Saturday, November 16, 2013

Master List #28: My 200 Favorite Movie Posters

NOTE: This article was written in preparation for MOVIE GEEKS UNITED's episode on poster art; you can listen to that episode here, where this particular discussion between Jamey Duvall, Jerry Dennis and I begins at around 24:15...

I've been a movie poster collector since I was 8 years old. The first one I bought was for Mel Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES, purchased at a Florida wax museum in 1974; it was rolled, and not a real movie poster. It was a reprint, though a very good one, and in the right size (now, in 2013, I have a REAL folded, incredibly beat-up copy, which is how I prefer it). The first ACTUAL movie poster I acquired--and for me that means one that was put up at a theater showing the film--came in 1980, when I was 14, and it was for David Lynch's THE ELEPHANT MAN (I asked the manager of my the Toco Hills movie theater for it as he was changing the posters out, and this query changed my life; I later gave this treasured poster away to my favorite friend Lisa Mateas). Thereafter, I started gathering one-sheets--as I quickly learned they were more professionally known--in a piecemeal fashion, here and there. But I only wanted REAL ones--ones from the theaters I was attending.

In 1983, by chance, I felt compelled to break this rule when I purchased a beautiful REVENGE OF THE JEDI poster, many months prior to the film's release. Weeks later, I learned I'd landed a treasure: George Lucas had decided Jedi didn't take revenge, and so he deemed his production RETURN OF THE JEDI. I was a STAR WARS fan, but apparently not much of one, because as soon as I could, I traded that one now-extremely-valuable poster in for 40 more (courtesy of Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store, an NYC institution that had bought a booth at an Atlanta sci-fi convention--probably an early version of Dragon Con). This launched me into another world--the often maddening one of a collector. Over the next three decades, I acquired nearly 1000 more one-sheets, many through Atlanta's now-defunct Paper Chase. Some have been sold in dire times, some have been given away as loving gifts, some have been stolen, some have been damaged and destroyed (when I think of many of these posters I've lost or given up, I wince with horror and then have to take a pill to go to sleep). At present, I have a collection of around 700 one sheets--approximately 200 of them rolled, and the others folded.

So, after nearly 40 years of this nonsense, I would safely say I'm an authority. 

For the purposes of this article (which I'm extremely excited about), I should say, first off, that I'm only selecting from 27" x 42" AMERICAN movie posters. I'm doing this in order to not drive myself crazy (because I've seen some French, Italian, Indian, African, Russian, German, and especially Polish movie posters that are just astounding...but I cannot include them here, because they would take over the earth, and honestly, anyway, I've rarely encountered them in poster form--most of the time, I've seen them only as JPEGS--and I'm sort of doing this post as a kind of starting place for those wishing to get into collecting specifically American posters)...but there are FOUR exceptions here on this rule, because (1) I couldn't find an American version of the 1926 poster for FAUST, the 1927 poster for METROPOLIS, and the 1962 JULES AND JIM--none that conformed to my size requirements, at least, and (2) I once owned an American version of the poster for the film ROMANCE that looked exactly the same as the German version pictured here. I am also only selecting true one-sheets--not half-sheets (28" x 22"), inserts (14" x 36"), subway posters (varying sizes), lobby cards or anything else. That is, as well, so as to not drive myself crazy (this is also to the reader's benefit; unless you have a particular madness, you definitely wanna limit yourself to framing 27" x 42" posters--though, nowadays, most posters are 41" long, just to let you know--if you're a collector with an eye towards displaying your pieces, you'll wanna take this into account if you're planning to change your posters up). Inserts and half-sheets are very cool, though, if you want to fill up wall space that doesn't conform to true one-sheet size. 

I most prefer posters that (a) have fine art which also transmits some of the story, (b) make an intelligent use of color and negative space, (c) are detailed and endlessly lookable, (d) are representing at least decent movies and (e) sometimes are so sparse as to command attention (I have a particular respect for those movies that can convey their power through text and design only). In judging the movie poster as an art object, I look at: (a) originality, (b) color, (c) lack of color (negative space is a particular love of mine), (d) quality of lead painting/drawing and/or photography (and inclusion--or exclusion--of major stars), (e) typography, (f) copy/tag line, (g) layout and placement of credits, and (h) a sense of self. I should also point out that I didn't go after the most popular movies or movie poster images (thus, no JAWS, LORD OF THE RINGS, GHOSTBUSTERS, JURASSIC PARK, or E.T. here, for instance). I should also say here: as a collector, I prefer movie posters that have some wear to them--and that, again, feel like they might have been hung up at theaters playing that movie in the day--so I have no real use for reprints, and have a particular love of FOLDED posters (pre-1990s, at least) as a result (I have also not included any representatives of the current trend of poster re-dos, like those put out by the Alamo Drafthouse; they're very imaginative, but they're not real movie posters and are more like art objects and are NOT advertising relics). Also, one more note: almost all silent era posters are wonderful to look at--a tidal wave of riches from that time period; however, I've included only a few on this list (they are spectacular, though).

