Articles: The Power of the Poster




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Samantha Ofole-Prince & Laurence Washington

Film posters were originally produced for the exclusive use of the theatres and were required to be returned to the distributor after the film left the theatre. Today, film posters promote films at the theatres, and are also sold directly to the public by retailers. Modern film posters have become a legitimate art form.

Film critic Samantha Ofole-Prince and myself decided to pick our 10 favorite posters and then share these top 20 favorites with our readers.

"This proved a much tougher task than anticipated," Samantha says, "for there are so many movie posters that I love either based on my enjoyment of the flick or appreciation of the poster art, but in narrowing down my final favorites I handpicked my list based on the poster’s overall artistic merits and messages."

I had to agree with Samantha. Picking just 10 posters was a tough task because many of my favorites are also from my favorite movies. However, following Samantha’s lead, I narrowed my selection using the poster’s artistic merits, message, and eyecatching ability. Several of the ones I picked are framed and hanging in my office. --- Laurence Washington

Laurence’s Picks:

10. BAMBOOZLED: This poster is as heavy-handed as the Spike Lee movie. The poster is as insulting to some as it is intriguing.

9. HOUSE PARTY: The film’s montage is great poster art from the hilarious movie that most people identify with if they enjoyed their teen years.

8. THE UNTOUCHABLES: An ultra-cool cops and robbers poster.

7. UNFORGIVEN: Not the typical Clint Eastwood poster, then again "Unforgiven" wasn’t your typical Eastwood motion picture. Its’ eerie subtleness alerts us that there’s more lurking below the surface, just like in the movie.

6. THE THING: A compelling remake of the classic 1950 sci-fi thriller, the poster art just looks way cool!

5. SHAFT: Still the man. Richard Roundtree ushers in an era that finally shows black heroes are just as tough as white heroes.

4. KILL BILL: Another striking and stylistic poster, from another striking and stylistic Quentin Tarantino movie. Cool contrast between the tagline, "Here Comes The Bride" and the samurai sword. You know somebody’s ass is in a wringer.

3. PULP FICTION: There was just something catchy and stylistic about this poster – just like the Quentin Tarantino movie. Sassy Uma Thurman didn’t hurt matters either.

2. MAGNUM FORCE: What’s better than steely-eye Clint Eastwood comin’ at ya punctuated by his signature Dirty Harry .44 Magnum. "Go Ahead, Make My Day."

1. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE: The pinnacle of the James Bond series, "
You Only Live Twice" is the Holy Grail of James Bond posters as far as collectors are concerned. Many Blaxploitation posters copied the artistic style of, "You Only Live Twice" and used a hand illustrated montage of the film's action. "Look Ma, no computer generated images."

Samantha's Picks:

10. THE COOLER: This wasn’t the best of flicks, but there's more to the movie than first appears and the same goes for the poster. It’s cool, catchy, creative and dazzling.

9. JAWS: When this movie was released in 1975, it was scary enough to clear the beaches, and it remains one of my favorites because it’s so effective in conjuring fear. No explosions or blazing barrels, it’s just an effective, simply done poster of a deadly shark zooming towards an unassuming and helpless female.

8. POLTERGEIST: There’s something insanely creepy about this poster and it’s a great balance of good versus evil with the cherub child signifying innocence. It’s dark and haunting, creepy and crawly, but it’s a relatable poster for childhood fears manifest at a glance at this one.

7. 200 MOTELS: A poster should hold a clue to what the movie is about and an awe-inspiring art can stir up a thousand sensations. This one is loaded with visuals and is such an innovative and unique form of expression that one can picture the rush the movie aims to provide at a glance.

6. GRINDHOUSE: This is gripping because it’s subtle seductive and menacing. With her rifle in place of a leg, McGowan’s the judge, jury and executioner battling flesh-eating zombies. Plus I love the homage to the 70’s flick.

5. AMERICAN HISTORY X: I am not a huge fan of posters which merely display the main actors in the movie for they lack creativity and imagination but this one’s an exception. The dour looking Norton with a swastika tattooed on his chest employs the language of racism. A bold display, it’s captivating and very effective for in my opinion it contains more provocative thought than any other films dealing with race.

4. APOCALYPSE NOW: One of my favorite war flicks, you can almost sense the mood of this movie by the look of the poster. Sinister and haunting it’s the dark visuals that work for this one.

3. CHEECH & CHONG’S UP IN SMOKE: Lately movie posters have been largely replaced by photographs and this creative composition reminds me of the good old days. This again shows you what’s in store for the viewer. It’s funky, hip, exuberant and smoking hot.

2. SHAFT IN AFRICA: This is one of my favorite posters from the Shaft flicks for I love the montage of scenes from Africa’s Ethiopia. This illustration makes a dynamic statement.

1. COFFY: Many female roles in the black-themed movie era of the 70’s were usually limited to bedroom scenes and I particularly love this poster because it nicely reverses that formula. The extremely sexy, provocative retro hero Pam Grier brandishing her gun is femme fatale and the montage of supporting characters tells you exactly what you’re in for. No cons or cover-ups.

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