The State of Movie Posters

As I waited  at a bus stop yesterday, the usual advert at the bus shelter caught my eye. It was an ad for the new Vince Vaughan movie ‘The Truth Hurts’.. or wait, is it called ‘The Dilemma’? Ok so I knew already the title of this movie was The Dilemma but it is so ridiculously stupid looking I wanted to unhinge the plastic cover, take out the massive abomination and burn it right then and there. As someone who loves movies and art/design, it displeases me to see the abundance of ugly and lazy poster art for new movies.

Look at that poster, all the cast looking like waxworks, clearly not in the same room, photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. I understand an actors face sells a movie nowadays but come on! A bit of invention would be nice.

Do not think it is just this poster that falls into this category. Nearly every ‘Frat Pack’ movie, heck, most comedies nowadays  uses this chunky font and blank look into the camera, although, in what must have been an epic epiphany, they’ve changed the colour from red to blue!

And look at just a few random posters from just last year that show that movie posters can still be beautiful.

Universal, take note.

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112 thoughts on “The State of Movie Posters

      • Maybe it reflects the laziness, and lack luster of your
        comment. It’s often quite easy to be critical of others, but at
        least you could add something to the conversation by stating your
        opinion subject at hand, and not just about the writing of the
        author. But then again what can you expect from a dweeb. Back onto
        the topic though, I do have to agree that the poster looks
        terrible, and not well thought out. The blue just seems
        off.

      • What do you mean? I’m bring critical of a movement in
        poster design I feel is ugly and lazy, I was being fair by showing
        other examples that were great and I also design my own versions.
        Also, Dweeb? What..

    • Agreed. Movie posters should be art especially when all the other advertising inundates us with the ugly and the superficial. At least film could try and enhance the aesthetic of our worlds. Just a note, a man I once met is a photographer for movie posters. The big ones like X-men and Batman. He works about twice a year and lives a very peaceful life in Northern California. So jealous.

  1. I totally agree with you! I sometimes what what movie execs are thinking when they turn to advertising. Or heck, even titling their movies. I ran past a huge cardboard cut out this weekend on my way to see “Black Swan” (awesome flick), and I passed a sign for a movie called “Mars Needs Moms.” Excuse me, is that the title, or a line from the film? I can’t tell!

    All four actors in that featured poster above look like they have no life behind their eyes. And considering how their faces don’t match their bodies, I’m going to assume that, indeed, there was no life to this whole photo shoot.

    Kudos on being FP, Thirsty!

    http://miracleon32ndstreet.wordpress.com

  2. I found myself in the theater a few weeks ago just taking in the movie poster for 127 hours…like I was in an art museum or something! Crazy…

    And I personally think Vince Vaughn’s presence on any movie poster necessitates that it become inherently bad “art.” Ugh.

  3. Pingback: The State of Movie Posters (via Thirsty For Milk) « Popularity Contest

  4. Totally agree, would be nice for film posters to stand out as creative work with some thought put into them, rather than merely reducing them to a cheap looking advert.

    You might find these interesting, they’re alternate film posters made by Polish artists for Hollywood films. I’m assuming they were only domestically used, which is a shame as they’re far more interesting than their official counterparts.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/gallery/2009/sep/02/polish-film-posters?lightbox=1#/?picture=352441278&index=0

  5. I wonder what that chunky font is called. Have you noticed that all the articles are also always small and the rest of the title is big? Why are they not more innovative?
    I loved the movie and the book “Never Let Me Go”. It is a must read if you are a fan of reading, at least, that’s in my opinion.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    Ashley

  6. The purpose of the poster is to sell the film, The Dilemma really doesnt. You are not 100% if thats the name of the film, the poster doesnt make sense, and looks terribly slap dash. It basically makes it look like the type of trash I try to avoid, because it probably is.

  7. i wonder if it’s laziness or the budget was too low to bother with a decent poster. Anyone can see the first example is awful. The others are awesome. I like the Expendables poster…hadn’t seen that one yet.

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  9. I heard that different territories often employ local agencies to tailor the publicity material to the region, UK for example, and they’re sent basic ‘heads’ of the cast then told to shoot their own body doubles. I wonder if this still goes on or have movie audiences around the world now all been trained to react the same.

    Of course, only a small percent of anything is good, the rest is rubbish, so don’t expect anything to change!

  10. Shitty poster for a shitty movie.

    People who go see Vince Vaughn movies barely know how to read anyway, so I don’t know why they are bothering with fancy things like “words.” Just slap his annoying face on there.

