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The Evolution Of Movie Poster Design Over The Last 50 Years

Mar 12th, 2018

When talking about movies, it can be easy to overlook the movie poster used in their promotion campaigns. However, movie poster design can directly drive ticket sales and become iconic in their own right. For example, most of recognize poster for Jaws, even if we haven’t seen it.

Evolution Of Movie Posters

These examples of movie posters from the last 50 years are both iconic and reflect the evolution of graphic design over the decades.

The 1970s

The 1970s was a decade when movie posters changed toward placing more emphasis on the actual picture itself, and less emphasis on the words. Gone were the days of massive font taking up most of the poster.

This was replaced with large iconic images that attracted the audience’s attention and drew them in closer to read the smaller print.

For example, the gigantic underside shot of the shark as it rises below the oblivious swimmer is an iconic image in cinematic history.

The same can be said about the poster for Star Wars: A New Hope, with its emphasis on Luke and Leia Skywalker, with Darth Vader’s head taking up most of the sky, along with the Death Star.

The 1980s

The 1980s continue to use large images, but the image usually took up the entire poster while the lettering is fit into the image in blank spaces.

The poster for Rain Man is a perfect example of this, where the poster is really just a large image of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise with only ten words printed on it.

Beyond this, the play of light and dark becomes extremely important and many movie posters in this decade emphasized this contrast. The poster for Scarface, for example, with one side of the poster black and the other white.

The 1990s

The large image trend continued into the 1990s, but the emphasis on light and dark is replaced with dark colours typically accentuated by bold colours like red and yellows.

Two iconic examples of this from the decade are the movie posters for Pulp Fiction and Jurassic Park, which both use a black background and splashes of red and yellow.

The 2000s

The 2000s ushered in the most dramatic change in movie poster design in decades. Movie posters continued to rely on large images, but the designs became increasingly minimalistic.

The movie poster for Ghost World captures this style perfectly, and is a predominantly white poster with little on it. The posters for Disney’s Up, as well as for Little Miss Sunshine use minimalism and blank space for a similar effect.

The 2010s

So far, the 2010s have been the decade of movie posters as a piece of artwork you’d want to hang in your living room.

The Social Network, for example, uses a sleek minimalist approach with a witty message, whereas posters for movies such as Moonlight and Gravity are awe inspiring.


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