The film “Super 8″ is a hit, but what does the title mean?

The No. 1 film at the box office this week is J.J. Abram’s “Super 8,” an homage to the work of Steven Spielberg. Millions of people have seen this film, but it’s doubtful they know what the title means.

Released by Eastman Kodak in 1965, Super 8 became one of the preferred film formats of the motion picture industry during the 1960s and 70s – alongside 35 mm film. The name is an abbreviation for Super 8 millimeter film. The use of the word “super” denotes the film stock’s improvement over the earlier “regular 8” format and the number 8 is a reference to the width (in millimeters) of the film reel. Many independent filmmakers continue to use 8 mm to mimic the look of old home movies and capture the film’s gritty quality.

The fact that a movie using digital and image technologies that have led to the obsolescence of Super 8 film could be seen as ironic. But is this truly an example of irony? We dig in to that thorny topic, here.


  1. Max -  June 6, 2012 - 5:49 pm

    i love this movie and i was wundering does anyone know what cameras the kids where using the first and the second one ?

    • Jeff -  June 10, 2015 - 7:48 am

      I’m going to guess you know nothing of good grammar, right? Or even spelling for that matter.

      • Max -  October 22, 2015 - 9:52 am

        english is not my first languagge

  2. Charlie Tarca -  May 31, 2012 - 4:09 am

    I’m with Caroline. Whoever wrote this article has to be completely daft. I don’t even know where to begin to rubbish this piece of laughable internet-(non-) journalism….
    so I won’t in detail. I’ll just point out two things:
    a) Most people I’ve met would know what “Super-8″ means (unbelievable comment) LOL
    b) To mention Super-8 and 35mm in one breath to make it sound like those two formats were even on the same planet, or S-8 used professionally to any degree is a joke (care to mention 16mm :))…
    Ahh I’m over it. Enough time wasted on this already. Bye.

  3. Caroline -  April 15, 2012 - 11:27 am

    WOW did there really need to be an article over this? It was pretty obvious in the movie.

  4. moo -  March 2, 2012 - 1:52 pm

    i thought it was because that was the name of the film festival the kids film was submitted to :P

  5. Sean -  February 18, 2012 - 5:26 am

    I remember super 8 it was good at the time the film wasn’t the best but you can remember when being young and some films that my perents have has faded and the film is starting to brake for its age and here in Australia i would like to hear where the film can be scanned to dvd. My father got some films got it recorded to vhs and all you can hear was the guy recording it talking to some else and the sound of the projector and non of my perents films don’t have sound but i would like the scanned using a tele cline machine and done proply.

  6. rickie -  February 13, 2012 - 6:38 am

    this if the film

  7. Tominator -  December 16, 2011 - 11:09 am

    Funny that the last guy (Josh) finally gets that a movie may have a title that has an obvious meaning, and also a more subtle meaning. To name the movie entirely based on the film type of the kid’s movie would be pretty unimaginative. I’m sure there is a second meaning. The 8 limbs idea did occur to me. Still not certain that’s it, but makes sense. Thanks Josh.

  8. Josh -  November 13, 2011 - 12:15 am

    You guys all seem to be missing the obvious. By now we all know that “Super 8″ is a reference to a type of film, however all of you seem to miss the fast that the monster also has 8 limbs. Therefore *Super 8*

  9. Mike -  October 24, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    I understand the name of the movie now and where it came from… But this is in fact the worst case of title creation in history. I understand the kids in the film used Super 8 mm film but this was a VERY SMALL PART of this movie, in fact it was only a prop really as a leading to attach the kids to the plot.

  10. sofriendly -  September 30, 2011 - 11:05 pm

    Hi guys,I would like to remember the title of a movie I watched since a long time ago. it’s about a woman who killed her husband and burned the house when she discovered he has an affair, then she moved to another city where she pretended to be teacher in a high school, and in that school she
    make a relation with one of the students and later the father of that student fall in love with her and things get more complex when this woman kills the teacher that used to work before her in that school. in the final scenes the woman fall from a high building and thought to be dead but when police checks they don’t find her body and later it appears that she runs to another city and get another job in another school.I like to remember the title of the movie or at least the name of one of the actors/ actresses in it

  11. Derek -  August 24, 2011 - 1:17 am

    When the film was advertised in Taiwan, it was translated directly into Chinese which turned out to be quite humorous. It translated into “Chao1 Ji2 Ba1″ which meant Super 8 but was also homophonous for very/super d*ck.

