Movie Grievances: Bad Film Posters

Along with trailers, film posters are one of the biggest tools a PR agency has to promote a new film. A good film poster can get your mind racing and get the blood pumping as you eagerly anticipate the film’s release. Posters are some of the first interactions people have with a film and can instantly determine their excitement levels towards it. So why, oh why, do they often end up looking like they were made by a blind kindergarten child? There are some incredibly talented graphic designers and Photoshoppers out there whose talents are clearly going to waste whilst idiot with clearly no interest in movies knocks something together on MS Paint.

And it’s bad enough that someone has actually created such monstrosities, but someone at the film’s PR agency, whose job it is to advertise the film and make people actually want to watch it, will have signed it off. Surely a quick quality control check by anyone with eyes would be enough to set the sirens off and ensure whoever vomited up these pieces of crap are never allowed near a stock photo of Jessica Biel or Katherine Heigl again.

Here I have highlighted some of the reasons why bad movie posters annoy me so much…

The Bad Photoshop

The PenthouseBy far the most ubiquitous amongst awful movie posters, the bad Photoshop is also the most obvious of fuck ups. Often found on posters of generic romantic comedies, it requires only rudimentary Photoshop skills to cut actors from stock photos and position next to other actors obviously cut from a separate stock photo. There may also be face transplants, limb extension/reduction, mismatched lines of sight, and various other reality puncturing mistakes. What gets me about these is that I don’t understand why it’s so hard to just take a photo of the actors together at the same time. Sure, that’s not always easy, especially if the poster is coming out way ahead of the film, but it should be in their contract that they should be available for such purposes.

Just look at the adjacent poster for The Penthouse. Look at it good and hard. In fact, you don’t have to look at it good and hard; it’s so blatantly abhorrent it verges on offensive. Are we seriously meant to believe that all of those people are in the same bed at the same time? I’d also wager that none of those actors’ faces actually belong to their bodies. It raises so many questions. Why does Rider Strong only have half a chest? Where are Kayley Cuoco’s legs ( I think that’s here in the middle), just where is she gazing, and why is she trying to crush Mya? I can only imagine the unimpressed look on Corey Large’s face is because he was privvy to an early mock up of this poster.

This is but one of hundreds, if not thousands, of badly Photoshopped film posters. I know some films have small budgets but there are some talented artists, graphic designers, Photoshoppers out there. it can’t be that difficult to find one.

See also: The Accidental Husband, The Bounty Hunter, The Whole Ten Yards

The Deliberately Misleading

My GirlI doubt there are many people who would base their decision whether to see a film or not solely on a poster, and judging by some posters that’s probably a good thing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a film’s poster is supposed to give some sort of idea as to the tone of the film. Disney always have jolly and colourful posters, whilst horror films usually have dark and foreboding ones. Not exactly rocket science. So why make a poster that can only be described as intentionally misleading? The one that jumps out at me more than any other in this respect is My Girl.

What a heartwarming and delightful film My Girl must be based on that poster. Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky look like they’re having a blast enjoying the best days of their life. That is until Macaulay Culkin GETS KILLED BY A HUGE SWARM OF BEES!ย Yep, stung to death. Of course, there are nicey nice issues going on as well but nothing can mask the fact that a child (and a child who was universally loved at the time thanks to Home Alone) had been offed by a load of bees. Good luck with your traumatised children.

See also: Seven Psychopaths (the one where they list people as psychopaths who aren’t the psychopaths in the film), My Sister’s Keeper, Kramer vs Kramer

The Disconcertingly Vague

This is kind of a sub-section the misleading poster in that it offers no clue whatsoever as to what the film is actually about. These are perhaps the laziest of all posters as they take no creative thought; at least badly Photoshopped posters are a dearth of skill rather than imagination. You can glean little to no information from these posters, and they’re often only used to shove down your throat the fact that a Hollywood star has a new film out – it doesn’t matter what the film is about; all that matters is that it exists and you should tip your wallet over the nearest box office cashier so you can watch it.

Now that’s not to say that the films these posters are advertising are bad, because a lot of them aren’t. A lot of them are pretty good; it’s just the poster that’s terrible. Take Jerry Maguire over there – perfectly good film but apparently the only thing we need to know about it is that Tom Cruise is in it. And maybe the fact he wears a shirt and tie. Other than that, this could be a film about drug addiction, a rogue CIA agent or Tom Cruise might end up being killed by a swarm of bees.

It should also be noted that teaser posters are not included here. Teaser posters are supposed to be vague and are therefore exempt from this rant. They can still be rubbish though.

