These days, movie posters appear as the front cover of the DVD box and that is the most familiar version that most movie fans see. The artwork however starts as a full-sized poster first and can be found prominently displayed in the display cases that most movie houses have either in front on the sidewalk, or more probably inside the lobby of your local multiplex. When you walk into your standard multi-screen theater with ten to twenty movies showing at any one time, you may see large 3-D cutouts and Point of Purchase (P.O.P.) displays instead of traditional movie posters.
Most movie posters are very forgettable but the best of them get scorched into our public collective mind. Who can forget the hand with the single red rose laying on the girl’s abdomen from “American Beauty” or the black background and white puppet strings attached to the words “The Godfather”? Certainly one of the most iconic images of all time in movie posters was the giant great white shark coming straight up out of the depths to (we assume) munch on the tiny figure of the swimming woman in the artwork from Steven Spielberg’s classic “Jaws”.
James Cameron’s epic “Titanic” had the most gorgeous imagery of the prow of the ill fated ship coming straight at us, with Leonardo and Kate’s downcast faces blended in at the top, looking in opposite directions. This poster was very effective and the movie was an international blockbuster that at the time broke every record for attendance in every country it was shown in.
When King Kong came out in 1931, the poster must have shocked and awed movie goers worldwide. Showing a color painting of a giant ape perched atop the Empire State Building, with flames in the background, holding the beautiful blonde Faye Wray in his mitts was enough to make every schoolboy clamor for a nickel to get in to the picture show.
One of the greatest movie posters of all time was for “Vertigo” and featured the outline of a man and a woman seemingly falling into a graphic white edged spiral against a red background. The lettering in this poster was one of the most memorable parts of it, as is the case in many of the ones we have mentioned. One wonders how much art direction came from the old master himself, Hitchcock.
Some other great movie posters include the ones for “Nosferatu”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “Alien”, “The Last Detail”, “Lolita”, “Last Tango in Paris”, and “Barry Lyndon” just to name a few. What these movie posters all have in common are the ability to communicate in just a single image what the movie will be about and make audiences line up around the block to watch the film.