What’s in a name? Or more specifically, a title? Everything. And few shows on TV know this better than the wild geniuses of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, who have been having increasingly silly amounts of fun with the way in which they present their episodes.
Episode titles don’t get as much appreciation as they sometimes deserve, since these days they rarely even appear on screen at the beginning of the episode. Yet with just a few words, the show’s writers can deliver additional insight into the episode’s meaning, make reference to other media, deliver some very silly puns… or all of the above.
Some shows, like Friends and Scrubs, adhere to a tight structure for their titles (“The One Where…”, “My…”). But such an approach would be completely antithetical to Legends of Tomorrow‘s spirit of anarchy and creativity. Take, as just one example, this photo shared by executive producer Keto Shimizu revealing the brainstorming process for the Season 5 finale:
This was our finale title brainstorm board. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/VKpxwtODYD
— Keto Shimizu (@ketomizu) May 28, 2020
While in my opinion, the clear winner is “The Thong Side of History,” the episode was ultimately named “Swan Thong” for… reasons. It’s just one of the brilliant titles you’ll find below, in celebration of Legends Season 5 now being available on Netflix. The metrics used for ranking these include cleverness, quality of punning, and relevance to the episode’s subject matter. Your mileage may vary.
66. Almost All of Season 1’s Titles
The episode titles for the show’s first season aren’t necessarily awful, but with only one notable exception they’re generic to the point of forgettable. It’s understandable, though, when you consider that Legends was still figuring out what the hell kind of show it was going to be. Sometimes this takes a little time.
65. All the Crossover Titles (“Invasion!”/”Crisis on Earth-X, Part 4″/”Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Five”)
This isn’t Legends of Tomorrow‘s fault, and some of them aren’t bad. (I’m particularly fond of the big B-Movie energy of “Invasion!”) But these titles are one of rare times that the show has to conform completely with the overall Arrow-verse aesthetic.
64. “Outlaw Country” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Most Season 2 titles are…fine. There’s still a tendency to lean generic, which means that unlike the show at its greatest, you look at a title like “Outlaw Country” and have not the slightest idea what it’s about.
63. “Compromised” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Same problem as “Outlaw Country,” alas.
62. “Shogun” (Season 2, Episode 3)
The Legends go to feudal Japan. So the episode is called “Shogun.”
61. “Out of Time” (Season 2, Episode 1)
The Season 2 premiere features a lot of random elements (including a Stephen Amell appearance!) so it’s easy to see why the writers kept this title relatively generic.
60. “Turncoat” (Season 2, Episode 11)
This is a wacky episode that deserves a much wackier title.
59. “The Legion of Doom” (Season 2, Episode 10)
This title does not lie: I mean, there definitely is a Legion of Doom in this episode. The name of this supervillain team actually originated with the 1970s animated series Challenge of the Super Friends, which is a fact my brother Eric felt was very important you all know about.
58. “Abominations” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Again, not that impressive.
57. “The Chicago Way” (Season 2, Episode 8)
This is just a The Untouchables reference with no flair, alas.
56. “The Justice Society of America” (Season 2, Episode 2)
This one’s at least a little cute, if bland.
55. “The Magnificent Eight” (Season 1, Episode 11)
The one exception from Season 1 that hints at future greatness — “The Magnificent Eight” isn’t extraordinarily clever, but it introduces a title format (pop culture reference with a slight twist) that will prove to be very, very fruitful in the years to come.
54. “Zari” (Season 3, Episode 3)
This episode introduces the character of… Wait for it… Zari (Tala Ashe). Zari rules, but this title isn’t that exciting.
53. “Lucha de Apuestas” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Translates to “Betting Fight.” Okeydoke.
52. “Aruba” (Season 2, Episode 17)
“Aruba,” in this episode’s case, symbolizes Mick’s (Dominic Purcell) desire to get away from it all. Unfortunately, it is not followed up by “Jamaica.”
51. “Ship Broken” (Season 5, Episode 11)
A title with a double meaning, though ranked kinda low because said double meaning is “the ship is broken” and also “Gary’s new pet is not housebroken.”
50. “Freakshow” (Season 3, Episode 2)
This one… Takes place at a circus.
49. “Moonshot” (Season 2, Episode 14)
Looked up what exactly a “moonshot” is, and per the dictionary, it’s “an act or instance of launching a spacecraft to the moon.” That definitely happens in this episode, so, sure. But it would have been fun to find a way to hint at this delightful moment with Victor Garber as well.
48. “Land of the Lost” (Season 2, Episode 13)
There are dinosaurs in this one! But “Jurassic Lark” (or similar) was right there.
47. “Meet the Legends” (Season 5, Episode 2)
Low-key charming, much like this documentary-style episode.
46. “Witch Hunt” (Season 4, Episode 2)
This episode features multiple spins on the concept of “witches,” but it also takes place during the Salem Witch Trials, so it’s pretty simplistic.
