How top studios create their best movie posters for Hollywood and indie films

Read the article, then post a link  to your favorite movie poster and explain why it works.

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24 Responses to How top studios create their best movie posters for Hollywood and indie films

  1. J Scheifla says:

    Those Black Swan posters are fantastic, but I had to laugh at the creative director’s bullshit comment: “The intention for Black Swan was to interpret the essence and feeling of the movie in a single illustration, in much the same way that Polish and Czech film posters did so well in the 60s and 70s – not stylistically, but in their content and purpose,” says creative director Scot Bendall. I had to laugh again when in the next paragraph it was acknowledged that the designers had not seen the film at the time of the posters’ creation. C’est la vie. Anyway, I’m not familiar with Polish or Czech film posters from the 60s and 70s, but aesthetically the Black Swan posters seem – to my eyes anyway – to have been inspired by the famous French Art Deco poster artist, A.M. Cassandre.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandre_(1901-1968)

    I was equally taken aback that while discussing Akiko Stehrenberger’s Funny Games poster(s) photographer Jill Greenberg was not credited, as that poster (the one featuring Naomi Watts) is quite obviously either her work or at the very least, derivative of her work; which is awesome. I encourage anyone who might be interested to spend some time looking through her portfolio.

    http://www.jillgreenberg.com/Fine-art/photos/end-times#/

    As for my favorite poster…

    http://impawards.com/2010/american_xlg.html

    …okay, not necessarily my favorite movie poster ever, but one that comes to mind and that I like very much. I love the use of halftone dots and the color scheme that references Saul Bass’s classic poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The poster evokes a retro vibe that speaks well to the tone and style of the film, and I think attracts a certain type of audience that wouldn’t necessarily be swayed by George Clooney’s presence in and of itself.

    http://degine.blogspot.com/2009/01/art-of-modern-movie-poster-3-saul-bass.html

  2. Brittany Neptune says:

    http://www.impawards.com/1999/american_beauty.html

    I posted a link to the American Beauty movie poster. I find this poster very appealing because of how simple it is. Some movie posters overdo the special graphics and clutter the given space with so many pictures that it makes it hard to capture a viewer’s attention. Although, with the simple picture and vibrant colors that the American Beauty poster features it draws the viewer in. The effectiveness of this poster lies behind the tactic of providing so little information provided that the audience is intrigued to see it and learn more what it’s about.

  3. Eleni Pappelis says:

    http://www.extratextual.tv/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/et.jpg This classic movie poster of E.T., I think, is very effective. It is simple and not over cluttered. It also gives the audience enough of an idea of what the movie is about while intriguing their interest. The background of the earth in space is a powerful, attention grabbing setting. The symbolic “E.T. phone home” hand connecting with the child hand hints to moviegoers that it is science fiction film about aliens visiting Earth. The typography of the title and the other information such as the tagline also made this poster very effective. I really like this movie poster. I think it has enough of the right information, is well designed, and grabs people’s attention. This poster works.

  4. Allie Lord says:

    One of my favorite movie posters and one that I think of as very powerful is the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie poster. There were several posters released for the movie, most featuring a character turned to the side or only half their face. The one I posted follows this trend by featuring half of Daniel Radcliffe and half of Ralph Fiennes with tagline “It All Ends”. Due to the Harry Potter series’ notoriety, it wasn’t necessary to make a big deal out of the actors themselves, so the poster plays more upon the ultimate battle between good and evil, represented by Harry and Voldemort, focused on each other. Also, the only real words on the poster, “It All Ends” are dramatic and powerful, drawing in not just serious Harry Potter fans but those who have heard a great deal about this story and feel societal pressure to see how it ends.

    http://www.impawards.com/2011/harry_potter_and_the_deathly_hallows_part_two.html

  5. Dane says:

    There are several posters for “Dark Knight”, but this is the only one that I’ve seen that didn’t portray the actual characters. And yet you recognize the focus of the conflict between the two main characters (The Joker and Batman) by the graffiti on a dingy old brick, which portrays poor living conditions of Gotham. The poster tells you the what you will be seeing without actually showing the characters, which I feel required a bit more creativity than other “Dark Knight” ads.

  6. Emilie Osterkamp says:

    I feel that the direction of avoiding the star of the film and instead included key components of the film is much more intriguing. Personally, when I judge a movie, I seldom first comment on the actors in the movie, instead I comment on the quality of the movie as a whole, then specific scenes in the movie, so posters that draw images from those scenes would absolutely appeal to me more so than those with the starring actor. Think of it like this, if a poster feature’s Johnny Depp and I dislike him as an actor, I probably won’t go see the movie; however if the poster features rum and I like rum (as given in the article) I will be more interested to see the movie being I am associating it’s components (rum) with something I like, or am interested in.

