Film Naming: Book Titles and Film Titles

Cover Page


The studies of a film text as a polycoded textual phenomena involve the studies of its integral components, such as film story and screenplay, reflecting storyline or plot of a literary text that serves as a precedential text to filming and as an immediate constituent of a film itself. Film title combines the features of a book or story title and functions as a precedential phenomenon as well, but is an integral part of the process of film promotion and release, and in cinematographic sphere it’s of crucial importance. In fact, the original book or story titles used to change especially with time and audience involved, when filming remaking changes to TV series and miniseries, or films are followed by sequels and prequels so that not to make something like Jaws 3 or Indiana Jones 5 . Anyhow, most of film titles fully repeat or at least conserve the title of a literary text, still it’s often amplified to make difference or to emphasize the idea that the screenplay is a new one just the story to be continued, e.g., Jaws-3D: The Revenge. Not very often the changes are marked graphically as of Romeo + Juliet or Romeo & Julie t, so that to hint a new turnoff the plot to the audience. It’s obvious that film titles often use names of main characters either for series or episode titles or to form a film franchise like that of Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones ones. As people started to use different IT gadgets they used to read books less and less, and film stories tend to make a new book form when a book is no longer a precedent to a film. Thus the cycle of “book title → film title” was completed by a part of “film title → book title (or book itself” to reflect the reverse trend, which is known worldwide.

