This post was written by Garry Arnot

10 Best Oscar Picture Posters


In the wake of the 86th Annual Academy Awards which took place on Sunday night, we take a trip down memory lane to bring you ten of the most recognisable film posters of the winners of the coveted Best Picture award.

1.       The Artist (2011)

The Artist

A classic look was chosen for Michel Hazanavicius’ charming homage to silent cinema, ‘The Artist’. The poster reflects the film’s celebration of the history of cinema and the transition to the ‘Talkies’. The black, white and red minimalistic approach has proven to be successful in the past, with similar interpretations of this design format used for other hits such as ‘The Godfather’ ‘Scarface’ & ‘The Hunt for Red October’.

2.       Slumdog Millionaire (2008)


A significantly busier palette was used in the poster for Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.  Although it is much more unusual, this style definitely catches the eye of the viewer. Boyle opted for an equally frenetic design for his 2013 film ‘Trance’. Normally such a variety of fonts, font sizes and colours typify a graphic designer’s nightmare but when used correctly can work  as effectively as posters which keep within more traditional design rules.

3.       American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty

This visual for Sam Mendes’ drama ‘American Beauty’ disregards the design rulebook completely, opting to employ a tight zoom of a still from the film as the background. By relating the poster so closely to a key scene in the film, the designer forms a direct connection between the poster and the movie. The red rose is used to represent the ‘femme fatale’ aspect of the story, evoking connotations of romance, danger and lust as the film’s protagonist is bewitched by his daughter’s best friend.

4.       The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Silence of the Lambs

This haunting image was the perfect choice to promote the cannibalistic thriller, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. Closer inspection reveals that the skull on the head of the butterfly is actually made up of human figures and is taken from Salvador Dali’s painting ‘In Voluptas Mors’. The seven female bodies are said to represent Hannibal Lector’s victims. The wide eyed stare of the female figure has been integral to the design of several horror film posters such as ‘Scream’.

5.       Platoon (1986)


Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war film ‘Platoon’ takes the image of an upturned soldier’s helmet and puts it in the forefront of the poster. Note the ace of spades playing card sticking out of the helmet’s chin strap, a well-known and ominous symbol of doom, death and destruction. The black silhouettes at the top of the poster signify the nameless men in this and every other war who have fought for their country; each is faceless and anonymous. The central image of the soldier’s helmet is used again in Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’ in 1987, which also takes place during the Vietnam War.

6.       Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall

Woody Allen’s romantic comedy ‘Annie Hall’ takes a simple approach to design, using a vertical linear layout which involves a still image set alongside the main cast list displayed in a block capitals. The film takes place in Allen’s beloved New York City as so many of his early features did.  Allen’s deliberate glamorisation of the city was largely due to the skills of his cinematographer George Willis, who was a frequent collaborator of his. Two years later, they worked together again on another of Allen’s love letters to the Big Apple, which not only boasted had a black & white poster but was also filmed in black & white… for stylistic reasons of course.

7.       The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather

Another popular black and white poster is that of Italian American gangster epic, ‘The Godfather’, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The puppet master logo symbolises the character played by actor Marlon Brando, mafia boss character Don Vito Corleone and his power to manipulate the lives of all those around him. This logo is instantly identifiable to fans of cinema around the world. Other versions of the poster include a small red rose in the character’s pocket.

8.       Kramer vs. Kramer (1976)

Kramer vs Kramer

A bold juxtaposition is used in the artwork for Robert Benton’s family drama ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’, starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. The bold, quasi-legal format of the text suggests the conflict which takes place throughout the film as the couple struggle through a divorce but the informality of the Polaroid portrait which overlaps the lettering appears to challenges this interpretation. This visual device echoes the complexities of the film’s narrative.

9.       Oliver (1968)


In contrast to some of the more recent almost minimalist poster designs, film poster design appears to have been a little more adventurous the further back we go in cinema’s history. The image used to coincide with the release of ‘Oliver’ is more of an eventful, illustrative narrative and is peppered with vivid detail and primary colours. The text lacks an organised structure and despite its use of a pale background colour, there isn’t a lot of ‘white space’ in evidence.

10.       The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

The Greatest Show on Earth

The 1950’s provides the last example in our list, namely ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.  On the left we revisit the ever-popular red, white and black colour combination but in this example it is used to enhance the theatrical spectacle rather than the dramatic effect. Dulled down, pastel-like shades were used more commonly throughout this period in cinematic poster design history and although there is a lot of colour on show in this poster, there is a sense of balance achieved by the way the different fonts are used throughout the design. There is evidence that inspiration was taken from some early cinematic works in this poster; the still images of the main cast and the name of the film’s producer above the title for example.

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