Writing Wrongs: 10 Movie Titles with Bad Grammar

A list of films that could have used a different kind of editor

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For all the considerable resources that go into marketing Hollywood movies, it would seem that scant attention is paid to checking the grammar and punctuation of film titles. Case in point, the new Star Trek, whose title omits a punctuation mark that not-so-subtly changes the meaning of the words. TIME copy chief Danial Adkison and copy editor Douglas Watson offer their professional judgment on some other suspect movie titles.



Image: Star Trek Poster

Paramount Pictures

Star Trek Into Darkness

“The movie in which a celebrity goes on a long hike in the middle of the night.”

Suggested fix: A colon

Star Trek: Into Darkness



Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

“Is it really O.K. to ask a question and not put a question mark at the end.”

Suggested fix: A question mark

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?



Law Abiding Citizen

Overture Films

Law Abiding Citizen

“Some citizens the law can abide; others it cannot stand.”

Suggested fix: A hyphen

LawAbiding Citizen




Honey I Shrunk The Kids

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

“This is not the movie you thunk it was.”

Suggested fix: Remember past participles?

Honey, I’ve Shrunk the Kids



Two Weeks NoticeWarner Bros.

Two Weeks Notice

Two weeks notice what? Can a week (or two) really notice anything?”

Suggested fix: An apostrophe

Two Weeks Notice



The 40 Year Old Virgin

Universal Pictures

The 40 Year-Old Virgin

“At first glance an “s” appears to be missing: The 40 Year-Old Virgins. But that can’t be. Who would make a movie about 1-year-olds? And in what kind of world would it need to be specified that these 1-year-olds are virgins?!”

Suggested fix: A hyphen

The 40Year-Old Virgin



The Ladies Man

Paramount Pictures

The Ladies Man

“The apostrophe is needed to make clear that although this man may think he possesses the ladies, in fact they possess him.”

Suggested fix: An apostrophe

The LadiesMan



An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn

Hollywood Pictures

An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn

“Sometimes it really helps to use punctuation otherwise no one can tell where one thought ends and the next one begins it’s such a nice day today I think I’ll go read a modernist novel or something oh look there goes a seagull.”

Suggested fix: A colon and some commas

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn



My Big Fat Greek Wedding

IFC Films

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

“Without the comma, we can’t tell if it’s a wedding that’s larger than life or a ceremony of Hellenic sumo wrestlers.”

Suggested fix: A comma

My Big, Fat Greek Wedding



Eight Legged Freaks

Warner Bros.

Eight Legged Freaks

“A movie about eight freaks who have legs? Is that what makes them freaks? Don’t a lot of people have legs?”

Suggested fix: A hyphen

EightLegged Freaks

83 comments
whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

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whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

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whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

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whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

How about "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (why the comma between "stupid" and "love"?) and  "Gone Baby Gone"? Dennis Lehane's novel was originally published as "Gone, Baby, Gone," but apparently the makers or the distributors of the movie judged that the American public would be put off by correct punctuation. I was disappointed to find that the novel was republished after the release of the movie with the commas removed from the title. http://kostumku.co.id

whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

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whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

It's my understanding that Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn't have a question mark because the producers noticed that movies with question marks gross less.  Yes, it's stupid, I know.http://freemovie4k.com

whitehatseo1
whitehatseo1

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baldowl
baldowl

"The 40 Year Old Virgin" doesn't require any hyphens, because 40 year old is employed as an adjective.  The only time you would hyphenate that phrase is when it's being used as a noun:  "The 40-Year-Old."

BoyHunted
BoyHunted

If more people that write articles really concerned themselves with writing great content like you, 

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BoyHunted
BoyHunted

While there's not much right with the movie, there's nothing wrong with the title of the Ladies Man. There's nothing possessive about it:

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grammargirl
grammargirl

Shouldn't "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" be either "Honey, I've Shrunk the kids" OR "Honey, I Shrank the Kids?" (Sorry, not sure where my question mark should go here. 


Also, shouldn't the new movie titled "Her" be called "She?"  Isn't the word "her" used only for possession, whereas "She" would be best used when referring to a person?



emeraldridao
emeraldridao

Isn't "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" missing another comma because Greek is an adjective, too? Title case aside– like if I were just talking about a wedding I happened to have– the sentence ought to say "my big, fat, Greek Wedding."

EamonToPlease
EamonToPlease

@emeraldridaoThe adjectives in the title My Big Fat Greek Wedding are cumulative (e.g., "a witty old Irish guy")not coordinate (e.g., "a munificent, charming, sophisticated woman")and in the right order, so the title is correct and the article wrong.

kenneybroadway
kenneybroadway

While we're nitpicking, technically the movie DRIVE ANGRY should be DRIVE ANGRILY.  

DennisMcHenry
DennisMcHenry

While there's not much right with the movie, there's nothing wrong with the title of the Ladies Man. There's nothing possessive about it: "ladies" is attributive, like "family" in the phrase "family man."

TomLShanahan
TomLShanahan

I've only lived in the upper Midwest for a few years but I commonly hear the incorrect "seen" instead of the correct "saw". Ex: "I seen him at the store yesterday."

KSParthasarathy
KSParthasarathy

It is very pleasing to realize that in the sick hurry and excitement of the digital world, some grammarians do exist and show the merits of their deft strokes, be it errors of punctuation or grammar. Very thoughtful examples. Comments reinforce the need for care in wordcraft.

damend
damend

if you want to be fussy, all the errors cited are punctuation errors, which technically are errors of usage, not grammar. 

joestuffsda
joestuffsda

Even the Bible has such a typo with a misplaced comma that has people thinking their loved ones are already in Heaven. Luke 23:43 says “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

The translators put the comma the wrong place as it should read: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”

He told Mary Sunday morning not to touch him as he hadn’t gone there yet. In John 20:17 it reads “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father”

jeffricks
jeffricks

The title that has always driven me crazy is "Can't Hardly Wait."

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Punctuation is important. Consider: "Women are pretty, generally speaking." vs. "Women are pretty generally speaking." Or the gay guy who wrote that he'd love to join you but didn't want to leave his friend's behind? Sometimes it's gender-specific, too. For example, punctuate this sentence: "Woman without her man is nothing" - Males: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.” - Females: “Woman: without her, man is nothing.”

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

How about "Honey, I SHRANK the Kids"? Whatever became of shrank, sank, slank, stank, etc. — all perfectly good past tenses that seem to have been replaced by their past participles, for no discernible reason?

hathaway47
hathaway47

"The Kids Are Alright."  It's officially "The Kids Are All Right" but I saw it misspelled alot.  Heh heh.  A lot.

frankbritton246
frankbritton246

Maybe "Star Trek Into Darkness" was intentional, just like one of the best movie titles ever, "Die Hard With A Vengeance".....

Rhomega
Rhomega

It's my understanding that Who Framed Roger Rabbit doesn't have a question mark because the producers noticed that movies with question marks gross less.  Yes, it's stupid, I know.

buckybone
buckybone

Pursuit of Happyness? Anybody?

milesrind
milesrind

How about "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (why the comma between "stupid" and "love"?) and  "Gone Baby Gone"? Dennis Lehane's novel was originally published as "Gone, Baby, Gone," but apparently the makers or the distributors of the movie judged that the American public would be put off by correct punctuation. I was disappointed to find that the novel was republished after the release of the movie with the commas removed from the title.

lukobe
lukobe

Only one of these actually has to do with grammar. The rest, punctuation.