Movie Poster Madness

A look at some of the greatest movie posters of all time
November 16, 2009
Movie Poster Madness


So you hear about a new movie that's coming out, what is the first thing piece of promotion that you see from this new movie? Well maybe these days you might get a picture from the set but traditionally the first thing you would see is the movie poster or a teaser poster.

This is supposed to be the image that grabs the audience as they walk into the theater or click away online and see it for the first time. This picture is meant to evoke a response that will make you want to go to the theater to see it. They often to a good enough job, a lot of times they don't, but sometimes they make a poster so great that it stands out above the rest.

In this article I'll take a look at some of my favorite movie posters through the years and give my thoughts on them. I have already done one article on movie posters called "Movie Poster Masters" which focused on three fantastic movie poster artists. In this article I've decided for the most part to stay away from those three and the posters highlighted in that previous article, which is why you won't see any Indiana Jones posters in this one. For those interested in that previous article, which I honestly think is one of my best, I'll provide a link at the end of this article. So without further adue lets get down to business.

Birth Of A Nation (1915)

I felt I had to include this one for no other reason then the fact that it was the earliest movie poster I could find, that being said just because it was the earliest poster I could find does not mean that it was the first movie poster. I know that some were produced as early as 1912, three years prior to this one. At a quick glimpse you can tell that the movie is going to be a rather racist one with a Klu Klux Klan member riding proud on his horse showcasing the KKK member as the hero of the movie.

King Kong (1933)

Gorillas are big animals there is no doubt about that, but big enough to hold a woman or even more preposterous still, a airplane in its hands? No Gorilla gets that big and whats worse this ape looks angry! When it was released in 1933 the poster for King Kong would be more then enough to drive fans of horror, sci-fi or even just the curious into theaters, before King Kong nothing was ever seen like it.

Seven Samurai (1954)

A classic Japanese movie poster for what could very well be my favorite Japanese movie, Seven Samurai. The poster is truly a work of art that should be welcomed in any museum or art gallery. A samurai stands with his sword raised above his head screaming a battle cry while scenes from the movie are depicted in the background. This posters gives the truly epic feel that the movie deserves.

Vertigo (1958)

You'll see my love of minimalism a few times in this article with posters that employ the less is more technique. There is so little but at the same time so very much in this movie poster. The red and white work together beautifully as they dance around each other while the black outline a human figure lays in the middle. On top of that the font captures the perfect mood for the poster.

Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958)

You gotta know that this was every man's nightmare, epically back when this film debuted in 1958, when men were still keeping women down and before the whole woman's lib thing kicked in. A fifty foot woman that a man couldn't control or tell what to do. Yeah scary stuff for the man population in 1958, These days a 5 foot tall woman would scare the bejezus out of most any guy though, how times have changed. As for the poster itself, well its just awesome, I'm thinking shes more then fifty feet tall here but it still takes nothing away from the credibility of the poster.

Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

Another poster that shows less is more. Aside from the picture of Audrey Hepburn, the couple kissing, and the title of the movie there is nothing but a white background and a colored border.

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)

This poster effortlessly fuses both less and more. First off it beautifully showcases the hero of the movie, The Man With No Name, with much prominence up in front for all to see while in the top half of the background scenes of the movie are shown while on the bottom of the poster is nothing but white space.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966)

Why not follow up A Fistful of Dollars poster then with the the poster third and best part of The Man With No Name trilogy, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. This one is awesome all three men are represented with excellent artwork and the title of where they stand in the movie. The Good with Clint Eastwood, The Ugly with Eli Wallach and The Bad with Lee Van Cleef. The roles have been clearly put out in front for everyone to see and now you have to come on in and watch the movie to see how they play up to them.

Barbarella (1968)

Its hard not to like a poster that equally oozes sci-fi and sex appeal. The sexy heroine is in mid step, gun in hand, ready to shoot at a seconds notice all the while wearing nothing but a silver bikini and almost knee high boots, while the background is buzzing with sci-fi activity. Space ships, futuristic buildings and a futuristic army make up the rest. Surely this poster had a huge influence on most sci-fi artwork to come ever since, all one needs to do for proof of that is to look at almost any cover for Heavy Metal magazine.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

This is another poster who's beauty is in its simplicity. A plain picture of the head of the movies main character Alex's who is wearing his trademark hat and eye make-up. Aside from that there are no details in the face. The background is also featureless and the title of the movie is printed on Alex's hat.