  12. bfh -  August 14, 2011 - 8:32 am

    this film was a load of rubbish . . . boring, slow and not the least bit scary . . . what an utter waste of money . . . don’t bother!

  13. not an ass -  August 6, 2011 - 9:26 pm


  14. bella -  July 17, 2011 - 9:39 am

    You people talk too much. Just stick to the issue here :/ like NO ONE cares if it was preferred back then or nottttt.

    And anthony ur comment actually cracked me up. Haha :D
    Have a nice day everyone :)

  15. Tom -  July 17, 2011 - 3:44 am

    This movie should not be making millions its just ET and Cloverfield all over again. I just wasted 2 hours watchin this. No background, no real plot…sucked.

  16. Taylor -  July 14, 2011 - 1:49 am

    “Super 8″ is a popular name for 8mm video camera film and film is based on an original script by director J.J. Abrams. In the movie “Super 8″, the kids are making their own movie on 8mm film and accidentally record the “creature” that breaks out of the train.

  17. Sam Gough -  July 12, 2011 - 11:09 pm

    I cant wait to see it – I am in Australia – in the country and have to go to the city to see it …Cant wait …Seen all the trailers. Yippee

  18. neely -  June 29, 2011 - 11:33 am

    i haven’t saw the movie but m damn sure these digital and image technology have performed their well.

  19. This guy -  June 19, 2011 - 6:01 pm

    I thought Super 8 was also referencing the competition they where trying to enter their film into…. Double purpose maybe?

  20. Archon -  June 17, 2011 - 11:57 pm

    @ Eric B

    I still have a RubiKs cube and a little how-to-solve-it booklet I bought at the same time. The author said that he got around to buying one as a Christmas gift in 1980, so they must have been available before that. In 1979? I don’t know! Maybe… He was so enrapt by it that he kept it for himself. He managed to solve it, but realized that many wouldn’t be able to, so he produced his little how-to book. He was an industrial chemist, and apparently the mental processes useful for his job enabled him to comprehend the 3 dimensional, rotational aspects necessary.

  21. Archon -  June 17, 2011 - 10:52 pm

    The incorrect word for today was “anyway.” A man was quoted in the local paper saying, “Anyway you look at it…” Doesn’t mean the same as,”Any way you look at it…” Don’t know who to blame, the newsmaker, or the reporter? It’s so prevalent, probably both.

  22. Archon -  June 16, 2011 - 11:52 pm

    @ Fact finding, et al

    My sincere apologies. After finding several other errors, I assumed that the complaint about the sentence not parsing was just another case of a minnow trying to look like a whale. A post on another thread said that we can never proofread our own work because we will always see what we expect to see. The sentence (fragment) was atrociously constructed and I didn’t want to believe that a writer for a site like this would make such a mistake. Despite re-reading, carefully, 7 or 8 times, each time I took the word “as to be “is”. Still looked like it was composed with a food processor instead of a word processor, but at least it made sense. Not until Suzieque reprinted it and also quietly objected to it, did I objectively look at it again. Of course it doesn’t parse. I am humbled, and promise myself and those I communicate with to do far better in the future.

  23. no -  June 16, 2011 - 7:40 pm

    hi. <3

  24. JJ Rousseau -  June 16, 2011 - 8:56 am

    Oui, believe everything — literally.

  25. suzieque -  June 16, 2011 - 8:55 am

    “The fact that a movie using digital and image technologies that have led to the obsolescence of Super 8 film could be seen as ironic.”

    If that’s a sentence, I must be missing something.

  26. C Jones -  June 16, 2011 - 8:34 am

    @ Angelique, I saw the movie and also walked away with not understanding the connection to the title with the plot. After reading this blog, I understand.
    @ Chris, if the plot was so OBVIOUS you should have been able to explain it to Angelique.
    @ Joe, Ayu et al, don’t be so critical if someone does not understand something. I guess you guys know all there is to know about everything, ugh.

