The Dying Art of the Movie Poster

Think about some of the most iconic movie posters of the past century. 

Now, ask yourself if any of those posters are for movies from the last decade. My thoughts are, they are probably some of the iconic images from Drew Struzan, Bill Gold, Saul Bass or John Alvin

The older I get, the more that I delve into my appreciate of the arts, and the more that I respect the talents of artists. Though I will never dispute the amount of skill, patience and technique that goes into digital editing, computer generated imagery (CGI) and things like motion capture technology, I still find myself opposing the use of digital editing in photographs and artwork.

Case in point: movie posters.

Remember when posters looked like these?

1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick

Art from 'Blazing Saddles' by John AlvinWhat began as the manipulation of film photography and hand crafted masterpieces slowly ventured into the world of digital editing, as the technology began to show itself in the movies as well. “Mixed Media” began to surface.


Art from 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' by John Alvin












It was often about creating an image that would elude to the themes or plot of the movie. It was about simplicity, yet also about great detail.

And now, everything from the most pitiful to the most reveled modern movies start to look like these:


I would never go so far as to say that the medium is dead, but I can certainly see it dying away in mainstream Hollywood. Simplicity is now replaced with support propaganda-from critics reviews, to heavily retouched celebrity visages, to blatant name dropping. Unfortunately, the market is so saturated with directors, producers, actors and the like that a poster is now a retail advertisement moreso than it is the cover of a story. We need to know who made it, and what else they made, and who is in it, and what they look like. We need to see the entire cast of the film standing around one other, either looking straight at you, or all looking dramatically over their shoulders as they float in different layers of the background.

Every once in awhile, I am still impressed by a promotional poster, no matter what medium or method that they use. The majority of Judd Apatows films use a very simple, very repetitive and very straight forward technique, but they always manage to catch your attention. Plain background, actor, funny tagline. I can get behind it. 

Comic book adaptations-lookin at you, Marvel!-are some of the worst culprits for these Photoshop-soaked clusterf*cks that we see in recent years, especially since so many of their movies are ensemble casts. However, once in awhile, when the focus is on particular hero, we see a simple, beautiful image that has a little nostalgic ring to it.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Wolverine


Luckily, when it comes to these types of films, something as simple as a symbol is enough to tip off the audience and tantalize their curiosity. Still, when the situation does not require something complex, the studios can’t help themselves. One of the most obvious culprits comes from XMen-Days of Future Past.

Some of the best movie posters that I have witnessed in the last few years was more than enough for me to see to become instantly excited about the movie, when there was at least 6 months remaining until the movie was released. Then, when it came close to the time of release. they felt the need to hit us with this:

Look familiar? It should, because it looks like EVERY OTHER MARVEL POSTER!

Yep, there are a whole lot of people in these movies. They are all different sizes, some of them stand in fire and look into the distance, and none of them are aware of one anothers existence on the poster. 

Poster art, much like digital art, is like a steak. There is a fine line between rare, medium and well done. Some people like their steak raw, and some hard as a rubber band. Though everyone has the tools to cook a steak, not everyone can cook one. Art is very subjective and difficult to define, and this is all just one nerd’s opinion on the issue, but I want to see less Photoshop and more photos, less digital and more drawn, less computer and more coloring.


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