The Posters that Pack a Punch

Kick-Ass is not only a fantastically original, kinetic film, it also boasts a great advertising campaign thanks to its bold and interconnected posters. Never mind the movies themselves, every so often a film’s publicity can be a masterpiece all its own. From slick, cubist motifs to inventive retro designs, movie posters can exhibit a creative integrity on par with the greatest movements of the art world. To prove my point, let’s take a gander at the best of the best, some old, some new, all brilliant…

 Often hailed as the greatest film of all time, this classic has only grown better with age. The foreboding atmosphere and uneasy tensions reach their peaks in all the right places, and the film’s poster is not to be sniffed at either. The imposing figure of Don Vito Corleone emerges from the darkness, the sinister glare of his shadowed eyes leaving no doubt in the viewers’ mind as to who he is; the Godfather. Beneath him lie the immortal lines of dialogue that cement his place in film history as the ultimate puppeteer of crime, corruption and deceit.

While the picture of Jack Nicholson’s deranged face peering through splintered wood may be the most iconic remnant of The Shining’s legacy, this Polish poster makes excellent use of its second most enduring image. Clearly drawing influence from Edvard Munch’s The Scream, the gaping mouth and expressionistic tones bring forth the film’s hypnotic energy and offer just a glimpse of the strange happenings within Stanley Kubrick’s psychedelic horror film.

Seductive and mysterious (and not to mention all “arty” and stuff), the poster to Sam Mendes’ career defining dissection of suburban life, aka American Beauty, is every bit as striking as the film it’s advertising. Trapped in a mundane existence, Kevin Spacey is tempted by the youthful beauty of his daughter’s best friend, which becomes a catalyst for a series of events that challenge the perceptions of everyday America as well as issues of gender and identity. The vibrancy of a freshly picked red rose held in a feminine hand against a smooth, bare naval fits perfectly with the movie’s charged sense of subtle danger and sexual urgency.

The Dark Knight was a global success in every way. For some it was tainted by the tragic demise of the film’s scene stealing star Heath Ledger, for others it made it all the more poignant. Purposeful or not, this polished poster handles the issue of Ledger’s involvement with artful, understated intelligence; the blood splattered tagline, the ominously obscured figure of the Joker, the faded city of Gotham receding behind. Yes, the best Batman film yet was a success in every imaginable way, and that doesn’t stop short of the advertisements.  

Tim Burton’s known for his stylistic worlds, and The Nightmare Before Christmas is no exception (although Henry Selick deserves most of the credit as HE was the actual director). The simple shapes of the curling, gothic hillside and the bright, perfect-circle moon create a harmonious image of Cubist inspiration, Jack Skellington casting a stick-like silhouette that suits the painterly hues of the image. The poster promises all the aesthetic wonder and magical fantasy that the film delivered.

Overflowing with style, Roman Polanski’s neo-noir thriller got the stunning publicity it deserved when these darkly arresting posters were released. The shady profile of Nicholson literally spills over the edge of the frame, with cigarette smoke coiling round the piercing eyes of Dunaway. The slightly surreal, slightly retro elements of the piece all help to make it one of the best film posters of all time.

One of the most recent examples of how ingenious film posters can be comes from last year’s suspenseful sci-fi flick Moon. The clean cut outlines and monotone scheme generate a cool, calculated image, with the off centre circle and the lone astronaut within it establishing the film’s sense of bewildering isolation. One thing this poster does better than most is apply the tried and tested “less-is-more” approach, and it does so with acute panache.

One of Hitchcock’s many thrillers; Dial M for Murder was given a fantastic advertising campaign that rivals the one of that other Hitchcock creation Vertigo (the poster almost made it, but it’s had its share of attention by now). The original release poster has an abundance of kitschy flare, from the dangling phone to the bold typography. Moreover, the deep red shades imply all the things it should: danger, romance, lust and alarm. Not to mention the ambiguous image of a man and woman grappling in the dark…

 What’s notable about this Art Deco eat-your-heart-out poster is that it looks more expensive than the film it’s selling! Martin Scorsese’s low budget gangster drama embraced its handheld origins to full effect, the end result being a coarse but absorbing piece of cinema full of character. The clean-cut design of the poster is therefore apparently at odds with the film’s style, but in actual fact its deceptively detailed imagery is more than appropriate for a film which cleverly sculpted its own unique identity hot off the heels of the momentous crime picture The Godfather.

In keeping with the “homespun” feel of the movie, Fargo’s film poster apes the down-to-earth craft of cross stitch to full effect. The subversive pairing of all things homely and quaint with a gruesome murder is attained through the picture of a face down body surrounded by stitched blood, needle and thread literally weaving a yarn of morbid eccentricity before our eyes. The vast white of the snow accentuates every feature of the poster, all the while creating an ever so slightly bizarre world like the ones found in almost all of the Coen brothers’ films.

 Film has been continually undermined as the newest and therefore least respectable art form. The irony and ridiculousness of this perception continues to baffle, with films of all sorts offering a multitude of opportunities for brilliance inside and outside the medium. Not only does the artistic beauty of film unfold on screen, it can be found in the plethora of products surrounding it. Commercial though their purpose may be, film posters can be inspired, stylish and thoughtful pieces of art; yes, for every Fargo poster there’s a handful of bland, name branding adverts, but then again not every painting hangs along side Van Gogh.

About The Author

2 Responses

  1. Joe Cunningham

    I had posters in my room last year for I’m not There and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, they were both awesome.

    • Luke.Woellhaf

      Wow you’re right, I just looked up the I’m Not There ones, and they really are great! I especially like the one where they’ve chopped all the actors together


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.