A Comparative Design Look at Remakes of Movie Posters

Dec 6 2009 by Callum Chapman | 33 Comments

Movie posters have been around for longer than most of us have lived – thus, studying them can give us insights on how design has progressed throughout recent history. They were the main way of advertising film 70 years ago, and although we now have television commercials and the internet, posters are still one of the best forms of advertisement. In this collection, we will look at how poster design has developed over the years, looking at films that have been remade.

A Comparative Design Look at Remakes of Movie Posters

Scarface

1932

The original Scarface movie uses some good design techniques such as the silhouette-style shadow and some mid-saturated colors.

Scarface

1983

The typography of the 1983 Scarface remake is elegant and easy to read.

Scarface

The Mummy

1932

The composition of the original The Mummy movie is great, but it has three-dimensional text that is directly above the 3D text, which seems a bit odd.

The Mummy

1999

The remade movie poster uses superb digital manipulation as well as a great text effect used for the ‘M’ in Mummy. The color schemes for the poster are perfect, reflecting mummies and the desert, a central theme in the movie.

The Mummy

House of Wax

1953

The hand-painted poster combined with neat typography represents the 3D image really well. The warm and dark color scheme sets the theme for this Technicolor film.

House of Wax

2005

The use of subtle grunge at the top of the post draws your eyes into the incredible manipulation effects used on the portrait. Beneath the movie title, you’ll see a blurred reflection that can really play with your eyes – fitting for a horror movie.

House of Wax

War of the Worlds

1953

This movie poster is simple and colorful and has some great artwork.

When A Stranger Calls

2005

The typography used on this poster is elegant and simple, but it works well for this movie’s theme. The bright red on pure black works great as an eye-grabbing color combination.

When A Stranger Calls

Sabrina

1954

An off-white border, a simple and elegant grid-based composition is the highlight of this poster (and movie).

Sabrina

1995

The 90′s probably spurred some of the worst design trends as shown in this poster design. The composition is poor and none of the text in the bottom right can easily be read.

Sabrina

Ladykillers

1955

This hand-drawn poster presents us with a group of rather scary-looking men running away with what look likes heavy-duty steel cases filled with multi-colored cash. It’s a comical and traditional hand-drawn poster (when Illustrator wasn’t in the market yet).

Ladykillers

2004

The low-opacity street scene and lights in the background adds a great feel to the overall poster, and the shadows from the four guys in the background adds depth to the poster. The majority of it is grayscale, followed by neutral browns and beiges, and followed by a great burst of what’s best described as "vintage pink", bringing your eyes towards the movie title.

Oceans 11

1960

This poster uses a grid-based layout, a popular technique in the 60′s to convey modernity. The silhouette, vector-style illustration at the bottom of the poster is a great touch. The typography is superb, standing out well against the warm yellow background.

Oceans 11

2001

The vector/silhouette style illustration used in the poster is so different to almost any other movie poster made in this millennium, that even today, people still have it hanging on their college bedroom walls. Have you noticed how it doesn’t actually say "Oceans 11" anywhere?

Oceans 11

Spartacus

1960

As individual design elements, this poster has some great artwork, such as the drawings, the unique movie title text effect and the duotoned photographs, but the overall composition lacks "oomph".

Spartacus

2004

After 44 years, Spartacus was remade. The costume and photography is excellent; the sepia-toned color sets the movie’s time period.

Spartacus

The Time Machine

1960

This poster design is presented on a grid and has the classic white border. The typography in this poster (especially the headline) is superb and truly unique for this time period.

The Time Machine

2002

The color scheme of the remake seems off, and in some places, appears to be too bright. There are also some parts of the posters that are too busy.

The Time Machine

Last Man on Earth / Omega Man / I Am Legend

1964

"The Last Man on Earth" is the original story of what we now know as "I Am Legend". The poster is a typical 60′s horror movie poster. The designers used a lovely grid-based composition and a very limited dark color scheme.

Last Man on Earth / Omega Man / I Am Legend

1971

Seven years later, and the film was remade under the name "Omega Man". They were still using similar techniques to produce posters, and therefore this poster isn’t too different from the original. The color scheme is still very limited to dark colors, which is great for this genre of film.

Last Man on Earth / Omega Man / I Am Legend

2007

The grungy, noisy and tinted feel to the "I am Legend" poster overall is great. The modeling work in the background of the scene is superb, and the small centered typography going directly through the middle of the poster adds a great touch to the poster, making it incredibly unique.