I need to say this, too: Obviously, my eye leans towards the '60s and '70s (that's the era I grew up in, so this is understandable, I hope). I particularly love that era's Warner Brothers/Seven Arts output (the greatest run of any ad agency ever--a brilliant combination of treated photos, superlative layouts, subtle color choices, and dynamic logo designs). But I also adore the explosion of fancy art post-STAR WARS, all throughout the 80s. The 1990s and early 2000s were the dismal years for poster art, because they relied too much on bad photos of the main actors (in order to sell home video copies, I guess). The 1940s and 50s were largely blah, too; even though the art was accomplished, they were also too concentrated on the stars...that is, until Saul Bass came along and showed the industry a new way of doing things. Saul Bass, of course, makes many appearances here (he's the greatest or at least the most important artist of this realm, ever, though John Alvin, Frank McCarthy, Drew Struzan, Birney Lettick, Jack Davis, Richard Amsel, the Bemis Balkind agency, and the absolutely incredible Bob Peak give him much competition).  A special thank-you goes out now to the astounding International Movie Poster Awards Database for their valuable archival and organizational skills! 

Movie poster art is getting more and more creative at present, excepting major studio releases (which seem stuck in this repetitive sort of fake-burnished, dark brown/blue/silver mode, which matches their largely repetitive movies). But I am seeing more posters I like these days. Anyway, here are my top 50 favorite movie posters, in order of preference; the following 150 titles are listed alphabetically:

The Top Fifty: 

1. Petulia (68, Richard Lester) (Art: Bob Peak) (Tagline: "People bugged by people will do extraordinary things")

2. Pennies from Heaven (81, Herbert Ross) (Art: Bob Peak)

3. Chinatown (74, Roman Polanski) (Art: Jim Pearsall)

4. Blade Runner (82, Ridley Scott) (Art: John Alvin)

5. Anatomy of a Murder (59, Otto Preminger) (Art: Saul Bass)

6. 3 Women (77, Robert Altman)  

7. Reds (81, Warren Beatty) 

8. Rosemary's Baby (68, Roman Polanski) (Design: Bemis Balkind)

9. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (66, Mike Nichols) (Design: Warner Bros.)

10. Lost Highway (97, David Lynch) (Design: Bemis Balkind)

11. Lawrence of Arabia (62, David Lean)

12. The Rain People (69, Francis Ford Coppola) (Design: Warner Bros./Seven Arts) (Tagline: "Rain people are very mistake in love and they dissolve...")

13. Downhill Racer (69, Michael Richie) (Tagline: "How fast must a man go to get from where he's at?")

14. Taxi Driver (76, Martin Scorsese) (Art: Guy Peellaert)

15. Rear Window (54, Alfred Hitchcock)    

16. Star Wars (77, George Lucas) (Art: Drew Struzan and Charles White III)

17. 2001: A Space Odyssey (68, Stanley Kubrick) (Art: Robert McCall)

18. The Man with the Golden Arm (56, Otto Preminger) (Art: Saul Bass)

19. Point Blank (67, John Boorman)

20. Tommy (75, Ken Russell) (Design: Bernis Balkind) (Tagline: "Your senses will never be the same.")

21. Raiders of the Lost Ark (81, Steven Spielberg) (Art: Richard Amsel)  

22. Seconds (66, John Frankenheimer)

23. Metropolis (27, Fritz Lang)

24. Aguirre, The Wrath of God (75, Werner Herzog) (Art: Michael J. Deas)

25. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Apiatchitpong Weerasethakul) (Art: Chris Ware)

26. North By Northwest (59, Alfred Hitchcock) (1960s re-release)

27. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (58, Nathan Juran) (Art: Reynold Brown)

