The Evolution of Movie Posters: 67 Years of Old and New

Most of us designers have a thing for movie posters; both old and new. This post compares posters to original movies and later remakes of the same story. For example, one of the posters shown below is Flight of the Phoenix; we’ll be looking at the differences between the original artwork of the 1965 film, and the modern artwork in the much more recent 2004 remake film.

Oh, before I start, I apoligise for any pixelated posters – some weren’t as easy to find as I though!

The Movie Posters!

14 Going on 30 / 13 Going on 30

1988

This is one movie I didn’t actually know was remade until I researched the subject of movie remakes! 14 Going on 30 is a very simple poster, made up of a single photography and a simple blue and red header with a white drop shadow.

2004

I love the use of the photograph of Jennifer Garner in this movie poster – the bright colours and well-executed dress blowing in the ‘wind’ really draws your eyes into the poster. Although I like the poster overall, I think the low opacity ’13 going on 30′ could have been much better with a high opacity and no use of bevel and emboss!

Amityville Horror

1979

The original Amityville Horror movie is one I haven’t seen – although I have seen the remake! I’m not sure whether the film stands up to the poster, but I think the poster is superb! It’s out of focus, pixelated and burning orange tinted background really compliments the bold white typography and black and white cast images. Michael Bay later went on to remake this classic, it was pretty good too.

2005

The remakes poster, too, is great, and really stands up to the quality of the first, 26 years on! I guess that shows how good the first was! I love the grungy style with this, and how the only source of light is coming from the centre of the poster.

Annie

1982

Annie is just one of these posters where the original is always the best. The poster is incredibly simplistic, a great traditional photograph with some great simple typography. The thing that makes it all work together is the perfect off-white background.

1999

This is a huge let down compared to the previous poster, which was designed 17 years earlier! Ignoring the pixelation, the typography is pretty awful, the photograph a little too cheesy for most peoples likings and I’m quite sure the shadow at the bottom of the poster makes everything worse!

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

1958

This is one of my favourite vintage posters I’ve seen, no matter just on this list, and I know I’m not alone when I say that! I’ve seen a lot of designers and artists be inspired by this great movie poster, and have seen several modern vector illustrations of it around the web! The colours are superb, the typography incredibly simple but great, and the composition overall is brilliant.

1993

This poster is proof of the terrible 90′s design trends, which is probably where the early web design trends were picked up from! The incredibly cheesy and unrealistic photo-manipulation merged with terrible typography (it feels a shame to call it that) and what look like Microsoft Word comic style text boxes is a shame, especially as a reproduction of the original movie poster with newer technology could have, and should have turned out great.

Black Christmas

1974

I like this original Black Christmas poster, although in places it feels a little incomplete, such as the bottom of the holly all of a sudden comes to a halt and hits black. I like the combination of greyscale and colour though, and the mini black and white illustration at the bottom of poster is pretty sweet!

2006

This is a great poster, and I feel ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ poster (which isn’t actually going to be feautured in this post – another time maybe!) was greatly influenced by this. The use of Christmas lights to look like barbwire, plenty of grunge and some awesome lighting effects makes this a superb design! I think I may have to watch this this Christmas to get me in the festive mood!!

Cat in the Hat: The Movie

1971

These two posters aren’t really something that can easily be compared – in a way they’re both animated, but in entirely different ways! I love this illustration though, it can’t get much simpler, but the bright colours, innocent illustration and great hand-drawn typography is a win!

2003

I like the composition in this poster – the animation is great, and I love the way the wooden chest has been used to lead your eyes into the centre of the poster.

Charlotte’s Web

1973

Again, these two posters are hard to compare as the movie went from cartoon to real-life. This version, however, uses great traditional illustration techniques and a superb colour scheme. I love the warm feel the poster has to it, created by the magnificent gradient in the background.

2006

I’m not a huge fan of bevelled text, but in this case it’s great! The lighting effect from the moon is incredibly realistic, at least it’s as realistic as it can get!

Roxie Hart / Chicago

1942

This one is a traditional vintage poster! Great photography, superb typography, elegant shadows and lovely textures combined – I love this style!

2002

This poster does its job incredibly well – I love the overall glow the poster has, the composition and colours in the photograph is great, and the city skyline in the background, for me, completes the great poster. If there’s one thing I could change, it would have to be the randomly placed cast names – not too sure why they’re not aligned nicely!