  11. If you’ve seen the Get Smart posters, they spoofed these sort of rubbish posters quite humourously.
    I like a poster to give me a bit of a taste of the film…The Dilemma…yawn…I’m bored by your cut-out faces already.

  12. I teach journalism and a little bit of graphic design in a high school in Tennessee. You make some excellent points. My students need to read your post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

  13. I think Vince Vaughn appeals to young stupid “children” with money to burn! I am so annoyed by him and his “antics”! You are so correct about the Movie Poster! Whoever was/is in charge of it should be mortified by it, what is worse, God knows how much money the crummy movie and movies of that ilk will make!!

    evelyngarone.com

  14. Sigh… I used to love working at a video store (remember those?) and taking home all the movie posters I wanted… which was at least 2 or 3 a month. Nowadays the posters — much like the movies themselves — lack even the slightest bit of creativity. I’ve seen a few good ones recently (127 Hours among them) but they are a dying breed.

  15. Just looking at the first poster, makes me not want to see the movie. I don’t like Wynona, the shoplifter. Who would want to see her in a movie. The picture is crooked, makes me want to straighten it.

  16. Great post. I agree, more and more posters are looking the same nowadays. It’s a great disservice to the films when a poster is so poorly done, and would it hurt to think out of the box people?

  17. The “sameness” of comedy and chick flick movies posters irritates me, too. On top of that, the poster for “The Dilemma” tells me nothing about what the film other than who is starring in it.

    Oh, and another poster pet peeve: stupid facial expressions. There are sometimes when I really, REALLY want the actors or actresses in the posters to start moving just to get the stupid looks off their faces. Grr.

  18. Mars Needs Moms? That sounds like a children’s book by Berkley Breathed, which if you’re a mother will either leave you howling with laughter (mom wearing fuzzy slippers, grungy housecoat and curlers in her hair) or reaching for tissue (giving up her own oxygen mask to save her kid.)
    I do agree that the figures in the first post look…not alive. Very pretty undead.

    • Wait a Berke Breathed reference? Holy crap! I read the Bloom County books like nothing else.

      I can’t deny what you’re saying, but with mediocre movies, they have to run to standardized boilerplate marketing.

      And to be fair, in your “good” examples, it’s the same issue of “Big Star does stuff.” Joachim Phoenix made his career on being that dude. While the 120 Hours doesn’t have a huge-name star, it does have “BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE ALSO INDIE STARS” over a pretty cliche scene — and I won’t even touch the Expendables, which looks like a rejected Quake logo underneath EVERY ACTION STAR EVER.

      I dunno, I can’t really get upset that marketing takes the shortest route possible — especially when it tells you exactly how crappy the movie is just by its crappiness. I’d think that’s perfect advertising.

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  21. That poster for The Dilemma looks like the four people were all shot by themsleves on the couch and then photoshopped together. Totally unnatural and phoney looking.

  22. Thanks for taking the time to gather so many GOOD examples to help erase the memory of the mediocre one. Maybe Hollywood studies have shown mediocre design to be funnier, since none of the beautiful posters were comedies? Not that I would agree by a long shot.

  23. Nicely put. I agree that the poster for “The Dilemma” is an example of laziness. It says nothing about the movie and does little to peak our interest. I suspect that many movie producers have no taste. The other posters were wonderful.

  24. I’m glad to learn of your blog, thanks to the FP plug. I also love your selections of good posters, except for “Never Let Me Go”. That one looks like it was taken with a cell-phone camera and tweaked in iPhoto. But you are spot on about The Dilemma.

  25. Oh my god, I cannot agree with you more on this. I love movie posters that are beautiful, that tell story by just looking at them . I love that “Never Let Me Go” poster – so pretty….

  26. You’re right. It is confusing and akward. I thought the name of the movie was “The Truth Hurts” and that the premise was about “the dilemma of how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” I like the Never Let Me Go and The Expendables posters. The art work on For Colored Girls is great. (My daughter just got a part at her collage for this play! Yea!)

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  28. apparently Hollywood must be out of creative ideas for poster images sorta like them being out of ideas for movie plots. Vince Vaughn still looks like death warmed over a bit what with the eye bags.

  29. Many posters seem to copy other posters. There seem to be
    formulas for posters, just as with scripts. It happens with book
    covers also. I have learned that if I want to read something light,
    or at least something that isn’t about tragedy, my best bet is to
    simply look for a cover in bright colors.