Full Text

Literary text has got a few features typical for any text cohesiveness and cohesion and cohesiveness, and specifically, it used to translate imagery which is a distinctive feature of any work of belles-lettres, or other arts. It’s obvious such texts use language as the principle means to make up a narrative and render author’s ideas involving specific linguistic imagery means like figures of speech or tropes [1]. Sometimes a literary text is accompanied by illustration, but they follow the text itself and are designed mainly to reflect text’s content or its characters. Anyhow, the texts used to stay as a monocoded creative work as the only code applied is the linguistic code. As for the composition, it often depends on historic tradition which is implied in the notion of literary mode - epos, drama, lyrics, or genre, e.g. a novel, novella, short story, fable, poem, etc. Still, each literary work has to be titled, and the title itself plays a special role of a precedential text [2; 3; 4], firstly, due to the fact that it starts the text or is on the cover of a book thus making a book title. Literary critics and readers might perceive a title as a guideline to a storyline or when it mentions a personal name be a story of a character of a book, but after reading the text one can understand the purpose of its title as the latter is approved by the whole story or content of a literary text. Every now and then we come across the situation to watch a film titled after a literary work and being actually its screen version. And thus comparing the function of a book storyline and a film title one has to admit the fact: a book title stays as a film title just copying the former one or changes, but film story or film text always undergo changes [5; 6]. The means to create a film are not confined to verbal means, there is a picture or video sequence introducing some other means of perception and translating linguistic means in non-verbal pictures and motion: you don’t need any more verbal descriptions of face features or clothes of a character, or the place of action, or weather conditions, etc. - you simply give a picture in shape, colour and dynamics when necessary. Of course, characters are talking, sometimes there is a monologue text behind the picture read by an actor, or captions printed at the bottom of a spot or close-up. The combination of linguistic verbal code and non-verbal visual code help define a film text as a polycoded artistic work, in other words - a hybrid text combining elements of various codes, exposed in a film text, which by all means preserves common textual features of cohesion and cohesiveness. As to film titles, they fulfil the function similar to book titles as they introduce film story sometimes through a tagline, and could be denoted as a kind of precedent texts as well [7; 8; 9]. The variations of film titles to screen versions of literary texts make up a certain scale of similarity, starting with copying a book title and up to changing it partially or completely. This is the main idea to denote the object of our study as to observe a correlation of book titles and film titles while the subject of it is to develop the motives of whatever changes and elaborate a scale of correlation of book title and film titles, when films were done after literary texts. The first group reflects the situation of complete matching. As of examples, we’d use some of well-known books and their filming.[7] Let’s get down to the example of “War and Peace”, the epic novel by L. Tolstoy which has undergone a few screen versions.[8] To speak about chronology of screen versions one has to start with the year of 1915, when the film was released in Russia. Based on the novel by L. Tolstoy, it was written and directed by V. Gardin, and a black and white silent film was supported by intertitles in Russian. It’s a kind of digest or synopsis of Tolstoy’s novel under the War and Peace title. The next one - American-Italian drama “War and Peace” (directed by King Vidor) was produced in 1956 and released by Paramount Pictures, US (producers: Dino de Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti), in the USA and Italy the same year. English, Italian and Russian are the languages of the film. To compare with the original novel, the content and the plot of which is highly abridged to the duration of 208 minutes, and the film storyline is mainly focused on Natasha, Pierre and Andrei relationship and maturing. Nevertheless, film title itself preserves the book title. The 1972 British “War and Peace” adaptation is a TV dramatization of L. Tolstoy’s novel, a series of 20 episodes. The 15-hour-long historic period drama was created by D. Conroy, written by J. Pulman and directed by J. Davis. The episodes follow in the order similar to the events of the novel and are named like those: Name Day; Sounds of War; Skirmish at Shöngraben; Austerlitz; Borodino; Moscow; Of Life and Death; The Retreat; The Road to Life and The Epilogue. It was highly appraised by critics and TV audience [10]. Co-production of Russia, France, Germany and Poland the 2007 “War and Peace” version (directed by R. Dornhelm, screenplay written by L. Favella, E. Medioli and G. Scott; produced by Italian Lux Vide) is a TV miniseries which contains four parts similar to the Tolstoy’s novel and involves the actors of different nationalities. It won Moscow Film Festival and Oscar awards. In between the TV series mentioned above, the 1965-1967 “War and Peace”, series was released. (produced by Mosfilm (USSR), directed by S. Bondarchuk, written by S. Bondarchuk and S. Siolovyev); it has got four parts (as of the L. Tolstoy’s novel) and runs for 431 minutes. The parts (episodes) are named as follows: Andrey Bolkonsky; Natasha Rostova; The Year of 1812 and Pierre Bezukhov [11; 12]. Actually it’s not series but four parts of the film titles with the names of the three main characters of three parts and the most significant historic event - the 1812 patriotic war against Napoleon. Once again, one has to admit the film reflects the storyline through its main characters. In the film numerous novel characters are introduced as the environmental or supporting ones highlighting the general narrative. Soviet film “War and Peace” was the first Soviet picture to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and at that time, it was the longest film ever to receive an Academy Award. The film literally transfers the Tolstoy’s novel eliminating some minor details of the plot. The 2016 “War and Peace” TV series (directed by T. Harper, written by A. Davis, produced by J. Stannard, BBC Worldwide and The Weinstein Company) is quite a masterpiece of our time as it involves best and most popular modern actors - Paul Dano, James Norton, Brian Cox, Lily James, Rebecca Front and the others. Six episodes, running time of each 60 to 82 minutes make a deep impression on viewers and critics. The series was filmed in Russia, Latvia and Lithuania. Episodes are just numbered as Episode 1 - to Episode 6, and each is accompanied by a synopsis of the plot of the novel. In fact, decision of producers and the film team seems rather neutral and balanced so that the series should exclude any comparison with previous screen versions of the novel by L. Tolstoy. To finalize the review one has to admit that the screen versions were adapted according to the Tolstoy’s novel, but transforming from film series format to TV series conserving the