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If you thought just the movies these days were unoriginal...
November 5, 2011 2:23 AM   Subscribe

Thirteen movie poster trends and...what they say about their movies. Included are the Sexy Back, the Text In Your Face, and the Legs Wide Spread.

Related advice can be found here regarding posters with big, red fonts.
posted by zardoz (61 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
I see the "legs wide spread" one includes Mike Leigh's Naked. Big surprise for anybody expecting it to be anything like the others.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:32 AM on November 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


my favourite sexy back movie poster
posted by infini at 2:33 AM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's not like the categories are insightful or anything, but the number of examples of each category that they dredged up and the way they present them make this really neat.
posted by painquale at 3:20 AM on November 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is neat. I will never be able to unsee these now. It'll be like the blue/orange thing all over again.
posted by coffeepot at 3:40 AM on November 5, 2011


It just shows how formulaic the entertainment business has become. Too many accountants and not enough artists.
posted by ambulocetus at 4:29 AM on November 5, 2011


It just shows how formulaic the entertainment business has become. Too many accountants and not enough artists.

Nah, half the movies in the red dress one are 50 years old, and Gone with the Wind and Adam's Rib both show up too. Plus ├ža change.
posted by Diablevert at 4:41 AM on November 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Neat. I love patterns like this.
posted by Forktine at 4:45 AM on November 5, 2011


I feel like there have been more bold-looking romantic comedy posters recently with collages composed of shots of the cast's faces gazing goofily/sexily and directly at the viewer. I can't remember all their names, but I'm talking about things like Take Me Home Tonight and Horrible Bosses. Has anybody else noticed this? Where's it coming from?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:54 AM on November 5, 2011


Here's a little secret about the promotion end of the movie business...Stuff like the posters are done looooong before the movie has even wrapped filming. Heck, a lot of times, the promotional stuff is begun before principal filming starts. This is part of the reason posters are often generic and/or formulaic. The art departments often don't have any imagery from the actual movie to use. The shots of the stars are quite often collages of heads on model's bodies (or bodies lifted from other art).

But, yeah, it's an assembly-line business that lends itself to standardization.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 AM on November 5, 2011 [19 favorites]


A long time ago I was in a video store with my daughter (she was about 10-12 at the time) and she pointed to a video box on the shelf. "Movies that have a line of heads getting bigger at the front are usually bad." Not sure where she got that, but it was right on.
posted by Mcable at 5:26 AM on November 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Movies that have a line of heads getting bigger at the front are usually bad."


The exception that proves the rule, perhaps?

There was at least one instance in the "Sexy Back" compilation that you could tell was meant to be a parody of another one (the one right next to it, in fact -- the Puss In Boots one looked way too much like Unforgiven not to be intentional). Do they account for outright parody?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 AM on November 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Legs Wide Spread reminds me of the days of trying to pick a movies at the video rental place - it was easy to spot trends like that after perusing hundreds of crappy VHS covers.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:05 AM on November 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


I love the puss in boots one. I actually noticed the D'Artangon poster on the other side first, and showed the two to my husband, only to pan right and realize that it was a near-perfect recreation of the Unforgiven poster.
posted by jb at 6:06 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great post. Does anyone actually make a movie going decision based on the poster? I notice the discussion is starting to merge movie posters and DVD/VHS covers, but I don't think these are usually the same.
posted by Outlawyr at 6:18 AM on November 5, 2011


Blog writer is correct on much of this, and absolutely correct on Tilda Swinton.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I should put together a list like this for book covers: Bottom Half Of A Woman's Face.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8....
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:26 AM on November 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Does anyone actually make a movie going decision based on the poster?

I don't know if they count as posters, but the movie art on Netflix often makes the difference between me stopping to read a synopsis and skipping on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:26 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone actually make a movie going decision based on the poster?

I love the big displays and posters in a movie theatre, the ones got upcoming films. They make me want to look up a film on the Internet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on November 5, 2011


"Tilda is a goddess and can do no wrong"
posted by Slothrup at 6:30 AM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wanted to see Kick-ass based on the posters - I thought it was a comedy like Mystery Men. So glad I didn't go. (don't like scary movies)
posted by jb at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2011


Matthew McConaughey had his own sub-theme going on which apparently his people wisely decided to put a stop to. Wonder if Cracked.com had anything to do with that.

