Ah, movie posters – when it comes to design, few products these days have the iconic status of film posters. They’re not just created to entice an audience into the cinema, they must also tell a story in a single image. So let’s take a look at three of the most deceptively simple yet utterly genius film posters ever made, and why they work.
Anatomy of a Murder
Otto Preminger’s courtroom drama stars classic American film star James Stewart as a folksy yet super-smart lawyer acting on behalf of a man who confesses to murder. And just how much of that is clear from the poster? Pretty much all of it. The prominent corpse, dissected into seven parts, and set against a stark orange background, isn’t just a clever visual play on the film’s title, but also hints at the many ambiguous parts of the crime case. The theatrical poster was designed by legendary graphic artist and Hitchcock-stalwart Saul Bass, who revolutionised the industry. Prior to Bass’s work, film posters generally cobbled together various scenes from the films in question. However, Bass preferred a far more simple and symbolic designs – as shown with, not only Anatomy of a Murder, but also Vertigo and The Shining.
Silence of the Lambs
Silence of the Lambs has one of the most immediately recognisable film posters of all time – comprising of just two images, right? A wide-eyed Jodie Foster, bleached to convey innocence, being silenced by the film’s Death’s Head moth, taking two key facets from the film and beautifully combining them. But look a little closer and an even more chilling picture emerges. That skull marking on the insect’s body holds a little something extra – few noticed it upon its release, but it’s not actually a skull at all. It’s seven nudes positioned to form a human skull, based on the famous photograph by Salvador Dali.
There’s definitely no points for guessing where the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction poster came from. From the well-thumbed cover to the 10 cents price mark, the movie’s one-sheet is at once a glorious homage and total send-up of all those trashy novels so popular during the 30’s and 40’s. Those pulp novellas and magazines were rife with violent scumbags, menacing drug-lords, loose women and animalistic titillation – just like the movie itself. And all that information was conveyed simply by having actress Uma Thurman lounging seductively on a bed with a cigarette and a handgun.
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