Enter The Dragon (1973)

When it comes to action movies this poster has one of the very best. There is great action depicted to show that it is a kung-fu movie. Bruce Lee is front and center with a pair of nun-chucks ready for action.

Jaws (1975)

What do you think of when you look at this poster? Personally I think "Holy smokes! Look at the size of that shark! That swimmer is as good as dead!" This movie made people afraid to go swimming in the ocean and this poster reflects that to perfection. After all would you go swimming if something so massive and quick lived where swam. Yeah that's what I thought! Oh and you KNOW its quick because there is no way a creature of that size could get to someone so close without detection and you know she hasn't noticed the shark since shes in mid stroke.

Rocky (1976)

Hope. Faith. The Underdog. Triumph. That's what Rocky is all about and that is shown beautifully in this poster as Rocky stands atop that staircase that I would come to call The Rocky staircase my entire life with his hands held up in the air in victory from one of his runs to the top. This poster also has to be the single most inspirational movie poster to ever exist. Gonna fly now.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Ahhhhh Star Wars, EVERYONE knew this one was coming and really how could it not be included on the list, its one of the most copied movie posters of all time, from The Toxic Avenger to Joe Dirt and many more have paid homage to this poster since its creation. In fact it seems that whenever a company is in doubt on how they can make the poster for their latest movie look they just homage Star Wars.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

This is my favorite poster for any James Bond movie which is quite the statement in itself, I could make another article on just Bond movie posters themselves! I could of added several more Bond posters but decided to just add the one. The colors are vibrant as Bond stands in the middle of the poster his gun held high while the Bond girl of the movie stands behind him.

Animal House (1978)

What better way to show the rebellious nature of Delta House then for the movie poster to have a big group shot of the entire Delta fraternity give the finger to everyone. The fact that these jerks were to be the relateable heroes of the movie makes you want to see it epically at a time when the heroes of movies like this were all clean cut "good guys."

Deer Hunter (1978)

This is quite the dramatic poster if there ever was one. Using the most infamous scene of the movie when Christopher Walken is playing Russian roulette. He has the gun held to his head in the tense moments before he pulls the trigger not knowing if this will be his last moments alive or not. The poster is made even better again with the color choices as they decided to make the entire thing black and white aside from the red headband that Walken is wearing.

Mad Max (1979)

This is just a cool sci-fi poster if there ever was any. With his badge clearly showing Mad Max is a cop in an obvious futuristic setting. His car is behind him while he shoots his gun which has fire coming out of it and all around him and his car. The message is clear, this is one bad ass cop you don't want to mess with.

Escape From New York (1981)

Ahhhhh the familiar sight of the Statue of Library destroyed. How many Movie posters have used this to show the devastation that has occurred? If you said quite a few then you would be right. I don't know if Escape From New York was the first to use it but its the first I know of. Aside from that we see Snake Plisskin running off with his gun firing while carrying another man and a woman behind then her gun also firing at the mob of people after the three of them. I try not to be biased but I can't help it as this is the first of three John Carpenter/Kurt Russell movie posters to be featured in this article.

Evil Dead (1981)

One of the greatest horror movies of all time also has one of the most horrifying movie posters of all time. A defenseless woman is being dragged underground by a hand that has tightly grasped around her neck. She reaches for the sky for help that looks like it will never come, the background is a dark blue giving a ominous feeling that things will not end well.

Conan The Barbarian (1982)

What I see when I look at this poster more than anything else is epic adventure. If any movie should show off epic adventure it should be Conan The Barbarian. Conan stands tall his sword raised high in the air in victory with a warrior woman at his side all the while a fire is blazing in the background. This is one of the perfect and iconic images of Conan and shows that Arnold Schwarzenegger more than anyone else was born to play the role.

Swamp Thing (1982)

Its really hard to make a giant hulking monster look like the heroic good guy which is what this movie poster called for but it was done with ease. Swamp Thing is carrying his damsel in distress in his arms as he walks through the trees of the swamp. He might be a big ugly monster but with this image shows that even he can look as heroic as Superman, Batman or Spider-Man ever could.

