Premiere: The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever
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Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Mark Rothko meets the chalk outline. Artist Saul Bass (also an acclaimed title designer and visual consultant) brought poster design out of the golden age with a bold mix of the abstract and the figurative, of which this poster for the controversial 1959 Otto Preminger thriller is a prime example.
The Sin of Nora Moran (1933)
Some great posters are from movies you may never have heard of -- 1933's The Sin of Nora Moran is a fairly inconsequential B picture, but its poster is an unforgettable image of ravishment. (As for truth in advertising, the film's lead actress was not a blond.) Alberto Vargas, an artist who was a go-to guy for the studios during the 1930s, did the artwork on this Majestic release.
The image that Saul Bass who also created the opening credit sequence of the film itself designed for Hitchcock's 1958 Vertigo is as classic as the movie itself. Perhaps because of his good work or merely because of his growth into one of film's most gifted poster creators, Bass was given a credit on the film, which at the time wasn't customary.
Downhill Racer (1969)
Downhill Racer's breathtaking 1969 one-sheet is, among other things, a testimonial to just how freewheeling the '60s were only then were the studios daring enough to advertise a Robert Redford picture without showing Redford on the poster. Steve Frankfurt did the design and while the film was mostly ignored by audiences, the one-sheet is seen as a touchstone for future film posters.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
The Forbidden Planet artwork (1956), with its decidedly menacing robot and definitely-not-Anne Francis damsel-in-distress, evokes and entire ethos of pulp sci-fi. The prominence of Robbie the Robot also tapped into 1950s hysteria by appearing like some piece of domestic gadgetry.
The image of Rita Hayworth in the title role of Gilda (1946) epitomizes the femme fatale. Robert Coburn took the picture and art director Jack Kerness did the rest with this sultry image of Hayworth in a Jean Louis gown. This poster touches on the scene that comes after the film's most famous sequence in which Hayworth's character does a striptease.
42nd Street (1933)
The deco-ish cascade of legs for 42nd Street (1933) brings to mind skyscrapers as well as dancing feet. Hubbard G. Robinson and Joseph Tisman, who also created the poster for Busby Berkeley's other 1933 film Footlight Parade, captured the off-kilter attraction of Berkeley's bubbly choreography with the poster's use of sharp angles and an image from the film's most famous (or infamous) under the legs sequence. The result was one of the top ten grossing films of the year for Warner Bros.
Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1958)
1958's Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman is an awful movie but the poster is memorable. Reynolds Brown, frequently employed by the studios to create horror one-sheets, designed this Cold War-era flick that was intended to lure teens away from their television sets.
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Douglas Fairbanks never looked better than he did in this one-sheet for the 1924 swashbuckler. But as the producer of The Thief of Baghdad, Fairbanks ensured his image would look good by asking illustrator Adrian Gill Spear to create the poster for the United Artists film.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Originally designed, but discarded as a less prominent image to promote the film, this poster for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey became the main focus of the advertising campaign when it was decided that audiences weren't as excited by traditional space age images as they had been during the 1950s. The image of an embryo embaced the film's theme of human evolution and Kubrick had complete authority over the film's marketing.
King Kong (1933)
Star power being what it is, 1933's King Kong merely needed a big ape to sell itself. Yet S. Barret McCormick and Bob Sisk did the artwork for the iconic ape, based on the production sketches of Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe. The image of the creature terrorizing humans against the backdrop of the New York skyline represented nature versus the machine age at its most extreme.
Straw Dogs (1971)
The shattering violence of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 Straw Dogs is disturbingly foreshadowed in this cleverly layered image. While the poster does have a closeup of one of the 1970s most famous leading men, the controversial Dustin Hoffman-Sam Peckinpah collaboration about a man forced to his breaking point is perfectly captured.
The Gold Rush (1925)
The shivering Tramp of 1925's The Gold Rush immediately entered the pantheon of iconic images. As with many of Chaplin's posters, it relied more on Chaplin's bowler hat, mustache and facial expression to grab audiences than a suggestion of the film's comic elements.
The Man with the Golden Arm (1956)
The stark simplicity of Bass's poster for 1955's The Man With the Golden Arm was perhaps the designer's most daring work. The poster for the film, which stars Frank Sinatra as a man in the throes of drug addiction, conveys the essence of the main character's struggle without being preachy. Other posters were commissioned that featured the faces of Sinatra and Kim Novak, but the twisted arm remains timeless.