  27. Les Savvy -  June 16, 2011 - 5:01 am

    Bob, pseudonyms have been around for hundreds or thousands of years.

  28. Ezekiel Rage -  June 16, 2011 - 3:30 am


    I found your explanation of the correct usage of compound words quite amusing, but correct nonetheless, particularly the example you used, viz, INTO and IN TO:

    “If a man turns in to a motel, he’s probably a commercial traveller. If a man turns into a motel, there must have been magic involved.”

    Very humourous. I shall remember that for a while.

  29. Keira -  June 15, 2011 - 8:52 pm

    Responding to whoever asked about it relating to the plot. At the end of the movie it says that the film festival they are entering in is the super 8 film festival.

  30. Archon -  June 15, 2011 - 8:20 pm

    @ Bob

    You’re correct about there not being anything ironic about the title of the movie, but for the wrong reason. See my post above where I pointed out that that particular sentence was awkwardly constructed, leading to several invalid assumptions. What is ironic, is that this movie, which is a paean of praise for the old Super 8 system, is produced using all the modern, high-tech digital and image systems which caused the obsolescence and disappearance of the very technology featured in the movie.

  31. Lefty -  June 15, 2011 - 6:31 pm

    Thank you so much Skylar for sharing.. Have a lovely day

  32. YaThinkIdTell -  June 15, 2011 - 5:52 pm

    lol. Beast movie. Luved it. Cool reason for name. lol. omg! omg! omg! omg! omg! omg! omg! omg! omg! that was an epic movie. U should all watch it.

  33. Book Beater -  June 15, 2011 - 3:37 pm

    @ Bob
    Thanks for being the only person to respond to the actual issue.
    As for the rest of your statement. Now, in the 21 st. century, you are bang on.
    Keep up the good work, because I do love CGI in my movies

  34. SYD B ) -  June 15, 2011 - 1:36 pm

    That’s good to know. I’ve been wondering that question since i saw that awesome movie.

  35. Rasselas -  June 15, 2011 - 12:59 pm

    Wow! This works! No need to subscribe! … Oops! Hope I didn’t mess it up now…

  36. AlterPride Project -  June 15, 2011 - 11:22 am

    I still have my Bell & Howell home projector and camera from when I was a little kid. All my Super-8 movies are still stored away safely as well and are probably worth a pretty penny now :) I really miss watching Poltergeist and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and all those other classics on film!

  37. louis paiz -  June 15, 2011 - 9:23 am

    i think not of a film with the title of super 8, my mind percives it as the super 8 as the 8 magnifics,or better price as super rate,or superation,and the more i pronunce super 8 the more ideas come to my mind.like go ahead,evolve,the best and so on.thanks

  38. Bob -  June 15, 2011 - 9:18 am

    The author of this article, “Hot Word”, is disingenuous, use your real name to lend credibility to this article, but alas, in today’s digital world, pseudonyms reign supreme.
    This article is rife with errors and errors of omission.

    “Super 8″ was indeed an improvement over “Regular 8″ or just plain “8mm”, but not specifically because of improvements to the film stock, rather, because the actual frame size was increased which allowed for higher film grain count which created crisper, bigger projected images on a film screen. Also, the sprocket holes in Super 8 were reduced in size to allow for magnetic film stripe to be added to the film strip so back then home filmmakers could have sound with picture rather than the silent films in 8mm. Unfortunately, you could not edit sound Super 8 frame accurately because the magnetic stripe was out of sync with the on-screen dialogue because the sound reader head in the movie projector was behind the visual image being projected, but hey, you could record sound with pic.

    Super 8 was never a favorite of the motion picture industry, 35mm was, specifically Panavision in 35mm and the rare 70mm. Super 8 was big with indie filmmakers, homemade films, student films, artist filmmakers, and for one reason… it was way cheaper than shooting on 16mm film. The cost of filmmaking increased exponentially going from Super 8 and then increased exponentially when filming 16mm and more so filming in 35mm.

