With Insidious 3 fast approaching, and its poster being, all superlative aside, possibly the greatest piece of film advertising ever, we take a look at some other iconic and interesting cinematic one-sheets…
Insidious 3 (2015)
A bold claim, maybe, but Insidious 3’s poster may well be perfect. Everything about the poster works in a way the film likely just doesn’t deserve (at least based from the far more generic trailer accompanying this immaculate design. For the third film in a horror franchise to rely almost entirely on text is a bold move, especially when one could just rely on the established characters and cliches of its other films and other similar films.
The 38-word beat poem of increasing… insidiousness lurking above a sinisterly placed vent would probably be distinctive enough, but the thin typeface choice in that shade of red means the text continually seems to shift and distort and uncannily stands apart from everything else in the poster. Uncertainty is an asset in horror, and this base simplicity nails it.
According to Tony Seiniger, the man behind the immaculate Jaws poster, it is mandatory for a poster to convey its story in mere seconds. It took nearly six months for his team to create the eerie one-sheet. The outcome was befitting of Spielberg’s breakout movie, which helped define the summer blockbuster phenomenon.
The spectre of the Great White Shark is found lurking beneath the surface, headed towards an unsuspecting woman. Rising from the depths with its gaping jaw ready to pounce on its prey, the cold-blooded creature looks intensely frightening. The relative size of both characters is paramount as well: the diminutive female is considerably smaller than the sizable predator.
The overwhelmingly terrifying depiction is fortified by placing the titular character front and center. The design also establishes the ocean as a tertiary character, since it occupies a large part of the poster. The perfect color composition also includes the title, which stands prominent in contrasting red. All in all, the poster is simplistic but speaks volumes, proving the adage that a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
The teaser poster for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was a masterclass in minimalism and sent millions of fans (myself included) raving mad. Almost no text is present, just a young Anakin Skywalker casting the shadow of his dark future self, Darth Vader. The prequel trilogy for Star Wars had almost unparalleled hype and whilst many fans were let down by the result, this brief moment of brilliantly pitched marketing provided the goods.
How did Anakin become so twisted? How were early interactions with Obi-Wan, Yoda and other key characters? So many questions set off by one picture. It ironically highlights a problem often cited with the prequel trilogy: that Anakin’s personal drama was buried beneath dull padding. This should have been the driving force behind the prequels, not problems of intergalactic bureaucracy. So a missed opportunity ultimately then, but what a way to kick things off.
A good movie poster, like a good trailer, should give you a feel for what the movie is about and how it is going to look. In just a single frame this poster manages to sum up 300 perfectly, as well as presenting Zack Snyder’s unique aesthetic approach.
From the armour-clad soldiers of the Persian and Spartan army to the blood splashes covering the poster, there is little doubt that this is a sword and sandal war film – and a graphic one too. The slight slant of the cliff, positioning the Spartans above the retreating Persian soldiers and their resulting fall, alludes to the fact that the Spartans are the superior fighting force.
With 300 of these elite Spartan warriors facing off against the seemingly endless Persian horde, audiences were presented with an epic premise that this poster sums up perfectly.
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)
One would be remiss to discuss any aspect of design and cinema and not make reference to the great Saul Bass, one of the most influential and significant designers of the 20th Century. In addition to Warner, United Airlines and Kleenex logos, his most memorable work was (mainly Hitchcock) film title sequences and his distinctive poster design. Doing for film what Reid Miles did for the Blue Note record label, his Pop Art-esque blocky style defined the mid-century American ‘cool’ which people (ahem Mad Men) have been mining for inspiration ever since.