The Mummy (1932)
The poster for 1932's The Mummy remains an auction champ: it once sold for $453,500. P.D. Cochrane was the advertising director at Universal who commissioned the work of illustrator Karoly Grosz which features sultry Zita Johann backed up against a tomb and a mummified Boris Karloff at rest above her.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The poster for 1991's The Silence of the Lambs, designed by the ad agency Dazu, is as simple and disturbing as they come. Look very closely at the death's head moth covering star Jodie Foster's mouth, there appears to be an image of humans forming a skull on its back. Inspired by the famous Salvador Dali photograph of several naked women posed like a skull, the film's director Jonathan Demme is said to have suggested the surreal augmentation to the moth's natural skull-like markings.
This Gun for Hire (1942)
Maurice Kallis, who learned the craft of making posters as an assistant to Paramount art director Vincent Trotta, styled the poster for this 1942 Graham Greene potboiler about a hit man who takes money from the wrong man. The presence of Veronica Lake renders the most of the plot irrelevant as far as the poster's concerned; despite the top billing, Robert Preston isn't even part of the image. (That's actually fourth-billed Alan Ladd.)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
You don't need to go to great lengths to make an appealing poster when Audrey Hepburn's playing the lead. Yet the image of the actress with a figure as slight as the cigarette that dangles from her mouth cemented Hepburn's iconic status and helped forge the reputation of the now-classic 1961 romantic comedy based on Truman Capote's hit novel.
Sullivan's Travels (1941)
Maurice Kallis, who also worked on the This Gun for Hire poster, was responsible for the minimalist Sullivan's Travels poster. It emphasizes the beautiful blonde bombshell Veronica Lake in this otherwise seriocomic Preston Sturges film. Kallis had previously worked on The Lady Eve one-sheet for Sturges and Paramount advertising head Robert M. Gillham, and though the classic Lake image is the one that's remembered, the studio also commissioned a less abstract take for their marketing campaign.
Yellow Submarine (1968)
As the film's art director and man in charge of the advertising art, Czech graphic designer Heinz Edelmann came up with the overall brightly colored, Peter Max-esque look for The Beatles' mostly animated 1968 romp, Yellow Submarine. Incidentally, the film's Blue Meanies were originally supposed to be red, but when Edelmann's assistant accidentally changed the colors, the film's characters took on a different meaning.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Taking a cue from the film itself, the poster for Roman Polanski's 1968 film makes an innocent object, a baby stroller, ominous. For a film where the concept was definitely more emphasized than stars John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow, Rosemary's Baby had a poster that upped the creep factor with its unusual use of dark green as a predominant color.
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
If the designers of the poster for the 1955 Marilyn Monroe vehicle had substituted, say, Jimmy Durante for Tom Ewell on the right, do you think anyone would have noticed? No way. Monroe's pose in this poster has become an enduring iconic image of the sex symbol. The film was the first collaboration between the film's director Billy Wilder and Saul Bass.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
The poster for 1953's The Hitch-Hiker blurs the line between advertisement and highway safety PSA. The Edmond O'Brien roadside nailbiter had a simple approach to selling its cheap thrills a gun, a threatening tagline, and the simple, violent colors of red and black.
All About Eve (1950)
The bouncy, kinetic design of 1950's All About Eve poster mirrors the movie's cocktail shaker wit. Erik Nitsche was the artist who came up with the arrow-filled image that, like the film, features an all-too brief cameo by Marilyn Monroe, here in the bottom left corner of the one-sheet.
Gun Crazy (1950)
The art for 1949's Gun Crazy represents cinema's obsession with the aberrant, highlighting a thrill-killing dame. The film was originally released as Deadly is the Female with a poster featuring a more seductive Peggy Cummins splayed out across the poster sans guns. But after a new title and poster was commissioned, the femme fatale flick turned into a hit.
"If watching a film is like having a dream wide awake, then movie posters are invitations to those dreams — a lot of weight for one image to carry. In this gallery, we've arrayed some of the best examples of this art-meets-commerce form — some profound, some silly."
Posters selected by Premiere magazine. Comments also copied from there.
Posters selected by Premiere magazine. Comments also copied from there.
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