What happened to film posters? Once intricately drawn and designed — hand-painted and highly original — these movie one-sheets have become boring of late. In these times of intertwined universes and endless franchises, film posters seem to follow the same bland, flat formula as the movies themselves; unimaginative, unexciting and uninspired.
But look at posters from the past, and you’ll realise what an art form film promotion once was. Back in a world without social media and motion posters, movie one-sheets were the sole way to sell a feature — and they had only one 27-by-40 inch stretch of slogans and suggestion with which to do so.
That’s why we’d recommend hanging a vintage film poster in your home. Whether it’s a blockbuster you’ve got a personal connection with, or just a piece of art you admire, a movie one-sheet on your wall will immediately tell guests that you’re cultured, fun — and just a little bit fanatical. Here are the best to buy…
Choose one of the coolest classics ever made
What’s the coolest film you’ve ever seen? Something by Scorsese? Or starring Steve McQueen? How about an early Tarantino movie? Whatever the answer, seek out the best promotional poster for it and hang it on the wall of your home. Because, even if you’ll personally never reach Big Lebowski, Easy Rider, Quadrophenia levels of cool, your digs will always benefit from a dose of slick cinematic sophistication.
Chief among our picks here would be Cool Hand Luke, 1967’s boiled-egg barnstormer of a prison drama starring Paul Newman. Alternatively, Taxi Driver is a classic; the second collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, the essence of which is captured here on a violet, violent one-sheet. Or, for double star-power, go for this newspaper-riffing All the President’s Men poster, featuring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.
‘Cool Hand Luke’ from King & McGaw
‘Taxi Driver’ from Antikbar
‘All the President’s Men’ from Limelight Movie Art
If you’re looking for edge, go for a gangster film
But tread carefully. Going for a gangster film poster may seem like a good idea, but it can be a tricky one to pull off. Firstly, ask yourself; are you the sort of person who should be hanging a mob movie poster on your wall? If you’re a junior accountant, or a geography teacher, or in another particularly restrained job, probably not. Because these one-sheets can look a little try-hard if you’re not a genuine enthusiast (or a genuine gangster).
Even if you do fit the bill, stick with the classics. The poster for Scarface is iconic, and colourless enough to go with most decor. The Godfather, similarly, is mainly monotone — and a choice so timeless it requires no explanation. Or, for something a little less obvious, this Get Carter poster features Michael Caine at his purplest and most shotgun-toting.
‘Scarface’ from Antikbar
‘The Godfather’ from At The Movies
‘Get Carter’ from At The Movies
Use one actor to curate a collection (we recommend Steve McQueen)
Few actors jumped around genres like Steve McQueen. He starred in westerns (The Magnificent Seven), war films (The Great Escape), sci-fi fare (The Blob) and even romantic comedies (The Honeymoon Machine). So, if you’re looking to create a feature wall of film posters, all linked together by one actor, we can think of few better options than Hollywood’s ‘King of Cool’.
It doesn’t hurt than McQueen movie one-sheets also look this good. Some are sketched and painted with watercolour, such as the the evocative promo poster for his 1971 racing drama Le Mans. Others are photostatted and covered in terrible taglines, like the brilliant black-and-white poster for 1980’s The Hunter. And some are colour, blocky collages — the best of which was created to promote Bullitt in 1968. Take your pick — or go for all three.
‘Bullitt’ from Antikbar
‘The Hunter’ from Limelight Movie Art
'Le Mans’ from At The Movies
Take a blockbuster remake, and find the original film poster
Here’s a novel idea; find a film that everyone has raved about recently — but just so happens to be a remake — and buy the poster for the original. It’s a win-win. You not only show that you’ve got a little retro film knowledge tucked away, but you also get to hang a vintage poster on your wall that celebrates your love of films both old and new.
But choose wisely. Some remakes outstrip the originals — such as Dune. Thankfully, the original has become something of a cult classic, and this 1984 poster is probably now cool enough to hang on your wall. Similarly, the Mad Max franchise has revved back up since Fury Road, so why not extoll the high-octane virtues Mel Gibson’s 1979 original? Or, for the perfectly gentlemanly option, hang a poster for the original Ocean’s 11, a film that starred most members of the well-dressed, well-drinking Rat Pack?
‘Dune’ from Antikbar
‘Mad Max’ from Antikbar
‘Ocean’s 11’ from King & McGaw
If in doubt, go for your favourite Bond film
You can’t go wrong. Even the worst films in the official franchise — here’s looking at you, Octopussy — had some pretty splendid posters to promote them. And, up until Pierce Brosnan took on the role of 007, the Bond posters were exquisitely, recognisably illustrated by a range of esteemed artists including Robert McGinnis and Mitchell Hooks. And they’re reasonably readily available to this day.
We’re most taken by the Roger Moore movie posters. The one-sheets for his 007 films began with a touch of the Connery-era collage style about them, like this Live And Let Die option. But, as they went on, they took on a leggy life of their own, with the feminine For Your Eyes Only film poster perhaps the most iconic, and A View To A Kill paving the way for the more modern style.
‘For Your Eyes Only’ from Antikbar
‘A View To A Kill’ from Antikbar
'Live And Let Die’ from King & McGaw
Want more unique artworks? Here’s how to commission a portrait, according to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters…
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