Iconic Film Poster Design: What makes a great film poster

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When filmmakers start to advertise and market their new movie they want to create a campaign that stays in the memory as long as the film. To do this they deploy certain techniques in their poster to catch the viewer’s eye and create an iconic image. We’ve analysed some of the most dynamic techniques used in film poster design to get you inspired.

Iconic Scenes

Some of the most memorable scenes from cinema have turned brilliant films into iconic films. Psycho’s shower scene.Reservoir Dogs’ row of criminals in black suits.Jaws’ snarling mouth about to eat the boat. Alien’s glowing, cracked egg. 2001 A Space Odyssey’s glowing red dot. All of these scenes have contributed to the films’ longevity in the public mind as well as majorly influencing the poster design. Modern remakes on the classic designs see these scenes duplicated and re-imagined. Sometimes all that’s needed is a symbolic reference to these famous moments. Iconic scenes also create atmosphere and mood to a film; the same is true of poster design. Utilising these moments from the film will add an indelible imprint on the viewer’s mind.

Colour Scheme

Often films will come with a director’s palette. Colour lends atmosphere and tone to a film, which is often why certain director’s are associated with certain colour schemes. Martin Scorsese’s films tend to be red heavy and Kubrick’s bathroom scenes are blue hued. To extend this, style decision used by the director the posters used to advertise the films often lend to the same colours. Kill Bill, for example, uses the colour of Uma Thurman’s iconic yellow biker suit. The famous blood spurts seen in Tarantino’s films were another important colour decision that was echoed in the poster design. Using this basic but impactful advertising technique helps to further cement the film in the viewer’s mind and also helps to create franchising for films.

Style and Reference

Sometimes film posters gain such iconic status swathes of people create a new style for them. A recent trend is The Minimalist Design movement. These posters use very simple text and minimal images to convey some of the most memorable scenes or props from film. Shaun of the Dead’s poster uses the white shirt and striped tie worn by Simon Pegg’s character followed by the film title. A version of Alice in Wonderland uses the Cheshire Cat smile and eyes or just the tea cup from The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. A poster for Snow White uses an apple core to create two silhouetted faces about to kiss. Clever use of negative space and enduring images from the film’s classic scenes, again, allows for the film to seep deeper into the cultural subconscious of the viewer’s mind.


Sometimes a film comes with its own logo. James Bond, Jurassic Park, Batman – all these films have logos associated with them that were then used in the posters. Logos create literal icons as well as turning a movie into an iconic cultural symbol. Using these cleverly allows for the film’s advertisers to branch out into advertising and turn the film into an empire or franchise. The Star Wars trilogy is perhaps the best known film franchise with some of the most iconic typography ever created. This clever use of branding and iconic imagery ensured the film’s lasting status as one of the most memorable films in cinematic history.

Author Bio

Ruth Hartnoll is a writer working out of Liverpool. She is an avid consumer of all things arts related, with a particular interest in film and theatre. She writes for the stage and page and often looks to www.peanutprint.co.uk for inspiration when writing about print or design.

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