The Thing (1982)

This is another poster that perfectly shows what the movie is about. You see the black silhouette of a man walking through the snow. his face obscured by light, which is the key part of the poster. You can't see who the person is just like how in the movie you could never see who the Thing was. Aside from that the mixture of blue colors just looks amazing to show a snowstorm.

Scarface (1983)

How many times have you seen something sending an homage this poster? Probably to many to even count, I sure as hell don't know. Confession time, I have never seen Scarface nor am I interested in do so at all. So did this poster really do its job for me? Well I guess not, because instead of making me want to watch the movie all I find myself wanting to do is just stare at this awesome poster just a little while longer.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Who you gonna cal!? Your damn skippy your gonna call The Ghostbusters! They ain't afraid of no ghosts! And what better way to show that you ain't afraid of no ghosts AND that your in the business of busting them then throwing one in one of those no smoking thingys. This poster reflects perfectly that ghosts aren't allowed.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Here's another movie poster that has been paid homage to many times. You got your five stereotypes front and center on the poster. The athlete, the princess, the basket case, the brain and the criminal. All five are represented beautifully as what they are you can easily tell who the athlete is or who the basket case is.

Legend (1985)

This is a great poster we have our two pure heroes of the film held in the hand of the evil villain. The image alone says that there fates are held by The Darkness the background is the black night sky with only a few stars. The movie poster is dark, and perfect.

The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

This is easily my favorite zombie movie poster. Looking at this one you can tell right away that this isn't your daddy's zombie flick. The zombies on the cover look dead like they should but that's the only typical zombie thing about it, everything else is different from any zombie you have ever seen before. They are all dressed like punks and one is even spray painting the grave stone. These Zombies have attitude and a sense of humor. Just like this classic zombie movie.
Rocky IV (1985)

For Rocky IV the message had to be put across, it was The USA vs. The USSR. To help along with that the poster just screamed American pride with Philadelphia's favorite son Rocky Balboa not only wearing an American flag print on his boxing shorts but also and perhaps even more importantly being draped in the American flag. If your an American (I'm not) then it seems like you have to stand up and salute this poster whenever you see it.

Aliens (1986)

When I look at this poster I see a story of survival. Ellen Riply the sole survivor of Alien is up against the wall again and this time she stands defiant with a gun in one hand and a child in the other in the middle of a massive amount of alien eggs. The look in her eyes is one of pure determination saying that there is no way your going to get me or this girl.

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

This is one of the few posters that I included in my "Movie Poster Masters" article that I felt that I had to include here. Of all of John Carpenter's movies this one is my favorite movie poster. The would be hero of the movie Kurt Russell stands tall gun in hand while scenes from the movie are shown below. Its the perfect example of a movie poster that shows enough to get you interested to go see the movie but not enough to give anyways away.

The Fly (1986)

This one is awesome you have the pod set up with a glowing green light and smoke coming from it so that you can't see inside but at the same time you a human arm with a silhouette of its body and a freckin' huge fly leg popping out, and I swear I would crap my pants if I ever saw the fly that that thing belongs too. The thing that somehow grabs you even more then that however is its now infamous tag line, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Transformers. The movie. What could Transformer fans of thought when they first saw this poster. Their favorite cartoon has been turned into a movie and right there on the poster all your favorite Transformers are represented, just take a look and you'll see Iron Hide, Bumblebee, Ratchet and of course the beloved Autobot leader Optimus Prime.... actually wait a second here. Not one of those fan favorite Transformers made it on the poster! In fact I have no idea who any of these guys are! Where the hell is Optimus!? Is this a prequel? Is it set far in the future? Well it has to be one of those because otherwise Optimus would be on the poster, its not like they would kill him off or anything right?

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

This poster features a war helmet with the words "Born To Kill" written on it and a pin with a peace symbol on it. If that's not a oxymoron nothing is. It gets you to thinking really quick that this isn't your average war movie. Which it of course isn't, its Stanley Kubrick's war movie.

Lethal Weapon (1987)

I'm not entirely sure what it is about this movie poster that I like so much. For the most part its your standard action movie poster. The heroes up close one has a gun held tightly close to him. I've seen it so many times before but there's something about this one that sets it apart from the rest. Maybe its because it is in black and white or maybe it has something to do with the fact that its Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, you know because there both really kick ass and all.

