American Blog Post

Loyal readers of this website may recall an article I wrote a few years ago bemoaning a tendency in Hollywood for movies to be titled after their lead character. Last year I wrote a sort of follow-up piece discussing how in lieu of an actual title many films and television shows are lumbered with mere descriptive labels. More recently, a similar trend has caught my attention: movies with nationalities.

Of course, the majority of the world’s commercially successful films are products of Hollywood, and are therefore technically American. The same films tend to be set in the United States, so their plots generally concern American characters. I assume that the idea behind such titles is to infer that a movie may also provide a commentary on American history, culture or society. But in recent years the naming conventions “American + [noun]” and the slightly less common “[adjective] + American” have been used so frequently that their purpose and significance has practically been lost.

After doing a little research I discovered 112 movies since 1950 that follow these patterns, almost half of which were released this century (and that doesn’t include TV series). Whether these figures represent an eagerness on the part of filmmakers to tell uniquely American stories in a post-9/11 world or a further laziness on the part of studios’ marketing departments is open for debate.

American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950)
An American in Paris (1951)
The Ugly American (1963)
Divorce American Style (1967)
American Graffiti (1973)
The Last American Hero (1973)
The American Friend (1977)
American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (1978)
American Hot Wax (1978)
The Great American Girl Robbery (1979)
More American Graffiti (1979)
American Gigolo (1980)
The American Success Company (1980)
American Pop (1981)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The Last American Virgin (1982)
American Dreamer (1984)
American Flyers (1985)
American Ninja (1985)
American Anthem (1986)
An American Tail (1986)
Born American (1986)
The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986)
The American Way (1986)
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
American Gothic (1988)
American Roulette (1988)
American Angels: Baptism of Blood (1989)
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)
American Dream (1990)
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)
American Friends (1991)
American Kickboxer (1991)
American Shaolin (1991)
An American Summer (1991)
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)
The American Gangster (1992)
American Heart (1992)
American Me (1992)
American Samurai (1992)
American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993)
American Kickboxer 2 (1993)
American Ninja V (1993)
American Yakuza (1993)
The Young Americans (1993)
The American President (1995)
How to Make an American Quilt (1995)
American Buffalo (1996)
American Strays (1996)
American Tigers (1996)
My Fellow Americans (1996)
American Perfekt (1997)
An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
American Dragons (1998)
American History X (1998)
American Beauty (1999)
American Pie (1999)
American Movie (2000)
American Psycho (2000)
The American Astronaut (2001)
American Desi (2001)
American Mullet (2001)
American Outlaws (2001)
American Pie 2 (2001)
An American Rhapsody (2001)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
American Girl (2002)
The Quiet American (2002)
American Cousins (2003)
American Wedding (2003)
American Reel (2003)
American Splendor (2003)
American Gun (2005)
American Dreamz (2006)
American Hardcore (2006)
An American Haunting (2006)
The American Poop Movie (2006)
An American Crime (2007)
American Gangster (2007)
American Loser (2007)
American Pastime (2007)
American Zombie (2007)
An American Carol (2008)
American Crude (2008)
American Dog (2008)
American Son (2008)
American Teen (2008)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)
An American Affair (2009)
American Casino (2009)
American Cowslip (2009)
American Violet (2009)
American Virgin (2009)
The American (2010)
American Flyer (2010)
American Ghost Hunter (2010)
American Maniacs (2010)
American Scream King (2010)
The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010)
American Animal (2011)
The American Dream (2011)
American Mary (2012)
American Reunion (2012)
The American Scream (2012)
American Hustle (2013)
American Idiots (2013)
American Heist (2014)
American Sniper (2014)
American Justice (2015)
American Beach House (2015)
American Ultra (2015)

Occasionally other nationalities have been applied to movie titles (The Italian Job, The English Patient, The Spanish Prisoner) but these are usually genuine, relevant descriptors. Too often the word “American” acts as nothing more than a tag, hung on a movie in a cheap attempt to elevate it above the mire by suggesting its intentions are somehow worthier than box office success. Market research has probably proven that Americans are more likely to see a movie with “American” in the title. Yet it’s also worth considering that with its diverse incarnations and myriad contradictions, perhaps no other country struggles with national identity in quite the same way as the United States. That “American” movies have only become more prevalent in recent years is proof that America — both the country and the idea — remains a subject of endless fascination.

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