Tuesday, September 22, 2009


When you live in a place like Los Angeles like I do, naturally you're going to see lots of film posters, billboards, ads and so forth while you're out walking or driving around. After all, movies are what this city is known for. As time goes on you get kind of numb to it, but there's one thing that a lot of today's movie posters have in common that never fails to make me grit my teeth. And what is that one thing, you may ask?


Take a look at the next few posters (remember, all from different movies), and see if you can spot the things they have in common.

Have you figured it out yet? That's right, by far the trendiest thing to have in your modern movie poster is a plain white background, and a shot of your 1-2 main characters in a pose that is not very exciting.


In fact, this new breed of movie posters is SO unexciting, that it leaves me wondering what entices a theatergoer to even want to see the movie in the first place.

But it could just be me. I mean, who wouldn't want to see a movie that offers you something as absolutely irresistible as this?

How about this? Isn't it just gripping, the way our friends Paul and Jason are just.. y'know... standing there?

These posters are like goofy family portraits.
Oops, we have more than two characters in the movie below. Let's just shrink them down reeeeeally far tiny! There, that's better. Now they have plenty of space to stand around and do nothing in their worldless white void.

I think the American Pie movies are the ones who birthed this idea of the boring movie poster. It's as far back as I can recall this hip trend being around.

Some more edge-of-your-seat advertisement.

This poster below looks like an ad for Walmart or something.

Funny People! Aren't these the funniest-looking people? I mean, look how funny they're being in the poster. How funny! This movie is sure to be a laugh riot.

Now we see Seth Rogen, who has helped pave the way for a bright and interesting-looking future for movie posters. Notice how every poster he is in is a close-up of his face, appearing either confused or bewildered.

Rogen in his next blockbuster, looking incredibly
exciting to watch for the next 90 minutes.

This soon branched out and gave way to a SUB-LEVEL of boring movie posters: The "close-up of a person's face just staring" movie poster.


I hope you can catch your breath after all these overwhelmingly zestful posters. Now I'd like to torture you a little by showing you some posters that are the exact opposite. Posters that are interesting to look at and have some kind of artistic quality to them. YUCK! Who wants to look at movie posters that actually make you WANT to see the movie, I mean really!!


Workshop Cooker said...

I cannot agree more. Just another example of the lack of creativity happening in mainstream movies. but how about we as consumers stop supporting this?

Nico said...

My friend, Mr. Cooker-

I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately the mass public is so used to how bland our world has become that they just accept it. Be it good or bad, people need SOMEthing to watch. How else would you explain "Family Guy" being so popular?

Ricky said...

I can't believe I never noticed this before. These modern day posters are just as cookie-cutter as the movies!
there are few gems every once in a while, though. Check out this extremely effective poster, one of my all-time faves: http://www.popcornreel.com/jpgimg/hostel2posta.jpg

Ricky said...

P.S. like it or not, Family Guy is the best written show on television.

Nico said...

Ricky- I agree, that poster good! It is simple, yet creative and very effective.

If anyone has any more posters, good or bad, to help prove my points, share and discuss them here!

Katie said...

A lot of movie previews are like this too. I remember getting really angry after seeing the preview for "Little Miss Sunshine." Play some quirky music, show a guy running. Someone makes an irrelevant comment, put some movie guy's review up on the screen. "Hilarious and heartfelt!" or whatever.

Audiences get used to things. Right now people want "quirky characters." You can show a kid in gym shorts who eats orange tic tacs and people will automatically think "ah, here is someone with character...see? He has gym shorts on." It's lazy writing, I guess. It's hard to put into words. Lazy writing, and lazy audiences who will fill in the blanks for themselves.

The Seth Rogan posters totally show this...I actually like Seth Rogan, and I usually like him in movies, but the posters are annoying. I guess people who see a poster like that might think "Oh! There's the unshaven guy who reminds me of myself who is in that movie everyone thinks is funny. This must be a similar movie. I understand! I feel safe."

I'm rambling! I can't put thoughts in to words.

Jessica said...

Maybe it is a response to viral marketing. On the one hand there is marketing you have to figure out, and on the other hand there is marketing that is so straight forward it is just the actors pictured on a plain white background.Plus movie are now about selling the actor and not the story.So sad.