original title of the novel, while partially introducing the titles of episodes combining storyline and idea of both Russian and foreign filming. Another example of similar filming approach deals with Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina” (1878) as the title introduces the main character. The author himself called the story ‘the first true novel” [13. P. 137] Firstly, the book was released in serial instalments published in periodicals through 1873 to 1877. The screen versions have a long history starting from the 1911Russian adaptation directed by Maurice André Maître up to the first decades of the 21st century. It used to keep the book title, although some films have got another title, e.g.: Love (1927, US, director E. Goulding)’ Nahr-al-Hob (River of Love) (1960, Egypt, director Ezzel Dine Zulfikar) and The Beautiful Lie miniseries (2015, Australia, director G. Ivin). Still one of the latest films “Anna Karenina (2012, US, director J. Wright) and the ballets keep the original book title. Once again, the production developed from silent black and white films towards sound and coloured films, from full scales films, a few having two parts, to TV series and miniseries (up to 15 minutes). The trends reflect the mainstream of video production and release. The main Russian film adaptations [14] are called “Anna Karenina” and are represented by three worth mentioning films: Anna Karenina (1967, Solivs (USSR), director A. Zarkhi); Anna Karenina (2009, Mosfilm (Russia), director S. Solovyev) and Anna Karenina (series, season 1, 2017, Mosfilm (Russia), director K. Shakhnazarov), its first night on TV is Jan., 8, 2020. All the versions preserve not only the book title but the story line as to the plot sequence, and critics call these screen versions drama or lyrical drama as it’s all about love and morals, a woman’s life and love in the 19th century Russian society. The 20th century screen adaptation of lyrical drama after W. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1968, US-Italy production, director Fr. Zeffirelli) in fact belongs to the romantic tragedy genre and it influenced other adaptations such as Romeo+Juliet (1996, 20th Century Fox (US), director B. Luhrmann) which has got rather complex genre definition: both romance drama and romantic crime tragedy with some elements of a musical. It’s actually modernization of W. Shakespeare plot although the main characters fall in love despite their feuding families. And finally, Romeo & Juliet (2013, Echo Lake Entertainment (US), director C. Carlei) is a romantic drama adaptation which “unlike previous major film adaptations, only follows the plot and uses only some of the dialogues written by Shakespeare” [15. P. 238]. As is clearly seen, the film title was changed introducing some graphics and the plot of 1996 and 2013 adaptations was changed as well. But unlike War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet has been never adapted as TV series or miniseries. The 20th century cinematograph brought other examples of famous novels’ screen versions like US “Godfather” (1972, Paramount Pictures, Alfran Productions (US), director F.F. Coppola) after the novels by Mario Puzo. The film proved to be “one of the most influential films ever made, especially in the gangster genre” [16]. The tagline has become a saying: “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse”. The two sequels followed: The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990). The three films made up The Godfather Trilogy, and Godfather III is regarded as an epilogue to the first two films [17. P. 89]. The fact is that the all the three screen versions have kept the book title, and the next two just followed the suite, but didn’t make a series, although they were filmed having a screen script also written by M. Puzo and F. Coppola. The Godfather Trilogy collected a handful of nominations and won a number of significant film awards, e.g.: The Godfather - Nominations: 10, Wins: 3 The Godfather Part II - Nominations: 11, Wins: 6 The Godfather Part III - Nominations: 7, Wins: 0. The forth film was also directed by F.F. Coppola, but released under the title The Family Corleone in 2012 after the novel under the same title by Ed Falco. It was meant to do both - the sequel and the prequel of The Godfather (1972) and emerged as TV series in the start of the 21st century (after the death of Mario Puzo in 1999). In fact similar film titles of The Godfather Trilogy are approved because each film is based on the same book by M. Puzo, while Godfather II and Godfather III develop the storyline using its side issues although focusing attention on characters other than Don Vito Corleone. Thus Godfather is a kind of umbrella film title for the trilogy films. Quite the opposite is the situation with Jaws: there are well-known three films under the title - the first one is a thriller Jaws (1975, Universal Pictures (US) director S. Spielberg) based on the novel Jaws by P. Benchley; the second is a thriller-sequel Jaws-2 (1978, Universal Pictures (US), director J. Szwarc), based on characters of P. Benchley’s novel and the screen script done by C. Gottleib and H. Sackler; Jaws-3 (1985) and Jaws-3D (1983, Universal Pictures (US), director J. Alves), screenplay written by C. Gottleib and R. Matheson. The sequel Jaws-3D got a lot of negative reviews and despite picturesque technological effects of shark’s destruction, in 1987 was followed by Jaws-3D: The Revenge. Finally, in 2011 one more thriller-sequel was launched Jaws-3D: Shark Night-3D which is known for camera man to use the so-called snuff-films with real sharks’ participation. Actually these sequels demonstrate the development and variations of similar storyline but it’s based on different precedent phenomena - not just a single book, but a number of screenplays and film directors. They are also famous for new techniques of filming. So the common title although with a bit of amplification seems to be a tribute to Jaws after P. Benchley’s thriller and help promote films to get large box-office thus reflecting commercial success or failure. Nowadays sequels and prequels are widely spread, and we’d tackle one more story - Indiana Jones. The four films of Indiana Jones stories - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); prequel film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984); Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and the final 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - are made after the books of the same titles by a few writers. They do not make up series or sequels, they rather form a bunch of films or a cycle: they are called Indiana Jones franchise. The genre is qualified as fantasy, travelogue and adventure, and each film of the four adapted during 1981 to 2008 bearing the similar book titles, is directed by Steven Spielberg, but film stories were written by different men and include the elements of more than one book. Still, the fifth film Indiana Jones 5 has got no reference to the precedent literary text, primarily, being untitled yet. Being the Disney Studios development, also directed by S. Spielberg, it previews H. Ford as a title actor, and this very film is going to make a sequel, but not a reboot (digital version), neither it’s going to make a conclusion of Indiana Jones franchise as a whole. The situation tells us about inverted or reverse process: the untitled film in project Indiana Jones 5 turns the film