Big hair, big shoulders, and big movies — that’s the big eighties for you. To nobody’s surprise, those movies came with taglines that would make any copywriter proud. How much do you wish you’d come up with a gem like “Sleep all day. Party all night. It’s fun to be a vampire” (The Lost Boys)? And that’s not even one of the ten best. So crank up Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (a.k.a. the great song from The Breakfast Club) and take a walk down memory lane. And since this list isn’t big enough to include all the great taglines of that larger-than-life decade, feel free to post your own favorites in the comments section.
10. “Every dream has its price.” – Wall Street
Short, sharp, and to the point, the tagline for Oliver Stone’s ode to the pleasures and perils of high-stakes finance is a minor miracle of economy, a twentieth-century riff on St. Teresa of Ávila’s pious warning that you should be careful what you wish for. The knowing nod to the allure of big bucks, inherent in the word “price,” is the clincher. The tagline is good enough to crack the top ten but can’t climb any higher because nobody will ever associate any phrase with Wall Street other than, “Greed is good.” And that’s a shame because the tag is pretty good in its own right.
9. “Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him.” – Silent Rage
You can insert a “Chuck Norris is so tough” joke here and then consider that almost 30 years ago Norris was already badass enough to get his name in the tagline, though apparently not tough enough to destroy the New York Times critic who called him “white-bread Bruce Lee” in a review of Silent Rage. Forget the reviews: the tag lives on as perhaps the first written acknowledgment of just how tough Norris is, presaging the Internet meme by decades and sliding into the top ten.
8. “The first casualty of war is innocence” – Platoon
Oliver Stone is nothing if not in your face, and even the tagline gets his message across, in this case through a variation on an oft-paraphrased eighteenth-century aphorism: war’s first victim is truth. The tag works on two levels: giving fair warning that you’re in for a grim slog through Vietnam, while simultaneously signaling that the movie is too smart to take anything at face value. That’s a lot of nuance to pack into seven words, which ensures this portentous gem a place in the tagline Hall of Fame.
7. “Crime is the disease. Meet the cure.” – Cobra
Admit it: you thought this was just a joke people make. But no: that’s the tagline for Sylvester Stallone’s cop flick, an action movie so cheesy it achieves a kind of greatness. Stallone plays a cop so butch he pursue thugs, bikers, robot babe Brigitte Nielsen, and a pack of serial killers in jeans so tight that it’s hard to believe he can walk. Oh, and his name is Marion. That’s one macho, macho man. The tagline doesn’t really say anything per se, and yet it says everything you need to know.
6. “Man is the warmest place to hide.” – The Thing
Ew. That just sounds nasty. Which is, of course, the genius of the tagline for John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing From Another World. It’s deliberately vague, scrubbed free of concrete detail but suffused with a sense of palpable dread. You can’t read that line and not wonder just what you’re in for, which is a perfect fit for the flick’s mysterious plot. If a tagline is supposed to make you want to see the movie and find out what it’s all about, then here’s one that hits the mark dead on.
5. “He loved the American Dream. With a vengeance.” – Scarface
This tagline, by contrast, says everything about Scarface. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana, a piece of human refuse washed up on the Miami shore, does love the American Dream: the one where you make money illegally, buy the best — including an icy gringa girlfriend (Michelle Pfeiffer) so hot she could bring on global warming — then blow it all (excuse the pun) by getting high on your own coke supply. That being the “With a vengeance” part.
4. “Who you gonna call?” – Ghost Busters
Who? Ghost Busters! You don’t even have to have seen Ivan Reitman’s horror-comedy to answer the question, which draws from Ray Parker Jr.’s insanely catchy title song (a hit that nabbed a Best Song Oscar nomination). The song drove that tagline home — and vice versa — and it’s still lurking in the shadows, waiting for the opportunity to get stuck in your head and make you want to watch Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and company save New York one more time.
3. “There can be only one.” – Highlander
Sorry, Buffy buffs, but Highlander said it first. And while snotty nerds have been mocking this time-tripping fantasy since it opened, Highlander‘s aspirations to epic grandeur are exactly what the tagline promises and exactly what the movie delivers on. If imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, then consider Highlander‘s tagline flattered: sci-fi fellow traveler Buffy stole it, as did the totally unrelated America’s Next Top Model.
2. “They’re heeere.” – Poltergeist
No matter how badly you want to smack the next person who smugly trills “They’re heeere” in response to anything, this tagline — a direct quotation from Poltergeist‘s adorable Carol Anne Freeling, the towheaded cutie who channels ghosts through the TV — is pure perfection. Who’s here? Where are they? What do they want? Everyone wanted to know, and that curiosity helped turn Poltergeist into a megahit.
1. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” – The Fly
Another tagline culled from the movie’s dialogue and operating as a perfectly pitched teaser that helped The Fly attract an audience beyond gore hounds and fans of David Cronenberg’s disquieting brand of horror. But even more than Poltergeist‘s tagline, The Fly‘s has expanded, mutated, and dug itself so deep into the pop-culture unconscious that it has a life all its own. Put all the ironic spin on it you want, but “Be afraid…” retains the same icy hint of foreboding no matter how lame the delivery.