Marvel has dominated the theaters for years, and Hollywood has taken quite a few notes. One of those notes–which needs to be tossed in the trash–is how premiere movie posters are styled. Almost every big-budget movie that comes out nowadays uses floating heads of the cast to pull in audiences. But what do they tell us about the story? Almost nothing. It’s time Hollywood does something a little more creative. To help them a bit, I compiled a list of some of my favorite movie posters that actually tell us a bit about the story they’re advertising.
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’
Before I get into movie posters that do well without floating heads, let me state that sometimes this style of poster works well. The only time I like this design style is when Marvel brings in a bunch of their heroes for a massive event. A prime example is Infinity War and Endgame.
The posters show off most of the characters we’re going to see while hinting that more will come. The poster for Infinity War also shows us the first full look at Thanos, the big bad of the MCU’s first three phases. I just can’t imagine a better way to get people excited for these movies.
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’
Moving along to a movie with so much potential with its first poster, we have Spider-Man: No Way Home. As one of the best Marvel movies to date, the poster design should have stepped it up a notch. This was the first time a film in the MCU broke the entire universe. There was so much potential, and we just got floating heads with tiny hints of the villains.
A few weeks after the movie was released, we got a better poster. Spider-Man is surrounded by mirror shards with the other characters featured in the fragments. It shows that something is shattered around him. It also links to the newest WandaVision and Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness posters.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man’
I can’t talk about one Spider-Man franchise without talking about the others, so let’s move on to The Amazing Spider-Man. I loved these posters. Compared to the other franchises, you can tell it’s a bit darker from the beginning.
The second film’s poster uses a brighter color palette, which is a little strange considering the darkness that comes at the end of the movie (cough, cough Gwen’s death). While they’re both focused on the same character, it has vastly different tones. But it works. And I wish we’d gotten to see a third poster that merged the two tones together.
Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’
Let’s go back to the OG Spider-Man trilogy. While I can’t stand the yellow tint of the first two, it works for the time period it came out in. The stylistic choice set it apart from many of the other movies at the time, and that’s all I can ask for.
The first movie’s poster introduces us to who Spider-Man is. The second shows that he and MJ are closer, and you can see Doc Ock in his lenses. In the third, we see hints of the battle against Venomized Spider-Man. These just do so well advertising the trilogy.
‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’
On to the last Spider-Man film franchise, we’ve got Miles Morales-centric posters for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The two on the outside are variations of the same poster, but they capture Miles’ personality so well.
The middle one shows off more of his suit and gets you interested even if this is the first time you’re seeing this Spider-Man. The poster on the left also shows off the personalities of the other Spider-heroes. It gets you even more excited to see the movie.
‘Beauty and the Beast’
When Disney announced they were making a live-action Beauty and the Beast, I was ecstatic. So when I saw the poster, it was a little disappointing. They used floating heads. And while it did show us the characters and the star-studded cast, it just missed the mark for me.
After growing up seeing the breathtaking original movie poster, I wanted more. And while Disney did release another live-action poster with the dance scene, it still wasn’t enough. The original just looks timeless, and I wish more posters were made like it.
Just looking at these posters fills me with a warm feeling of nostalgia. The first movie’s poster introduces us to the characters and hints at a bit of conflict between the main two toys.
The second adds in a new character. The third is kind of a floating head-style design, but it works because it looks like the toys are shoved in a small toy box. But the fourth just hit different compared to the other three. It’s a vastly different tone and makes me want to watch it.
‘The Hunger Games’
I don’t care how you feel about The Hunger Games movies, but you have to admit, they rarely missed with movie posters. Take the first movie’s few: they’re darker than other movies that came out at the time, and the tone is precisely what you’d expect if you’d read the books.
My favorite posters were the character posters because they look like the Capitol made them to drum up excitement in the district for the 74th Annual Games. While I do think they could have been better, they fit the tone the first movie had, and that’s all I could ask for.
Catching Fire stepped it up a notch after the success of The Hunger Games, both in the movie and poster department. The white posters look like propaganda from the Capitol yet again, and I honestly couldn’t not get excited when I first saw them.
