Examining the Loglines of the Top 20 RoI (Return-on-Investment) Movies

(Note: Before reading the following, you may even want to view: the Trailers of all The Top 20 RoI Movies…! )

So – a movie-poster is: a meme – also known as – a unit of culture – or, a holon-parton.

See this book-chapter for details on what memes are:

CTfMDA book cover2016

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture (and narreme, or unit of story)

And for example, in examining a movie poster:

A Movie Poster is a meme. (and a holon-parton)

A Movie Poster is a meme. (and a holon-parton)

The poster also contains many memes, as holon-partons.

The tagline for ALIEN (1979) was “In space, no-one can hear you scream.”  For Halloween (1980), it was `The Night HE Came Home…’ These taglines are also: memes (or, units of culture).

Given that a Movies’s Title, the Logline (or 25-word summary), the Poster, and the Tagline (i.e, the catchphrase, on the poster), and also, the Movie Trailer are all film story memes (i.e. are, all part of the memeplex holarchy of the overall film story itself – as a meme)…

A Film Story Memeplex Holarchy (Velikovsky 2012)

A Film Story Memeplex Holarchy (Velikovsky 2012)

That is to say – as an Audience Member, for any movie story:

  • Usually, the first way we hear of a movie is: The Title. (e.g. “So have you seen Paranormal Activity 5 yet..?”)
  • When we see the Film Poster, we see: 1) Image and 2) Text. Both contain multiple memes (or, ideas). Usually these are: the Main Character/s, and the Title, and the Tagline… (and usually an indication of the Genre and Setting, from signifiers such as the font, and the overall graphical `look & feel’/symbolic imagery…)
  • The Tagline (eg: Halloween (1980): `The Night HE Came Home…’). This usually has 3 memes (ideas) in it. (Say: a time, a place, an event.)
  • The Trailer – If and when we see this, as an audience, we usually get: The Character/s, The Situation/Setting (Time & Place) and – their key Dilemma/Dramatic Problem…
  • So usually when we finally see the movie, we have already entered `The World Of The Story.’  …We have been introduced to the memes (ideas/concepts) of: A certain type of character, in a specific situation, with a certain Problem (and, they must make a sacrifice of some kind, to solve (or fail to solve) The Problem.)
  • Also possibly – we have seen/heard/read a Review of the film – either via word-of-mouth or via the media… or both.

As an interesting exercise, it is worth examining the Loglines, of The Top 20 RoI Films of the past 70 years:

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

And, to also pose the question:

Would you expect these movie story concepts to become: the Top 20 most `viral’ film stories ever..?

Here they come.

1. Paranormal Activity (2009) – After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence.

2. Mad Max (1979) – A vengeful Australian policeman sets out to avenge his partner, his wife and his son whom were murdered by a motorcycle gang in retaliation for the death of their leader.

3. The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Three film students go missing after traveling into the woods of Maryland to make a documentary about the local Blair Witch legend leaving only their footage behind.

4. El Mariachi (1993) – A traveling mariachi is mistaken for a murderous criminal and must hide from a gang bent on killing him.

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.

6. Rocky (1976) – A small time boxer gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champ in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

7. Halloween (1978) – A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets.

8. American Graffiti (1973) – A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.

9. Clerks (1994) – A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

10. Once (2007) – A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

11. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) – A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he must deal with his bizarre family life back home.

12. Open Water (2004) – Based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark infested waters after their tour boat has left.

13. Friday the 13th (1980) – Camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp that was the site of a child’s drowning.

14. Saw (2004) – With a dead body laying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who’s been nicknamed “Jigsaw”. The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them.

15. Primer (2004) – Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there’s something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they’ve built, wrestle over their new invention.

16. The Evil Dead (1983) – Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

17. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial. He has to find the courage to defy the authorities to help the alien return to its home planet.

18. The Full Monty (1997) – Six unemployed steel workers form a male striptease act. The women cheer them on to go for “the full monty” – total nudity.

19. Star Wars (1977) – Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.

20. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) – A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.

(All loglines cited are from http://www.imdb.com)*

It may also be interesting to compare these (above) Loglines – to the ones here, in this post, on McKee’s alternate narratology Methodology in Story (1997), i.e.: The Inspirations Behind The Film Stories in the Top 20 RoI Films

When creating/writing your own screenplay Logline, the above format would suggest, this syntagm:

[Someone] must [do something] to [achieve something].

Or, similarly:

[Character/s] in [a situation] must [take action] to [solve the problem].

Right before your very eyes

And, for some deeply-amusing “Uncomfortable Plot Summaries” of various films, see, this (rather amusing) site.

See also: Why Some Things Are Popular (Velikovsky 2014).

My PhD thesis is a free PDF, online here: StoryAlity #135PhD Dissertation Addendum (2016)

Thoughts/Feedback/Comments welcome.


Dr JT Velikovsky PhD

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/


Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com (2012)

Information courtesy of IMDb (http://www.imdb.com). Used with permission.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

On Memetics – and Cultural Evolution:

  1. StoryAlity #130Why Some Things Are Popular (Velikovsky 2014)
  2. StoryAlity #131 – Why Things (like, some Movies) Are Popular – and – The Anna Karenina principle
  3. StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture (and narreme, or unit of story)

8 thoughts on “StoryAlity #59 – Examining the Loglines of the Top 20 RoI Movies

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