Headline writers are “gaga” for heinous puns this film awards season

A great season for movies means a terrible time for wordplay.
A great season for movies means a terrible time for wordplay.
Image: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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It’s an awards season tradition: The parade of hyperbolic, cringeworthy puns and wordplay in news headlines about each movie released in the crucial last quarter of the year.

Of course, headline wordplay has long been a pastime of the media industry, starting with newspapers hundreds of years ago. But it’s especially egregious in film reviews, and never more so than now, when news outlets compete for clicks and must draw in readers with a catchy headline.

Quartz is no better. A recent story about the bogus controversy surrounding the American flag in First Man had the headline, “The ‘First Man’ American flag controversy is one giant leap for ignorance.” You know, “one giant leap,” the words Neil Armstrong famously said as he stepped on the moon. Man, who writes this crap?

The biggest target of headline punsters this year, however, is A Star Is Born, the music drama and bona fide Oscar contender that stars Bradley Cooper and pop star Lady Gaga. As you’ll see below, headline writers were positively giddy to incorporate some aspect of these films’ titles or topics or star’s names into their headlines. Beneath each example of wordplay, Quartz has provided some brief commentary and a rating out of 10—because someone has to hold these people accountable.

A Star Is Born

Oscar Voters Are Sure to Go Gaga for Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born’ (Variety)

  • Utterly shameless. But you have to respect the audacity. 6/10.

‘A Star is Born’ makes a movie star out of Lady Gaga and a star director out of Bradley Cooper (Mashable)

  • Get it? Two “stars” are born. No thanks. 3/10.

A Star is Born Review: Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga Make Sweet Harmony (Den of Geek)

  • This double entendre is pretty clever, and not in a totally nauseating way. 8/10.

‘A Star Is Born’ Review: Bradley Cooper’s Directorial Debut Burns Brightly (Collider)

  • Do stars technically burn? I don’t know. I don’t think so. 5/10.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sparkle in the remake of a classic (Digital Spy)

  • Stars definitely do sparkle, however. That I know. 7/10.

First Man

“out of this world” (Games Radar, Syfy, Digital Spy)

  • That’s exactly where we should send this appalling wordplay. 2/10.

“over the moon” (Vulture, Empire)

  • This one is so bad that it becomes good again. It should also be noted that Empire’s article includes a parenthetical “sorry” at the end of the headline. 7/10.

“blast off” (AV Club, Orlando Sentinel, Variety)

  • Too easy. Where’s the effort? 4/10.

Critics are starry-eyed over Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic ‘First Man’ (Mashable)

  • Hey, at least “starry-eyed” is less cringeworthy when applied to First Man, as opposed to A Star Is Born. 5/10.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ wraps Toronto in a loving embrace, while ‘High Life’ and ‘First Man’ probe new frontiers (Los Angeles Times)

  • This one includes two separate bits of wordplay for three different films. Ballsy. 8/10.

‘First Man’ is an Old Fashioned Drama That Never Fully Takes Flight (Slashfilm)

  • The film might not “take flight,” but neither does this headline. 2/10.

‘First Man’ Review: Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling’s Thrilling Neil Armstrong Biopic Has the Right Stuff (Indiewire)

The Predator

“the hunt is on” (Collider), “the hunt is over” (Den of Geek)

  • Which is it? Is the hunt on or over? Please let me know if I should bring my camouflage or not. 1/10.


“tricks” and “treats” (Consequence of Sound, Guardian)

  • Womp womp. 0/10.

‘Halloween’: Rejoice! This Brutal Horror Remake Is Killer (The Playlist)

  • I don’t get it. Does Michael Myers kill people or something? 2/10.

Halloween Movie Review: A Cut Above (IGN)

  • This is a bit more subtle. Approved. 7/10.


Steve McQueen’s heist thriller ‘Widows’ wows critics, Viola Davis steals the show (Cetureon)

  • (Widows is a heist movie.) 1/10.

Viola Davis burgles our hearts in Steve McQueen’s plunderously effective Widows (Me, just now)

  • I made this one up and it’s awful. 0/10.


Jonah Hill’s Directorial Debut ‘mid90s’ Skates In The Shadow Of Similar Films (The Playlist)

  • (Mid90s is about skateboarding.) 3/10.

At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe shines in Julian Schnabel’s portrait of Van Gogh (Guardian)

  • Zzz. 3/10.

At Eternity’s Gate is a Compelling Canvas of Vincent Van Gogh (News 18)

  • Guys, come on. Really? 3/10.

Willem Dafoe Brushes With Brilliance in Van Gogh Biopic (The Wrap)

  • Okay we’re done here. 2/10.

Outlaw King

‘Outlaw King’ makes Chris Pine into a total wiener (Vanyaland)

  • (Actor Chris Pine briefly shows his penis in this movie.) 9/10.