There is no such thing as a bad movie poster. Or, for that matter, a good one. There’s a lot we can disagree on when it comes to film one sheets, but almost every publicist, designer, archivist and filmmaker can agree on this: poster-making is an art that’s unable to be defined by the binaries of “good” and “bad”. Here are some more useful words: emotional, beautiful, memorable, confusing, unusual, mold-breaking, tempting, effective. Much like the films they advertise, posters carry a different impact depending on who they’re designed for.
We know this: a lot of film lovers have a deep connection to their collectibles. You might be familiar with one obsessive film nut who’s been collecting his favorites since the 1970s. “The posters promise something. They really do. A special dream.” These are the words of Martin Scorsese in Richard Schickel’s Conversations with Scorsese, offering possibly the most heartfelt explanation as to why we have grown to care about these sheets of paper as much as we do. “You can’t possess the film because you didn’t make the film, and you can’t possess the moment that the film was projected,” says Scorsese. “It’s like chasing a phantom.”
And so the poster is the material manifestation of these phantoms: a memento of the cinematic experience; a token that lasts beyond the rental expiry. Film posters are, to an extent, immortal. They exist in my favorite category of things: that rare type of object that, once owned, will outlive us. Alongside cookbooks, novels and little wooden mementos, they won’t run out, pass their use-by date, or disappear into dust (until they return to the earth, literally speaking).