You Can’t Take It With You
Perhaps we can blame 1938’s You Can’t Take It With You for the generic, floating head epidemic that has plagued film poster art for years. The artwork suggests nothing about Frank Capra’s movie starring the famed Lionel Barrymore that centers around an eccentric family. We inherently want to go easy on classic film art — because we have different expectations today and modern film audiences are far more savvy when it comes to understanding advertising and media — but all’s fair in love and war.
The Best Years of Our Lives
We like these drawings of Myrna Loy and the rest of the cast in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, but the poster is terribly dated and boring. It also suggests nothing about the narrative focusing on the social re-entry of World War II servicemen. It’s extremely smiley too, but thankfully they didn’t put Harold Russell’s image on there since he had his hands burned off during the war.
It’s hard to pick on one of the most critically lauded movies and actors of all time, but this poster for Laurence Olivier’s 1948 film Hamlet reminded us of bad Photoshop. It must be the funky, ghost-like cloud surrounding the actor, because we like the staircase drawing and the poster’s overall minimalistic approach.
All the King’s Men
We get it: king, corruption of power, a classic — but there are too many laurel leaves happening in this poster. The emphasis on “Pulitzer Prize” is another sad reminder that books once held higher rank in society and the movie industry.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
For a film that changed the face of the fantasy genre, this poster isn’t very impressive. Sure, it’s got all the major characters (including Aragorn doing his best Fabio impression), but the “character montage” is so tired and predictable. This is the film that takes us into Mordor, a film with some truly amazing spectacles and epic battles, so why the insistence on such a generic design? Did all the actors have a contract clause stipulating they had to be on the poster, or what? Jackson’s film won Oscar gold — which makes it all the more disappointing that this poster is so pedestrian and visually uninspired.
Dances with Wolves
Oh Kevin Costner. It looks like someone tore your photo from a magazine and taped it onto a misty cave painting of buffalo running.
Forced, preachy, about as subtle as a heart attack, and not nearly as cerebral as it thinks, Crash’s poster complements the movie perfectly.
A Mumbai game show win and the emotional rollercoaster that ensues for one man, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was an exhilarating rush — but that doesn’t necessarily translate well to its movie poster. The garishly overdone design makes its inspirations obvious, but we wish they would have left the stunningly jarring neon of the Indian cityscape in the movie.
We like Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, despite the fact that Gibson isn’t even remotely Scottish and his historical epic plays fast and (very) loose with history. What we don’t like so much is the film’s poster. Gibson holding his Claymore and looking like he just sauntered off the cover of a romance novel entitled “Highland Sextasy” isn’t unforgivable, but that terrible orange glow sure is. What is that even supposed to be? We’re assuming it’s fire, which makes the idea of putting an image of Gibson hugging his beloved in the flames a bit on the nose for our taste. We get it — avenging her is the fire that drives him. No need to beat us over the head with it.
Million Dollar Baby
Hilary Swank had already won the Oscar for her role in Boys Don’t Cry in 1999, which is why there was no need to crowd her on the movie poster for 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. The dramatic image of Swank as boxer Maggie Fitzgerald would have been regal and graphically strong without inserting the disembodied heads of heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. We understand why they’re there, but including them in some kind of context instead of just slapping their faces on top would have made for a much better image.