POSTERity – 101 of My Favourite Movie Posters

Updated on February 11, 2022
What are some of my all-time favourite movie posters?

I had a great response to the last movie poster showcase, 21 Great New Movie Posters, and soon after dharmeshG on twitter posed a very potent question: What are some of my all-time favourite movie posters?

“Too many to list here,” I tweeted back. “I’d need a whole blogpost to cover them!”

And so, this.

Both DharmeshG and I decided to take a week to track down some of our favourites, and to each put together a posts featuring them on our respective blogs (Check out DharmeshG’s blog for his poster blogpost!). That week turned out to be insufficient, however, and nearly two weeks and hundreds upon hundreds of posters later, here I am with my modest* list of 101 of my favourite movie posters.

*(and I do mean modest — my initial shortlist was four hundred strong!)

This is by no means a definitive list — there are so many great posters I left out of this, but that’s because I had to keep the number down to something, er, vaguely manageable. Well, let’s get started, shall we?

A for Animation

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira (1988), Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Satoshi Kon's Paprika (2006)
Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (1988), Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro (1988), Satoshi Kon’s Paprika (2006)

I’m putting these first and foremost, because I don’t think posters for animated films get enough attention or respect (that animation itself gets no respect is a rant for another day). Truth be told this has something to do with the fact that what is generally perceived of as animation in the English-speaking world involves Happy Meal tie-in CGI blockbusters starring furry animals or wisecracking Ogres, and the posters of those films invariably involve simple head shots of their characters in order to quickly imprint themselves upon their target audience.

If, like me, you grew up generally unimpressed by Western animation, then you’re probably quite used to the reams of excellent artwork that is to be found in the rest of the world’s animation, both in the films themselves and in the posters that promote them. It’s no coincidence that five of the posters featured in this section are for Japanese movies, as that country is responsible for many of the greatest animated films of all time.

Eric Radomski & Bruce W. Timm's Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Satoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers (2003), Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Eric Radomski & Bruce W. Timm’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers (2003), Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995)

But don’t think I’m entirely dismissive about the West, though. Good — sometimes even great — animation is to be found there, and I can think of no finer example of a great movie with a great poster than Mask of the Phantasm otherwise known as the greatest Batman movie ever made (yes, I know all about that other one).

Bond, James Bond

Terence Young's From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965)
Terence Young’s From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965)

Honestly, I could have done a whole post just on all the James Bond posters over the years (and hey, maybe one day I will!). But today I’m showing you my all time-favourites, and that generally means posters from Bond films starring my favourite (and the greatest) James Bond of all time, Sean Connery.

Various directors' Casino Royale (1966), John Glen's Octopussy (1983), and Martin Campbell's Casino Royale (2006)
Various directors’ Casino Royale (1966), John Glen’s Octopussy (1983), and Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006)

Bond movie posters are always a bit special, no matter which era they’re from, or indeed, even if they’re not quite ‘official’ Bond movies such as the hilarious mess of a movie that 1966’s Casino Royale was.

Fast forward forty years, and the official, serious, all grown-up Casino Royale also has this great poster. It may swap the lush art style of the ’60s for a Photoshop-heavy treatment, but it’s still a kickass one-sheet.

Robert McGinnis's poster artwork for Lewis Gilbert's You Only Live Twice (1967)
Robert McGinnis’s poster artwork for Lewis Gilbert’s You Only Live Twice (1967)

And speaking of the ’60s, the reason the art in all the illustrated posters looks so awesome is because they were all drawn by the same artist, Robert McGinnis. McGinnis was truly a master, with a distinct style that almost made Bond hyper-real, larger-than-life, just like the movies. Without him I don’t know if we’d have quite the same impression of 007.

Girls, Girls, Girls!

Nathan Juran's Attack of the 50 foot Woman (1958), Fred M. Wilcox's Forbidden Planet (1956), Joe Dante's Piranha (1978)
Nathan Juran’s Attack of the 50 foot Woman (1958), Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956), Joe Dante’s Piranha (1978)

We lead naturally from cinema’s No.1 ladies’ man, to, of course, ladies! The surefire way to get a passerby’s attention is to stick a pretty lady in a bikini on a poster, and these one-sheets are only some of the most famous and well-designed examples of them (and there’s another idea for a future POSTERity entry…).

