Do We Really Need Another American Movie Title?

Yet another film will soon be released with the adjective “American” in its title.  I not only fail to understand this tendency among our storytellers, I am bothered by it.  It’s such a typically “American” way of thinking.



The film is called “American Sniper,” but the film itself is not the point. I haven’t seen it – it’s not out yet.  Maybe the filmmakers have a really fantastic reason for including the adjective “American” in the title. The question is this: Why do so many filmmakers do this?

American Hustle. American Beauty.  American Pie.  American Gigolo.  American Movie.  Wet Hot American Summer.  American Me.  American Ninja.  American Psycho.  American Anthem.  The American President.  American History X. American Graffiti. America’s Sweethearts.  These are only some of the most popular American Titles.  The full list runs into the hundreds, at the very least. Again…why?

The world’s leading film-producing country is India.  How many Indian films do you think contain the adjective “Indian” in their title?  And as arrogant as we tend to think the French are, how many French film titles do you think contain the adjective “French?”  I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but I’d bet America leads the world in self-referencing.  (I would like to be wrong, so if I am, please, let me know. But I’m sure I’m not wrong.)

Maybe it’s marketing.  Maybe filmmakers think that Americans are simply starving for movies that are about America, and that such an up-front statement about the focus of their films is more likely to “put butts in seats,” as they say in the film industry.  Is this true for you?  Personally, although I’m American, I don’t think I’m more likely to see a film simply because the word “American” is in the title.

Maybe it’s marketing, but not marketing targeted at us Americans. Maybe filmmakers think that the movie-watching world outside of the United States is starving for movies that are about America, and that such up-front statements about the focus of their films are more likely to putt the butts of foreign audiences in seats. I have no idea.  What do you think?

Maybe the reason filmmakers like to use the word “American” in their titles is that, like much of America itself, they are America-centered.  Things that happen outside The American Island don’t really matter to the majority of Americans unless they affect The American People or The American Economy. We still think of The American President as the Leader of the Free World (we are wrong about this). We think that the Best American Football Team is The World Champion (we’re wrong about this too – no other countries play our version of “football”). It’s always An American Baseball Team that wins The World Series. American Songs have lines like “I’m proud to be an American / where at least I know I’m free” (as if there were no other “free” countries on the planet). Even the television show which originated in England and which so many countries have copied and called something along the lines of “Idol,” is, in America, called “American Idol.”

This is an awfully arrogant way of thinking.  Sometimes we do need to specify that we’re talking about “An American in Paris,” or “An American Werewolf in London,” but for the most part, I think we could do without The American Adjective.

24 thoughts on “Do We Really Need Another American Movie Title?

  1. Maybe it’s a holdover from the “America love it or leave it” era. Or USA! USA! or the We’re number one mentality. Or maybe the next movie title with America in it will be The Decline and Fall of America.


  2. (From the porch, she calls.)

    Don’t stray from the yard, Timmy.

    I won’t, mom.

    I mean it! You and Joe stay in the yard. You hear me Joe?

    I know.

    I hear you ma’am.

    If you go in the street again I’m going to bring you right back inside to spank you. Do you understand?

    YES. Gosh.

    Don’t back-talk me.

    Mom, I’m playing in the yard. Ok?



    Ok. I’ll be right inside.


    Ok. Stay in the yard.


    Alright. I’m going inside now.


    (She goes in.)

    Finally. My mom is such a bitch sometimes.

    Yeah. She’s really kind of ridiculous.

    Yeah. She’s a lot of things.


  3. There is a pretty good country song from Tom T Hall, a curmudgeon, called America The Ugly Today. Old Tom nailed it. I think the music is as bad as the movies for the jingoistic reflex waving of the flag crap, but I still like you all. Libby Roderick also has a good America, America tune. Then there is always Kate Smith at the Flyer’s games. Well said, Walt.


    • Thank you for liking us in spite of us. I will have to check out some of those folks you mentioned. There is the blind jingoism you mentioned. With these titles I just don’t see the point of the adjective. What about this horror story necessitates the word American? I don’t get it.


      • So I found the Tom T. Hall song. Never heard of that one, liked it quite a bit. I found some stuff on Libby Roderick but not anything that tied in with this. But I didn’t dig too incredibly deep, though. But I did find the Kate Smith performance at the Flyers game. I don’t know Hockey. I guess that’s the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. That was a rather cheesy yet innocent and relatively unassuming performance. Which I guess was your point? Wouldn’t you fault her for that dress, though? That dress was a bit of a crime, don’t you think?


  4. Kate in that dress is the teams lucky charm. Glad you checked out Tom T- an oddly brilliant man, Where I grew up, small Island town, in the sixties, we were taught all Americans were war mongers or lost tourists looking for the liquor store, never mind the “Hippies” I greatly admired. I got to know you guys when I went travelling, especially liked people from the south. Need to do more thinking on the movies…


    • If you were taught that all Americans were war mongers or lost tourists looking for the liquor store, I don’t think you were misled too much – that’s been my experience as well, although you could just as easily substitute hot dog stands for liquor stores. That ought to be embarrassing for us when we find ourselves in countries that don’t have hot dog stands, but it’s more likely to piss us off, which ought to be all the more embarrassing, and too often isn’t.


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