cycle into sequel and prequel film and book franchise. Similar example seems to be films about Jurassic Park. While the idea originates from the novels by Michael Crichton, the film story lines were written by David Koepp, Peter Bunchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, etc. The films and series are titled accordingly: Jurassic Park (1993); The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997); Jurassic Park III (2001); Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kindom (2018). Starting from the second adaptation, book titles undergo changes, but the idea is preserved in the repeated name of Jurassic Park. Thus the adaptations and original screenplays make the set of film to be a film franchise combining film and series, but nefer specifying sequels or prequels. The Bondiana started much earlier that Indiana Jones franchise which actually sets an example of “never ending story”, which goes on and on till 2020 at least, still bearing the idea ‘to be continued’. James Bond literary franchise - series of novels and short stories - were first published in 1953 by Ian Fleming, a British author, journalist, and former naval intelligence officer were written in 1951-1964. Agent 007 first appeared in the 1953 novel Casino Royale. Jan Fleming wrote a total of twelve novels and two collections of short stories. After Fleming's death a number of other authors - Kingsley Amis (as Robert Markham), Christopher Wood, John Gardiner, Raymond Benson and others made novelizations for the series of Bond films, produced by Eon Productions, which continued till 2002. The genre was one and the same - spy stories. This literary franchise laid the base for film franchise never making series or sequels. Albert Broccoli (1909-1996), an American film producer and co-founder s of Pinewood Studios and EON Productions is most famous as the producer of many of the James Bond films. Harry Saltzman was his partner. Later Broccoli's heirs know as Broccoli Brothers, continued to produce new Bond films. The list of James Bond films counts for at least 25 films and only two remakes. James Bond, films are all about a fictional character who works for the British MI6 as a secret agent under the coded name 007. If to decode the letters and numbers from the semiotic point of view, according to Laurent Binet [18. P. 40 et al], the code of 007 means “a serial killer who knows he could be killed as well”, and the letter M doesn’t just stand for MI6 - a reconnaissance department, but also for an important lady character M - the Head of the Intelligence department of MI6 appearing in all J. Bond’s film but Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace or her secretary Ms Moneypenny (later Eve or Jane). So we come across many Ms! Another character - Q [kju:] the one designing gadgets for James Bond, has got such a name because he used to ask a lot of questions - letter “q” is for ‘question’, but the name sounds as a normal one as is pronounced like Lui, Dyu, Pewe, etc. There are also other letter stickers so important as a secret code in spy work, e.g., in Dr. No agent 007 is informed that Dr. No is a member of SPECTRE, the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, planning to stop the Project Mercury space launch from Cape Canaveral. Besides semiotic technique but really symbolic stay the titles of J. Bond films, which never make series or sequels. They are like taglines, e.g., From Russia with Love, You only live twice, For Your Eyes Only, Tomorrow never Dies, The World is not Enough and No time to Die, which a few times make a line of an opening music piece in the beginning of the film. Other titles are ambiguous compound nouns, namely: Goldfinger (J. Fleming’ estate in Jamaica), Thunderball, Moonraker, Octopussy, GoldenEye (motivated by a regular word collocation ‘Golden Eye’) and Skyfall, finally. We also have to mention an acronym SPECTRE deciphered above in Dr No. James Bond literary franchise - series of novels and short stories, first published in 1953 by Ian Fleming, a British author, journalist, and former naval intelligence officer were written in 1951-1964. Actually most of the film titles repeat or transform a little the novel and story titles, anyhow, they are recognizable, at least those literary works by J. Fleming himself published from 1953 to 1966. As it used to be, film adaptations are made after literary works - novels, stories theatre plays and the like, but a new trend emerged in the late 20th century: books started to be written based on a film story or screenplay. The examples are those: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982, Unuiversal Pictures (US), director S. Spielberg) is both fantasy and adventure genre, and the project was originally called The Story of a Boy, it gained many film awards and got the blockbuster quality taking over Star Wars by G. Lukas. After the success, children’s book was written by William Kotzwinkl. E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial in His Adventure on Earth. New York: Berkley Books, 1982, based on a screenplay of Melissa Mathison. It was really a bestseller for a time being. The same is true about the film La giovinezza (Youth) directed by Paolo Sorrentino (2015, co-production of: Indigo Film, Barbary Films, Pathé, France 2 Cinéma, Number 9 Films, C-Films AG, Medusa Film, Film4) which collected a bunch of significant cinema awards (Cannes Film Festival, Oscar, etc.) and it was followed by a book by P. Sorrentino based on the film story and translated in some languages, Russian as well. Another example of combining titles is The Irishman (2019, TriBeCa/Tribeca Productions directed by M. Scorsese): the plot was done after the 2004 nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt (publisher Steerforth Press, US): in Russian the book was published in 2020 under the title The Irishman, and the cover was decorated with a spot of the film - the picture of R. De Niro, but it was another nonfiction book about Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran. The three examples (and those might be much more) demonstrate the fact of inverted or reversed dynamics: from film to book story, at least, not as it used to be: from a book story to its film adaptation. Films making adaptations of book stories or rather made after the original books used to borrow and conserve book titles, never mind the genre of films. To involve larger audience and to be commercially successful, filmmakers, distributors and promoters insist on introducing some novelty in film titles. Mainly those changes concern amplification of the original book title, using specific graphics like & or + in between the names in the title. Then the name of the leading character stays in every film title while films don’t form series or sequels, thus making a film franchise, usually after a book franchise. When the film title is accompanied by a mathematical figure - 1, 2, 3… or I, II, III… and it’s not the order of episodes of a series, the films used to form dilogies and trilogies, but more often at the same time they are sequels developing one and the same book story with more attention paid to the story’s sidelines and supporting characters. So to sum up, the general trend of film naming is to introduce changes in film titles when films are book story adaptations thus attracting the attention of the audience and reflecting the new trend for remakes: films change into TV series or even miniseries.