Nico said...

Very true. Who cares about the story, just look at this poster and check out the comedian we got to be in our picture! Sigh. All movie posters today just look like actor photoshoots.

You read my mind! You are right, audiences attend crappy movie after crappy movie because it's something they are used to, something they are familiar with. Poster tags like "From the guy who hired the guy who brought you the guy who wrote 2 pages of KNOCKED UP and THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN" make theatergoers feel safe. They subconsciously think to themselves, "oh, I've seen that movie they're talking about and it was really funny. That means this movie will be just like that. I feel safe."

Also, is it just me or is Michael Cera eternally stuck in that "quirky kid in the gym shorts" role? Poor guy :(

Katie said...

Just to clarify, I don't hate the actors, and I even like the movies a lot of them time even if they're being advertised horribly. I don't want to come off as super hateful.

Jessica, you totally hit the nail on the head about marketing that you have to figure out yourself. I guess people like that?

The most annoying ad I've ever seen recently was an "ad" for a new radio station. The posters were made too look like crumpled up paper, with the note "What the $*^@! are they doing over at 98.5?!" or whatever the station was. I just thought it was so hilarious. Like people are going to see it and be like "Whaaa? Something CRAZY and EDGY must be going on over on that station!! I better tune in before I miss out!"

Kali Fontecchio said...

The top posters in your post represent the retardation of culture, and its intellect. The latter represents intrigue and fantastical excitement.

Good thing there is nothing perennial about the movies or the posters you presented, most of the older stuff you showed will not only livelong in our minds through their beautifully rendered and composed posters, but for the most part the movies themselves.

People today have the propensity to go see anything because of the inherent lack of thinking for one's self. The degradation of pop culture is not just Hollywood's fault with the shit they feed us, but the public themselves for eating it up happily like pigs shoving their faces in a trough.

I for one know there are millions of old movies to watch than I'll ever have time to watch, so why waste it on the latest fad crap? Unless it compels me otherwise like Ponyo did etc. (usually animated films). The only real hope left are the occasional indie films (not the overly pretentious ones that has now become a cliché) and the rare foreign film that has a unique perspective or good story.

If anything, the only good thing about those white posters is that they act as an alert to stay away for those of us with brains.

Ricky said...

Kali, well put. But don't forget we don't live in a vacuum,
it's also important to keep up with what non-artists are interested in.

If we want anything to change we need to meet people on their own level, and win them over. And who knows, they might win us over a little bit as well.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Don't get me wrong, I do see a new movie every so often, usually if my film school pal implores me too. I definitely value the word of a friend that I respect, and trust their word. If they tell me something is good, I go for it. I don't always like the movie that they said was good, but that doesn't mean anything about the intelligence of the person who told me, it just means we have different tastes. It'd be sad is a person disliked another person solely based on their point of view or taste in movies etc.

Lowbrow can even win me over if it's really funny or interesting. I guess the best example of that in the last five years is Napoleon Dynamite. There is nothing genius about that film, but it is purely entertaining.

Tara Billinger said...

Hahaha, this post made me laugh *because its so true* Im glad I'm not the only one who noticed all those seth rogan posters. I think i was really noticing it when I saw the Marley and Me poster but seeing them together really showed me the light. Zach and I love collecting old horror/oldies movie posters because their pretty and oh so fun to look at. Even when it is 1-2 of the main characters, they just put them in fun and interesting poses. Mainstream just doesn't care anymore.

sunny kharbanda said...

It's the same thing with movie trailers. They seem to have a "formula" that 90% of them stick to. Makes it look like there's one movie they keep remaking with different stars.

What makes me sad is that today's poster "designers" probably get paid big bucks for putting their stars in front of a white background.

Ricky said...

@ Kali :)

Molly said...


The Poles know what they're doing.

Kurdt said...

I think a big part of it is our societies obsession with celebrities. The advertising people know that all they really need to say is
"Hey you! Jenifer Aniston is in this movie! Go see it!"
Never mind that she's as bland as paste, she's a celebrity right?

Kali Fontecchio said...

@ Ricky ( Y_Y )


( >^_^< )

Niki said...