Don Chaffey's One Million Years B.C. (1966), Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror (2007)
Don Chaffey’s One Million Years B.C. (1966), Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007)

It’s a technique that’s still being used to this day, albeit with more twists (which do you look at more — gun, or leg?). But does one really need the twist? You aren’t telling me audiences in 1966 were queuing up to see the dinosaurs

Michael Haneke's Funny Games (2007), Michael Chapman's The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), Freddie Francis's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (2007), Michael Chapman’s The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), Freddie Francis’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

Now and then, of course, a twist is most welcome, as evidenced by the three posters above. I will probably never want to watch Funny Games, but that is one hell of a poster. And how about that Dracula one? You have Christopher Lee starring, and you focus on two band-aids? Now that’s confidence.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Sean Penn's Into the Wild (2007), Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003), Roger Donaldson's The Bank Job (2008)
Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007), Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), Roger Donaldson’s The Bank Job (2008)

Confidence is something that the average movie poster doesn’t seem to have a lot of. Crammed to the edges with the faces and names of its stars, cluttered with explosions and attractions and whatnot, it’s easy to forget that sometimes all you need is a single good picture to draw audiences in.

Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003), Caveh Zahedi's I Am a Sex Addict (2005), Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003), Caveh Zahedi’s I Am a Sex Addict (2005), Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

What all of this set of posters has, I feel, is mood. Now that’s a very hard thing to convey in a movie itself, let alone in a poster, but I think these each do a fabulous job.

Get Closer

Peter Webber's Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Jim Sheridan's Brothers (2009), Hector Babenco's Ironweed (1987)
Peter Webber’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Jim Sheridan’s Brothers (2009), Hector Babenco’s Ironweed (1987)

It’s safe to say that most human stories are about intimacy in some form or another, and movies are no exception. While there are plenty of romcoms that feature two people looking dreamily into each others’ eyes, I’m drawn to ones that are a bit different.

Sex Sells

Sam Mendes's American Beauty (1999), Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Steven Shainberg's Secretary (2002)
Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999), Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Steven Shainberg’s Secretary (2002)

And then there are the times you don’t want to be subtle at all… 🙂

Face Time

Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton (2007), Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! (2009)
Judd Apatow’s The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton (2007), Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! (2009)

I tend to find most ‘single face’ posters pretty boring. Like the aforementioned ones which try to cram their whole cast in, face posters usually signify that it’s this year’s big ‘star vehicle’, and that you really shouldn’t care because so-and-so huge actor/actress is in it. So when a movie poster does go with the single face or mid-shot, and then makes it not only memorable, but intriguing? I’m sold.

Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), Mary Harron's American Psycho (2000), Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The simplest of things can make a movie poster memorable. The right prop, for instance. Or a mundane one put to a strange use.

Eyes

Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, Stephen Gaghan's Syriana (2005)
Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (2005)

Good posters, like good stories, are as much about what they withhold as what they reveal, though.

Mouths

Warren Beatty's Bulworth (1998), Sophie Barthes's Cold Souls (2009), Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998), Sophie Barthes’s Cold Souls (2009), Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

And since it’s a still image and not a moving one, what good is a mouth, eh? We aren’t (thankfully) in the era of talking movie posters yet, so it’s quite natural for poster designers to run their mouth a bit.

War Machines

Jonathan Mostow's U-571 (2000), Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998), René Cardona Jr.'s The Bermuda Triangle (1978)
Jonathan Mostow’s U-571 (2000), Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998), René Cardona Jr.’s The Bermuda Triangle (1978)

War movies (and movies featuring the military in general) also tend to follow a pretty generic poster style. Lots of sepia colors or the ever-reliable explosions. The Bermuda Triangle isn’t actually a war movie (it’s a documentary I think I’ve seen ages and ages ago), but it certainly featured a lot of military hardware disappearing into mysterious fog.

What? Yes, I said documentary.

Menace

Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor's Crank (2006), Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971), Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008)
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor’s Crank (2006), Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008)

They say that every great movie has a great villain. There are many exceptions to this, of course (Kiki’s Delivery Service springs immediately to mind) but it’s quite often the villain or the anti-hero that steals the show, and makes for the most memorable performance.

…and sometimes, some very memorable posters!

Surreality

Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich (1999), Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999), Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

Movies give us some of our closest glimpses of realities that only exist in our minds, so why should the posters be left behind? It’s only fitting that the master of the surreal, Terry Gilliam, has two posters featured in this section. One of these is probably more of a surreal film than the others, but I’ll let you decide. 🙂

Tom Tykwer's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), Mike Judge's Office Space (1999), Rian Johnson's Brick (2005)
Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), Mike Judge’s Office Space (1999), Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005)

Of course, the surreal image isn’t just something that can be used for surreal films. Quite often a fantastic and evocative image can convey the mood and ideas of a very realistic movie much better than a straightforward photo.

Set the Mood

Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

I talked about mood before, and how many movie posters lack it. Well, not these three, that’s for sure. Pulling from the entire gamut of illustration, design, and photography, these three say more about their movies than entire synopses would.

The Illustrated Film

Milos Forman's Amadeus (1984), Joshua Logan's Camelot (1967) Ronald V. Ashcroft's The Astounding She-Monster (1957)
Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984), Joshua Logan’s Camelot (1967) Ronald V. Ashcroft’s The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

And sometimes, you don’t need photos at all!