See also: Vanilla Sky, Hitch, Funny People

The Mismatched Names

Morning GloryThis is probably the least obvious and more sporadically occurring of bad movie posters but it is one that has always annoyed me. So, to clarify, this is where you have two or more actors on the posters, usually lined up, and the names at the top listing who’s in the film do not match up with the pictures underneath. So you could have Brad Pitt’s name above Julia Roberts’ face. Now I know this is down to contract stuff and the names aren’t necessarily there to indicate who the actor below is, etc, etc, but it still looks weird. On some posters it’s not all that obvious but for some it sticks out a mile and someone really should have flagged it up. If it’s not possible to do the simple thing and switch the names around due to whatever reason, then surely it’s not too difficult to edit the photo and move some people around so everything matches up. Maybe this is me just being a little obsessive compulsive but, again, it just smacks of laziness.

This poster for Morning Glory is a perfect example. The names are so close to the actors’ heads that it’s almost impossible to notice they don’t match, and once you’ve noticed it, it becomes more and more obvious. They’ve managed to get Diane Keaton right; that’s definitely Diane Keaton, but Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams are almost certainly wrong. When there’s little else happening in the poster other than having the three of them standing there (this could also be a vague poster, in fact), the whole thing is amplified even more.

See also: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Network, Sherlock Holmes

So there we have it – some example of how bad film posters annoy me. Are there any that particularly do your head in for whatever reason? Leave a comment and let me know.

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61 thoughts on “Movie Grievances: Bad Film Posters

  1. Hunter says:

    Ha ha! I don’t really have any complaints about posters in general, but that was a very entertaining read. It does suck when they switch around the names like that. Are they trying to be clever or something? Cuz it doesn’t work. I never really thought about it before but it’s definitely annoying.

    • I just think that posters can be so good that it’s annoying when some get it really wrong. The whole switching names thing isn’t them getting it wring as such, it just looks odd. You’ll notice it all the time now ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. todayiwatchedamovie says:

    The last one comes down to first-billing combined with making the poster balanced. Rachel McAdams is the main character, so it makes sense for her to be in the middle of that particular layout.

  3. keith7198 says:

    Fun post my friend. I’ll be perfectly honest, movie posters never affect me one way or another. In fact, I rarely even remember them after first seeing them. Now if one is really amazing it may catch my attention, but even those are soon forgotten. I don’t know what it is, they just don’t do much for me.

  4. ckckred says:

    Nice post. I’d also put the Drive poster in the ones that are obviously photoshopped. I loved the movie but that poster is just bad. From what you’ve said about My Girl, that sounds pretty disturbing. I haven’t seen it, but the poster makes it look like a comedy.

    • Haha exactly! It looks like a nice light hearted family film (which it is for some of it) and then all that happens! Yeah that Drive poster is pretty heavily photoshopped, there are some very cool Drive posters though.

  5. Smash says:

    The mismatched names drive me crazy too. I’m sure it’s contributing factor for forgettable actors and actresses staying forgettable.

  6. Mark Walker says:

    Great post Chris. Some posters are abysmal sometimes and theres really no need for it. The mismatched names has to be the most annoying, though. I mean, how hard is that to get right.?

  7. ruth says:

    Nice post Chris!! I upvoted it in Reddit btw ๐Ÿ˜€ There are tons of terrible movie posters out there, in fact a bunch of fan-made ones are much better these days.

    Ahah, the mismatch names are one of my grievances too, I mean usually I know who they are but some people might not! To me though, bad design certainly is the biggest grievance for me, like this one as a shining example:

    • Thanks Ruth and thanks for upvoting, I’m having my best ever day in terms of views thanks to Reddit! I totally agree about bad design, that X-Men poster is just terrible. For such a major film, you’d have thought they’d have some better designers!

      • ruth says:

        Glad to hear! Yeah, my QT post yesterday got some good views too. It’s amazing how bad those were, I thought it was fake at first.

  8. Photoshop!!! Damn you ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. dbmoviesblog says:

    What a great post. I keep wondering about movie posters these days. Last year’s artistic experimentation with ‘The Master’ got my head spinning, and I could not help thinking – are they in some kind of trouble? I did enjoy the posters though. I don’t think that ‘Jerry Maguire’ poster is that bad. Yes, it says little, but I think it works and on numerous levels- at least we can say that its about a man striving for success, or already has it, etc.

    • Thanks very much! The Master had some really cool posters I thought. With the Jerry Maguire one, I think you can only really glean anything from it if you’ve actually seen the film. To be honest, the Vanilla Sky one (Tom Cruise again) is probably worse.

      • dbmoviesblog says:

        I think ‘Vanilla’s Sky’s main marketing problem is its title. Well, at that time it was safe to say that Tom Cruise ALONE would sell the film (although they had some misses, e.g. ‘Days of Thunder’ (his face alone didn’t sell), and if that works, who’s there to complain. I mean there are many posters out there that just show a head shot of a star, and are considered to be pretty good, but they are often accompanied by self-explanatory titles. It depends I guess. I mean isn’t it the case with ‘Born on the Forth of July’ and ‘Dances with Wolves’ posters?’