Everybody started the conversation without me!

But I disagree with you on two points Nico, The poster with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon and that other with Nicholas Cage. I like those two becasue THEY ARE AKWARD AND THEY FREAK ME THE FUCK OUT!! I honestly do agree completely though but I liked Pinapple Express that was goofy.

And Nico, I've got an idea, why don't you promote one of those older movies with some new fangled movie type posters!? I'm sure King Kong would look amazing on a plain white background, and James Bond would only look so much more handsome! and Buster Keaton could keep on Buster Keatoning around? I'm lost now.

Nico said...


I was hoping someone would post that link! Those Polish movie posters are cooler than any American movie poster ever.

Anonymous said...

Good to see I'm not the only one who thinks these movie posters are retarded.

And I totally never noticed that thing about Seth Rogan's movie posters...goddamn.

Rogelio T. said...

I'm sure there are older ones but the first one of those borderless white ones I remember seeing all over the place was for Forrest Gump so I'll blame him.
A lot of those boring ones do look like they're ready to be pasted onto VHS Boxes though.

Monique Lopez said...

Hahaha I love your through presentation on this Nico. This has been a huge peeve of my for a while. Obviously there are many factors that contribute to the sad state of the modern movie poster, including the "good fast and cheap" I'm sure you can guess what gets left out of that equation. And thanks to COMPUTERS actors dont even need to be photographed in the same place for the damn promotional material! see: http://photoshopdisasters.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-one-and-only-zero-out-of-one.html

I love love LOVE old movie posters. You know when people had to art directive a crate scene to be painted and all that jazz. this place has a bunch of cool posters from cult/exploitation movies that are pretty awesome http://www.wrongsideoftheart.com/

I have more movie poster art links at home, so I could link more if you're interested.

allen mez said...

Genius. Do they just think a photo of the "Star" is enough to carry it? Who knows.

This is a great site of classic movie title sequences.
Tons of incredible stuff.

Nico said...

I also want to second this, I hope people don't feel like I'm being too hateful in this blog entry. I'm merely complaining about the lack of artistic and creative merit that film advertising has become. I have no personal beef with these actors!

I like that you used "excitement" to describe the older posters. I truly miss when movie posters would EXCITE me into seeing them. Now I walk in the mall or something and 99% of the posters I see either annoy me or make me want to run away and hurl into the nearest old lady's purse

you have no idea how badly I want to see how you've decorated your bedroom, same with Zach's because I am 100 per cent sure you guys own THE coolest stuff. If you guys have pics of the stuff you've collected online or anything, I'd love to see!

There's no doubt in my mind that whoever "designs" today's movie posters have the easiest job in the entire world.

@ Ricky :O

HAHA, awesome link! Those are great posters, they even managed to find some pretty cool ones from the 2000s! Bikini Bloodbath Carwash (2008) sounds like it would be incredible.

Now THAT'S why I love the internet. What a great idea for a site! Definitely going on my browser favorites. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for every single point except "Funny People." The poser is a tribute to James L. Brooks, especially "Broadcast News"

More poster cliches:

Red text on white background

Coloured gradient (started by Apatow on 40 Year Old Virgin)

Trajan font

Hand drawn "indie" font

Floating Heads

Floating head of the villain overlooking the hero (I've seen Batman comics from the 30s with this convention)


My favourite modern poster is the one for "Lord Of War", which is not even a film I like.

Hryma said...

shit poster = shit movie. true.
'funny people' = not funny, people.
that's about as creative as I feel after looking at drab.
Anyone else over crass gross out humour. Just aint funny.

Yay, there's my whinge :D

I don't know if it's common knowledge? But Darth Vadar's light saber is blue and the other guys is red.

Just seeing that in the poster makes me excited about seeing it. "Wow" I would go, "Darth Vadar must turn into a good guy!? I've got to see that!!"

C said...

The only time I don't mind a lot of white is in the "Fargo" poster. Mostly because the white area was snow, and there isn't just actors standing there. It's a policewoman hunched over a dead body.

The Proposal poster looks like the guy is named Sandra Bullock and the girl Ryan Reynolds.

How come nobody draws posters anymore? Animation posters excepted, of course.

david gemmill said...







what a wenis.