Superpowers

James McTeigue's V for Vendetta (2005), Joe Johnston's  The Rocketeer (1991), Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002)
James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta (2005), Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer (1991), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002)

There are plenty of great superhero posters that are just perfect for throwing up on your bedroom wall, but I think these three are great works of art too.

(And yes, kids, The Rocketeer is a proper superhero movie. Look it up.)

Into the Stars

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). George Lucas's Star Wars (1977), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982)
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977), Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982)

When I was a kid I too wanted to be an astronaut, to live in The Future, ride a space-ship, and shoot a raygun. I have a raygun now (don’t worry, it’s harmless), and it’s 2010 as I write this (officially The Future), and while I haven’t been to space yet, these posters always bring a smile to my face and remind me of the fantastic worlds out there that they portrayed.

Immaculate White

Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987), Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Harold Ramis's Caddyshack (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Harold Ramis’s Caddyshack (1980)

Now let’s get serious.

In order to craft a fine movie poster, you don’t really need an army of artists and CG technicians, do you? Sometimes all you need is a talented designer with an idea and a white piece of paper.

And when the ideas is strong enough, you don’t even need to fill in all the white bits either. 🙂

I Know the Type

Neil Burger's The Illusionist (2006), Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Melville Shavelson's A New Kind of Love (1963)
Neil Burger’s The Illusionist (2006), Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Melville Shavelson’s A New Kind of Love (1963)

Any graphic designer who does not confess to an intense love of typography is a designer I do not want to know. And so any poster that dares to use type and image in awesome ways (sometimes, in the case of the central example, ridiculously simple ways) gets my vote!

Epic Epicness

Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), Matt Reeves's Cloverfield (2008), Marcus Nispel's Pathfinder (2007)
Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), Matt Reeves’s Cloverfield (2008), Marcus Nispel’s Pathfinder (2007)

At the other end of the scale, we have posters that try — and succeed! — at portraying the sheer scope of the adventures they promise.

(I have it on good authority that Pathfinder is not that great a movie, but oh man, what a poster!)

Blue Movies

Michael Mann's Miami Vice (2006), Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002), James Marsh's Man on Wire (2008)
Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006), Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002), James Marsh’s Man on Wire (2008)

Let’s get one thing clear: in design terms, ‘monotone’ is not the same as ‘monotonous’. A poster’s palette may stay parked firmly in one segment of the colour wheel, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be memorable.

Everything in its Place

Andrew Niccol's Gattaca (1997), Vince Vieluf's Order of Chaos (2010), Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca (1997), Vince Vieluf’s Order of Chaos (2010), Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000)

It’s nice to organise things, to keep things ordered and neat and totally not full of disembodied stars’ heads (and explosions — don’t forget those!).

Primary Colours

Roman Coppola's CQ (2001), Alexander Payne's Sideways (2004), Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris's Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Roman Coppola’s CQ (2001), Alexander Payne’s Sideways (2004), Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris’s Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Just to show you that blue is not the only colour out there, in case you were wondering.

Silhouettes

Armando Iannucci's In the Loop (2009), Clark Gregg's Choke (2008), Joel & Ethan Coen's Burn After Reading (2008)
Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop (2009), Clark Gregg’s Choke (2008), Joel & Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading (2008)

Nor should one have to rely on photographs when a good silhouette will do nicely.

Graphic Graphics

Bryan Singer's Valkyrie (2008), Fernando Meirelles's Blindness (2008), John Landis's The Blues Brothers (1980)
Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie (2008), Fernando Meirelles’s Blindness (2008), John Landis’s The Blues Brothers (1980)

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a graphic design geek as much as a movie geek, and posters like this just make my heart sing!

John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), Robert Downey Sr.'s Putney Swope (1969), Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950)
John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), Robert Downey Sr.’s Putney Swope (1969), Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950)

Keep it Simple, Stupid

Bob Fosse's All That Jazz (1979), Dylan Kidd's Roger Dodger (2002), Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979), Dylan Kidd’s Roger Dodger (2002), Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

You don’t even need a whole lot of stuff to make your point. The All That Jazz is one of my most favourite posters, and it’s not only devoid of colour, but also any kind of photo, illustration, or graphic — it’s all text!

I See a Pattern Emerging

Duncan Jones's Moon (2009), Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience (2009), Christopher Nolan's The Prestige (2006)
Duncan Jones’s Moon (2009), Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience (2009), Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006)

I hope this assault of a hundred posters hasn’t got you seeing strange patterns in front of our eyes. Wait, if you are, then it just may be these particular posters! 🙂

Well, this post took a fair bit of time to put together, but I think it was worth it! There’s actually several hundred more posters I could show you, but those will have to wait for another time. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Make sure you also visit @DharmeshG’s blog for his favourite posters!

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