Dark Water

2002

A film that obviously didn’t do to well as it was remade just 3 years later! The poster could have been great, but the incredibly cheesy ‘effect’ used in the hood of the raincoat ruins it for me, and everybody else!

2005

This one for me is a great poster – I love the rain in the bedroom and the overall fade between the darkness and the image. The typography is great – I love the effect used in the film title!

Flight of the Phoenix

1965

Love, love, LOVE this poster. The colours, the composition, the shadows and the typography is just beautiful! Must I say anymore?

2004

Another great poster, this time for the 2004 remake of the great film! I especially love the typography mixed with the great composition of the crash-landing aircraft, especially the way they make the title ‘Flight of the Phoenix’ easy to read even though a large portion of it is covered up, not everyone could pull that off!

Freaky Friday

1976

I’ve never seen any of the original Freaky Fridays (there’s actually three, not just two!), but if they’re nearly as good as the latest remake I’m sure they’re great! This is a nice and simple poster which uses some pretty cool hand-drawn illustrations. I love the way they’ve avoided the norm and produced a horizontal poster rather than a portrait one!

2003

I love this poster as much as the movie! Its great colour scheme and composition make for a brilliant, comical and eye-catching poster which can’t be missed! I love the way they’ve incorporated the ‘Get Your Freak On August 1st’ at the bottom of the post!

Friday the 13th

1980

This dark illustrated poster really stands out from other posters from the same time period. I love the use of typography in this and empty space which works just as well as white space does in web design!

2009

This is very difficult to compare to the first, because it’s just so different. This has to be one of my all time favourites when it comes to modern posters, I love the dark, cloudly blue colour scheme, the grunginess of it all and the bright typography. It’s a great film, too!

Fun with Dick and Jane

1977

For me, this is one of the worst posters here. I am no fan of the 100% opacity of the outer glow used on the movie title, nor am I a fan of the cheesy bokeh effect or rather boring photograph!

2005

This is a hugely improved poster. The composition is good, and makes the movie seem pretty fun without even seeing a clip or trailer! The use of different font styles and colours in the title improves the poster a great deal, too.

Gone in 60 Seconds

1974

I must admit, I never knew there was an original Gone in 60 Seconds film! I love the illustrated feel to the poster, the hand-drawn typography and the colour scheme. A nice bit of texture is in there too which really makes the poster come alive.

2000

This great film makes use of some of my favourite things: bright, warm colours, a great composition, and plenty of noise and grunge. I love the way the photos have been merged together so well it makes it feel like one.

Hairspray

1988

I’m not impressed with this poster – cheesy photos, cheesy typography and, lets be honest, a rather boring composition all in all. There’s not much else to say about this one!

2007

I think this movie would have been no where near as popular had the poster not been so good. It’s colourful, funny, happy and just good fun. I say all these nice things, yet I haven’t seen the film and I’ll be honest, I don’t intend to – I’m not a fan of musicals! Top-notch poster, though!

Halloween

1978

A very simple poster, but it does have a great concept behind the whole pumpkin/knife illustration. I’m not a great fan of the italic ‘He’ though! Or any of the typography for that matter!

2007

This poster is, lets face it, awesome! I love the photo manipulation in the background that, with some help from some cool shadows, forms the a portrait of the killer himself.

The Blue Lagoon

1949

I know, it’s not English! I couldn’t find a good quality one that was! It’s a great poster nonetheless! I love the warm colours, the shadows and the hand-drawn typography.

1980

This film I’ve actually seen, and I must say it’s pretty good, I enjoyed it at least! I love the warm colours and the silhouettes of the palm trees in the background of the poster. Nice pants!

The Day the Earth Stood Still

1951

A truly unique vintage poster. I love the spacey atmosphere, the giant robot (thing) from out of space and the vintage typography. One of my favourites!

2008

Another great poster, and one I really like! It’s beautiful colours and lighting effects form a stupidly realistic space atmosphere, and the shadows of the people and cars are unbelievable. To top it all off, the extremely clean and simple typography is superb!

The Fog

1980

This one is almost formed completely from a pretty cool photography – there’s a reason that smoke is so realistic! It’s a little cheesy, but for an 80′s poster I’m pretty impressed with the overall lighting and effect.

2005

A great poster formed purely from smoke – it’s complicated yet simple, all at the same time! The poster is probably the main reason I went to see this remake at the cinema on the day it came out!

The Getaway

1972

Another case of the older poster wins! I love the illustrationsin this poster, especially the smoke and flame in the bottom right hand corner. The stenciled red text really helps the title of the film stand out from the rest of the typography, too.