  7. Nate Spere says:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&biw=1280&bih=679&tbm=isch&tbnid=edhMyOxLMbrp4M:&imgrefurl=http://www.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-38932/Fear_and_Loathing_in_Las_Vegas.html&docid=AbZWoeBcxyxxZM&imgurl=http://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/77/MPW-38932&w=500&h=753&ei=OH7OT-68NePu2gXZ-uy8DA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=525&vpy=149&dur=1405&hovh=276&hovw=183&tx=88&ty=114&sig=108370182970907340973&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=95&start=0&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:3,s:0,i:92

    This is my favorite movie poster because it depicts what the movie is about and what “trip” you are in for. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is about drugs and when i look at this movie poster the first thing that comes to mind is “this dude is on drugs.” I believe that people who had not heard of this movie would find it hard to look at this and not read the back of the case. The poster is so unique and intriguing that it is an advertisement in itself, just as it was meant to be.

  8. Andrew Gust says:

    I can completely understand when they say once a movie poster is successful, it is often reused in that genre. I feel like most movie posters are around the some design and color scheme. It is very rare when I see a movie poster and it makes me want to see it more, unless it actually shows the actor in the film. The fact that rum dairies did not put Johnny Depp sounds pretty dumb. Having Johnny Depp in a movie basically guarantees success in theaters and not to advertise that seems a little foolish to me. I found this video on youtube it shows similarities in movie posters

    One of my favorite movie posters would have to be little Miss Sunshine. I didn’t really like the movie, but the movie poster is able to fit all the main characters into one poster. Show the dysfunction of the family, while also showing how they help each other. I feel it is one poster that is really able to portray the movie very well.

  9. Johnny Escobar says:

    Movies posters are an iconic part of movie history. Looking at old movie posters takes you back to the first time that you saw that movie, it actually makes you want to see that movie again, even if you have seen it a hundred times. This shows the power of a successful and creative movie poster. One of my favorite movie posters of all time is 300. Besides the fact that I thoroughly enjoy this film I also enjoy the different movie posters created for this film. There are at least ten different posters promoting this film and they act almost like collectables, where people want to own the whole set. This repeatability gives the advertising company many different options in how to create the posters. It also gives the advertising company extendability as these posters can stay popular for a very long time.

  10. Casey Winkler says:

    When designing a movie poster, creatives must take into consideration the tone they are trying to set, message they are trying to convey, and emotions they want to generate from it’s viewers. The posters must attract the eye of the viewer while still reflecting some sort of relevance towards the film and it’s plot. Or is that not the case? Is it more important to get viewers in the theater or convey an accurate idea of what the film will be about? Take my favorite poster campaign for example, Batman: The Dark Knight. This series of posters tends to feature The Joker more than it tends to feature Batman. In my opinion, this is a smart tactic because, although Batman is the protagonist and the main character, The Joker’s character is much more intriguing and compelling. The Joker has an eerie, almost creepy, sense about him and it makes his character much more attention-grabbing.

    Take a look at these few posters to see what I mean…

  11. Ryan Hagen says:

    I agree with what is said in this article because in my opinion the movie poster for a movie is the most important aspects of advertising a movie, since it is often the first thing people see for a new movie. There were two movie poster’s that I selected as my favorites for different reasons. The first movie is poster is Rise of The Planet of the Apes. I really liked this poster because to me it told a lot about the movie just with a close up picture of Caesar and the quote “Evolution Becomes Revolution”. With this simple image I was able to understand the premise of the movie and the series as well. The second poster is from the movie X-Men First Class. I like these poster because they offer us a background of where the two main characters in this movie came from and what has shaped them into the people they are today.

  12. Sam Poloway says:

    This article was interesting to read and I do like the more artistic posters as opposed to ones that are highlighting the cast. However, I realize if you have a superstar in the film it would help the advertising if they were in at least some of the posters. It is interesting to see the creative process that poster companies go through when making posters because it is similar to how advertising agencies make their advertisements. They both try and connect with the viewer through evoking emotions. I wonder if for future movies the major movie making studios will maybe give the responsibility of making posters to advertising agencies because of these similarities. I like the movie posters made for the black swan but my favorite poster right now is probably the one for A Clockwork Orange because of the intense sentence it has on it and how it feels like it is jumping of the page. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.moviespad.com/photos/a-clockwork-orange-movie-poster-7c587.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.moviespad.com/movie/images/62/a-clockwork-orange-movie-poster/&h=1612&w=1116&sz=213&tbnid=UoAKuZ8ntGdyeM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=62&zoom=1&usg=__9MuW70ruXaS6u6eKIuCneq1fXj0=&docid=be5LUCUVhjWEnM&sa=X&ei=PsHOT8OqMOGQ2gXD08iwDA&ved=0CJEBEPUBMAM&dur=2330