28. Heaven Can Wait (78, Warren Beatty and Buck Henry) (Art: Birney Lettick)

29. Alien (79, Ridley Scott) (Design: Bernis Balkind) (Tagline: "In space no one can hear you scream")

30. Frogs (72, George McCowan) (Design: Diener-Hauser)

31. Excalibur (81, John Boorman) (Art: Bob Peak)

32. Stop Making Sense (85, Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads)

33. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick) (Design: Mark Carroll)

34. American Beauty (99, Sam Mendes) (Design: Pulse) (Tagline: "....look closer")

35. Easy Rider (69, Dennis Hopper)

36. Shaft (71, Gordon Parks) (Photography: Gordon Parks)

37. The Man Who Fell to Earth (76, Nicolas Roeg)

38. Out of Sight (98, Steven Soderburgh) (Design: BLT Communications)

39. Broadway Danny Rose (84, Woody Allen)

40. Tales From The Crypt (72, Freddie Francis)

41. Star 80 (83, Bob Fosse)

42. Judgment at Nuremberg (61, Stanley Kramer)

43. The Last Temptation of Christ (88, Martin Scorsese)

44. The Trip (67, Roger Corman) 

45. M.A.S.H. (70, Robert Altman) (1973 re-release)

46. Sunset Boulevard (50, Billy Wilder)

47. The Poseidon Adventure (72, Ronald Neame) (Art: Mort Kunstler)

48. Tin Men (87, Barry Levinson)

49. Sid and Nancy (86, Alex Cox) (Design: Samuel Goldwyn in-house)

50. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (70, Russ Meyer) (Photography: Russ Meyer)

The Rest of the List (150): 

After Hours (85, Martin Scorsese) (Design: Bemis Balkind)

All About Eve (50, Joseph L. Mackiewicz)

All Quiet on the Western Front (30, Lewis Milestone)

American Graffiti (74, George Lucas) (Art: Mort Drucker) (Tagline: "Where were you in '62?")

The American Scream (2012, Michael Stephenson) (Art: Johnny Sampson)

Apocalypse Now (79, Francis Ford Coppola) (Art: Bob Peak)

Back to the Future (85, Robert Zemeckis) (Art: Drew Struzan)

The Bad News Bears (76, Michael Richie) (Art: Jack Davis)

Barton Fink (91, Joel and Ethan Coen)

The Beguiled (71, Don Siegel) (Art: Bob Peak) 

Being John Malkovich (99, Spike Jonze)

Blazing Saddles (74, Mel Brooks) (Art: John Alvin)

Blood Beach (80, Jeffrey Bloom) 

Bonnie and Clyde (67, Arthur Penn) (Design: Warner Bros./Seven Arts) (Tagline: "They're young...they're in love...and they kill people.")

A Boy and His Dog (75, L.Q. Jones) (Art: Robert Tananbaum)

The Brown Bunny (2003, Vincent Gallo)

Cannery Row (82, John Huston) (Art: John Solie)

Carnal Knowledge (71, Mike Nichols)

Chan is Missing (82, Wayne Wang)

Clan of the Cave Bear (86, Michael Chapman)

Cobra (86, George Pan Cosmatos) (Art: John Alvin)

Contempt (63, Jean-Luc Godard) (1996 re-release, with artwork based on the original French work)

Cool Hand Luke (67, Stuart Rosenberg) (Design: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts; Bill Gold)

Daniel (83, Sidney Lumet)

The Dark Knight (2008, Christopher Nolan) (pre-release) 

Dawn of the Dead (78, George Romero)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (51, Robert Wise)  

Deep End (71, Jerzy Skolimowski)

Do The Right Thing (89, Spike Lee) (Design: 11:24 Design Advertising)

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (68, Freddie Francis) (Design: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts)

Drugstore Cowboy (89, Gus Van Sant) (Photography: Bruce Weber)

Ed Wood (94, Tim Burton) (Tagline: "Movies were his passion. Women were his inspiration. Angora sweaters were his weakness.")

8 1/2 (63, Federico Fellini)

Electra Glide in Blue (72, James William Guercio)

The Elephant Man (80, David Lynch) 

Elvis on Tour (72, Robert Abel and Pierre Adlidge)

Emmanuelle (74, Just Jaeckin)

Escape from Alcatraz (79, Don Siegel) (Art: Birney Lettick) (Tagline: "No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz...and no one ever will.")

