What Makes a Great Movie Poster

10 Oct

Big movies are a huge business. With so much riding on a film’s success, there are big marketing opportunities for creative designers. Whether a small movie or a blockbuster, there isn’t a film that doesn’t benefit from some good advertising.

During the beginnings of cinema movie posters were displayed in theaters only. They served the same purpose as the menu at a restaurant. What flick can I enjoy today?

Today, posters not only advertise but play a big part in a movie’s memorabilia collection. The informative tone, in many cases, has been overshadowed by the terrific imagery and artistry.

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve started this blog and I feel like I’ve looked at enough posters to compile a list of the elements that make a good movie poster.

Movie posters come in different sizes, different versions and languages, and are released at multiple points in a movie’s lifetime. If done well they have the capacity to define and capture the feeling and flavor of a film  in a fixed image.

Some posters clue you in to the theme or plot of a movie with taglines and imagery, while others will leave you wondering and with only a release date. Others are eye-catching with bright colors or close-ups of the stars. They may feature dark images in an attempt to scare the audience or some may depict key plot points or some may not even use photos at all and rely solely on text and graphics.

Here it goes. What makes a great movie poster:

1. Make it attention grabbing. The first step for any successful advertising campaign is to catch the attention of passersby. This doesn’t require the flashy graphics but something that will keep their attention and encourage them to take a closer look and see the film. Designs that feature key plot points or big name stars will usually achieve this.

The Campaign The Campaign

2. Show don’t tell with iconography. Use imagery to present the themes in the film without revealing exactly what happens. This can be done using a character close-up or an item crucial to the plot or a simple graphic. This is a great way to reveal at least the genre of a movie but not too much of the plot.

The Dark Knight

3. Be consistent with the style.  All of a film’s promotional materials need to be consistent with the style of the film itself. Whether it’s a historical drama, comedy, based on a comic book, or a romance, make it clear through color, fonts, and technique.

Moonrise Kingdom

4. Appeal to fans and non-fans. Fan’s ties with actors are generally weaker than those with directors so their names usually are most prominent in the design to grab attention. Or even a film with a celebrated director may barely state their involvement on the poster. Fans of the director are already aware of the film and newer fans are going to be less interested in that aspect. Or think of comic book adaptations, it’s often the true fans that are last thought of in the marketing plan because they are already aware of and willing to see the film.

Kill Bill

5. Make it recognizable. If it’s a sequel make it clear. Use similar imagery and make the title of the film most prominent. Nothing guarantees studios money like a good sequel so a consistent style and design is important.

Jurassic Park 2

What do you think of the importance of these elements on a movie poster? What would you add?


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