Here are some some examples (including a couple of my own) to help you see what works and what doesn't.
'SNAKES ON A PLANE'
Short and to the point, you know instantly you're getting an action movie set on a plane full of snakes. It practically sells itself. A marketing dream in fact. Bet they didn't have to spend much money at all on marketing the film. I remember the excitement over the title, the internet buzz and the word of mouth. It had an inbuilt audience even before the film had finished shooting. Snakes on a mother frickin plane!!!
'THE ROARING FORTIES'
The original title of a football sitcom about six men in their forties, written by Brendan O'Neill and myself. My agent hated the title, said it conjured images of a historical drama either set during or after WWII. She was right. Needless to say the title has now changed to something more suitably footbally.
'WHO KILLED NELSON NUTMEG?'
The brainchild of my friends Danny Stack and Tim Clague. 'Who Killed' instantly lets you know this is a mystery waiting to be solved and the name 'Nelson Nutmeg' can only mean one thing... comedy! As a low budget film it won't have much of a marketing budget, if at all, so the title is important in hooking the audience in from the get go.
'THE ENGLISHMAN WHO WENT UP A HILL BUT CAME DOWN A MOUNTAIN'
I tend to keep my titles short, one or two words if possible. Although this title tells you exactly what the film is about I do feel it's too long and might have put people off going to see it. Let's put it this way, if you're queueing at the cinema, with loads of people waiting impatiently behind you itching to get their ticket and popcorn, you don't really want to have to spout this mouthful when paying for your seat. What title do you think would have worked better?
Complicated or unusual titles can be confusing. Being a little dyslexic I hate having to ask for a ticket to see a film I have trouble pronouncing. Also you can never really be sure of what you're getting with a cryptic title. For those of you who haven't seen the film, what does this title conjure up for you? Those of you who have seen the film will know it's the name of the board game that sucks the players into a real-life jungle filled with dangers, from which they have to escape. For me it doesn't really say 'children's adventure film', because unless you know the title refers to a board game you might be left scratching your head wondering what the hell it's actually about. If you make your title ambiguous or cryptic you've already lost part of your potential audience. Don't make it difficult for them to choose your film.
This is the title for a thriller feature I was commissioned for, set in the world of African child soldiers. The title suggests innocence and its loss, friendship and bullying, joy and sorrow and all those emotions and challenges evoked when we remember our own childhood in school playgrounds.
So as you can see titles are very important. Some work. Some don't. So don't always go with your first choice, like your first draft of your screenplay play around with it, change it, think on it and make it better.