Film Poster research: Firstly,how it shouldn’t be done…

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Media

Well, I have analysed a few posters already (‘In Bruges’, ‘Inception’ and ‘Domino’) but I think I need much more research in this area before I begin to turn from my magazine task (which I believe is finished- and if it isn’t only requires a minimal amount of work) to my poster task.

While searching on the internet for various examples of film posters- mostly focusing on those judged as the ‘best of all time’ or got the most audience attention (as essentially, this is what film posters are for!)  I ultimately did come to notice a lot of websites discussing the worst. So, I realised it is important  not only to take inspiration from the best film posters, but to also be warned by the mistakes of the worst ones aswell.
So, here is the following posters not only deemed as bad by websites such as ‘impawards’ but are also ones I personally think are terrible, and taught me just as good a lesson as the best ones did…

Oh and as a quick note- I’ve tried to stay within my chosen genre of film (thriller, with a big theme of revenge) to help reveal specifically what I shouldn’t do when I make my own poster. Thankfully I’ve realised that there’s not actually a lot of posters for thriller films that are rated as particularly that bad, so hopefully it’s a good sign! I’ve tried to keep within the thriller/action/ etc genre so that the posters somewhat relate to what I’ll be creating myself and can therefore teach me a lot more  (most film posters that were rated as the ‘worst’ I found typically to be of the rom-com genre…)

Rule no.1- Get the photo shoot right…

Takers (2010)

I can see why this particular poster has been constantly propping up whenever I search for the ‘worst film posters’… the main lesson here I think being to get the photo shoot right to start off with and not trying to cover it up by cutting out actor’s heads from other photos and sticking them on completely different bodies. This makes the poster look very unprofessional and just a bit stupid- losing the audiences’ respect, not to mention their interest in the film itself. To be quite honest if a company doesn’t really care about how they advertise their film, do they really care about their film at all? If they couldn’t even be bothered to get the crew together for one good photo-shoot? Anyway, that’s beside the point. The fact is what I’ve learnt is to get the actors together that I need and get all of the possible photos I could want to use for my poster. That way, I won’t end up making my poster look like this….and totally putting off any audience member who sees it!

Rule no.2- Sort out what’s actually happening IN the poster…

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)


The thing is, when I first glanced at this poster I thought it looked rather cool and sold, what I presume it actually is, a cool ‘action/thriller’ film- I particularly liked the contrast of white, red and black and thought the chosen colours all worked together well and really sold the type of film it was supposed to be selling. But then, when I looked a little closer, I really started to get confused…and I still can’t actually work out what is going on. Like, what Nicholas Cages’ arm is actually doing, as it seems to be disappearing into, well, into himself. And don’t even get me started on the other hand…which looks as though it SHOULD be holding a gun (which would be good considering the type of film the poster appears to be promoting) but it’s mysteriously disappeared. So his hand is just hovering there, clutching at nothing at all. And furthermore, doing nothing at all to persuade audiences to watch the film, which is what it should, as a poster, be actually doing. No, it just all looks a little confused to me. They probably had a good photo of Cage for the poster initially, but they just messed it up by not actually being sure of what they wanted. So, I should make sure myself I have a clear image of what I want BEFORE I make the poster and not after- as then it’s obviously a bit too late. So- colours and style, good. Figure and ultimately most important aspect of the poster and its biggest selling point (which is Cage)- bad.

Rule no.3- Don’t overcomplicate things…

The Expendables (2010)

I think the main lesson here is don’t try to cram every single star into the poster- as it ends up looking a tad idiotic and rarely goes down well with audiences- mainly it makes me think personally that the film must be that terrible that the creators feel they have to get every single star in there who’ll reel in audiences, as if they give away anything about the film itself, there won’t be an audience. Overall it just clutters up the poster and takes away from any effect it could have on audiences. So, lesson is, although you shouldn’t leave things too bare on a poster, you shouldn’t really make it too cramped and claustrophobic either…

Rule no.4- …But keep it interesting at the same time…

Wanted (2008)


Ok, so it’s good to not go over the top because that leads to confusion and overall like the poster is trying too hard, I think I get that now. But there’s a difference in keeping it simple yet being intriguing and producing a good quality poster….than being extremely lazy and boring your audiences with a plain poster that simply doesn’t really say anything. Take the poster for ‘Wanted’ though personally I think this is actually quite a good film this poster does it no justice I feel. It’s just so- well…dull. Angelina Jolie, with a gun. Ok, great, what else? Nothing. Even the background is boring. There are just no hints at anything that could possibly be interesting about the film itself that are portrayed on the poster- all we get are vague notions of perhaps a crime/thriller or even action film (or any genre that could involve a gun as a prop??) and Angelina Jolie to star in it. Well, it doesn’t really speak volumes does it? It just looks like it could be from any film and therefore, really doesn’t attract any audience attention whatsoever. So- lesson learnt- keep it simple yes, but remember you do actually need to say SOMETHING about your film,or even just hint at something to catch the audiences eye.

Rule no.5- Don’t try to be too clever…

Brick (2005)

I think this is ok as a poster overall (it’s not as bad as some of the others anyway…) it just doesn’t make that much sense. It’s like the poster is trying too hard to get the audience’s attention while being clever and not giving anything away about the film at the same time – which is a good thing to do, but you have to give the audience something to go by- and by that I mean something they can understand. I don’t think there’s anything here that interests me on this poster mainly because well, I don’t get it. There’s no information I can latch onto or idea/hint that could stick in my mind. Nothing at all that makes the poster intriguing. Obviously it could all become clear once you’ve seen the actual film, but that’s not really good enough if this poster is supposed to MAKE you want to see the film. Main lesson here I think being- give the audience something interesting to go by about the film on the poster itself- and preferably something they can actually understand without previous knowledge on the film itself (as they wouldn’t have seen it yet and therefore won’t know much about it!).

Rule no.6-…But don’t be stupid either…

 Charlie St. Cloud (2010)

This is mostly about taglines on film posters, which I will analyse and research later on in the production of my own film poster. But overall this poster I think, appears pretty stupid anyway, because of the tagline alone ‘Life is for living’ really? I hadn’t noticed. Just that I think ruins the whole poster and gives a very unprofessional feel. Audiences are likely to read the tagline, laugh, and move on, their respect for the film out of the window and the likeness of them actually wanting to go and see it, out of the window too. So, the final lesson is- don’t make mistakes. And if you, correct them before the poster is finished and shown to anyone to avoid embarrassment, not to mention a very ‘unprofessional’ looking and probably unsuccessful, poster.

So, there are the ‘bad ones’ out of the way…now I can focus on the posters that I should take inspiration from (which will again, be mostly from my specific chosen genre of film).

Nevertheless I feel looking at bad examples has taught me a lot about what NOT to do when making my poster. The most important thing I think being balance– keeping it interesting, but not overcomplicated, and simple but not boring etc.

  1. Geeta says:


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