Hollywood and the Movie Poster
One time when I was in university, there was a poster sale. They had it every year and had posters on almost every topic, place and person you could think of. Off to the side, they had a section just for movie posters, and they always had the newest movies that had come out. But after you went through the recent movies, they had a number of older posters alphabetized. All of these were cult or classic movies, but I always noticed that the majority of these posters had… something. They were cool, classy, colourful, or detailed. The bottom line was that they were all great.
Now I know we all have our own tastes when it comes to movie posters. But after years of looking through movie posters, online and in theaters, I’ve started to see a pattern. It’s interesting how some movie posters manage to keep our eyes engaged, while others don’t merit a second glance. Some become iconic in our minds, while others are simply faces on a page. These are the patterns that I’ve noticed when it comes to movie posters, and they would be some of the categories for the Academy Awards: Movie Poster edition.
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a complete sucker for illustrated posters. I love the style, the art, the richness. There’s something about illustrated posters that makes it seem to classy yet casual at the same time. Take a look at the two Harry Potter posters below. They were both designed and released to promote the first film. Both present a lot of the same elements. Now I don’t know about you, but I think the illustrated one does a better job of conjuring up curiosity and interest than the washed out blue one.
Let’s do another comparison. Let’s look at two James Bond posters and see the difference between the two. Looking at the one on the right, it tells me that James Bond is a dangerous man who knows his way with the ladies. The one on the left, on the other hand, looks like a man who is doing a windy walk of shame from a woman he’d met the night before. The one on the right promises me a helicopter scene. The one on the left promises me complications with a woman. Guess which one I picked?
It all comes down to personal choice of course, but I think it’s worth taking a second look at those hand-drawn posters.
If you’re looking for someone who is the master of colour, shadow and everything in between, John Alvin is your man. He believed that every movie poster was the promise of a great experience. He certainly knew how to make a movie poster, capturing the spirit of such classic movies like E.T., Blazing Saddles, Gremlins, and Blade Runner. He was also commissioned by Disney to bring his own style to some of their films. It’s these movie posters that capture the simplicity of the iconic characters while combining the warmth of colour with a spark of magic. Take a look.
I feel like sometimes we get so used to the noise and chaos that we begin to look for it in what we see. When we start to do that, we lose our ability to see the beauty in the quieter things, the calmer images. John Alvin has captured those beautiful and calm moments as simply as possible. His richness of colour and his use of shadow make these movie posters a beauty in their own right.
There is no greater feeling in the world than seeing a tribute to something and recognizing the source material (if there is a better feeling, don’t tell me; I don’t want to know). Movie posters are great examples of source material. Think about it: they’re the first images we associate with a film, and tend to remain the most common.
A movie poster is nothing more than a large canvas and a challenge: can the artist create an image that you will forever associate with just that one movie? It’s easier said than done. It takes careful planning and knowledge of the film to be able to connect the two. But when it’s done, and done well, it solidifies the image with the film forever. If you knew that the two posters were from Jurassic Park and Jaws, you’re awesome. If you’re trying to remember the last time you saw either of them or are replaying scenes in your head, you’re my hero.
What are some of your favourite posters? Any that I missed? Drop me a line!