    There’s no irony in the film’s title, the use of a Super 8 camera in the film as compared to our new age of digital imagery and all digital creations for today’s “films”. There will always be photographic purists out there who desire for the “look” of Super 8, or 35mm or 16mm or 8×10 stills or even more basically, that “film” look; somehow these types of people will imbue themselves with the glow of something “special” when they “hand-make” a moving picture film using actual celluloid coated with silver impregnated colloidal material, that somehow creating moving images using “old fashioned” film somehow makes their end-product better than what is done digitally today. Persistence of vision is all that matters, the tools we use to create it matters not.

    Personally, moving away from film into an all digital media has been a godsend and has liberated millions of people to create professional-grade “movies” at a fraction of the cost of a Hollywood film. Besides, with the right plugin, you can make any video look like Super 8mm film, just no earth polluting chemicals are involved.

    Bob – who edits moving images for a living

  39. Leeann -  June 15, 2011 - 9:12 am

    Angelique never stated whether she had or had not seen “Super 8″. All movie viewers are not “film” experts and are not familiar with the term “super8″. Give Angelique a break you pompous repliers.

  40. Eric B -  June 15, 2011 - 9:08 am

    Film is inaccurate on two things. If it takes place in 1979, the Sony Walkman did not make it’s way to the US until 1980. Also, the Rubics Cube was not in the US until the 1980′s and reference is made to that.

    Also, was the song “My Sharona” in the movie? Again, a 1980 hit.

    I do like the notion of “Super 8″ as a title.

  41. Susie -  June 15, 2011 - 8:29 am

    I have seen this film. As a boy in school, Mr. Spielberg used to be on the AV squad, running projection machines; now he is a benchmark in his chosen profession. ‘Super 8′ is truly a homage to him, indeed! Liked the flick, by the way.

  42. Meaghetti and Spatballs -  June 15, 2011 - 7:54 am

    Multiple corrections re: Super 8 cameras being video cameras. Super 8 (launched in 1965) and regular 8 mm (1932) are film formats (as in you had to process it in chemicals in a dark lab to get a picture from it) which predate consumer video (as in the image is recorded magnetically onto tape cassettes which can be played immediately) camcorders, which weren’t available until the ‘eighties. Kids these days. Now it’s all gone digital. I tell you, back in the day you had to send your phone into a lab to get pictures from it! Sometimes took weeks to come back. Oh, the memories that brings back…

  43. SheridanZhoy -  June 15, 2011 - 6:17 am

    I’m peeved about the sentence fragment in this post (“The fact that…seen as ironic”). I actually don’t know what that sentence was trying to say.

  44. DJ -  June 15, 2011 - 5:32 am

    I enjoyed reading the “Super 8″ magazine when I was young. It would have wonderful tips on how to use your super 8 camera as well as articles featuring awesome tricks, tips and special effects one could use while making super 8 home movies. It is difficult to find the old articles of Super 8 magazine. Anyone have suggestions?

  45. ushna siddiqui -  June 15, 2011 - 3:48 am

    sorry sorry. i have write that i don’t know that what do we have to do.i am 9 years old i am still a child but i know a very good english and i also understand it so i have read it i do not agree this but i can not say that this

  46. ushna siddiqui -  June 15, 2011 - 3:43 am

    i am a 15 year old girl i ave make google but i like didi games

  47. Alan Turner -  June 15, 2011 - 2:30 am

    the word ‘but’ is a conjunction, i.e. it joins two parts of a sentence together. Therefore it cannot be ascribed a capital letter and be used at the start of a sentence. Get your grammar act together all of you.
    Of course, if you don’t believe me you are free to look it up on Dictionary.com

  48. Awesome Guy -  June 15, 2011 - 2:01 am

    i like turtles

  49. bob -  June 15, 2011 - 1:57 am

    Really, so since you’re explaining the obvious, what’s a dial tone?

  50. Archon -  June 15, 2011 - 12:22 am

    @ Fact checking

    WHOA there yourself, big fella. You would hazard that it IS particularly doubtful, or that it’s NOT particularly LIKELY that people…etc. And it’s just a spelling/punctuation correction, hardly an allusion.

    The “The fact that…” sentence is poorly constructed, and a couple of commas in the proper places would have helped, but not completely solved the problem. However, if you pull it apart and read it slowly, it does indeed, parse correctly. Your proposed addition would only have further mangled it.

