20. Romeo is Bleeding (1993)
Well, if you are going to use Comic Sans, at least make sure to do it in the appropriate moment. The poster for Romeo is Bleeding is as original as the film itself, especially noteworthy given the period of its release — 1993 — when film poster design was possibly at its most banal. The designer gets a ton of mileage out of some pretty crummy stills, and does a good job of carrying through with the comic book concept. When you think of this film, what comes to mind first? It’s Lena and that chair, isn’t it?
19. Sin City (2005)
The poster for Sin City uses an optical trick I wish a few more young designers would take a moment to learn: By placing the figures on a tilted axis, the designer is able to obscure the fact that they are not collaged together very well. Covering up a mediocre photo-montage with diagonals makes for a decent band-aid, but jazzing up already-good imagery in a more dynamic composition is an ace up your sleeve. Regardless, the juxtaposition of type an image, and the strength of the type itself is what earns this a place in the countdown — it’s one of the few newer films to make the cut. Comic Sans, again?!?
18. The Big Sleep (1978)
Richard Amsel strikes again! Here he does Robert Mitchum justice in this striking illustration for the 1977 remake of the classic ’46 Bogart film The Big Sleep. Once again we see our hero pointing a smoking gun at the camera (let’s not forget to add those up at the end) while the duplicitous Candy Clark hangs on for dear life. The detail here is spectacular, and extends to the carved doorknocker in the upper corner and wonderful hand lettering. All of the photo-lettering on this poster is obtrusive and ugly, particularly the UA logo at the bottom. Yet there’s a tongue in cheek quality to the tagline at the top that I practically find offensive: it turns the hardboiled language of 30s pulp into campy jargon, and makes something of a mockery of the film it’s trying so hard to sell.
17. Death Wish (1974)
Not much to say about this one — a simple high contrast duotone sets the proper mood for the film, and recalls the glory days of film noir’s black and white past. The photography here represents a fine contemporary refresh of those classic noir themes: the alienated protagonist against a gritty, nighttime urban backdrop (dig that NYC graffiti), alone yet prepared for danger. A simple, powerful, and striking poster — by far the best depiction of Bronson on a film poster.
16. Atlantic City (1980)
This is pure graphic design heaven. Look at that type! That’s drawn folks, no computers involved. Stunning typography (if anyone knows who did this, please leave a comment!) evokes not just the title town, but also the endless neon landscape of hundreds of mid-century crime pictures. The designer even managed to sneak in a roller coaster! Throw in an image of one of noir’s greatest actors — Burt Lancaster — along with a girl and a gun and you’ve got a magnificent poster. The Helvetica tagline at the top of the design is far too prominent for my taste, but this remains one of the very best neo noir posters out there.
See you next time for the final post!