  13. Caroline Amling says:

    http://geektyrant.com/storage/page-images/Inception-Movie-Poster-redesigned.jpeg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1298516730986

    The reason i like this movie poster is because of the design style. In my opinion, I am much more intrigued when a see a poster that actually uses elements of design rather than simply creating a collage of famous actors. I think that by going against that typical vision, it creates a poster that it unique and stands out making it more recognizable. I think this poster because it is unique in its design, it is simple, incorporates the idea of the movie (inception: with the multiple faces), as well as displaying the names of the actors; still giving the movie some star power. In my mind, this poster has the best of both worlds.

  14. Ryan S says:

    The poster I found to be very different and creative was the We Bought A Zoo movie poster. Just like the example of The Black Swan poster, it’s an illustration. There is no pictures of the main actors or movie scenes, but an illustration that gives us a feel for the movie. I really enjoy the use of the different animal paw prints for the tree leaves. It makes message of “the tree of life” become really visible in the poster design. When you first look at it you think that’s a tree, then you see the paws and automatically the connection is made, tree of life. That is successful design, when a simple metaphor can be easily spotted. I also love this poster because of the texture within in the tree, it adds depth and spunk to it. It’s clean, simple, easy on the eyes, and creates enough visual interest to read the text.

  15. Rajan Singhal says:


    I have always loved the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas posters. The distorted image aspects match the feel of the movie and work really well for me. I have always been a huge fan of the artwork by Ralph Steadman in Hunter Thompson’s book, so i appreciate the aspects of Steadman’s artwork in the poster.

  16. Rob Jewett says:

    I really enjoy simple movie posters that are straight down to the point. Movie trailers are the things that hook audiences into seeing the movies in theaters. The movie posters are the things that remind audiences that they liked what they saw during the preview and should go see it. In this case, someone might remember a trailer with a very graphic scene of a baseball bat and a Nazi solider. This movie poster would promote that very memorable scene and make people question who’s holding the bat and what happens next.

  17. Cody Chambers says:

    I really like the Step Brothers movie poster. Posters are usually the first thing you see when a new movies is coming out as it is posted in the coming soon section on the walls of movie theatres. It has that awkward family photo feeling which is perfect for storyline of the movie. Its also great because it focuses on the faces of the two main characters Will Ferrel and John C. Reilly, two very funny and noticable actors. By taking in the name of the movie at the top and picture you can kind of get a sense of the plot the movie. When you see the poster you instantly know the movie is going to be funny and makes you excited to see when it comes out.

    http://www.moviefanatic.com/gallery/step-brothers-movie-poster/

  18. Gabe Herring says:

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm127383040/tt0848228

    I feel like the movie poster for The Avengers is portrayed very well and the advertising style fits its genre of movies. The poster shows all of the characters with their special powers with the lead super hero in front. Even though there is a lot going on in the poster its does a really good job giving an accurate idea of what the movie is about and how much action is in it. It does an excellent job of drawing people in because of all the different actors on the poster as well as all of the action going on in it as well. For the old version of The Avengers the movie poster is very similar, so its nice that they transferred those ideas into the new movie’s poster.

  19. The most effective movie posters explain the movie in a snapshot. I chose the poster made for one of my favorite movies, Father of the Bride, because I think it is a great representation of the story. The movie is centered around a father’s mixed emotions leading up to his daughter’s big day. In this poster, Steve Martin does a great job of using his facial expression to display his feelings about the wedding. Meanwhile, his overjoyed daughter is kissing his cheek and spurring his mood. I like this poster because they kept it very simple. Too often I see cluttered movie posters that lose the meaning of the film. This poster says everything it needs to say in a simple, clean picture and leaves the viewer with a clear picture of what the movie is all about.

    http://www.impawards.com/1991/father_of_the_bride.html

  20. Ben Butterfield says:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?q=avengers+poster&um=1&hl=en&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=1217&bih=684&tbm=isch&tbnid=ySL_K8G4wXE3wM:&imgrefurl=http://www.film.com/movies/what-the-avengers-poster-says-about-the-state-of-american-marketing&docid=XdyTWS9_gsFiOM&imgurl=http://www.film.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/the-avengers-poster.jpg&w=550&h=813&ei=cdXPT_qJMcPc2gXl_uXADA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=107&vpy=205&dur=1536&hovh=273&hovw=185&tx=95&ty=149&sig=115477860007212593935&page=1&tbnh=117&tbnw=79&start=0&ndsp=26&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:79

