Posted by: philosopherouge | October 30, 2007

25 Best Movie Posters

25. 42nd Street (1933)

Referencing straightforwardly the innovative style Berkeley presented in his first screen musical, 42nd Street immortalizes the iconic nature of the choreography. The style is very art deco in design and stands apart from it’s film counterpart as a unique work. The extreme angles used are very pleasing to the eye, and the colour scheme is effectively limited.

24.  Funny Games (2007)

This is the most recent film poster on my entire list (the film hasn’t even come out yet…) but still stands out as one of the most powerful I’ve seen. It’s far outside the style I usually like, althouh even know I can’t tell if it’s a photograph or a very realistic painting of some sort… even then it defies another convention that usually bothers me, the star as the selling point. However, the jarring crop, combined with the tired, hopeless expression makes for one of the most effectively poignant posters I’ve ever seen. It’s low saturation and the framing of the eye (by the text and hair) is subtle but abour intensive creativity. Less is more in this case.

23. Being John Malkovich (1999)

With a title like that, the poster has a lot to live up to and I think this one succeeds. It’s obscure, clinical, scientific and utterly ridiculous. It’s hard not to love.

22. Point Blank (1967)

Point Blank

An avant garde poster, for an avant garde action film. I can’t imagine any poster artist approaching this in the typical action, explosion, macho-ism… because really that would betray the entire film. Using a printing process, and colours it’s no doubt inspired by Warhol’s silk screens. The colour scheme is somewhat pertubing as is the large overreaching gun that dominates the poster. Lee Marvin is portrayed as focused, but is literally off balance. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

21. Dial M for Murder (1954)

I genuinly love most of the variations on this poster, but it’s this incarnation that truly stands out for me. The forceful red, adds a sense of anxiety, passion and crime. While the extended hand strengthens the character, while also referencing the fact that the film was to be presented in 3-D. Even the small detail of the added “Is that you, darling?” coming out of the phone adds a little extra to make this poster truly memorable.

20. Gilda (1946)

I hate to think how many cigarette ads were inspired by this iconic poster. Simple, cool and to the point it features the main attraction of the film (the ever beautiful Rita Hayworth) as a cool seductress. When watching the film I imagine her dress in red, but here the use of blues and greens accentuates her hair and makes her seem blaze. Truly beautiful.

19. Love in the Afternoon (1957)

love inthe afternoon

Another Saul Bass design, this one is simple and descriptive of the implications of the title. The use of the blinds is cute, and clever. On the opposite side of the spectrum where I love my posters to be overtly garish, this one works almost within minimalism. It’s very stylish.

18. M*A*S*H* (1970)

Another poster that everyone knows, at least for the peace legs. Actually, the yellow here is pretty close to grating but the design of the figure is so damn good I can’t excuse excluding it from a high placement. It’s worked itself so well into our popular culture, and still elicits chuckles and puzzlement.

17. Outside the Law (1920)

As a real selling point, I think this film is somewhat puzzling as it’s hard to even tell what exactly the title is… I can’t imagine that makes for great business. On the other hand, it’s cute, clever and a stand alone from the film. I’m genuinly surprised it hasn’t caught on as something of a cult favourite amongst poster owners, something hip that all those college kids hang in their dorm rooms.

16. Muppets go to Hollywood (1979)

Muppets anyone? If there needs to be any more proof that the Poles could do it all, this is it. Instead of featuring Kermit or Miss Piggy in the forefront we have the one, and only ANIMAL! He’s appropriately frightening, dominating and wild. I love the choice of pink to complete dominate the poster, as if it were to soften the blow to indicate a film appropriate for children.

15. Chinatown (1974)

As cool as the Polish version is, I’m in love with the more classic American version of the Chinatown poster. It’s iconic, dark and has strong imagery. It’s very much a throwback to the 20s/30s style of art, notably Art Deco and even reminds me of the original cover of the Great Gatsby with the floating eyes. Both works dealing with corruption and money… The colour scheme is very indicative of the themes and character, as well as being generally unusual as a scheme. Small touches like the waves at the bottom are a beautiful bonus.

14. Nosferatu (1979)

Another deco-like throw back, this one is even more delicious because of it’s darkness and the strong contrast between the black and white (a rather obvious allusion to good and evil). One can even “read” the poster to get ideas for the story, and about vampires. Hints to their destruction, Nosferatu’s journey and the night is wonderful.  Also ressembles engravings in old manuscripts.

13. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

How it sends shivers down my spine. It’s intriguing in it’s mystery, without seeing the film it’s a completely abstract image. Long before I saw the film I wanted to know what it meant, I yearned to discover the mystery of the skeletal moth. Later watching the film, as it all falls into place it takes on a new, eerie meaning.

12. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Mmm… Kubrick deliciousness. Horizontal posters have long been out of vogue, but seeing how effectively it’s used here, one wonders why nobody ever attempts to work with it. What is so pleasing about this one is the symmetry, an artistic concept that is always easy on the eyes. It even takes a moment for the viewer to even see the difference in flags and the hanging arm on the left politician’s shoulder. It’s funny and ominous. The tagline is also awesome “The Hot-line suspence comedy”

11. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Sacree Bleu! Two Kubrick posters in a row, mais c’est impossible? Simple and evocative, this poster earns it’s stripes with it’s straighforwardness and that tagline. How golden is it? There is something so driven about that helmet, and noticeably empty. There is no soldier, he isn’t even a shadow. The soldier is the invisible man, without spirit or conscious. He’s born to kill, and you better get out of his way. I love the ironic juxtaposition of the peace symbol and “Born to Kill”.

10. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

This poster can easily be number one (and I even think Premiere magazine chose it as the best movie poster), but as this is about personal preference it sits at number 10 (an entirely respectable position I assure you). Saul Bass is the type of designer who can completely dominate a list like this, and while I personally didn’t really allow him to, it was more to increase diversity than pure personal opinion. He inspired countless artists, and showed what could be done with posters. While he employed many techniques, the fractured collage is probably what he is most famous for. He applied the technique here, as well as with some of his other posters like The Man with the Golden Arm.

9. Funny Face (1957)

Pow! WOW! Focusing so beautifully on the beauty of Hepburn and borrowing a dahs of pink, we have the second greatest A. Hepburn poster to grace our artless lives. Hepburn has always been an icon for youth, independence and freedom, and this poster utilizing her unihibited dancing image speaks volumes for the amount of adoration she has inspired over the years. I’m very fond of the use of pink in graphic arts, it’s all at once soft and confrontational. Matched with black, you have something for the ages. There is an unusual amount of it in my top 10.

8. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

When I said I liked pink in graphic design, I hope you realise I wasn’t joking. It took little deliberation to choose this sparse, pink and white design over the nearly identical purple and white one… Appropriately, this poster is in the now, reflecting more accurately the sensibilities of the 1960s than My Fair Lady, Bonnie and Clyde is a film that defined a generation and therefore needed that smash of colour that so contradict what our minds drift to when we think of the infamous robbing lovers. The laughter and the cracked windshield is what immediately springs to mind when I think of this poster, only to remember the tagline, and then the afterword, “…..and they kill people”. Just like the film it defies expectations, melds hip with the violent, and is truly a stunning piece of 1960s style.

7. Blow Up (1966)

A film that fits itself so easily within the pop art, celebrity obssesed craze is bound to have one of the greatest and most iconic posters amongst cinephiles. Blow Up’s poster fame is deserved, especially when presented in all the different colour prints one realises the intention and the cultural significance of the design. It’s confrontational, and borders (and borrows) exploitation-style advertising. Even those unfamiliar with cinema beyond Transformers will no doubt reckonize this image that has been immortalized. The voyeur himself has become the watched, the mimicked and the commodity.

6. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Too bad I couldn’t find a better quality version of this one. Definetely emulating and referencing the “gorgon”, specifically Medusa it’s only appropriate one of the greatest American films links back to some of the timeless tales of the past. While I wouldn’t say Norma Desmond would turn men to stone, there is no doubt she was one of the most devious and desperate femme fatales of noir. The comparison is interesting and beautifully executed.

5. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

The selling point of this poster has little to do with the film and is pure Hollywood advertising. Yet, I include it on my list… this poster is more about selling Veronica Lake, it takes an impression (noticeably the peek-a-boo hair) to create something iconic. It’s simple, and evocative. The colour pallette is classic and the red is used wonderfully as an accent.

4. Jules et Jim (1962)

If you know me, this is probably not a surprise. Easily one of my favourite poster images, it encompasses the brash, “in the moment” nature of Catherine. She’s caught mid laugh, totally inhibited. This is an interesting design as photography is used (her face), but integrated within an animated scheme. The colours are unusually, if you hadn’t noticed so far red, yellows, and pinks stand out as design favourites. Here though we have green and orange (colours I’m not even particularly fond of). It stands apart from regular posters, and fits beautifully within French New Wave.

3. All About Eve (1950)

Another standard, it’s difficult not to love All About Eve, and it’s poster is a wonderful selling point. Even outside the context of the film (the poster does, however, work so beautifully to tie in the theme and story of the film) it’s a pinnacle of design, working well before it’s emergence with symbols found so prevalently in Pop Art (namely the heart and arrows). Before Marilyn Monroe was even a star she makes an appearance in the bottom left corner, and if you know anything about movie posters, the fact her face is cut off (even though she isn’t a star) is a strange and innovative technique. The poster is well before it’s time, and still remains fresh.