The main poster showed Katniss in a similar pose as the first movie with the Catching Fire emblem behind her. But my absolute favorite poster is the top left with Katniss on a cliff. It doesn’t really show off the story, but it looks like it was taken on film in District 12.
‘Mockingjay – Part 1’
While I’m on the topic of stepping it up from The Hunger Games, we’ve got three amazing posters from Mockingjay – Part 1. I honestly didn’t like most of the film’s posters, but these three were absolutely breathtaking and hinted at the fight between “good and evil.”
One shows off Katniss’s new suit that we see in the film, including the wings Cinna specifically designed to make her the Mockingjay. The middle poster shows off that she’s the Mockingjay by putting her in front of the symbol. And the white poster shows that Peeta and Johanna seem to be on the Capitol’s side now. They just work so well together as a trio of images.
‘Mockingjay – Part 2’
I might not have liked most of Mockingjay – Part 1, but I loved all of Part 2‘s posters. Instead of the black suit we saw in the third Hunger Games movie, we get a red variation, showing that fire has caught her. The top right and left posters also show that the Capitol is coming down once and for all.
The top middle links this movie with all of the rest. The bottom right is another propaganda-style poster that we’ve seen for the last films. The bottom left is just an artsier poster that I would love to frame on my wall. And the bottom middle has a Mockingjay on Katniss’s shoulder – such a beautiful touch.
‘Back to the Future’
I wish today’s Hollywood would make posters like this again. This iconic franchise gave us some of the most fun movie posters that give you just a taste of the shenanigans that are in store for the audience.
The first movie features just Marty McFly with the DeLorean. The second film takes the format of the first poster and adds Doc holding onto Marty. The third takes that idea a bit farther and adds yet another character and puts all of them in Old West costumes, letting us know that we’re headed farther back to the past than ever.
Insurgent‘s posters made the movie look like it would be unique, especially with the falling through glass designs.
Sadly, the movie fell through. But at least we’ve got some cool photos to look at from it. My favorite is definitely the close-up of the Tris and Four falling from different directions. The character posters with them looking like they’re getting dusted Marvel-style are also just as cool.
When I think of iconic movie posters that show us what to expect without giving too much away, Jaws is the first one to come to mind. The Jaws poster highlights the size difference between the shark and an average person, letting you know how much of a monster this thing is. It’s simple and effective in ways that modern movie posters just can’t seem to manage these days.
‘The Lightning Thief’ and ‘Sea of Monsters’
Before you start fighting me on this, I know the movies are horrible. But you can’t tell me the posters aren’t great. The first movie’s posters highlighted Logan Lerman as Percy. The coloring is also just spot-on and matches the cover of the book.
The second movie’s poster takes a different approach. The orange-toned image shows Percy, Annabeth, and Grover (even though Grover wasn’t on the quest until the end). My favorite poster from the second movie was the one on the far right because it shows off Charybdis, a monster from the book and movie.
‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’
While I don’t really enjoy this movie much anymore because it just hasn’t aged as well as my favorites, I will concede that the red movie poster looks fantastic. It doesn’t show off much about the movie, but it lets us know that we’re about to get some great music.
However, the floating head approach works for this movie okay, just like it did for some Marvel films. Putting the “seven evil exes” in the background was a great touch that made us want to know their role. And putting the main couple in the middle helps us know whose story we’re watching.
I couldn’t talk about movie posters without talking about one that warms my heart. The relationship between the two main characters – Bryce and Juli – involves a sycamore tree that gets torn down partway through the film. Towards the end of the movie, that tree comes back into play despite being torn down. The poster shows Bryce and Juli in that same tree. While it’s not a scene in the movie, it shows where their relationship goes after the movie ends.
Look at the Midsommer posters and tell me that you’re not impressed. The one on the right is a foreign poster, which I think captures the menace of the cult perfectly. The washed-out color palette and creeping darkness around the edges of the image give it a menacing aura.
The left poster shows a couple holding hands heading toward the maypole we see in the film. You might think that this is a happy couple going to enjoy a festival, but there’s something off about their body language. The middle poster became instantly iconic as soon as it was released. Florence Pugh’s crying face is contrasted with the beautiful crown of flowers, signaling that something terrible is happening at this festival.