An effective tagline can be the most important part of a marketing campaign, a concise abstract of the film’s plot and tone, the “I Like Ike” of a moviegoers’ most anticipated short list. Most are not.

Most movie taglines fall somewhere between mediocre and passable. Far too many read like an afterthought to a trailer, or a few extra words for some poor graphic designer to squeeze onto a poster somewhere.

It’s not just the lousy movies either, though they are often the most egregious. Sometimes bad taglines happen to good movies, as with last year’s 50/50 (“It takes a pair to beat the odds”). For that reason, many award-caliber movies steer clear by eschewing taglines altogether—too risky. Rather they’ll string together a wall of praise from noteworthy critics, or stamp “A Steven Spielberg Film” on it and post a really big picture of Daniel Day-Lewis‘ head in greyscale.

Probably the most vital tagline to a movie release this year was The Bourne Legacy‘s ubiquitous “There was never just one,” and that wasn’t even especially inspired. It got its point across, though, even if that meant alienating some fans of the previous films.

For your amusement I have compiled here the Ten Worst Taglines of 2012. They are the most unimaginative, the clumsiest, most nonsensical and least effective of the lot. This list is entirely subjective; we have not as yet perfected a primary metric for stupid. Thus a few truly awful ones narrowly escaped this list either for being just close enough to the spirit of their movie to counteract their inherent awfulness (i.e. Pitch Perfect: “Get pitch slapped”) or so inconsequential as to be nigh invisible (i.e. The Expendables 2: “Back for war”).

Perhaps someday we’ll follow up with a list of the year’s Ten Best Taglines, but alas, it’s an accomplishment just to name five…



10. Total Recall

Is it real Is it recall

Let’s take a moment to appreciate punctuation by giving glance to this awkward tag. Is it exclamatory? Is it interrogative! And how!

While the movie-makers ostensibly wished their viewers to question reality, viewers instead merely questioned were they to question. Meanwhile typography nerds quietly debated amongst themselves just how many standard spaces one might require to intone the same effect as an em dash.



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