Justin Timberlake's most recent movie poster did a take on the "sexy back" which includes his co-star. (And apparently he did not actually bring sexy back since at least one of those movies whose posters were shown pre-dated his song.)
posted by fuse theorem at 6:36 AM on November 5, 2011


Posters tend to turn me off more than entice me; "little people on the beach,big heads in the clouds" as well as "spread legs" are usually a warning sign that I will find this movie unpalatable-- much like brightly colored insects advertise their toxicity.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:36 AM on November 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Not quite a trend AFAIK but you've got BASEketball and Mr. Woodcock (heads-up, self-link)
posted by stevil at 7:04 AM on November 5, 2011


Does anyone actually make a movie going decision based on the poster?

Well I certainly avoid the Big Red Letters ones

(And my next graphic design project is totally going to be black, white and orange... they look great!)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:05 AM on November 5, 2011


Does anyone actually make a movie going decision based on the poster?

When you arrive at the cinema and find what you actually want to see has sold out, and it's quite a way to the cinema and you might as well see some film now you're here, yes.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:11 AM on November 5, 2011


Wow, who would have thought that the most used colors in movies are the colors of sky, water, fire, and sunsets.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:20 AM on November 5, 2011


Here's a little secret about the promotion end of the movie business...Stuff like the posters are done looooong before the movie has even wrapped filming.

That excuse doesn't work for this little gem.
posted by treepour at 7:21 AM on November 5, 2011


Matthew McConaughey had his own sub-theme going on which apparently his people wisely decided to put a stop to.

That's not Matthew McConaughey. That's some guy with a shirt.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:26 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Posters tend to turn me off more than entice me...

Word. And I noticed a corollary earlier this week. After spending an hour in Barnes & Noble and seeing the generic covers and trends, I suddenly hated books.
posted by DU at 7:41 AM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I should put together a list like this for book covers: Bottom Half Of A Woman's Face.

Private Eye does this in their book pages. Not so extensively though.
posted by Jehan at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2011


The movies themselves are pretty similar to the Black/Orange ones except that all the explosions have been replaced with angst

Heh.

All in all, pretty accurate.
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2011


I should put together a list like this for book covers: Bottom Half Of A Woman's Face.

I'm pretty sure there's been a post on the blue about "urban fantasy" covers using the Sexy Back with assorted minor variations.
posted by immlass at 8:23 AM on November 5, 2011


Has anybody else noticed this? Where's it coming from?

It's called, "We took promo shots of everyone, just in case. What the hell, let's use ALL OF THEM AT ONCE!"
posted by hermitosis at 8:32 AM on November 5, 2011


A long time ago I was in a video store with my daughter (she was about 10-12 at the time) and she pointed to a video box on the shelf. "Movies that have a line of heads getting bigger at the front are usually bad." Not sure where she got that, but it was right on.

At first I read this as "heads too big for the bodies" and thought of Sigourney Weaver in Heartbreakers.

Any time you see the actors crudely pasted together into a single image, you know it's going to stink.
posted by Trurl at 8:56 AM on November 5, 2011


#14 should have been "movie posters with guns". About 50% of all movie posters or DVD covers will feature a gun or a similar phallic symbol, often pointed between a woman's spread legs.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 AM on November 5, 2011


Forget Sexy Back-- what about Sassy Frog? That's a movie poster trend waiting to happen!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:03 AM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any "superhero" film / Exploding things / Fire / Tossers wielding guns or weapons in an "Ooh, look at mean and moody me, aren't I hard?" way = Decani despises your film and everyone even tangentially involved with it; yes, even the key grip's grandma's cat.
posted by Decani at 9:52 AM on November 5, 2011


About 50% of all movie posters or DVD covers will feature a gun or a similar phallic symbol, often pointed between a woman's spread legs.

Then it should be easy to come up with 10 examples!
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:54 AM on November 5, 2011


I like how the cover of the movie Secretary has legs not wide spread. And is infinitely better than all of those other sexy wide stance movies put together.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:14 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


TV dramas for teens sure love to show the main character staring at us as if something dramatic had just happened, and the supporting flanked out behind her.

1 2 3 4
posted by hydrophonic at 10:17 AM on November 5, 2011


I'm surprised there was no mention of the Dolphin Tale poster which is a mix of Tiny People On the Beach, Giant Heads in the Clouds and Nature is Blue.
posted by HermanoBluth at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


What would be really cool is if someone did this for Bollywood posters - ideally by era over the past 50-60 years or so.
posted by infini at 10:51 AM on November 5, 2011


"The movies that use this sort of poster will feature a lot of action with a thin veneer of pretentious intellectual posturing. Unless it's a biopic about Johnny Cash."