    It should be into, not in to. I’ve been trying for years to convince people, especially professional writers, that compound words do not mean the same as the two words separately, and vice versa. If a man turns in to a motel, he’s probably a commercial traveller. If a man turns into a motel, there must have been magic involved.

  51. Skylar -  June 14, 2011 - 6:58 pm


    this movie is awesome with a bit of a complex storyline, but is definitely worth seeing in the theater

  52. Dan -  June 14, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    I think Gary and Chris are right. Super 8 was a consumer format and nowhere near the quality required for the film industry.

    It was possibly used form some MTV music videos.

  53. Skylar -  June 14, 2011 - 6:52 pm

    That makes a lot of sense, i have seen the movie (witch is awesome) and it makes sense, because that kid was using a “Super 8″ camera to tape his movie. By the way my favorite character was the kid with the backpack full of fireworks.

  54. JJ Rousseau -  June 14, 2011 - 6:22 pm

    What they said, Oui. Flim is fini. .

  55. Waynes World Studio Media Production -  June 14, 2011 - 5:17 pm

    Just so happen at the same time before the movie being release around the globe, I have requested my dad to give me his super 8mm, which is the same one from the movie. This super 8mm means so much to me since the entire documentary was shoot with it.

    I will be using it to continue with the family documentary with this super 8mm plus a new Sony 3D Stereoscopic Video talk about 35 years of making. I guess 35 years from now the next movie release will be titled as “3D Stereoscopic Video”

    Wayne Lam Creative + Media Director
    Photography: FantasyWeddingPhotography.com
    Videography: 3dVancouverWedding.com

  56. JJ Pooperscooper -  June 14, 2011 - 5:07 pm

    Who cares what was the preferred format for the movie industry? the title captures the excitement we felt as kids having this amazing technology of movie cameras at our fingertips. Just the term “Super 8″ was exciting… it was super, when the word “super” meant something really special, cool, and amazing to a kid. That’s what the kids in the movie felt… cool and grown-up, making their own movie until, blam, the unexpected happens!

  57. Chris N -  June 14, 2011 - 3:57 pm

    I don’t agree with the following from the above:
    “Super 8 became the preferred film format of the motion picture industry during the 1960s and 70s.”
    I would replace “the motion picture industry” with “home movie makers”. Some independent film makers, like Lenny Lipton, promoted it as an alternative to the more expensive 16mm and 35mm formats.

  58. Brendan -  June 14, 2011 - 3:30 pm

    Not exactly, I heard J.J. Abrams on Fresh Air a few days ago and he said a Super 8 was his first video camera that his Grandfather bought him. Much like the kids in the movie he made movies with his friends and family, whoever he could get to act. That was the premise of the movie before the script really took off in its present form.

  59. Cronk -  June 14, 2011 - 2:11 pm

    The main characters in the movie are a group of freinds who make their own movies using super 8 cameras. Speilberg and Abrams both grew up doing the same thing with their freinds. For them the movie is more of a homage to their roots as directors.

  60. Gary -  June 14, 2011 - 1:51 pm

    Actually this little story is incorrect. Super8 was NOT the preferred film stock of the motion picture industry, THAT was always 35mm, if not 65mm for epics like Lawrence of Arabia. Super8 was the preferred film stock of home hobbyists and proud parents.

  61. Jacqueline -  June 14, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    Well Chris I have seen the movie and the movie has very little to do with the Super 8 aspect of it all,there are just too many things trying to be all wrapped up in one failing epic disappointment. JJ Abrams is not Speilberg!! I long for the movies I loved as a kid E.T.,Goonies,Stand By Me,this movie can’t capture the heart and soul of those classic films.

  62. BiG CHING$ -  June 14, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    omg… the aliens need a place to stay because they are traveling from far away.. like a motel 6, or a super 8… get it????? duhhh

  63. tigerstripes -  June 14, 2011 - 1:13 pm

    The film title ‘Super 8′ also has a double meaning; to say more would be to spoil it. But I would say it definitely reflects the plot. 8^)

  64. TB -  June 14, 2011 - 1:12 pm

    Angelique…they’re making a movie at the beginning…on super 8 film. Doesn’t give anything away.

