Made a new film? Want to make it sound thrilling, and for everyone to go and see it? Here’s why you should think very hard indeed before naming it after its male title character...
1. John Carter (Andrew Stanton, 2012)
How must the discussion for this one have gone...
"Hello sir. We've got this new film. It's an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Princess of Mars, an eye-popping interstellar space adventure unfolding on the planet of Barsoom that’s crawling with four-armed Green Martians led by their "Jeddak" chief Tars Tarkas. We’ve just no idea what to call it."
"Well, man, I'm not surprised! I mean, Princess of Mars? Insterstellar adventure? Four-armed Green Martians? Sounds tedious as hell."
"Erm, well, the hero's called John Carter, but..."
"JOHN! CARTER! Why didn't you tell me earlier, idiot? I've never heard anything as thrilling. Audiences will flock!"
Oh, but they didn’t.
2. Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, 2011)
Sometimes, you can't help feeling that a studio really throws in the towel with certain projects – certainly, Larry Crowne felt like the disastrously useless name for a disastrously useless rom-com, a case of all-round complete imagination failure, and a film that should have been strangled at birth. It cost an estimated $10 million, and made barely half that in the US – enough said.
3. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
OK, the fault here is partly Thackeray's, but at least he called his 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Admittedly, "Lyndon" does have a certain nobility – but why on earth shear off the first three words of the original title but keep "Barry", which has been proven under laboratory conditions to be one of the most comically bad names ever invented? Americans avoided it in droves.
4. Danny Collins (Dan Fogelman, 2015)
This film was based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston. Not, admittedly, a particularly amazing name, which makes the decision to give Al Pacino's ageing rocker instead the just-as-boring moniker Danny Collins a complete mystery. As for naming the film after it: must try harder!
5. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)
Murder, attempted murder, toxic corporate corruption at the highest level; noirish, sleeker-than-sleek direction from Tony Gilroy; George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson on career-best form. What two words encapsulate all-this-and-more than, err, the lead character’s name, Michael Clayton. Sounds like the fellow in Accounts that no one wants to share a lift with.
6. Jack Reacher (Christopher McQuarrie, 2012)
Lee Child's 2005 novel (one of several featuring the hard-as-nails retired US Army Major Jack Reacher) had the bluntly enticing title One Shot. So why did Christopher McQuarrie's 2012 adaptation instead name itself after the title character’s inestimably dull name, Jack Reacher? Perhaps as as a result of the same mysterious logic that saw the 5ft7in Tom Cruise drafted in to play the 6ft5in Reacher.
7. John Wick (Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, 2014)
Keanu Reeves as John Wick, a retired hitman on the rampage for the theft of his vintage car and the killing of the puppy that his late wife gave him. What else to call it but... John Wick! And the sequel, in which John Wick once again forces himself out of retirement to go on the rampage, this time to forestall a terrifying international assassins' plot, set largely in the uniquely historic atmospheric city of Rome... Hold on... what about... John Wick: Chapter 2? That thrilling name again! That teasing use of "chapter"! That never-before-seen use of the number 2! Still, at least this tediously titled pair of films avoided box-office ignimony, which is more than can be said for most of the other nine in this run-down.
8. Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
As a name for the title character, it does have a degree of gawd-blimey authenticity about it – but Daniel Barber and co really could have whipped up a more exciting title for the film. Michael Caine's superannuated chess-playing vigilante deserved more.
9. Simon Birch (Mark Steven Johnson, 1998)
Be honest – have you even heard of this one? A comedy drama, it was based on John Irving's far more appetisingly named A Prayer for Owen Meany, though apparently it was Irving who requested that the title be changed, as he doubted that his novel could survive being turned into a film. Indeed, Irving appears to have been right, but one suspects it may have been a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy: this tale of a dwarf who believes he was put on earth by God for some higher purpose bombed at the box-office, and its operatically forgettable name can hardly have helped.
10. Charlie Bartlett (Jon Poll, 2007)
"Fancy going out to see a film tonight, darling?"
"Super idea! What’s on?"
"Well, there's one called Charlie Bartlett."
"Hmm. Shall we dig out that frozen Tesco ready-meal after all?"
"Yes, dear. Seems best."