  30. I’ve bookmarked this blog. Totally agree and as a
    screenwriter I have been giving a lot of thought to this lately.
    But then again, since when do writers have any influence on
    publicity? Maybe we should do away with the middlemen who give the
    briefs for these posters – they are probably not creatives but
    marketing peeps. Thanks for the inspiration.

  31. Agreed! As much as they say not to “judge a book by its cover”, the movie poster will always give that same first impression to a potential movie-goer! IF (and that’s a BIG IF) I was remotely interested in seeing The Dilemma (or The Truth Hurts. whatever.), that poster wouldn’t capture my interest whatsoever.
    It’s so lazy that there isn’t even any effects on “THE TRUTH HURTS” It’s literally one colour, 2-dimensional boring.

  32. I have a ridiculous love for movies…and even my (shameful) guilty pleasure for Vince Vaughn isn’t enough to make me see his new film. You are exactly right; the poster is boring, as well as uninspiring. It’s so depressing that so many “mainstream” movie posters these days lack creativity. Yet the ones that are lovely and represent a really wonderful film don’t normally get noticed or the praise they deserve.

    Great post and blog! And congrats on being freshly pressed! 🙂

  33. That movie looks so dopey, I wouldn’t expect the poster to be anything amazing. I agree with you though, it’s definitely very lazy! I really like the other posters you picked, especially ‘Never let me go’ and the ‘127 hours.’

  34. I totally agree! Remember when poster art for films were beautifully painted? Not going way back but the old poster art from the 70’s and 80’s from movies like The Dark Crystal, Star Wars, or Labyrinth. Posters like that made you want to see the film. The Dilemma poster….where did that artistic creativity go?

  35. Those are some very beautiful posters you’ve got posted there (excluding the one which sores both eyes of course). As a cineate and human being, I too am easily swayed by first impressions and I’m telling you, these impressions can be quite permanently imprinted in my mind’s eye when they come plastered upon A2 posters and whatnot. I’ve the lovely Benny & Joon poster on my wall- just a side note.

    Off to the rental store, hiyaa!

  36. I always wonder what graphic artist is behind those posters snickering at how much they got paid to pull that off. They surely submitted ten other comps with substance, and the execs likely chose the one we see everywhere.

  37. Ahh! Someone who gets it. Finally.

    You know, when I first saw the poster for the movie The Proposal, I stared at it for minutes on end. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds had clearly been photoshopped together, but not only that, it seemed like Bullock’s body had been pieced together too. Her back was in this weird S shape that just couldn’t have been natural. I’m not sure what they were going for. They were also doing the stare-into-the-camera thing, accompanied by chunky font. It was awful.

    marlowesnymph.wordpress.com

  38. I love the last poster, I wish I’d come up with that design 😀 the poster for “I’m still here” looks really good too…

    And on topic: The amount of photoshopping of human bodies/faces in movie posters, magazine covers, etc. nowadays is ridiculous.

  39. The creative juice has gone, deathliners, too lazy, too afraid to copy others too, so there goes those posters. Some typography is just simply bad there. Only if you examined it carefully though. If you just glance at it nothing seems so wrong I think.
    Nice share.

  40. You are absolutely right. Before reading you post, I first noticed the poster and went – Oh, so there’s a new movie “The Truth Hurts”. And as I scrolled down – “Hey wait, is it called “The Dilemma”. An excellent example of senseless poster design.

  41. You are absolutely right. Before reading you post, I first noticed the poster and went – Oh, so there’s a new movie “The Truth Hurts”. And as I scrolled down – “Hey wait, is it called ‘The Dilemma’?”. An excellent example of senseless poster design.

  42. Why do some (not dropping names here) movie production houses take the single worst images of the cast, solo or together, and create some of the worst Photoshop’d posters?
    I mean if I can tell (and I have no eye for this kind of this, not being very artistic at all), then surely critics and artists can tell. One of the ones I always cite has to be the poster for ‘Best Friend’s Girl’.
    All right it’s a trashy throw away comedy, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the poster looked like it was phoned in.
    Why is it that those who have very little artistic flair, talent or (god forbid) creativity never make it to the big leagues?

  43. Not only that but i saw a similar one for the same movie on a bus shelter near my house. I was trying to work out whether it was a digital version of them or just over Photoshopped. and it has the classic Comedy red!

    http://bit.ly/gAtXC9

  44. A great post.
    As a child I really wanted to design film posters.
    I cannot think of a more soul destroying design job at this present time, as you could see how great you could make it but would be forced in most cases to follow the’ trend style of the default genre look’. Like washing powder ads the film bosses would bring out the stats to prove that it works,when you know in your heart that if you do something different it will stick out and be memorable. It might have always been thus but boy is it prevelent at the moment. One of my clients is a (good) cinema chain so I see a lot of posters.

  45. as far as the plastic look goes, i like it. i think its nice how they do it lately with the people on the posters appearing as dolls with a spaced out expression. not sure why but its a bit funny and surreal / modern

  46. Hey there,

    just had to laugh out loud! You say “burn it right then and there” for the “Dilemma poster”. But what are your expectations for such a crappy movie anyway?

    *sarcasticly speaking* Isn’t it a good thing to know that the quality of a movie often is as high as the quality (design/font/style…) of its poster? */sarcisticly speaking*

    Well well – you made your point and I agree – it really looks urgs.

    Take care and greetings from Germany,
    Tobias

  47. At the current rate of movie releases, it is not surprising (but unfortunate) that both the quality and the originality have suffered. Perhaps the time has come to re-think the entire concept of a movie poster: Is it at all needed? What should it contain?

    For my part, I would be much more interested in factual information. Consider a poster a long the very rough lines of (hoping that the rendition is reasonable; the data is partly made up):

    Dilemma

    Genre: Comedy
    Runtime: 80 Minutes
    Target audience: 10-25
    PG-Rating: […]

    Egbert’s opinion:

    A decent, but hackneyed, comedy. 2 out 4.

    Starring:

    Vince Vaughan, Kevin James, [etc.]

    Director:

    [name of director] [previous important movies]

    Producer:

    [name of producer(s)] [previous important movies]

    Score:

    [name of score writer] [previous important movies]

  48. I think it is like anything else, a movie that is a work from the heart will get a better poster. “The Dilemma” is coming out in a dump month for movies and obviously not a great or even good movie. Your other examples are movies that wanted to be made by their producers out of some love of the material. This one is a corporate movie.

  49. That poster is awful. That said, that film also stars no one with any kind of Hollywood-heat behind them. Vince Vaugn? Kevin James? All hit their peaks five-ten years ago. I’m guessing the studio decided to release this in the slim hopes of making its cost back, and threw the poster assignment to some intern so they wouldn’t have to spend more money on an advertising campaign bound to fail.

  50. I agree with you. The poster for “The Dilemma” was dumbly created. But those posters you showed that you thought were great–were great. I especially loved the ones for “Never Let Me Go” and “For Colored Girls.” Those two were really nice.

    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! Really great post, this is!

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  52. Hi, Interesting post and to be honest it never really
    clicks the mind about all this, is it maybe because these stars are
    too busy to pose together for shoots, agree there is no originality
    these days. Sadly, this kind of stuff has been going on for yours
    in the Bollywood Film industry, check out the following links, you
    might want to try your hand at these. Here there is a trend for
    someone somewhere trying to show off their Photoshop skills! But I
    guess it’s a different industry in India and they need something
    very bright, colourful and full of noise to catch the attention.
    http://www.google.co.uk/images?um=1&hl=en&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=Bollywood+movie+posters+2010&aq=f&aqi=g1&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
    http://www.google.co.uk/images?um=1&hl=en&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=Bollywood+movie+posters&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

  53. You’d think with all the money the studio puts into the movie they would do better with the advertising:) Go big or go home: Adding color to black and whites. Black and white blah or black and white BAM. How to turn contrasting colors into an unforgettable outfit. http://ow.ly/3CrSc

  54. Was just reading the liner notes for the Rollerball Soundtrack CD, which extensively features the work of Bob Peak;

    “Bob Peak passed away in 1992 and the years since have seen the artistic ideals he represented fall into a sad decline. The body of work presented here seems an altogether foreign way of promoting a film compared to what constitutes a movie poster today. With the vast majority of contemporary posters falling into the formulaic design categories of featuring either one big head or two, looking back on Peak’s contribution to just this one film becomes a peculiarly wistful recollection of a time when artistry was a valued commodity – a time that wasn’t that long ago, but a concept that seems to be becoming increasingly far away”

    If you want to check out some of the work Peak did on films such as Star Trek, Excalibur, Apocalypse Now and Camelot, just type his name into Google image.

  55. Pingback: Death of the Movie Poster? « Just Movie Posters Blog

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