    I really like the way this Avengers poster is set up because just at first glance it is like you have already seen a movie trailer and it gives you the feel of excitement about the film. It puts out all the main characters in the film and gives viewers what they want to see, which are the heroes. Behind the main characters you can see the city background that is portraying a battle scene which is what viewers are looking for when going to watch the film. In comparison to the teaser posters this poster gives a much fuller picture of what the movie is about and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Personally i like this better because it doesn’t trick me in anyway it puts it all out there and I know what to expect.

  21. Ryan Putman says:

    This article is extremely relevant to me as I am a Digital art major and just finished creating a movie poster project. My senior project which I just finished up was a design book that I had published. To get the word out about my book I created a few posters to advertise it and since most book posters are a bit dry I relied on movie posters to get inspiration. My design style is very clean and I try to simplify things down to be as minimal yet impactful as possible. Its a fine line balancing universally accepted design rules and yet still being progressive and unique. After many, many, many edits from university staff I was able to publish my book. Overuse of text is my biggest pet peeve and so therefore I tend to enjoy the posters with only the movie title or actors names. Below are a few examples…

    http://www.google.com/search?q=movie+posters&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=CQvQT7vAEume2AXVydTLDA&biw=1024&bih=672&sei=CwvQT8fuIsLi2QW-9vCtDA
    http://www.google.com/search?q=movie+posters&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=CQvQT7vAEume2AXVydTLDA&biw=1024&bih=672&sei=CwvQT8fuIsLi2QW-9vCtDA

  22. Angela says:

    I can really appreciate the art of making movie posters. We definitely judge books by their cover, so who’s to say we don’t jude movies by their covers either. I think these top studios are demonstrating great ad tactics by bring back illustration. It’s as if the new film is presented in a timeless manner. All of the posters in this article were really beautiful and unique. I appreciated how the article brought up “teaser posters.” Recently with photoshop becoming more widely popular, the amount of recreations and spoofs of media have gone viral. I have seen quite a few of teaser posters on various blogs. Buzzfeed.com’s “If Best Picture Movie Posters Told The Truth” article (http://www.buzzfeed.com/mrbabyman/if-best-picture-movie-posters-told-the-truth-b7t ) actually has a spoof of Black Swan. Across Natalie Portman’s face on the teaser poster, the title reads “Lesbian Sex”. If movie covers said it how it truly is, half of them wouldn’t make sense anyways.

  23. Travis Clark says:

    http://www.google.com/imgres?q=movie+posters&um=1&hl=en&client=safari&sa=N&rls=en&biw=1100&bih=664&tbm=isch&tbnid=cLTJSK2863H-MM:&imgrefurl=http://abduzeedo.com/daily-inspiration-539&docid=DjY-ZS6V753wWM&imgurl=http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/movie-posters/lord-war-creative-movie-posters.jpg&w=570&h=850&ei=9UnQT4WrEomO2wWR-Ym6DA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=892&vpy=245&dur=2255&hovh=274&hovw=184&tx=116&ty=172&sig=113801034411341917076&page=3&tbnh=147&tbnw=109&start=59&ndsp=32&ved=1t:429,r:31,s:59,i:332

    I really liked this movie poster because of the intricate design they used to depict the meaning of the movie. From afar it simply looks like a picture of Nicholas Cage, but when your get closer you can see he is made up of hundreds and hundreds of bullets and guns. This emulates the fact that he is a lord of war because he is made of guns and ammo, which he sells in the movie. Movie posters must capture the audience right away and either make them interested enough about the character to pursue a further reading of the movie or make them laugh so that they will connect that to the movie later on.

  24. Allen N says:

    I love a good movie poster. It seems like studios don’t take posters seriously anymore. I feel like a majority of them are like so:

    very rushed and hastily scrapped together, horribly photoshopped and with unrealistic proportions.

    Which is why I always appreciate a movie poster in which you can tell had some effort put into it. I remember first seeing the Black Swan posters and being very impressed with their artistic approach. You’re trying to sell a multi-million dollar movie, so why not make every poster beautiful?

    One of my most favorite movie posters is this one:

    It’s beautiful in its simplicity, it’s artsy, it’s not attempting to squeeze too much into the dimensions, and it’s alluring enough to make you curious about the film.

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