Before the days of spoiler-alert film trailers, a movie poster and a good review was the only way to lure audiences to the cinema. And with some of the best graphic designers and illustrators on the case, Hollywood has treated us to a plethora of incredible, wall-deserving film posters that stand the test of time. Here we round up the best examples of the cinematic one sheet.
American graphic designer and Academy Award winning filmmaker, Saul Bass helped to transform movie advertising into an art form. Before Bass, movie posters were dominated by depictions of key scenes of characters from the film, Bass’ posters, however involved simplified, symbolic elements. Vertigo, with its stylised figures sucked down into the nucleus of a spiral vortex, captures the anxiety and disorientation central to the film. The poster remains essential eye candy for design fanatics.
When it came to designing the Casablanca film poster, legendary Bill Gold thought at first that the lineup of characters would be enough of a draw. “This was one of my first posters. My initial thoughts were to put together a montage showing all the characters depicted in the film. They appeared to be an interesting ensemble of notable characters.” Something was missing, however. The characters didn’t convey the threat of violence that lurked throughout the movie, and Gold was asked to add more ‘excitement’. “I added the gun in Bogart’s hand, and the poster suddenly came alive with intrigue.”
Capturing the essence of Bonjour Tristesse in one single image, this is another classic poster design by the legendary Saul Bass. Martin Scorsese aptly described Bass’ approach as creating ….‘an emblematic image, instantly recognisable and immediately tied to the film’.
How can one turn Vladimir Nabokov’s highly controversial 1955 novel of a middle-aged man’s doomed sexual passion for a precocious nymphet girl into a licit movie? Well that’s exactly the question the iconic film poster for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation posed – “How do you make a movie like Lolita?” The teasing poster has been pinned to our walls ever since.
The poster for Forbidden Planet by an anonymous MGM artist remains a masterpiece of movie poster design. The poster showcases the star of Fred M. Wilcox’s sci-fi spectacular – the seven-foot tall Robbie the Robot with a girl draped over its arms. A wonderful use of colour, a magnificent background, the poster is complete with the tagline ‘Amazing’, since translated into numerous languages – ‘Surprenant!’, ‘Verrassend!’, ‘Asombroso!’.
Filled with iconic umbrellas and feel-good colour, the poster for Singin' in the Rain visualises perfectly the upbeat musical. The romantic comedy from the 50s is known for Gene Kelly's famous tap dance. A photographic classic, the film poster is sure to brighten any room.
Artist Giorgio Olivetti created one of the most captivating movie posters of all time. With the sultry Anita Ekberg dancing in the foreground, and a disenchanted Marcello Mastroianni staring out from the shadowy background, it’s the perfect portrayal of Federico Fellini’s classic film.
Every woman wanted to be her, and every man wanted to be with her – Audrey Hepburn the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With an exaggerated cigarette holder, a cheeky sideways glance, complete with a furry cat and sparkling accessories, the iconic poster perfectly captures the glamorous Hepburn, star of the silver screen.
Billed as “An epic drama of adventure and exploration”, audiences were at first disappointed with the film’s slow pace and its philosophical ambiguities. MGM brought in Mike Kaplan, to rethink the film’s marketing. Kaplan was aware that that the underground press had embraced the film and he decided to tap into the 1960s ‘youth revolution’. Noting that younger members of the audience liked to get high during the concluding section of the film, Kaplan designed a poster to highlight this appeal, which read “The Ultimate Trip” and featured the image of the star child from the film’s final frames. The result? An iconic movie poster that will go down in cinematic history.
This poster was designed for the sixties American crime thriller "Bullitt". It centres on the protagonist, played by Steve McQueen, and the design incorporates the film's famous car chase scene on the right. It captures the filmstar McQueen at the heart of his career.
Do you agree with the top ten? Browse our film poster collection and tell us which are your favourites.