Robocop (1987)

Fun fact: This is my favorite movie poster of all time. Why? Well its hard to pin point really. For one thing the poster was for me, and many others I'm sure, the first time I had ever seen Robocop. There he is in all his glory from head to toe, stepping out of the cop car, you KNOW he means business. Plus look at the words near the top of the poster, "Part Man, Part Machine, All Cop." If you don't NEED to see this movie after that then your out of your mind!

Ghost Town (1988)

I have never seen this movie, only the poster. When I was a kid and the weekend came around it was sure that I would be renting a movie and the case for this one was always there at the video store. Even though I never rented and never asked to because I knew I would never of been allowed to no matter how much I wanted to. Still I couldn't help but pick it up and look at the back of the old VHS case every single time. The cover was just so captivating and that my friends is how you KNOW the poster has done its job.

Batman (1989)

This poster doesn't screw around its Batman. F'n Batman! There is no mistaking it for anything else as the bat symbol is blown up so big that the whole thing can't even fit on the poster! And just look at how the bat symbol shines, this ain't no Adam West Batman, they mean business this time. This poster doesn't show a lot to get its point across, it didn't need to, just the bat symbol, actors names and the title, and lets face it with that huge bat symbol on there they didn't even need the movies title. Everyone knows what the bat symbol looks like.

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

You have to love this one. The iconic I Love NY poster being cut through by Jason and his trademark machete. His mask seen through the rip where the heart used to be. If anything was going to show Jason "taking" Manhattan this then was sure to be it. Unfortunately The New York Tourism committee complained about the poster and it was pulled out of circulation, replaced with the poster of The New York skyline with Jason over it. Not a bad poster itself but nowhere close to being as awesome as this classic.

Dick Tracy (1990)

This one is all about the colors. The background is pure black aside from the bright red and blue circle in the middle and standing in front of it is Dick Tracy firing off his tommy gun. There are only hints of bright color on Tracy the bright yellow trench coat, white shirt and red tie, he is mostly in shadow and would be impossible to see if not for the red ad blue circle behind him. Despite that it is mostly black it is still one of the most colorful movie posters out there.

The Rocketeer (1991)

This poster showcases what this movie is perfectly, a old school throwback to the pulp movies that were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The poster and the hero both look as though they both could of come from that era. On top of that its just a damn cool looking poster capturing the speed of The Rocketeer as he flies through the skies.

Unforgiven (1991)

Another Clint Eastwood Western, another awesome poster. This time Eastwood is standing in the foreground his back to the audience and his gun behind him. Hes contemplating and you can almost tell that he thinking this will be his last ride. This is emphasized even more by the three cowboys riding into the sunset in the background. I don't over care about the faces of all the main actors on the side of the poster but aside from that this poster is fantastic.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

This poster is great I love how the four hit men are standing in the doorway with their shadows representing the colors of their code names. Its just a really cool little poster that shows how this movie was one of the coolest movies of the year.

Jurassic Park (1993)

This one is great, just a simple black background with the logo for Jurassic Park with the Tyrannosaurs Rex skeleton and the tag line of "An adventure 65 million years in the making." This poster is very simple and super effective.

Forrest Gump (1994)

This is another poster that shows that sometimes less is more. Tom Hanks sits on a park bench alone with suitcase on the ground beside him, everything else is white. A year after Hanks won the Academy award it seemed like they figured his name could sell the movie itself so its there right above the title of the movie and almost as big. I don't know what it is about this one but I really like it.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

If your movie is called Pulp Fiction then what better design could you possibly think of then to make it look like the cover to an old pulp magazine. Its the perfect idea and also one that just shouts common sense. I also love the worn look around the edges of this poster.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

For a movie about prison there is no denying what this poster is all about. Freedom. Standing in the rain with his arms held out while the rain downpours on him you don't get the impression of a man in prison you get the impression of a free man, one with no worries and filled with hope, which when it comes down to it is what this entire thing is about. Hope.

Fargo (1996)

This has to be one of the most creative and original posters to ever exist. You have got to love the stitched look for this poster and adds a ton to its tag line of "A homespun murder mystery". There is also no denying the amazing juxtaposition that it has, its look is done in a very innocent way but the subject is incredibly dark. Just an ingenious poster.