About the authors

Elena A. Krasina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
6, Miklukho-Maklaya street, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Doctor in Philology, Professor, Professor of the General and Russian Linguistics Department, Philological Faculty

Eugeniy S. Rybinok

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

6, Miklukho-Maklaya street, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Chief Administrator of the Philological Study n.a. L.A. Novikov & N.M. Firsova; a PhD degree-seeking student of the General and Russian Linguistics Department, Philological Faculty

Alia Moctar

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

6, Miklukho-Maklaya street, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

PhD student of the General and Russian Linguistics Department, Philological Faculty


  1. Novikova, M.L. (2020). Ontology of the art of poetry and exclusion: a monograph. Moscow: Publishing house Econ-Inform. (In Russ.).
  2. Karaulov, Yu.N. (2010). Russian language and language personality. Moscow: LCI. (In Russ.).
  3. Gudkov, D.B. (2000). Precedent situation and methods of its implementation In Language, consciousness, communication. Moscow: Dialog-MSU. Issue 11. pp. 40—46. (In Russ.).
  4. Vysotskaya, I.V. (2013). The controversial questions of the theory of precedent. Critique and Semiotics, 1 (18), 117—132. URL: cs018vysotskaya.pdf (accessed: 11.01.2020). (In Russ.).
  5. Slyshkin, G.G. & Efremova, M.E. (2002). Kinotext (experience of linguocultural analysis): monograph. Moscow: Aquarius Publishers. (In Russ.).
  6. Lotman, Yu.M. (1973). Semiotics of cinema and problems of cinema aesthetics. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat. (In Russ.).
  7. Maksimenko, O.I. (2016). Bells letters adaptation: from novel to comics. Bulletin of the MSRU. Series: Linguistics, 2, 111—116. (In Russ.).
  8. Alexandrova O.I., Krasina E.A. & Rybinok E.S. (2019). Precedent phenomena of a film text: feature film title in the terms of translation. Philological Sciences. Scientific Essays of Higher Education, 5, 22—33. doi: 10.20339/PhS.5-19.022. (In Russ.).
  9. Aleksandrova, O.I. (2018). Foreign Film Title: Translation or a New Naming Unit? In Naming in Different Areas of Communication Field: Collective monograph. Ottawa: Carleton University. pp. 107—136.
  10. Menand, L. “What Do We Love About ‘War and Peace’?”: via (accessed: 24.02.2020).
  11. Briggs, A. (2005). “Introduction” to “War and Peace”. Penguin Classics.
  12. Pevear, R. (2008). “Introduction” In War and Peace, L. Volokhonsky (Transl.). New York: Vintage Books.
  13. Nabokov, V. (1980). Lectures on Russian Literature. New York: Harvest.
  14. Kinopoisk. URL: (accessed: 16.01.2020).
  15. Dixon, Wheeler W. (2000). Film genre 2000: new critical essays In The SUNY series, cultural studies in cinema/video. New York: SUNY Press.
  16. Gambino, M. (2018). “What is The Godfather Effect?”. Smithsonian. Archived from the original on September 10, 2018. URL: (accessed: 21.02.2020).
  17. Connor, J.D. (2015). The Studios after the Studios: Neoclassical Hollywood (1970—2010). LA: Stanford University Press.
  18. Binet, L. (2015). La Septième Fonction du langage. Paris: Edition Grasset & Fasquelle. (In French).



Abstract - 107

PDF (English) - 32




Copyright (c) 2020 Krasina E.A., Rybinok E.S., Moctar A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies