And so here we are, the difficult ‘follow-up’ blog. I’m assuming the same rules apply to blogs as any popular director/band/musician/artist, and therefore the contents of this post will be rendered totally irrelevant, overshadowed by the fact that it is doomed to be criticised from the start – purely for not being as ground-breaking as its predecessor.
After making this acute observation I wept for several hours at just how fickle you, the fair reader, can be. And after that I decided to talk about film posters.
Production companies spend millions upon millions of dollars promoting films. More so than ever these days. But as promotional material is having to become more and more innovative to stand out, the humble film poster can be easily overlooked.
This is not to take anything away from the ingenuity and effectiveness of modern promotional techniques. The first film of the last decade which springs to mind as a true example of the rule-book-out-the-window method is The Blair Witch Project, with its faux-documentary narrative being carried along with the films pre-release build up. And the method worked like a charm, with droves of bright spark Americans logging on to the film’s website – filled with mocked up newspaper cuttings and reports of the ‘missing’ teens – and clogging police phone lines in the hope of helping their investigations.
In more recent years Lost creater J J Abrams got cinema-goers salivating by shooting, editing and releasing the enigmatic 1-18-08 trailer for his feature film Cloverfield before shooting any other scenes for the film. More recently still The Dark Knight conjured up an admirable viral advertising campaign which tore it’s way through the internet – culminating in fans receiving bizarre answerphone messages from characters and hunting around cities across the world on cryptic treasure hunts.
Something still remains to be said for the humble film poster however. The best can be iconic, memorable pieces of artwork, capable of representing an entire generation or a snapshot in time with just a single glance. And so here is my tribute to the ten greatest film posters to have ever been put to print.
The list is, as ever, definitive and indisputable. But if you have any of your own suggestions, leave a comment below and I will explain how and why you are wrong.
15. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western masterpiece kicks our list off. The plain background makes the focal points of the poster stand out, while the chaotic depiction of America’s Civil War running through the middle splits the text and imagery. The simple, left to right staggered lay-out also guides your eye through the poster. All clever stuff.
14. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Andrew Dominik’s criminally underrated, poetic, and overly titled 2007 biopic comes next. The poster for the beautiful neo-western reflects the film perfectly, with a brooding, foreboding air about it – made all the more striking by Casey Afleck’s sinister Robert Ford jolting the focus away from Pitt in the centre.
13. Apocalypse Now
Famously the film that almost bankrupted Francis Ford Coppola, the poster for his ever changing and iconic Vietnam epic is as eerie as the film itself. The impact comes from the striking red and orange colour scheme and the floating images of the film’s stars – particularly Marlon Brando’s seemingly melting face of the estranged Colonel Kurtz.
Shockingly violent and consistently relentless, Gaspar Noé’s disjointed, back-to-front film became an instant icon of modern French cinema on its release in 2003. The poster may be considerably easier to look at than the film, but still gives viewers a hard time with the backwards lettering and writing and jarring angles.
11. Straw Dogs
This simple and striking poster for Sam Peckinpah’s controversial and shocking 1973 film gets the point across perfectly. The shattered lens of Dustin Hoffman’s glasses adds an unsettling feel to the extreme close up of the stars face, echoed by the still calm of his face.
10. Dead Man’s Shoes
The eye-catching use of colour in this poster for Brit Shane Meadows’ 2004 revenge film is what makes it stand out. Paddy Considine’s axe wielding silhoette dominates the frame, while the three-coloured title cuts through him.
9. Silence of the Lambs
The instantly unsettling imagery of this is what lands it in the top ten of my list. The cold blue of the background gives the poster a chilling feel, while the moth silencing Clarice Starling just adds to the unsettling nature of the image.
Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterclass in science-fiction/horror comes next. Simplicity is the key once again, with the darkness of the poster breaking only for the neon, alien green of the franchise’s H. R Geiger designed creature, alongside the film’s title and legendary tagline.
Another Spielberg classic and one of cinema’s most endearing moments, this is the image that raises fond smiles in generations of cinema-goers, young and old, and epitomises childish escapism of sitting down, watching a brilliant film, and leaving the world behind.
6. The Exorcist
The poster to William Friedkin’s 1973 horror is instantly recognisable and the face of controversial horror films. The image still carries the same impact today with the striking lighting and the ill-fated Father Merrin’s silhouette.
Straight forward, sexy and provocative, this poster to Steven Shainberg’s shockingly under-seen 2002 film says everything about the subtle, obscurely romantic and brilliant story of a girl struggling to find her identity.
4. The Thing
John Carpenter’s 1982 arctic horror is a shining achievement of the genre. Arriving just at the cusp of a computer generated tsunami which, for better or worse, changed the face of American cinema, Carpenter stuck to his guns – opting for sophisticated animatronics and clever film making to terrify audiences. This poster conveys all of the mystery and enigma of the film eponymous monster, while still creating a striking image to look at.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The ultimate snapshot film poster. Bold primary colours and chic design combine with the image of the most beautiful woman every to grace to silver screen to create an image totally symbolic of the 60s.
Another Ridley Scott science-fiction icon. The poster for his 1982 classic mirrors the film’s stark, dirty futuristic world, dominated by the image of a worn-down Harrison Ford and the 2019 Los Angeles cityscape from the film’s breathtaking opening scene.
Simple, direct and iconic. This is the benchmark for film posters since the release of Spielberg’s classic aquatic horror in 1975, proving that there was far more leaving audiences shaking in their seats than blood, guts and special effects.
Keep checking back at Chad Cinema for the latest film releases and news. Also, don’t forget to check out Chad reporter James Hoy’s review of the latest James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, here.