2. Petulia (1968)

At first glance this poster is not much different than Camelot’s or even My Fair Lady’s. However, the complexity of the intertwined images here, as well as the thematic implications are far deeper than in the previous efforts. Petulia is about marriage and relationships, the intertwined characters is melded with faces, impressions and memories. The part that truly elevates the poster though is how the design works so beautifully with the forms of the characters. The holding hands at the bottom, and the way the images and colours follow shapes of the human body. Function is not lost in artistry, as both are balanced perfectly.

1. The Birds (1963)

Those who don’t like the Polish designs probably won’t be fond of my number one choice. Again, form and function intertwine as the polish word for bird “ptaki” is used in a repeated form to emulate a dark and ominous cloud of birds. Unlike most Polish posters, this actually is effective advertising, while also being a piece of design majestry. Adding the image of the birded skull adds that extra level of spook and really is a cherry that makes the design complete. The designer is Bronislaw Zelek, who is far from one of the most famous of the Polish movement, but there is no doubt that The Birds is one of the greatest designs of the twentieth century.


  1. […] Johanna wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe selling point of this poster has little to do with the film and is pure Hollywood advertising. Yet, I include it on my list… this poster is more about selling Veronica Lake, it takes an impression (noticeably the peek-a-boo hair) to … […]

  2. I haven’t checked out your blog in awhile and I should have!!

    I absolutely ADORE the Sunset Blvd. poster. It made me crack up. I love that movie and I love the Gloria Swanson character.

  3. […] WordPress: […]

  4. What a great set of images. Great movie posters (like great album covers of old) can also simply be great works of art.

    I love the Saul Bass stuff, the “Point Blank” poster and the “Being John Malkovich” one just makes me want to watch the movie right now.

    But the “Funny Games” one is really eye catching…Is this really the final poster they will use? Assuming Haneke doesn’t stray from his previous version of the film a decade ago, it’s perfect. But it’s also surprising that they would market it this way…Not in a bad way, I just would’ve guessed they would try to target a different type of audience.

    I thought the first film was terrific – but I really have no desire to ever see it again. As much as I like Naomi and am curious how Haneke will do this for North America, I don’t think I’ll be able to watch it.

  5. Allison: Sorry for the delayed response! Yes, the Sunset Blvd. poster was a great find. So maniacal!

    Bob: Again, apologies for such a delayed response. As for Funny Games, I’m unsure, it might just be a teaser poster. I’m not particularly in the know of how these works, and how many are issued depending. I still haven’t seen the film, but I’ve been meaning to, even though it’s far from what I usually look out for.

  6. But the Waldemar Swierzy poster wasn’t ever released in the US. The translated one is a reprint, done later.

    But where’s King Kong (the original) or Rosemary’s Baby? Those are both classics, and work as art as well as advertising.

  7. This is my first trip to your blog (I just tripped on over from bluestocking LA) so I’m not sure where my taste fits on your radar.

    Nightmare on Elm Street is my favourite poster (with my favourite tag as well). But how many have you put on because you feel strongly about the film, rather than just the poster itself? The Jules et Jim looks pretty ordinary to me, but I know everybody who sees the film loves it. Is that why that poster’s on there?

  8. Kate: Are you referring to the Muppet poster? I don’t seem to have included any translated ones unless I’m missing your meaning. I’m a non-American, so the American release means little to me although I’m looking at them aesthetically rather than as pieces of effective advertising… however that might have led me to be imprudent and choose something that isn’t actually a poster…

    King Kong and Rosemary’s Baby are excellent posters, it’s so difficult to round down to 25! Rosemary’s Baby was very close to making the list if I remember, ranking somewhere between 25-35.

    Ned: It’s hard to say, my love for the film probably does play into my enjoyment of the poster as I feel it captures the mood and aura of the film and character. It’s sometimes difficult to seperate yourself from the final product! Then again, of the posters I’ve included I haven’t seen:
    Funny Games
    Bing John Malkovich
    Love in the Afternoon
    Outside the Law
    Muppets Go to Hollywood
    Anatomy of a Murder
    Blow Up

    I am unaware of the Nightmare on Elm Street Poster you’re referring to exactly. Is it this one?

  9. nice blog

  10. […] 25 Best Movie Posters –  Pretty much does what it says on the tin. Of course, any “top 10″, “top 25″ etc is pretty subjective, but there are some great choices in here. I especially love the Polish poster for The Birds. […]

  11. […] Source: Beyond the Valley of the Cinephiles […]

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  13. For Chinatown and Nosferatu… it’s not Art Deco… It’s Art Nouveau.. turn of the century… Art Deco came on strong toward the middle of the century.

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