Favorite Movie Posters

Movie posters, just like book covers, have one simple purpose: Sell a product. That’s all they need to do. That’s all they’re expected to do.

Occasionally, though, something strange happens. The poster or book cover artist captures the imagination and creates something wonderful and unique. In the process of trying to sell a certain product, art is accidentally made.

Below are ten examples of movie poster work at its finest and why I love them.

THE IDES OF MARCH: Haven’t seen this poster before? That’s probably because it was just revealed yesterday. But, wow, what an image! The story of a campaign aide and a presidential candidate gets everything right, from the eerie split images of stars Ryan Gosling and George Clooney to the headline of the Time magazine cover also serving as the film’s tagline. An instant classic.

THE GOONIES: I admit, I picked this one for sentimental reasons. I loved this movie as a kid and the image of that ragtag group of friends hanging from a cave ceiling sparked my imagination big time. But it’s also a great example of the de facto movie poster style of the late seventies and early eighties. Gorgeously illustrated. Over the top. Completely indelible.

Speaking of illustrated movie posters, this is the one that defined Hollywood epics for the rest of time. This is big, bold, brash — just like the film itself. And that image of Vivien Leigh bursting out of her scarlet (get it?) dress while preparing to be kissed by Clark Gable against the orange sky of a burning Atlanta is still scorching more than 70 years later.

HALLOWEEN: Sometimes, simple is better. And you can’t get anymore simple than this sharp knife/jack-o-lantern mashup. In one spare image, the view learns everything he needs to know about the movie — Halloween. Big knife. ‘Nuff said.

ANATOMY OF A MURDER: Saul Bass was probably the greatest designer of opening credits that Hollywood will ever see. He was also a damn fine movie poster artist. Let’s review the evidence: Crude, but effective, silhouette? Check. Masterful use of typography? Check. Off-kilter blocks of bold color that bisect the poster? Check. The verdict: A masterpiece.

JAWS: My only complaint about this original one-sheet is that you don’t need all that text telling you who’s in it and what it’s based on. The image of that gargantuan shark hurtling toward our unsuspecting swimmer is enough. It helped turn Jaws into a smash hit, spawned more imitators than any other poster in film history and will forever make people swimming in the ocean wonder what’s lurking just beneath the surface.

VERTIGO: Saul Bass again, this time illustrating Hitchcock’s fever dream/confessional of psychosis and obsession. The doomed couple plummeting into that vortex would be enough for any poster. Yet Bass layers on his trademark typefaces and puts it all against an orange background that’s as unusual as it is perfect.

FUNNY GAMES: I have no idea why director Michael Haneke remade his 1997 thriller about a family tortured by two teenagers. I haven’t seen the movie and I probably never will. But it gave us this poster, a heart-stopping close-up of tear-streaked Naomi Watts. It gets extra props for putting the type near the center of the poster, letting the brutal, beautiful image fill the frame. Unforgettable.

FARGO: Leave it to the Coen brothers to take all the innocence out of needlepoint. This wholly original movie about crime and punishment in the frozen north needed an equally original poster. It leaves the viewer both stunned and amused. Did they really just reproduce a brutal crime scene in needlepoint? Yes. Yes, they did.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: This poster is so well-known that it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary it was at the time of the film’s release. The Oscar-winning star’s face is hazy and barely recognizable. Her eyes feel like they’re staring right into your soul. Her mouth is covered by a moth with a skull on its back. And there’s something strange about that skull that might warrant a much closer look. The result is startling, electric, hypnotic. Pure movie poster perfection.

Posted on by Todd Posted in Musings

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