How Is a Movie Tag Effective?

by Brenton Shields
A tag line for this 1980s film can be seen near the top of the poster.

A tag line for this 1980s film can be seen near the top of the poster.

John W. Ferguson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Movie tags, or tag lines, are short phrases used to "hook" a potential viewer. They may include a short preview of the plot or a phrase that somehow relates to it. For example, the tag of an alien invasion movie may be, "We thought we were alone. We were wrong." Movie tags are used for drawing the interests of viewers and are typically effective at generating hype and eventually ticket sales.


The tag line is often the first step in the marketing process for a feature film. Tag lines are designed to create buzz and sell a movie to a potential audience. Multiple tag lines may be used for a movie, each appearing on a different piece of advertising medium. Tag lines do not always describe the plot, but may simply invoke the atmosphere the movie promotes. For example, one tag line for 2008's "The Dark Knight" was "Welcome to a World Without Rules," which captures the film's antagonistic Joker's primary goal.

Difference from Synopsis

Tag lines and synopses are not interchangeable. Tag lines are usually one or two small sentences that act as a preview of what's to be expected in the film. Plot synopses are often at least a paragraph, if not more, and describe the movie's events in some detail. Synopses may be found on the back of DVD or Blu-Ray covers for particular movies to provide potential customers a taste of what they're purchasing, while tag lines are typically found on the front.


Tag lines are found on virtually every piece of marketing medium for a particular film. They can be found on billboards, posters, in trailers and even heard on radio advertisements. They may be found on the DVD or Blu-Ray covers when the films are released on home media.

Famous Tag Lines

Some tag lines have become as big a part of a film's legacy as the film itself. The TaglineGuro website named "In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream" as the number one American film tag line. The tag line was attached to the film "Alien" in 1979. Other famous tag lines include "The Dream is Real" ("Inception," 2010), "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water" ("Jaws 2," 1978) and "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" ("Star Wars," 1977).

Photo Credits

  • John W. Ferguson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images