1994

A let down compared to the original poster – it’s quite cheesy, and in my opinion fairly boring!

Like this post? If yes, let me know! I’d love to keep up to date with more films as I am, or at least used to be, a hardcore movie fan – more posts like this will help me keep up to date with movies, so be sure to discuss the topic below!

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23 thoughts on “The Evolution of Movie Posters: 67 Years of Old and New

  1. JG

    In other words, over time, movie posters have become far more abstracted and disconnected from the product they are advertising and provide far less useful information to make a movie attendance decision than in the past.

    To paraphrase Tutfe, no more information than a Soviet propaganda poster. Sort explains the decline of the MPAA, doesn’t it.

    Reply
  2. Jorge

    Hi! Nice post, I like the fact of how the majority of vintage posters were hand drawn, and yet capture and show what the movie was all about…Not saying that now doesn´t happen, but the vintage ones have a special feeling to them…Thanks for a nice read.

    Reply
  3. harlem Sunst

    This is very interesting yet I cant help but say that I love the original Dark Water poster. Sure the photo in the hood could have been done better but overall it portrays the film much better as it is all about the little girl.

    Reply
  4. sai

    i could be wrong, but surely the reason why ‘Dark Water’ was ‘remade’ in only three years was due to the fact that a western audience failed to appreciate it… or read the subtitles. the original is damn good. of all the crappy remakes of scary asian movies i’d agree that this one is pretty good.

    nice post, i really like old movie posters, seen the original indiana jones and star wars ones?

    Attack of the 50ft woman is my favourite!

    Reply
  5. J Bejma

    Re: Chicago via IMDB

    “A long battle took place between the agents of the two female stars in relation to billing on the poster for the movie. In the end “diagonal billing” was settled upon – as depending on which way you read it (top to bottom or left to right), both appear to get top billing.”

    Reply
  6. Phoebe

    Cool post although I’d personally disagree with some of the praise given to a couple of these posters. (Gone in 60 seconds especially but that’s probably because I abhor Nicholas Cage) I feel as if the illustrated older posters might seem better simply because they are illustrated rather than by merit of their design. Additionally, who’s to say we should be getting any better at design as time goes on?

    Reply
  7. nicole

    hey really cool. the names in the chicago poster aren’t aligned because the studios didn’t want to feature one actress over the other, so the way the names are placed, no one is “first”.

    Reply
  8. Alex

    Most of the illustrated posters are from a time period when illustration was largely a literal depiction of the content. At the time a lot of art directors ( a lot of who even today do the same thing. ) saw illustration as a way to get the image they couldn’t find a photo of. So a lot of those compositions are made to imitate graphic design layouts instead of just treating the poster like a full-on image. Now, with digital editing software, the graphic designer can create any image they want, so you can kind of see how illustrated posters aren’t found too often in today’s market.

    Kind of a bit in a different direction, but hopefully someone finds the illustrator’s side of it interesting.

    Reply
  9. ticked off movie fan !

    how many more disappointed remakes r these a holes goningto make and its no laffing matter u ruined a lot of movies for me and countless others i could see sum inprovements if there were any .. u folks just hang it up n next time u have a thought a bout a remake don nt lol

    Reply
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  12. Puck

    I’d have to disagree with your comments on the first Hairspray movie. I am biased in that it’s one of my favorite movies, but you point out that it’s cheesy, which is the point. The movie is overly cheesy and poking fun at big hair and dancing from the late 50′s. I will admit I like the DVD case cover, which is almost the same as that poster but with a red background. http://www.sfgate.com/blogs/images/sfgate/culture/2007/07/16/Hairspray250x339.JPG

    Reply
  13. Siloscine

    I’m sorry I usually hate to make negative comments but as a digital design artist i think some of your analysis is just wrong.

    A few examples, the new Blue Lagoon poster is just bad. Its uses a center composition, an uninteresting color scheme and gives no indication as to what the movie may be about.
    The new Hairspray is a busy mess. You give a lot of credit to cliche boring designs. Flight of the Phoenix (new), Halloween (new), and Dark Water (new) is a shitty photoshop mess. There is no contingency…at all, not even a little. It depicts a women in the foreground somehow detached from a poorly made background. My students turn in better work.

    Reply
  14. aaron

    some of these are not original movie posters as is obvious by the small graphic in the corner that says “DVD” so before you bash the “original” Fun with dick and jane movie poster from 1977, you might try to find the actual poster from its release.

    Reply

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