45. “Amazing Grace” (Season 3, Episode 14)
Maybe there could have been a more evocative title to pick here, given that this episode features a young Elvis Presley, but “Amazing Grace” was a staple of his repertoire, so why not.
44. “The Curse of the Earth Totem” (Season 3, Episode 12)
Big Legends of the Hidden Temple vibes off this one, much appreciated.
43. “Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me” (Season 5, Episode 3)
Using lyrics to the Poison song Ava (Jes Macallan) sings in this episode is a perfect reminder of one of that actress’s most hilarious moments on the show to date, though it doesn’t quite invoke the year 1947.
42. “The Getaway” (Season 4, Episode 10)
“The Getaway” is fine, but given that this episode features Richard Nixon under the influence of truth serum, it kinda feels like they could have gone further.
41. “Dancing Queen” (Season 4, Episode 3)
The second-best episode title inspired by ABBA on this list (yes, there are two of them), but that’s not “Dancing Queen’s” fault, really. The double meaning of this one is pretty cute.
40. “Phone Home” (Season 3, Episode 4)
“Phone Home” doesn’t really do justice to all of the gleefully nerdy elements of this episode, though it does put emphasis on the most important aspect: An extended tribute to Steven Spielberg‘s E.T.
39. “Doomworld” (Season 2, Episode 16)
This feels like the title of a comic book special event miniseries, which I am all for.
38. “Fellowship of the Spear” (Season 2, Episode 15)
Honestly, it’s kind of a shock that it took until the second season for the Legends staff to work in a Lord of the Rings reference. (Though things hit a whole new level in Season 3.)
37. “Camelot/3000” (Season 2, Episode 12)
Wow, this is a deep cut! Camelot 3000 was a DC Comics miniseries in which King Arthur and his knights get reincarnated in the year 3000. No medieval knights end up in the future in this episode, hence the slash — instead, the Legends just travel to these different time periods.
36. “The Eggplant, the Witch & the Wardrobe” (Season 4, Episode 12)
The episode does make deliberate reference to The Chronicles of Narnia, though, fortunately, no fawn creatures show up.
35. “No Country for Old Dads” (Season 3, Episode 13)
Always nice to remember the movie that won the Coen Brothers their Best Picture Oscar, but there’s a better reference to Damien Darhk coming up.
34. “Welcome to the Jungle” (Season 3, Episode 7)
A Guns ‘N Roses song is already perfect when it comes to an episode largely devoted to Mick and his father; add in the fact that the episode largely takes place in the Vietnamese jungle is additional perfection.
33. “Egg MacGuffin” (Season 4, Episode 13)
I had to look up what happened in this episode (most of the time, Legends titles are so specific that it’s easy to recall what the episode is about), but I was pleased to rediscover that it contains both an egg and a MacGuffin.
32. “I, Ava” (Season 3, Episode 16)
The title invokes Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, even though the character in question, to quote The Good Place, is not exactly a robot. But it still fits with the episode’s intense sci-fi vibes.
31. “Daddy Darhkest” (Season 3, Episode 10)
A fun play on Mommie Dearest, because not only is one of the characters named Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), but he is Dark and also a Daddy.
30. “Return of the Mack” (Season 3, Episode 5)
This one is beautiful for its simplicity: The song “Return of the Mack” is heard (a lot), so they named the episode after it. In Season 5, though, they’ll improve upon this approach.
29. “Aruba-Con” (Season 3, Episode 1)
“Aruba-Con” works on levels — first, as a reference to a beach party the Legends crash, and then as a reference to the Rubicon, a sadly canceled AMC series, the river Caeser famously crossed in 49 BC.
28. “Terms of Service” (Season 4, Episode 15)
A bit on the nose, but given that this episode is about how everyone should really read the terms of service lest their souls be conscripted into a demonic contract, it feels apt.
27. “The Great British Fake-Off” (Season 5, Episode 10)
Solid way to describe the episode, but maybe a bit too easy a gag, in comparison to others on this list.
26. “I Am Legends” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Okay, so this episode features the Legends fighting zombies, and the creatures being battled in Richard Matheson‘s classic novel (and Will Smith‘s less-classic film) were vampires. But that’s nitpicking.
25. “Hey, World!” (Season 4, Episode 16)
Plays nicely with the episode’s plotlne, in which the Heyworld amusement park is dreamed into existence.
24. “Tagumo Attacks!!!” (Season 4, Episode 5)
What is Tagumo, and why is it attacking? Wouldn’t you like to know!
23. “Beebo the God of War” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Without knowing anything about Beebo, this title is pure gleeful nonsense. And then, once you have let Beebo into your heart, it is pure joy.
22. “Freaks and Greeks” (Season 5, Episode 12)
Not only does this one reference a great TV show, but there are in fact multiple types of freaks and multiple types of Greeks in the episode.
