As one of the visual arts, cinema relies heavily on the impactful power of images. Colours, photography, symbols, fonts – everything contributes to communicating a message to the viewers in a process that starts way before they sit down on the plush chair of a movie theatre, popcorn in one hand and soda in the other.
For people to go to the cinema in the first place, in fact, a movie must pick their interest. How do movie studios achieve that? There is a number of instruments they use in their promotional campaigns for that very purpose. Many of those instruments change and evolve with technology (Snapchat filters, anyone?), but there is one that has remained the same throughout the decades: the movie poster. Its purpose is to communicate as much as possible without revealing too much, all the while looking interesting, unique, and appealing even to the briefest of glances. It is no easy feat in an era where new movies come out every week and battle it out at the box office, and where movie trailers and movie clips can do much of the talking. They are, however, pivotal to draw in those members of the public that do not care or have time to seek out digital content, or those who are not internet-savvy.
A movie poster is the only tangible element of an otherwise intangible form of art. In the best case scenario, it will become iconic enough to outlive the movie itself and its permanence period in theatres, becoming a pop culture icon for years to come. If you have never had a movie poster up on a wall in your room or house, or owned a piece of clothing with references to a movie, chances are you know someone who does. It is all about that pop culture aesthetic nowadays, isn’t it? If you feel left out and are looking for some redecorating inspo or want to add some vintage-looking items to your wardrobe, or simply have a personal list of favourites that you want to compare with ours, look no further: below are the 7 most iconic movie posters of the last six decades according to us.
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La Dolce Vita
Inarguably Fellini’s most famous movie, La Dolce Vita made the history of cinema. Released in 1960, the movie was so successful that besides worldwide critical acclaim it also received the Palm d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and an Oscar. The movie was so influential that the title and main catchphrase la dolce vita, which translates to the sweet life in Italian, is now universally used as a way to describe a life full of indulgence. The movie’s influence on pop culture does not stop there: the word paparazzi comes from Paparazzo, a character in the movie who was an intrusive celebrity photographer.
The movie poster is in itself a piece of pop culture.
A Clockwork Orange
Whether you love or hate it, there is no denying that Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange remains a staple in the history of cinema. While highly controversial and severely criticised for its approach to the theme of violence, the movie stands out for the abundance of art it features as a tribute to the 1960s pop art.
A fun fact about the movie poster: it was designed by Philip Castle, a recent graduate from the Royal College of Art in London in 1971, whose advert for his work in the Evening Standard had caught Kubrick’s attention. Later in his career he then went on to design, among other works, the cover for David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane.
Even more than 40 years after its release, the movie’s everlasting popularity is testified by the permanent attraction that is dedicated to it and can be found at Hollywood’s Universal Studios. If you have always wanted to visit Amity Island, make sure to book a trip to Los Angeles and hop on the Universal Studio Tour tram: it will take you on some of the most famous movie sets, including that of Jaws. Disclaimer: it is not for the faint-hearted.
The promotional poster used for the movie was originally created for the book, but the original artwork has since been lost.
The highest-grossing movie of the 1980s and nominated for an incredible nine Oscars, such a stunning movie like E.T. called for equally extraordinary artwork: realised by the same hand and mind behind movie posters like Blade Runner’s and The Lion King’s, the author John Alvin was inspired by Michelangelo’s famous Creation of Adam, the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
There is another, equally-famous poster that was used for the promotion of E.T. and can be found here. However, the one that features in this article is the original one.
Fun fact: the original copy of the artwork went up for auction last year for more than $150k.
As suggested by the title of the movie, Tarantino’s 1994 classic is inspired to the stories featured in pulp magazines. For those who do not know, pulp mags used to be very popular in the first half of the past century, featured all kinds of fiction genres, and took their name from the cheap kind of wood pulp paper they were printed on. The poster for Pulp Fiction recalls the design and look of those magazines down to the font, the 10c symbol and the worn edges.
The Devil Wears Prada
2006’s The Devil Wears Prada is the movie that catapulted Anne Hathaway to worldwide fame and earned Meryl Streep her 14th Oscar nomination. To this day, it is one of the movies with the most expensive costume collections in the history of cinema thanks to the many designer items that feature in it.
Adapted from the homonymous book whose rights were bought by Fox before it was even published, the movie took a surprisingly long time to be green-lighted as recalled by the cast and crew in an interview given to Variety for the movie’s 10th anniversary.
Many of the movie’s quotes are still viral to this day – so much so that one of them has its own section on the movie’s Wikipedia page.
La La Land
Almost-winner of 2016’s Best Picture Oscar, La La Land is surely one of the most talked-about movies of the last few years. It is the third movie in history to earn a staggering 14 Oscar nominations, and can boast more than $400 million at the box office.
A modern musical but reminiscent of old, classic Hollywood films, the poster featured here is representative of the dreamy feel of the movie: it is one of 6 others that were designed by Lionsgate’s creative marketing team, and was released along with a teaser clip of the City of Stars scene. To see the others, click here.
So – are you inspired to start your own poster collection yet?!