Exodus (60, Otto Preminger) (Art: Saul Bass)

Fargo (96, Joel and Ethan Coen) (Design: Creative Partnership/Optic Nerve)

The Fastest Guitar Alive (67, Michael D. Moore)

Faust (26, F.W. Murnau) 

Five Easy Pieces (71, Bob Rafelson)

(500) Days of Summer (2009, Mark Webb) (Design: P+A/Mojo) (Tagline: "This is not a love story.  This is a story about love.")

Flesh Gordon (74, Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005, Judd Apatow) (Design: Crew Creative Advertising) (Tagline: "Better late than never.")

Fresh Horses (88, David Anspaugh)

Funny Games (2007, Michael Haneke) (Tagline: "You must admit. You brought this on yourself.")

Gilda (46, Charles Vidor)

 The Girlfriend Experience (2009, Steven Soderburgh) (Tagline: "See it with someone you ****")

Goldfinger (64, Guy Hamilton)

The Gold Rush (25, Charlie Chaplin)  

Gone With The Wind (39, Victor Fleming) (1950 re-release)

Goodbye Columbus (69, Larry Peerce) (Tagline: "Every father's daughter is a virgin")

Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuaron) (Tag line: "Don't let go.")

The Grey Fox (82, Philip Borsos)

Grindhouse (2007, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez et al.) (Pre-release poster) (Design: Troublemaker Studios/BLT Communications)

The Groove Tube (74, Ken Shapiro) 

Halloween (78, John Carpenter) (Art: Bob Gleason)

Happiness (98, Todd Solondz) (Art: Daniel Clowes) 

Harper (66, Jack Smight) (Design: Warner Bros./Seven Arts)

Hollywood Ending (2002, Woody Allen) (Design: Concept Arts)

Hostel Part II (2007, Eli Roth) (Pre-release poster) (Art: Art Machine)

Husbands (70, John Cassevetes)

I Am Curious (Blue) (68, Vilgot Sjoman)

Imagine: John Lennon (88, Andrew Solt) (Art: John Lennon)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (84, Steven Spielberg) (Art: Bruce Wolfe) (Tagline: "If adventure has a must be Indiana Jones.")

Isaac Hayes: The Black Moses of Soul (73, Chuck Johnson)

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (63, Stanley Kramer) (1960s re-release) (Art: Jack Davis) 

Jane Eyre (2011, Cary Fukunaga)

The Killer Shrews (59, Ray Kellogg)

Kurt and Courtney (98, Nick Broomfield)

The Lady and the Monster (44, George Sherman)

The Last Picture Show (71, Peter Bogdanovich)

Let's Get Lost (88, Bruce Weber) (Photography/design: Bruce Weber)

Let's Scare Jessica to Death (71, John Hancock)

A Little Romance (79, George Roy Hill)

Lolita (62, Stanley Kubrick) 

Lord of War (2005, Andrew Niccol) (Design: Art Machine)

Magnum Force (73, Ted Post)

The Man from Planet X (51, Edward G. Ulmer)

Manhattan (79, Woody Allen) 

Marjoe (70, Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith)

The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson) 

Mean Streets (73, Martin Scorsese)

The Miracle Worker (62, Arthur Penn)

Mr. No Legs (79, Ricou Browning) The Plan 9 of Outer Space of movie posters.

Mondo Mod (67, Peter Perry Jr.) 

Monterey Pop (69, D.A. Pennebaker)

Moon (2009, Duncan Jones) (Design: Cardinal Communications) (Tagline: "950,000 miles from home, the hardest thing to yourself.")

Moscow on the Hudson (84, Paul Mazursky) (inspired by Saul Steinberg's New Yorker cover)

The Mosquito Coast (86, Peter Weir) (Art: John Alvin) (Tagline: "How far should a man go to find his dream. Allie Fox went to the Mosquito Coast. He went too far.")

My Left Foot (89, Jim Sheridan) (Art: Donald Smolen)

Nashville (75, Robert Altman) (Design: Diener-Hauser)

Nosferatu The Vampyre (79, Werner Herzog) (Art: David Palladini)

Oldboy (2003, Chan-wook Park) (Design: Concept Arts)

Once Upon A Time In The West (69, Sergio Leone)

The Paperboy (2012, Lee Daniels) (Design: and company)

Paper Moon (73, Peter Bogdanovich) (Tagline: "As P.T. Barnum put it, 'There's a sucker born every minute.'")

