The Best (and Worst) in Movie Posters

The success of a movie rides on the success of its marketing strategy. But today in Hollywood, it seems that hardly anyone is making an effort to come up with something fresh and new in the advertising department. Throw together a two-minute trailer with lots of loud explosions, histrionic music and the names of A-list actors and you’re on your way box office success.

One of the lost arts of moviemaking has been the steady decline of the movie poster. Once vivid pieces of American pop culture, posters have now become obsolete, save for a few that are displayed outside the occasional movie theater.

You can tell a lot about a film by its poster. Take for instance this beautifully designed one for Burning Man. I have no idea what the film is even about, but after seeing the poster I was immediately intrigued.

Double life: Matthew Goode in "Burning Man"

Apparently, Matthew Goode plays a chef surrounded with a dilemmas on every side (hence the food and reflection seen in the poster). But where does the “burning” fire come into play? Hmm . . .

Another one of my favorites comes from the 2007 film Atonement. Again, little is given away by the film’s poster, but there’s just enough intrigue in the design to get the audience interested in watching the film. (And once you’ve seen the film, the poster makes sense and adds even deeper meaning to the film, which is another plus.)

"I saw him with my own eyes."

Sadly, not all great movies have a great poster. The King’s Speech may have won over the hearts of audiences across the country and claimed the Best Picture prize at the 2011 Oscars, but it’s poster screams GENERIC! And that tagline . . . oh my. Dreadful. (I’ll be talking about movie taglines in a later post, but shame on the copywriter who came up with this one.)

Can you say "A-a-a-a-w--wfu-u-ul"?

Don’t they all look like smug British royalty? As in, “We three actors are brilliant in this movie and you are going to LOVE us!” The whole thing just irritates me.

However, The King’s Speech poster looks like it belongs in the MOMA compared to the absolute atrocity that the poster forĀ How Do You Know is. The first problem is that the film’s marketers were obviously confused about what to even call the film. Even the title is having an identity crisis. (Should there be a question mark at the end? Yes? No? Help!) As for the poster, it looks like the designer opened up Photoshop, pulled up a template with lots of picture boxes in it and inserted some cringe-worthy photos of the actors into it. Who would want to see this movie based on the poster? (Not very many people, as it turns out: YIKES)

What I do know is that this poster makes me nauseous.

Like The King’s Speech‘s poster, How Do You Know‘s also shows an alarming trend in posterage these days to show the character’s faces in a stereotypical grid, which requires ZERO creativity. How about something challenging and fresh for once, Hollywood?

I’ll close with my favorite movie poster of all time. It’s even hanging in my room. The legendary designer Saul Bass is most famous for his collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, and in my opinion his poster for Vertigo is his masterpiece. Simple, elegant and complex.

A good kind of dizzy: Saul Bass's classic poster for a classic film

Do you have a favorite movie poster that effectively conveys a film’s theme without giving too much away? Or maybe you have one that somehow manages to be even more revolting than How Do You Know‘s. Share your best and worst picks in the comments.

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One thought on “The Best (and Worst) in Movie Posters

  1. Excellent assessment of the movie advertising industry. I agree that most are boring. My favorite posters display overall scenes from the movie, like the Lord of the Rings Posters. Like this blog so keep it up!

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