Last Man on Earth / Omega Man / I Am Legend

Planet of the Apes

1968

This great poster from the late 60′s perfectly combines the use of a bright and captivating background color gradient against black/white. The warm feel of the poster along with the black and white portrait creates a memorable design. The films logo was such as a success that it has only seen a few minor tweaks in 40 years.

Planet of the Apes

2001

2001 brought us the modern remake of the film, featuring manipulations and montages of several scenes and photographs. The moons in the background tops off the overall feel of the poster. Notice that the movie title logo is still very similar to the original.

Planet of the Apes

The Italian Job

1969

The artwork in this poster is superb contained in a lovely off-white border. White typography lies on a pure black background at the bottom of the poster, making it easy to spot and read. This poster suggests the kind of film it is: business, violence, jokes and getaways.

The Italian Job

2003

This poster goes for a cast shot and features some great photography, photo manipulation and type alignment.

The Italian Job

Wickerman

1973

This movie poster features a bright color scheme. The typography is simple but does its job well.

Wickerman

2006

The composition of this poster is great, however,the movie slogan "Be careful what you search for…" is difficult to read against the cloud background even with a prominent dropshadow text effect.

Wickerman

Rollerball

1975

The Rollerball poster has smooth glows, dark shadows, some well-placed blurs and an overall aged/worn effect.

Rollerball

2002

This poster design of the Rollerball remake in 2002 doesn’t do the actual film any justice. There are proportion inaccuracies with the characters versus the background, making it clearly obvious that the shot was taken in front of a green screen; the proportion and angle of the floor and their feet just doesn’t match up.

Rollerball

The Omen

1976

Other than the excellent sketch, you can’t get much more simplistic than this poster! The typography is simple yet elegant, easy to read, and the use of red for the movie’s title is a great way to make it unique, memorable and slightly scary.

The Omen

2006

The typography ruins the poster of The Omen remake, but the color theme used effectively sets up the eerieness of the movie’s plot.

The Omen

The Hills Have Eyes

1977

Good typography, a lovely border, and a great scene in the background are the highlights of this poster design. The overall color scheme would have easily attracted people walking past the poster.

The Hills Have Eyes

2006

The blurs, noise and texture combined makes for an excellent poster; this poster design is probably something you can’t miss from a mile away.

The Hills Have Eyes

When A Stranger Calls

1979

The poster is purely grayscale and used a magnificent macro still shot and some incredible typography.

When A Stranger Calls

2006

The movie remake’s poster stuck with the original design concept. The design uses a lot of dead space, leaving you in suspense as to what the movie is about.

When A Stranger Calls

Prom Night

1980

That dark silhouette, the glowing eyes, the reflection on the knife, the detail of the glove and the magnificent minimalistic typography on a white background makes for an eye-grabbing design.

Prom Night

2008

The ‘smashed up’ feel of the poster, the subtle grunge feel to the otherwise clean, elegant text and the overall tinted-blue effect all help set the mood of the movie. The noise on that portrait is a brilliant detail.

Prom Night

My Bloody Valentine / My Bloody Valentine 3D

1981

This dark-themed poster of My Bloody Valentine creates an eerie look and feel that sets the tone for the movie.

My Bloody Valentine

2008

This poster has dark, grungy and noisy elements, again, to set the tone of the movie. The red color works well against the dark background, making the title of the poster pop.

My Bloody Valentine

The Hills Have Eyes 2

1985

Although the artwork is quite interesting and eye-catching, that bright yellow blade and beveled typography completely ruins the design (at least for me).

The Hills Have Eyes 2

2007

The creators of the remade "The Hills Have Eyes" liked the outcome of their first poster and decided to stick to the same style with the sequel. The dark edges on both the left and right side of the poster really draw your eyes into the main focal point of the poster; the unlucky human being dragged through the desert.

The Hills Have Eyes 2

Your thoughts on movie posters

So, what do you think? Many people say remakes of movies always turn out worse, but is it the same case when it comes to the poster and artwork redesign? Share your thoughts on this subject in the comments.

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About the Author

Callum Chapman is a mobile and web user interface designer. He has worked with many internationally known brands as well his own projects such as Dotgrid.co. You can follow Callum on Twitter at @callumchapman.

