In the 1987 blockbuster Fatal Attraction, a married man has an affair with a woman; when he breaks it off, she reacts in surprising, disturbing, and very this-movie-is-a-psychological-thriller ways. The movie made over $320 million worldwide and generally became a national phenomenon. The woman, played by Glenn Close, was named Alex.
In 1988, the number of baby girls born in America named Alexandra increased by a full 1,748. It's possible that this is a coincidence, but it seems more likely that a lot of couples saw a steamy thriller together and sometime in the next calendar year sired a female human and decided to name it after the movie villain who was not going to be ignored, Dan.
In the last 40 years, this sort of thing has happened time and time again. A film is released with a particularly named lead character, and the next year, many newborns are given that name by their parents.
Movies also can have the reverse effect, of course: Following "Forrest Gump," instances of the first name "Forrest" plummeted. And sometimes, there is no real movement: Would you believe that no one named their kid "Egon" after Ghostbusters came out in 1985?
We cross-examined box office hits from a given year and the number of instances in the year following the film's release that a baby was given that name. We charter whether there was an increase or decrease in that name being used, and where the name ranked in popularity then and where the name ranks now.
Note: the SSA does not include names with fewer than five instances. If a name appeared one year and was not included in the list the year prior (Sparrow, in 2007, for example), the prior year was marked as zero.
For the most part, the big movies of the year don't have an immediate impact on the baby names; the influence often occurs over time, however. While there was a small spike in "Luke" births immediately after Star Wars, the name has steadily risen, year and year, in popularity. In 1978, it was the 139th most popular name for a baby boy; in 2014 it was 28th.
Often, there are other factors. Since the release of Top Gun, Charlotte has enjoyed a steady climb in popularity; that could be a result of Top Gun being memorable, though the Charlotte-aissance is more likely because of the enduring popularity of both E.B. White and Sex and the City. There has not been a corresponding rise in "Mavericks" or "Gooses."
Similarly, in the years following the release of the first and third Star Wars prequels, people quit naming their kids "Anakin" so much.
In 1993, there was a huge jump in "Jasmine" after Aladdin was released: that one makes more sense. Ditto the logical leap in "Connor" after Terminator 2's John Connor taught us all to love a robot.
What about 2015's current front-runner Jurassic World and Chris Pratt's character of Owen?
We'll have to wait until 2017 to find out!
Do you want to name your baby after your favorite movie character? Do you think there be a bunch of kids saying "I am Groot" on their first day of school? Let us know in the comments.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org