Sergio said...

Excellent post! Great observation and analysis. You are totally right; it's amazing the lack of creativity in today's movie posters. Maybe they make them so lame, so people won't steal them :-)

benj said...

Great post!

Rne said...

Not only are the posters shitty, but most of the movies themselves are terrible too. "Vertigo" is one of my favorites movie posters. It always remind me of the one made for "Anatomy of a Murder".

Chris Battle said...

Soothe yourself with this site:


Slan said...

I think an important component of this problem is expense. Photo illustration is (typically) much less costly than illustration; thoughtful, sharp design costs more than thoughtless and dull design.

This doesn't necessarily excuse lazy graphic designers, but I've seen the design process suborned by the bottom line more times than I care to recount.

Having said that, a tightly-cropped face can be part of a striking and effective poster image ... "Silence of the Lambs" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" come to mind.

It's a shame. Film and political posters, like business cards, are among my favorite artifacts. and say a lot about a particular person, time and place.

DJ Incompetent said...

You're right, but you plucked mostly from current day romantic comedies and dramas while the back in the day posters you took from mostly action movies.

Apples 'n oranges, yo.

Gracelyne said...

Wow!! SO true \m/

Annie-Mae said...

I entered a movie poster contest for the Hollywood reporter in 05 (or around that time). They had Lord of the Rings and Lost in translation to choose from. Lost in translation had better resources so I used that but the poster I made is about as exciting as what you have here. My teacher said that it was pretty good and seemed like the type of stuff that usually wins the contest. I went to the party in LA where they announced the winners, and nearly over half of the entires looked just like mine, and better quality (I was pretty embarrassed). They had a few winners for each poster and I remember that one of the winners of the Lost in Translation poster didn't use ANY of the material we were supplied. Like they hired a girl with red hair and took their own photos of her sitting with her back facing the camera and then placed her in a white background....So not only did it not show her face, it visually had nothing to do with the movie and was pretty boring.

Part of the mentality of movie posters I think is less says more. The less you see the more it should make you see it, or it's gotta be in your face. I think all in all they want to save on printing costs. Spend as little money as they can on graphics because they over shot the budget for making the crappy film.

The poster for The Proposal pisses me off because there is something terrible malformed with her body in that poster. I wonder if there is something distorted in the Four Christmas's poster too. I think Vince is made to be taller, but that would leave no reason for her to need to stand on those boxes then would it?

Devconn88 said...

What about Scream that began a trend of boring horror posters of people staring.

Pokey said...

but I do like a handfl of those, like "Proposal". Also I only sparingly in the 80s went to movies. The spoofs were about the only ... let's not mention two "classics": The BReakfast Club and Fast Times, whioch ALSO had those backgrounds. I also was too much of a nerd to even go to those and I was 24 or so, so I ain't some young tweenybopper..I usually take the older end, but if I was to take examples of older movie posters, it would be BEFORE the 70s. "The Incredible Mr.Limpet", WB's attempt to copy Disney with Don Knotts, and a pretty tremendous film, had Mr.Knotts who starred himself and his porporise-ful alter ego. Now THAT's a great movie poster. How about the studio's retro-film Hairspray, or Uni's Mama Mia? Those musical asds were great, and two from 1999 Viacom's "Mr.Ripley" [close up of Matt Damon in Alfred Hitchock like 1950s style film against brown background with Gwenyth Paltrow and Jude Law far back into background] and WB's "Eyes Wide Shut" [by Stanley Kubrick, no less, who'd already passed when this came out], with "porthole": of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise making love..and Nicole looking at us, and these two were by veteran directors. Eyes also had a purple surround background for some. My WHV DVD however has only whiute with the Cruise and Kidman "porthole" of them making love.

Tara said...

I actually came across this site when I was trying to figure out how thie boring let's-slap-'em-on-white-background poster started. I had this idea when just the movie that may have started this was on tv..

Pretty Woman -1990

I rest my case, since I haven't seen any earlier movie that does this. Add the fact that the movie was a huge hit and i have this feeling they just decided to give it thar stupid name at the last minute (I'm just guessing it had a far more eloquent name until someone decided to dumb it down to a caveman grunt..