33 Comments

Matthew Heidenreich

December 7th, 2009

great collection, didn’t even know some of these were remakes

Peach

December 7th, 2009

great post, Love the 2004 Ladykillers poster.

Waheed Akhtar

December 7th, 2009

Nice work callum.

Maidstone

December 7th, 2009

I do love a good movie poster, I’m one for the classics myself, before PS but modernones have their merits

Anjum nawab

December 7th, 2009

wow that’s nice list of posters i like “The Omen 1976″

Carolyn

December 7th, 2009

Awesome collection of powerful pieces. Very interesting to see the past and the future. Particularly liked the ‘I Am Legend’ trio, so to speak. I feel like graphic design of each relfected the style of the movies very accurately (I always watch previous & original versions.)

Petrus

December 7th, 2009

Awesome showcase of movie posters. Nice post!

Binny

December 7th, 2009

This is a great article. It is interesting how some stay with the themes other break away completely.

“Flight of the phoenix” is another interesting comparison.

Have you considered a follow up article on how posters progress through a series like Jaws, or James Bond?

Great work.

Callum Chapman

December 7th, 2009

Thanks all! A lot of films nowadays are actually remakes from years ago, and the only people that tend to remember are those that saw the originals back in the 1930/40′s! I personally love the posters from that time period and think they portray the image of the film much better than most modern posters do!

Kenneth

December 7th, 2009

Nice comparison.

Two things:
1) the Ocean’s 11 poster actually DOES say “Ocean’s 11″. It’s the AOL keyword at the bottom. :D
2) ‘I Am Legend’ is the original name for all three movies as it’s the title of the book they’re all based on.

GayJesus

December 7th, 2009

Maybe someone can clear this up. Is the new design for Oceans 11 ripped off from the cover of Smithereens 11 or was there an original poster design in the ’60s using the black silhouette with red and white idea? Definitely a cool design worthy of recycling.

GZstudio

December 7th, 2009

A very nice collection. Actually I didn’t know these movies are all remakes! I think many of the old posters are stronger. I especially love the old Italian job!

Andrew

December 7th, 2009

Don’t take these as overly harsh criticisms, but things that I think could have improved this article.

The title is misleading. I was expecting remade/redesigned movie posters, not a comparison of movie posters for the original film and a remake of said film. For example, Mondo Tees offers a remake of the poster for Tremors (http://www.mondotees.com/pl/Tremors/338). That is not a poster for a remake of the movie.

Second, a little background into why some of the remakes can differ from the originals would be welcome. Layered montages was pretty limited until PhotoShop became a movie poster tool. Many of the originals you cite use illustration. Why isn’t that as common today? Scarface (1932) is one of the few posters that actually used stills from the film while still using illustration. Emphasizing the design trends would be one way of providing a good contextual background. Binny’s comment above about how a series of movies’ posters change is another example.

I’m not sure why a sepia-tone sets the time period for the Spartacus remake. Sepia is often used for Westerns, but I’m not sure why it is used in the remake’s poster. Having not seen the remake perhaps there was a lot of sepia filters employed in the movie. I think a strong red duotone would be more appropriate if the original was to have its movie poster redone. Red being symbolic of the majesty of Spartacus, the Roman soldier’s armor as well as the blood that would be shed.

I’m not sure what 3-D text “Karloff” sits directly above in the Mummy poster. I’m probably missing it in the jumble of text styles and sizes (all caps, handwritten, 3-D, distressed and outlined) found on Universal movie posters of the time.

Some comments are too brief or barely touch upon the poster itself. See Scarface (1983), War of the Worlds (1953), Sabrina, (1954), Spartacus (2004), Italian Job (2003) and When a Stranger Calls (1979). A sentence or two of how the strengths work for the poster would make the article stronger. A longer comparison and contrast between the two would be welcome.

Again, don’t consider these overly harsh. Being a movie buff and an English major are coloring my comment.

Be sure to revisit this once the Straw Dogs remake is released.

sean

December 7th, 2009

Vintage movie posters are beautiful, using all the skills and tools a graphic artist has at their disposal. Modern movie posters are ugly using all the tools that photoshop offers in the layer blending dropdown.

Edward Palomo

December 7th, 2009

nice comparison. but howcome film makers do the same things all over again after, say 50 years?lol

ThisIsInspired

December 7th, 2009

I like seeing the difference in era as it affects the creative path in creating the same genre and look. Thx for posting.