In which case it's a movie that will feature a thin veneer of pretentious intellectual posturing.
posted by CarlRossi at 12:00 PM on November 5, 2011


What would be really cool is if someone did this for Bollywood posters

Wouldn't they just be a masala of all the image tropes combined?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:21 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's why I wanted it to compare the 50-70s with the now - see what patterns emerge re: trope copying vs MF Husain's era vs. this for example or this
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then it should be easy to come up with 10 examples!

Your fingers broken? Search for it yourself.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:48 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is hilarious and dead on. Also, SWINTON.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:49 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was one poster that I expected to see in the "Legs Wide Spread" group but it wasn't there - "M*A*S*H".
posted by mardybum at 12:51 PM on November 5, 2011


What search terms should I use, friendly guy?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:10 PM on November 5, 2011


I don't know if they count as posters, but the movie art on Netflix often makes the difference between me stopping to read a synopsis and skipping on.

I don't know if the interface is identical everywhere, but the one I'm stuck with I absolutely loathe for browsing for films. Partly because, yes, they all look alike. Partly because I can't see more than a portion of the synopsis (and it's usually not a helpful portion) without clicking through. (Hell, just listing the actors would be more useful.) The website is also seemingly increasingly dependent on this poster-selection method.

Netflix, in the time that I've subscribed, has never shown a movie's writers at all, let alone allowed you to navigate on that basis.

Based on the above, and the thread content, I just have to wonder if this is how the great mass of people really do select something to watch. "I want something with explosions"?
posted by dhartung at 2:25 PM on November 5, 2011


> "I want something with explosions"?

Pretty much.

Remember, the prime movie going audience is composed of teenage boys aged between 13-17. They don't have girlfriends yet, so they spend their friday and saturday nights hanging out at malls and watching whatever movie with explosions they haven't seen yet. This is solely why Michael Bay exists.

The PG13 Rom-Com is for when they get a date.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:48 PM on November 5, 2011


They could also do Roger Ebert's box rule:
Beware movies advertised with a row of little boxes across the bottom, each one showing the face of a different international star and the name of a character (i.e., "Curt Jurgens as the Commandant"). Example: Most films made from Agatha Christie novels.
I see the 'legs wide spread' one includes Mike Leigh's Naked. Big surprise for anybody expecting it to be anything like the others.

Well, the caption says, "However of the 42 movies on display here, only one has any sort of critical acclaim." However, the examples also include The Tao of Steve and Super Troopers, both good movies, and For Your Eyes Only, a decent late-period Roger Moore Bond movie (which appears to have kicked off this genre of movie poster).
posted by kirkaracha at 4:05 PM on November 5, 2011


This is solely why Michael Bay exists.

(The last graph is the poignant one, me thinks.)
posted by pokermonk at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2011


Don't get me started on this, I've been complaining about this for years. In the subway here in New York you can walk down the platform and mark off 6 movie posters that are basically exactly the same. it's like there's a template. And it makes every movie look completely uninteresting. I'm glad it occurred to someone besides me.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:05 PM on November 5, 2011


The way I pick movies to watch is by number of seeds.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:38 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I want something with explosions"

But they have to be good stories. Stories with plots in which there are good guys and bad guys, and then some explosions happen to them!

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


These are great. Of course, Thorzdad is right about having to churn out the posters ahead of time. But these generic qualities still predict suck well. Kubrick exercised his influence on promotions. The poster creatively solves the problem of perhaps not yet having any footage, and conveys a sense of seriously creepy menace all of its own, in a thoughtful way.

Nearly all of these movies are pap. Probably the one category with the least pap is the Nature is Blue category (e.g., Mikrocosmos). This is probably because, largely, nature is blue.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:36 PM on November 5, 2011


The This
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:38 PM on November 5, 2011


I think there should be a category for badly photoshopped posters because this is an ongoing trend (Bangkok Dangerous with Nic Cage's "magic" hands springs to mind).

I wanted to see Kick-ass based on the posters - I thought it was a comedy like Mystery Men. So glad I didn't go.

I was going to correct you but the more I think of it that's actually a pretty accurate description of the movie.
posted by panboi at 6:48 AM on November 6, 2011


The exception that proves the rule, perhaps?

Ha! I murmured "Is it Sneakers?" to myself just before clicking on that, and then rewarded myself with a backpat. I am aware of assorted movieposteriana!
posted by psoas at 8:04 AM on November 6, 2011


If you thought blog posts these days were unoriginal.

Whole fucking post is plagiarized.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:30 PM on November 9, 2011


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