There is a particular magic instilled within a film poster, especially when it is for one of history’s greats. Everything about the concoction of a great film, from its ambiance to its technical sorcery to its talented actors to its epiphanic screenwriting needs to be encapsulated in the poster that is meant to introduce it to the public. This unique medium attracts some of graphic design’s best players, as often visual artists are tantalized by the same enigmatic mystery that appeals to filmmakers. As a result the posters that have been designed are some of graphic art’s most compelling.
Many times these monumental entities are done by unnamed or unknown artists, perhaps simply a great designer who was unfortunately lost in the folds of the storm that inevitably surrounds the making of a great film— yet their work pervades through time nonetheless, etched in our memories as a preserved representation of everything we love about the film.
Dr. Strangelove - Unknown, 1972 offset lithograph
In this 1972 reprint of the original 1964 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove, the artist made bold use of typography and color, contrasted against the lighthearted tone of a cartoon illustration to perhaps communicate the absurdity of drama and disconnect. Whether intentional or not, the concept is impressioning and unforgettable.
Magnum Force, Unknown, 1973 offset lithograph
A first edition 1973 poster for the film Magnum Force starring Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry is a crackling combination of photography and illustration, with a dynamic composition and color palette that reflects the tone of the film unerringly.
Tess, Unknown, 1980 offset lithograph
A 1980 poster for the release in France of the 1979 Roman Polanski film Tess shows with handwritten typography and a certain romance of asymmetry the intoxicating atmosphere that this beloved director achieves in all that he makes.
Raging Bull, Unknown, 1980 offset lithograph
A first edition poster for the 1980 Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull holds nothing back with a breathtaking painting of what is likely a film still of Robert De Niro entranced and in his element. The dramatic moody exposure and stark typography and color are fittingly punching.
The Valley (Obscured By Clouds) - Philip Castle, 1972 offset lithograph
The Valley (Obscured By Clouds), a 1972 French film by Barbet Schroeder, explores themes of sexual freedom, mind alteration, and pursuit of paradise against the backdrop of an early 70's encounter with the Mapuga rainforest tribe in New Guinea, and is set to a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. This US original release poster designed by Philip Castle presents an appropriately exotic, dreamy, strange sensation.
Tony Rome, Unknown, 1967 offset lithograph
Frank Sinatra is Tony Rome in this 1967 first edition poster, the rugged abrupt printing and brassy toned colors reflecting the noir-and-kitsch-esque drama of 1960s Hollywood.
Ghostbusters, Unknown, 1984 offset lithograph
And for the cult classic favorite Ghostbusters, a near-idiotic illustration, that came to be one of the most recognizable ghosts of pop culture, looms over an exemplary film still of our heros, cranking the subtle humor this film strikes into its ideal extreme. Amazingly, even just their posture conjures that unmistakable film music. This also a first edition printing from 1984.
When you want to watch a film over and over again to recapture its resonating presence, perhaps the poster serves as an immediate transport to all of the nuance and beauty that were orchestrated.