      • No you’re dead right, those are all good examples of pretty much just using someone’s face for the poster and to sell a film. I just think it’s pretty lazy but I can understand why they do it, and it’s probably written into the star’s contract or something as well. They can work but I think the majority of them are just lazy and praying on the average movie-goer who will lap anything up if they see a certain actor’s face. Maybe I’m going a bit deep with this over a simple poster ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. sati says:

    Oh, awesome post. I so agree about mismatch names – sometimes the poster can have amazing design but when the names are in wrong oder it ruins it. Surely it’s not this hard to mirror the image so that the names would fit faces. Your point about My Girl and the bees is so true – that was one of the most devastating movies of my childhood.

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ It really can ruin a great poster if the names are mismatched. I’m sure not everyone is bothered by it and there’s likely all sorts of reasons behind it, but they must be able to see how stupid it looks! As for My Girl, you have proved my point perfectly ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. CMrok93 says:

    Wow, Harrison Ford got really hot and attractive all of a sudden. Botox, maybe? Lol. Great post!

  12. Garrett says:

    Lol! Awesome post! I’ve always been annoyed by the Jerry Maguire one, even though I like the movie. The mismatched names bugs me too.

  13. 70srichard says:

    Giant Floating Heads drive me a little crazy. Olympus Has Fallen and The Place Beyond the Pines are two current examples. I want an image to tell me a story and give me a reason to see the movie. 42 with the vertical slide is so much more interesting than the three sheet with the slide horizontal.

  14. Tyson Carter says:

    Nicely done buddy ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Popcorn Nights says:

    Enjoyed this. In your Midnight In Paris post below there’s a prime example of a good poster for me (or at least a really good idea behind a poster). I’d never really noticed the whole thing with the wrong names appearing above people, but I am definitely going to look out for it now. Nice article Chris!

  16. r361n4 says:

    Lol, as a business student I’m constantly annoyed by people using colored fonts in Powerpoint presentations that are illegible against the background, and that seems to be the case with half of these. Great segment ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Great post! Bad posters can be incredibly annoying!

  18. Great post on posters, Chris. ๐Ÿ˜€

    What bugs me is when unrelated movies start using the same motifs. You know — “This movie was really successful last year, so let’s make our poster look similar to theirs”. It tends to go in stages with certain motifs being popular all at once, but it’s almost always present in some form.

    Also, I don’t like a bunch of headshots all together, the “split profile” (Space Jam) is overdone, and I’m tired of seeing action movie posters that are all in shades of orange and blue. Yeah, I get it, orange and blue are contrasting colors that draw the eye. It’s a lesson I’ve learned doing amateur art; it’s effective. But it’s also supposed to be subtle. If I can’t detect the full spectrum, it’s a sure sign somebody read a “tip sheet” somewhere and never learned the reason why these things are done.

    • Thanks Morgan! There are so many formulaic posters that someone has just used a bunch of generic techniques in the hope it stands out. I remember seeing a post somewhere about the same techniques being used over and over again and I think Disney are quite bad for doing that, such as a bunch of characters running towards the screen. The floating heads thing is pretty crappy as well though, it’s been done to death.

  19. Alex Withrow says:

    Oh I love this list, and couldnโ€™t agree more with it.

    Of the ones you pointed out, The Mismatched Names has got to be the most annoying to me. Iโ€™ve never understood that. As a graphic designer, Iโ€™d never be able to actually send a poster like that off and think, โ€œYepโ€ฆ looks good.โ€

    Also, โ€œI doubt there are many people who would base their decision whether to see a film or not solely on a posterโ€ฆโ€ I worked at a movie theater all through high school, and, sadly, there are many people who do this. Shocking, really.

    • Really? Well I stand very much corrected on that one! That is quite shocking, especially as so many posters are awful. It must annoy you even more being a graphic designer, I just don’t know how some of these posters get through quality control, if there is any! Cheers Alex!

  20. Dan says:

    Terrific article! I hate bad Photoshop on posters and that Penthouse one is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. One thing I hate is when they make skin tones look so damn artificial you wonder if you’re going to watch a live action or CGI film.

    • Thanks Dan! That Penthouse poster is truly awful, I’m not sure how anyone ever thought it was OK. The skin tones thing is definitely annoying, and the Sex & the City 2 poster is a perfect example of that, where it’s just been airbrushed and Photoshopped to within an inch of its life.

  21. thedavidryan says:

    Great blog! I hate when they don’t match the names up, especially when an actor has a name which could be used for either a man or woman.

    Give my love to Kyle.

  22. Good topic Terry… while I can’t think of a poster that annoys me more than any other at this time I do have another thought. I find it amazing that so many great alternative posters are created for films that far eclipse what the studio releases. I have recently started using these superior posters with my quick reviews.

  23. Good topic to discuss. I remember not liking the posters for The King Speech. Also, Nine had some pretty awful posters haha.

  24. Mark Hobin says:

    I love talking about movie posters (good one and bad ones) so great topic!

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