Independence Day (1996)

The first impression you get when you look at this poster has to be, "Well, we're screwed." Giant UFO's are coming and these guys don't look friendly. Aside from that the colors of the poster are amazing with the sun setting behind the earth. This one is just an all around cool looking poster and at the end of the day that's all that truly matters when it comes to putting those butts in seats.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

This is my favorite poster for any war movie. The lone solider just standing there with the night quickly approaching is just brilliant. The colors of the night sky and clouds also blend together with perfection. I like this version of the poster much more commonly used one with the faces in the sky, this version of the poster just seems to make it much more epic.

Spider-Man Teaser (2002)

Its a real shame that this poster had to be recalled. At first glace its just Spider-Man peeking around the corner of a building but upon closer inspection you see that he is sticking to the walls of a skyscraper high above the ground as other buildings are dwarfed by the one that he is sticking too. The thing that makes the poster so great though is also the thing that got it recalled, when you look into Spider-Man's eyes you see the refection of more New York skyscrapers to be specific the World Trade Center. After the events of 9/11 this poster was quickly recalled and swept under the rug.

Super Size Me (2004)

Ronald McDonald is easily one of the most beloved and recognizable figures in history. There is no child on the planet who doesn't know who that damn clown is. So looking at this poster you are instantly taken aback at seeing the icon like you never have before... Fat. Right away you know what this movie is about and this grotesque version of Ronald just sells it.

Batman Begins (2005)

To me when Batman is just standing there looking down at something it just feels like hes posed so what this poster does is great. Instead of just standing there Batman is falling toward you Its full of action and movement. You just know that Batman is dropping in to kick some Gotham City bad guy ass!

Lord Of War (2005)

What an awesome picture the first time I saw it I had to do a double take. At first I thought it was just a poster of Nicolas Cage but upon closer inspection you can see that Nicolas Cage's likeness is done completely with bullets, empty shells and other ammo, which is perfect for this movie. Now just think about that for a second there a poster made of of a picture of bullets. Talk about a ballsy poster.

Captivity (2008)

Being buried alive is the biggest fears of quite a few people out there and this poster captures that fear to perfection. Elisha Cuthbert is pressed up against the glass while the dirt is covering her from head to toe. Just a creepy as hell poster.

The Dark Knight (2008)

This one could be classified as less is more even though there is a bit going on in it. We see The Joker writing the movies tag line "Why So Serious" in blood with his fingers and its probably safe to assume that blood isn't his. The buildings of Gotham city are seen in a foggy background, but the thing that really seals the awesomeness is the less is more aspect of it that I mentioned earlier. This one does what a teaser poster is supposed to do, tease you and make you beg for more. The Jokers face is mostly obscured behind a bloody smile that goes with the tag line.

The Wrestler (2008)

The poster for The Wrestler perfectly suits what this movie is all about. A broken beaten down man on his last legs leaning on the ropes of a wrestling ring. This poster reminds me a lot of the poster for The Shawshank Redemption. Only that one was about hope this one is just as easily about the last glimmer of hope this man has and making you wonder what hes going to have to go through to reclaim it.

Inglorious Basterds Teaser

Bad ass is what came to mind when I first saw this poster and bad ass it is. A bloodied baseball bat is holding up a Nazi (Nat-zi) helmet. The helmet has to holes shot into it, presumably by The Basterds and its bloody. The baseball bat itself is pretty bloody most likely after smashing in a Nazi (Nat-zi) skull, and has several names carved into it, weather the names are victims of the bat or not is unknown, what is known however is that this poster just exudes awesomeness with every core of its being.

And with Inglorious Bastards its time to wrap this up. This article has gone through several changes since I started it, some posters were added and some were taken off, for the most part because there were already so many of them. I love movie posters and they have always been one of my favorite aspects of the movies, ever since I was a kid and saw the posters for the upcoming movies.

Finally here are the numbers for the amount of posters by decade. Why? Why not. After that you'll find the link to the first movie poster article I made, which is completely different then this one. Until my next article, which will probably be about comics in one way or another, have a good one.

Number of movie posters featured in this article: 58
Number of movie posters from the 1910's: 1
Number of movie posters from the 1930's: 1
Number of movie posters from the 1950's: 3
Number of movie posters from the 1960's: 3
Number of movie posters from the 1970's: 9
Number of movie posters from the 1980's: 21
Number of movie posters from the 1990's: 11
Number of movie posters from the 2000's: 8

Movie Poster Masters:
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