21. “Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac” (Season 5, Episode 7)
Right when Mr. Rogers was having a Moment thanks to Tom Hanks‘ brilliant performance in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood, Legends made it clear what they were referencing with the eponymous fictional children’s show. (For the record, Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac skews a little darker than Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.)
20. “A Head of Her Time” (Season 5, Episode 5)
One of the most blatant puns used by the LOT writing staff, but also fits nicely with its depiction of Marie Antoinette as an 18th-century influencer.
19. “The Good, the Bad and the Cuddly” (Season 3, Episode 18)
Not top-tier creative, but this hella charming title works incredibly well once you realize how it’s blending the Western setting for the episode’s climax and a very special guest star.
18. “Tender Is the Nate” (Season 4, Episode 6)
A classy literary reference for Legends — it’s all too appropriate to invoke the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel Tender Is the Night, given that Fitzgerald as well as Hemingway make appearances.
17. “Necromancing the Stone” (Season 3, Episode 15)
Points for invoking a great Robert Zemekis movie, points for the wordplay.
16. “Séance and Sensibility” (Season 4, Episode 11)
It’s hard for a title to pack in everything weird that happens in a typical Legends episode, but this one does its best. (No easy way to squeeze in a nod to the Bollywood dance number, alas.)
15. “Raiders of the Lost Art” (Season 2, Episode 9)
It might be argued that this episode signifies the show’s ultimate pivot to genius, and the title’s riff on a classic American film ties perfectly into the Legends’ quest to (swear to god) inspire a disillusioned college-era George Lucas to become a filmmaker. (See, they nearly… lost… the art? Get it?)
14. “Wet Hot American Bummer” (Season 4, Episode 4)
This is where the riffing on pre-established movie-titles reaches the next level.
13. “Hell No, Dolly!” (Season 4, Episode 7)
Spoiler alert: There’s an evil hell puppet in this one.
12. “Nip/Stuck” (Season 4, Episode 14)
There is a delicate balancing act when it comes to these title mash-ups, and thanks to the key bit of anatomy in play here, “Nip/Stuck” nails it.
11. “Helen Hunt” (Season 3, Episode 6)
This one is just cute, though no explicit reference to the Mad About You star is made in the episode — instead, the Legends are in search of a displaced Helen of Troy in 1939 Hollywood. Gets an extra bonus point for the opening title cards:
10. “Here I Go Again” (Season 3, Episode 11)
You never actually hear any ABBA during one of the best time loop episodes ever made, but using a “Mamma Mia” lyric not only fits the main storyline but also the subplot, about the Legends having to infiltrate the 1974 Eurovision competition (because Napoleon crashed it).
9. “Swan Thong” (Season 5, Episode 15)
Another title where it just seems like silly fun — and then you find out why it’s titled this, and it’s even more silly and fun.
8. “The Virgin Gary” (Season 4, Episode 1)
As far as Legends supporting characters go, a little of Gary (Adam Tsekhman) goes a long way. But the Season 4 premiere might be him at his best, if only because of the very important role he plays in the trippy Woodstock action.
7. “Mortal Khanbat” (Season 5, Episode 6)
It’s a pun, it’s a reference, it’s a whole mood. You can’t read it and not hear The Immortals blasting.
6. “Legends of To-Meow-Meow” (Season 4, Episode 8)
“To-Meow-Meow” might be a bit of a stretch, rhyme-wise, but how the hell do you put a title on this episode, which features puppets, alternate realities, a whole lot of murder, and one of the characters getting turned into a cat? By focusing on that last bit, I guess. Whatever, it’s pure joy.
5. “Zari, Not Zari” (Season 5, Episode 9)
When you look at it the first time, it doesn’t immediately make sense — but then you say it out loud, and the delight kicks in.
4. “Slay Anything” (Season 5, Episode 4)
This title is two words of perfection, perfectly capturing the episode’s mashing up of John Hughes and John Carpenter. (Yes, Hughes didn’t write Say Anything and Carpenter never made a movie with the word “Slay” in the title, but the meaning is clear here.)
3. “Guest Starring John Noble” (Season 3, Episode 17)
The real full title for this episode should be “Guest Starring John Noble As Himself.” Because that is a real thing that happens in this episode. And it is not even the wildest thing that happens in this episode! (That would maybe be the confrontation between Gorilla Grodd and a young Barack Obama.)
2. “The One Where We’re Trapped On TV” (Season 5, Episode 14)
A perfect reference to a classic episode naming structure, and also beautiful in its accuracy.
1. “Romeo v Juliet: Dawn of Justness” (Season 5, Episode 8)
It was nearly impossible to pick the number one slot for this list, because as you can see, there was some very stiff competition. The beautiful absurdity of invoking Zack Snyder and Shakespeare in the same thought alone makes this one a Top 10 contender, and it perfectly invokes the wildness of this episode. (Sadly, though, no one has a mother named Martha.)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is streaming now on Netflix.