A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (somewhere near West Orange, New Jersey) movies were simple things; made silently, photographed and projected in black and white. With time, their production grew more sophisticated. And as the movies themselves got more intricate, so too did their marketing.

It wasn’t long into the history of movies that ads started carrying taglines; snappy ad copy designed to explain a movie’s premise at a glance and convince potential viewers to plunk down their hard-earned dollars for a ticket. Filmsite.org dates the practice all the way back to the silent era (“Love, Locomotives, and Laughs” read the tagline for Buster Keaton’s The General), but the practice as we know it really came of age in the late 1970s, as the blockbuster revolutionized Hollywood and ushered in a whole new era of movie advertising.

Today, the tagline is an essential part of every movie’s marketing campaign, plastered across billboards and posters worldwide and featured prominently in trailers and commercials. The best of them not only clarify a film’s subject, they become synonymous it; it’s hard to think of Jaws 2 without also thinking of its iconic tagline — “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...” In cases like that, the tagline is arguably superior to the film itself, and inarguably more famous.

In making this list, there was just one qualification: Every tagline had to actually appear on its movie’s poster. If we couldn’t find concrete evidence that the sentence actually showed up on the movie’s print marketing (and wasn’t just, say, spoken by Don LaFontaine in a commercial or something), then it wasn’t included. Otherwise, anything was fair game. In a world where clever lines (and lots of puns) sold films, one man with nothing to lose selected these as the best ever made.

The Best Movie Taglines in History

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