  65. kitty -  June 14, 2011 - 12:52 pm

    i’ve seen the movie. but i am not impressed! seems the movie was made in total exaggeration. super 8 is super 8 that make sense but the movie?…nah…

  66. dr -  June 14, 2011 - 12:45 pm

    In response to Barbara:

    “It’s so fun,” drives me crazy also. So I have come up with a response you might enjoy: It’s so error.

  67. Lefty -  June 14, 2011 - 12:09 pm

    Sorry meant to say Have not seen the movie yet… Is it in 3D?

  68. Lefty -  June 14, 2011 - 12:08 pm

    Sorry meant to say Have not seen the movie yet..

  69. Lefty -  June 14, 2011 - 12:07 pm

    Super 8 is also a BIG HOTEL CHAIN LOL… Have no seen the movie yet.. Is it worth watching now or just wait for it on NetFlix?? Please let me know Thumbs up or Thumbs Down..

  70. Ayu -  June 14, 2011 - 12:04 pm

    @Angelique: What a boring imagination you have

  71. Lorena -  June 14, 2011 - 11:46 am

    The title has everything to do with the movie. I havent seen it myself, but it definitely seems like a paranomal flick!

  72. Joe -  June 14, 2011 - 11:40 am

    Angelique are you stupid the title clearly has to do with the plot because of the film that they were doing for the contest.

  73. PME Video -  June 14, 2011 - 11:28 am

    Speaking of Super 8 film… If you would like it put on DVD, we are one of the best in the business. We’ve transferred well over 1 million feet of film. From 16mm, 8mm and Super 8mm. We also offer other great video services.

    I haven’t seen Super 8, yet. But I will this weekend!

    http://www.dictionary.com rules! I use your site daily!

  74. Michael McAndrews -  June 14, 2011 - 11:18 am

    I have yet to see the film, but could some one explain the general plot so that I could get a basic grasp on how the title relates? That would be great if you could.

    Thank you.

  75. Bro -  June 14, 2011 - 11:08 am

    I’m assuming (based on the trailers, seeing the movie tonight) that the title refers to the young boy’s video camera.

  76. Fact checking -  June 14, 2011 - 10:59 am

    Woah, there, dictionary.com. The guy’s name is “Abrams.” (I would also hazard that it’s not particularly doubtful that people know the allusion, but whatever.)

    Buuuuuut … The “preferred film format for the motion picture industry” in the 60s and 70s? In what sense? The preferred format for amateurs, probably. How many Hollywood movies were shot on Super 8?

    Also, the sentence beginning “the fact that a movie…” doesn’t parse for me. Should there be a “is the name of …” in there somewhere? (Honest usage question: “in to” or “into”?)

  77. Jay Bienvenu -  June 14, 2011 - 10:29 am

    When I hear the term “Super 8″ I usually think of the motel chain.

  78. Abigail -  June 14, 2011 - 10:11 am

    It has lots to do with the plot. The kids, who are the main characters, are film “geeks” who make monster movies in their spare time. That is how, in the appropriate time period they capture the crash and first glimpse of the actual movies’ “monster” on “Super 8″. The title is rather perfect if you think about it.

  79. Kimberly -  June 14, 2011 - 9:40 am

    @Angelique, the movie is about kids making a film with a Super 8 camera who capture an event that is the center of the movie. The title makes perfect sense.

  80. Ian -  June 14, 2011 - 9:38 am

    This is a reference about the camera that the kid (I don’t remember his name) who was shooting all of the home made monster films in the movie, and who captured the video from the train wreck. The reference is towards the camera that was used by the kids for that footage they shot.

    Hope this helps :)

  81. Chris -  June 14, 2011 - 9:32 am

    Angelique, if you see the film, it will be obvious. If you have seen the film and you still don’t understand, that’s hard to explain.

  82. Angelique -  June 14, 2011 - 9:20 am

    What does that have to do with the movie’s plot??? Shouldn’t the title reflet the plot??

  83. Michael V -  June 14, 2011 - 9:17 am

    I have a ton of super 8 family films. Sadly my projector spring belts are toast.

    Who would have thought of using springs for the belts on pulleys!


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