…the original Ladykillers was a better movie, Alec Guinness > Tom Hank. That’s just me. :)

Craig Miller

December 8th, 2009

A really good article. I enjoyed seeing the comparisons. One quibble though. The poster you show for the original “The Wicker Man” was the one used by Warner Bros. when they test marketed the film, before shelving it. (It’s not a wonderful poster because it sells the film as a “shocker”, a thriller, plus it sort of gives away the surprise ending of the film; something it shares with the remake’s poster) The poster used for the actual general — though independent — U.S. release of the film was one I designed. It was included in postcard size with the DVD release of the film a few years ago. It shows a large mandala in golds and yellows and in front of it is a solarized view of the townspeople in their animal masks standing on a hillside.

Billy Pilgrim

December 8th, 2009

“Many people say remakes of movies always turn out worse, but is it the same case when it comes to the poster and artwork redesign?”

In a word, yes. But then, I’m old, so that probably explains it.

Callum Chapman

December 8th, 2009

Kenneth: You’re right, they’re all based on the book ‘I Am Legend’ by Richard Matheson, which is an absolute killer of a book that I read last year! However, the motion pictures of the book were called ‘Last Man on Earth’, and ‘Omega Man’, even though they followed the same story, which is slightly weird in my books! It wasn’t until the latest remake that they decided to actually name it after the book.

Andrew: Being a movie buff and and an English major are definitely advantages you have over me ;) Thank you for your comment though and I will keep the suggestions in mind when I come to writing another post similar to this one!

Sean: Much more skill, time and effort was most definitely required with the vintage posters, which is usually why they tend to look much better ;)

LG Bayao

December 8th, 2009

Funny, the old ones like better.

Tim

December 8th, 2009

Very interesting! I have to say, as much as I dislike the growing trend of posters becoming photo-shopped mashups of ‘floating heads’, the majority of the newer posters shown here tend to ‘pop’ and grab my attention more. It could be that they’re from when I was/am growing up, and hence I don’t feel nostalgic about the older ones, but the old ones just don’t appeal to me like the newer ones do, in particular the hand-drawn ones like the original House of Wax or Ladykillers posters shown here. Those two are just plain…ugly. To me. It’s just an opinion.

Oh, and you’re spot on about the remake Time Machine poster’s colour scheme not seeming quite right – it always annoyed me when the film came out. Could be a much better poster if there was some deep blue or orange mixed in. Anything other than just yellow.

Tim

December 8th, 2009

Forgot to say in the above comment – I’m not totally against the older posters, or hand-drawn ones. I’m a huge fan of works like those by Drew Struzan and similar. That is a style that desperately needs a comeback!

tony

December 8th, 2009

great stuff!

the “R” from rollerball is the same with “R” the scorpions logo (http://tinyurl.com/yfkw42o)

Scott

December 10th, 2009

For the most part, I like the originals better. One note: the SABRINA poster copy would imply that this was probably from a RE-release of the movie and not the original poster from 1954 as the reference to “Fairest Lady” would be to her role in MY FAIR LADY (1964). There are at least 4 other poster designs (Google it) foreign and domestic, that seem to be closer to the original release – none of which are impressive.

Richie

December 10th, 2009

great stuff …. a lot of improvement in some posters, while a few others are a mere disappointing ….

paul

December 12th, 2009

Writer sucks at critiquing the posters differences and styles

paul

December 12th, 2009

Will Smiths movies has relly became horrible after Man in Black 3 not that I were a fan of his before then. .

Kim

December 14th, 2009

A bit harsh Paul, but I tend to agree. This is more a collection of movie posters than a good look at how they have changed etc.
Mind you would you read through 500 words per poster?

PP

February 13th, 2010

The 1954 Sabrina poster is a good example of the use of color to make your message stand out. The striking color of her ensemble draws the eye to Audrey Hepburn, and who doesn’t know Audrey Hepburn? If we fail to miss that, her name is written in bright yellow across a black block which creates a great contrast.

sir suckalot

March 19th, 2010

i cant belive i am leged was a reatake i never new till today!!!! lol

ScifiDrive

March 21st, 2010

design styles change through time, one sees some of that era in the artwork, amazing how time and styles change. Great post!

victor remigio

July 22nd, 2010

A great research. Design alone differs in a millennium.

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