The Lifetime movie is a rare and beautiful art form. The same goes for the act of titling those movies. How do they manage to make the next title even more predictable than the last? And how do they continue to make me think, from week to week, that I’m about to watch a movie I’ve seen before? Obviously titles are very important to Lifetime, since they often show marathons of similarly titled movies. You’ve likely caught a marathon of nanny movies or nightmare movies or 17 movies at one point or another. The movies might not have anything to do with each other besides one word in their title, but they were made to be marathoned, damn it! In addition to that, the fact that I often can’t find the correct IMDb page for a new Lifetime movie because the title has gone through so many changes shows that it’s a decision that’s really worked over by the Lifetime crew.
There are a few patterns I’ve noticed over time regarding these titles. If you’re ever tasked with titling a Lifetime movie (for whatever reason, I don’t know your life) just stick to these six categories and you’ll have the perfect title in no time. Incidentally, putting the word “perfect” in your title will probably prove very helpful.
This is a classic technique. Lifetime L-O-V-E-S a colon, especially when it’s followed by a real person’s name. It has dramatic effect because you have to pause after the first part, and it tells you that the movie is based on (or at least “inspired by”) a true story. Sometimes they’ll mix things up and put the person’s name at the beginning instead of the end (see: Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret).
2. The “At 17″ Approach (Stalked at 17)
It’s pretty clear that everything bad happens when you’re 17. You just might not remember it. It also helps to put this number in the title of the movie so your viewers know what they’re getting into. You don’t want them thinking this is a movie about an 18-year-old or — God forbid — a 16-year-old, do you? I didn’t think so. See also Betrayed at 17, Fugitive at 17 and Accused at 17.
3. The “Limited Vocabulary” Approach (A Sister’s Revenge)
Sometimes Lifetime premieres a new movie and before it starts I go, “Wait, didn’t I just watch this a few weeks ago? That title sounds so familiar.” Then I realize it’s not the same movie and I go,”Okay, so Lifetime only has five words in their vocabulary. Got it.” Sometimes it really feels like the network puts a limited number of words into a hat and pulls three of them out. Why else would they have movies called A Mother’s Rage, A Mother’s Nightmare, A Sister’s Revenge, A Sister’s Nightmare, A Nanny’s Revenge, and The Nightmare Nanny, among other, similarly revengey/nightmarey/relativey/nannyish titles?
4. The “This Is Literally What The Movie’s About” Approach (An Amish Murder)
Sometimes you just gotta say exactly what the movie’s about right there in the title. You can probably guess that Baby Sellers is about people who sell babies, just like you can tell that Deadly Spa is probably about a spa trip that becomes deadly. I suspect they do this so that viewers get a break from the complex, richly layered and thought-provoking storytelling contained in the films themselves.
5. The “It’s Actually The Opposite” Approach (The Good Mother)
Sometimes Lifetime likes to throw us a curve ball and title a movie something that suggests it’s about one thing, but then we watch the movie and it’s shockingly about the opposite thing. Who’d have guessed that The Good Mother is actually about a bad mother? Or that The Perfect Husband (or The Perfect [Insert Anything Here]) isn’t actually about what it suggests? Tricksy Lifetime.
6. The “Alliterative Christmas Movie Title” Approach (The Christmas Consultant)
First of all, it’s very important in this case that you make it clear to your audience that they’re about to watch a Christmas movie. It’s more important than Santa bringing a husband to a single mom. It also really helps if you can work some alliteration in there. Holly’s Holiday, anyone?
Now you know how to create the perfect Lifetime movie title. What did you come up with? A Nanny’s Mother’s Revenge for Losing the Perfect Boyfriend in a Holiday Hullabaloo at 17: The Julia Roberts Story? You’re on the right track there. Keep at it.
(Lead Photo: Lifetime)