Are there some kind of common or standard rules for naming characters in movies?

I am especially asking with with fictional movies in mind that depict scenarios that are based on more or less realistic universes.

Example given: "Designated Survivor". Is there a in- or out-of-universe reason for the names of the character like Mike Ritter, Tom Kirkland, Aaron Shore, Hookstraten or even Bowman?

Should such names help tell part of the story? To me they seem just erratic. I am living in Europe, so I could miss some specifics of those names.

1 Answer 1


Are there some kind of common or standard rules for naming characters in movies?


There may be legal reasons why a name cannot be used as it might imply that it is meant to represent a real person or similar fictional character which might open up the studio or production company to litigation for misrepresentation or defamation or copyright infringement.

You can't call your secret agent character "James Bond" without a knock on the door from a lawyer for instance.

Names of real people can be used if they are in the public eye but again, the Legal Departments will "clear" those names to ensure they're OK to use for the same reasons.

Obviously, however, you don't want to confuse the audience so, unless it's plot related, characters won't have the same first name as another character, ditto for last names.

Characters might have names that reflect ethnicity or heritage but that that is not a given.

At the end of it...the writer will choose the names, the studio / producers might veto a name or change it...but that's it.

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    As to avoiding similar first names, Game of Thrones is an excellent reference. Robert Arryn was renamed to Robyn Arryn because Robert Baratheon was already known (in the books, many characters named Robert exist, but not in the show). Asha Greyjoy was renamed to Yara Greyjoy because a character named Osha exists. There was also a Lady Stork slated for the story, but due to the massive overlap with Lady Stark, Lady Stork was renamed to Lady Crane.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 8:57

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