like that, today, more than 25 years later.

A line like this, confident and self-aware, is the perfect way for a product to tell its customers that it understands them and, therefore, has something for them. “Shut up,” an entire generation replies, “and take my money.”

7. The Ritual

Tagline: They should have gone to Vegas

Taken from the 2017 horror movie, The Ritual, about a group of friends lost in the Scandinavian wilderness, this short, punchy tagline works because the audience for horror films is very astute. They will immediately understand why the characters would have been better off in Vegas.

The film also has a very-British vein of sarcastic humour running through it, featuring, as it does, four friends who have known each other forever, and tease each other mercilessly. The tagline evokes this dry sense of humour.

If you’re creating a product for a savvy audience, your tagline needs to be equally savvy. You must understand what your customer understands and cater to them in an appropriate way. Don’t patronise them, intelligent people don’t respond well to being patronised by a product tagline.

6. Apollo 13
Movie Taglines Apollo 13

Tagline: Houston, we have a problem

Just five words. A great example of keeping it short and to the point. This is from the 1995 film, Apollo 13. Yes, it’s a direct quote from the real Jim Lovell, during the real Apollo 13 incident but, unless you’re a student of NASA history, you’re unlikely to have known that, going in.

Although you could argue that Ed Harris’ line “failure is not an option” has also dug its way into the minds of an entire generation, “Houston, we have a problem” was the line from the marketing that has proven most versatile, because it’s a line that people can apply to any situation that gets out of hand.

In that way, this very specific line has found a very universal application.

A great business tagline can find something specific that customers relate to and can apply to their own lives.

5. Superman

Tagline: You'll believe a man can fly

When Superman took to the skies, in 1978, an entire generation of cinema-goers had never seen anything like it. Special effects technology was advancing in leaps and bounds, in the late 70s, and the makers of Superman had developed a novel method of creating the illusion of flight – elements of which are still employed even now.

That was their big selling point for the movie and this tagline lays that out in a short, no-nonsense manner.

If your business can create products that look magical then your tagline needs to reinforce that illusion. Be aware, though, if you’re creating a sense of awe and amazement, you’d best be able to deliver. In these days of online reviews and comments, an unhappy customer will waste no time in telling the world of their disappointment.

So, don’t over-promise and under-deliver. As it was, Superman’s special effects were, for the time, astounding.

4. Alien
Movie Taglines Alien

Tagline: In space, no-one can hear you scream

The tagline from Alien (1979) is one of those which has given itself over to infinite parodies. This tagline works – even when combined with a poster which inexplicably shows an egg floating over a waffle – because it immediately tells you that the film is set in space and something is going to make you scream. Thanks to Star Wars, science fiction was everyone’s new favourite genre and, thanks to The Exorcist, everyone loved a good horror film.

A tagline which works like a game of Blankety-Blank will always have a life of its own: In space, no-one can hear you … blank. If you want your tagline to go viral and be parodied, this is a good way to go.

But, that might not be appropriate for the dignity of your business, in which case, you might want to think carefully about what people will do with your tagline, once it’s out there. It only takes a matter of minutes for a well-meaning piece of copy to become a hashtag or a meme.

3. Jaws 2

Tagline: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

While Jaws is a timeless classic movie, it’s the sequels which have given us the great movie taglines. Memorably, one of the worst films ever made gave us one of the best taglines with: “This time it’s personal” from Jaws 4: the Revenge. While Jaws 2’s line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” is a brilliant throwback to the previous film and to the massive social impact Jaws had on people’s holiday behaviour.

A great tagline can relate to a customer’s life, it can evoke memories and bring back emotions, just like this.

2. The Fly

Tagline: Be afraid, be very afraid

While Jurassic Park may have elevated Jeff Goldblum to the level of a legend, it was 1986’s The Fly that first made him a bona fide movie star. And that poster tagline has gone on to have a life of its own.

Many people who say the line “be afraid, be very afraid” nowadays, probably don’t even know where it comes from. But, back in the 80s, they certainly did.

The tagline works because it’s short and it repeats the word ‘afraid’ for additional emphasis. That repetition also means that the tagline rhymes, which means it’s easy and satisfying to say out loud. And that is why people still enjoy saying it, 34 years later.

Try this test with your tagline – does it sound good said out loud? If you stumble over the sentence structure or the shape of any of the words, your customers will too.

1. Star Wars
Movie Taglines Star Wars

Tagline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

This had to be number one. This phrase evokes so many memories for several generations of film-goers; it simply has to be recognised as the most impactful movie poster tagline of all.

It works because it evokes the sense of other-worldly fantasy of the Star Wars films. What elevates it, of course, is that simple repetition of ‘far’. That double far reminds us of fairy tales we were told as infants, which is exactly the impression writer/director George Lucas wanted to create.

This is tagline as poetry.

Nostalgia and storytelling are two major concerns at the core of marketing in the 21st century, and this tagline channels both.

So, if your tagline can evoke the tingle of nostalgia in your customers, you’ll be plugged right into their emotions and, hopefully, their wallets.

Tag(line), you’re it

So, have we missed your favourite tagline? Come find us on Facebook or twitter and tell us the timeless tags we totally forgotten. And, since taglines are part of branding, it doesn’t even have to be a movie poster tagline – any great tagline from advertising is something we can admire and learn from.


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