Papillon (73, Franklin J. Schaffner) (1977 re-release)

The Prince and The Showgirl (58, Lawrence Olivier) (Tagline: "Some countries have a medal for everything.")

Pulp Fiction (94, Quentin Tarantino) (pre-release poster) (Design: Indika/Tarhan)

Q (82, Larry Cohen) (Art: Boris Vallejo) (Tagline: "It's name is Quetzacoatl...just call it Q...that's all you'll have time to say before it tears you apart.")

Raiders of the Lost Ark (81, Steven Spielberg) (Art: Richard Amsel)

The Raven (63, Roger Corman)

Rebel Without a Cause (55, Nicholas Ray)

Requiem for a Dream (2000, Darren Aronofsky) 

The Rocketeer (91, Joe Johnston) (Pre-release poster)

Romance (99, Catherine Breillat)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) (Design: BLT Communications) (Tagline: "Family isn't a's a sentence.")

Safe (95, Todd Haynes)

Salesman (68, Albert and David Maysles) 

Scream and Scream Again (70, Gordon Hessler)

Shame (2011, Steve McQueen)

Shampoo (75, Hal Ashby) 

The Shining (80, Stanley Kubrick) (Art: Saul Bass)

The Silence of the Lambs (91, Jonathan Demme) (Design: BLT Communications)

The Social Network (2010, David Fincher) (Design: Kellerhouse; photography: Frank Ockenfiels)

Star Wars (77, George Lucas) (Art: Tom Jung) (Tagline: " A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...")

The Sterile Cuckoo (69, Alan J. Pakula) (Tagline: "I'm 19. I want to be loved. Hurt me! -- Pookie Adams")

The Sting (73, George Roy Hill) (Art: Richard Amsel) (Tagline: "...all it takes is a little Confidence")

Straw Dogs (71, Sam Peckinpah) 

The Stunt Man (80, Richard Rush) (Design: BD Fox Independent)

Stranger Than Paradise (84, Jim Jaramuch)

Sullivan's Travels (41, Preston Sturges) 

Superman (78, Richard Donner) (Art: Bob Peak) (Tagline: "You'll believe a man can fly.")

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (74, Joseph Sargent) (Art: Mort Kuntsler)

Targets (68, Peter Bogdanovich)

Teenage Mother (67, Jerry Gross)

The Terminator (84, James Cameron)

Thief (81, Michael Mann) (Tagline: "Tonight, his take-home pay is $410,")

Three Colors: Red (94, Krzysztof Kieslowski) 

Thunderball (65, Terence Young) (Art: Frank McCarthy)

THX-1138 (71, George Lucas) (1999 re-release) (Design: BD Fox Independent)

The Train (64, John Frankenheimer) (Art: Frank McCarthy)

The Truman Show (98, Peter Weir) (pre-release) (Design: Faction Creative)

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (88, Francis Ford Coppola)

Under Fire (83, Roger Spottiswoode) (Art: Drew Struzan) (Tagline: "The first casualty of war if the truth.")

Unforgiven (92, Clint Eastwood)

Up Tight (68, Jules Dassin)

Vanishing Point (71, Richard C. Sarafian) 

Vertigo (58, Alfred Hitchcock) (Art: Saul Bass)

Videodrome (83, David Cronenberg)

The Virgin Suicides (99, Sofia Coppola)

Vixen (68, Russ Meyer) 

W. (2008, Oliver Stone) (pre-release)

Wait Until Dark (67, Terrence Young) (Design: Warner Bros./Seven Arts)

Walk The Line (2005, James Mangold) (pre-release) (Design: Studio Number One)

The Wallflower (22, Rupert Hughes) 

The Warriors (79, Walter Hill) (Art: Jarvis)

West Side Story (61, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins) (Art: Joe Caroff)

Westworld (73, Michael Crichton) (Art: Neal Adams) (Tagline: "...where nothing can possibly go worng...")

Where Eagles Dare (68, Brian G. Hutton) (Art: Frank McCarthy)

Where the Sidewalk Ends (50, Otto Preminger)

Woodstock (70, Michael Wadleigh)

Young Frankenstein (74, Mel Brooks) (Art: John Alvin)

You Only Live Twice (67, Lewis Gilbert) (Art: Frank McCarthy)

Z (69, Costa-Gavras)

...And there it is...did I miss any titles? Be sure and let me know...