We live in a world where more money can be spent on marketing than the actual production; how crazy is that! If they are spending that kind of money on promotion, then they better get it right. 

Usually, the movie poster is the key element (also known as key art) that all other marketing materials revolve around. We want to provide the 9 most important elements of movie poster art and design.

Essentially, this is what we believe will get bums in the theater seat.

1. Attention-Grabbing

A movie poster needs to stop you dead in your tracks. You should be walking down the street with your head down, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, bumping into everyone… then bang something catches your eye. You cannot move as you are mesmerized by the movie poster, and you must see that film, like right now!

This doesn’t have to be about big and bold colors. Just look at the Uncut Gems poster. It grabs your attention because Adam Sandler is instantly recognizable as a goofball, but here he is looking serious and beaten down. You want to know why.

This poster rocks because of its simplicity and isn’t suffocated with too many words.

Uncut Gems

2. Branding

If you know, you know, sequels and reboots have always been a part of cinema history. Never more often than now, though. As long as the first film was actually any good, you will want to know the sequel is tied to the original.

The easiest way to do this is through logos and themes. 

Jurassic Park has arguably the most iconic logo ever, and Jurassic World heavily relies on this logo to give the new film gravitas.

It is saying we are rebooting Jurassic World, the people behind the original Jurassic Park are involved, and this isn’t just some cheap knock off you can watch a 2 am on an obscure TV channel.

the typography plays a huge role and some posters a devoted to it as evidenced in this article: What Are Typographic Movie Posters? (With 15 Examples)

3. Genre

Humans are creatures of habit, and we are with films too. While we all might like a range of films, we will naturally prefer some genres of movies more than others. 

If you love superhero films and you see a movie poster of some dude in a cape, then you are more likely to stop and look than if the poster was of a couple sharing a latte on the London Eye

Horror films have probably been onto this for longer than most; Sinister 2 is a great horror movie poster.

There are two kids on the poster (classic horror trope), one of the kids could be possessed, or something weird is undoubtedly going on, and they have possibly drawn a monster in blood, so you instantly know there is a big scary thing that is trying to do bad things. So, if you love horror films, you are immediately intrigued. 

Sinister 2

4. Formatting

Films Studios can spend eye-watering sums on marketing, so you must be able to expand that theme across multiple platforms. A design must look good on a movie poster in a cinema foyer, on the side of a bus, on a DVD, and on a streaming thumbnail.

They can all be tweaked a little, but they have to be clearly linked. 

If a poster has inspired you to watch a film, you liked the film; then it makes sense to use the same imagery on the DVD and streaming thumbnail which was on the movie poster… as it is more likely to attract you to buy DVD.

The new IT reboot and franchise is a great example. All the formats are a white background with the clown’s eyes or that iconic red balloon. You instantly know what it is.


5. Like Button

I am old enough to remember watching TV reviews or buying film magazines to get film reviews and gossip about films. 

Nowadays, multiple websites are dedicated to spoilers of one particular film, never mind the film itself. One bad teaser poster can kill a film before it is even finished nowadays.

You need to get the crowd onside a lot earlier than you used to. It would help if you had likes and shares on social media more than ever for a film to exceed ticket sale expectations.  

A movie poster could go viral because of a cute cat or a terrifying monster.

Teeth is an excellent example of this, even though the film sounds stupid, a girl has teeth in your you know what, but it is a quite clever film, and so is the poster… and it is very shareable because people will share it and try to make some witty or funny comment. We can’t help it!

Teeth Movie Poster

6. Memorable

Not everyone has a list of all the films coming out in the months ahead like me. Some people have no idea what films are even in the cinema at the moment, and they are doubtful to stop and read the spiel of a movie poster.

Plus, if you want to see some terrible examples of movie posters, then you will want to check out our top 10 list of bad movie posters from the 1980s.

It would help if you had a memorable poster that they can’t stop thinking about and it becomes etched in their brains for these people. It can be a picture of the lead, a representation of a plot point, or a simple graphic.

However, the best example is sex sells… remember L.A Confidential? It’s a great film, but what is the most prominent part of the movie poster? Yup, Kim Basinger’s boobs!

La confidential

7. Must See

We are fickle folk nowadays and are easily distracted, plus who can be bothered to go to the cinema when you can just Netflix and then chill.

So, a movie poster has a lot of work to do; it needs to make you want to watch the film right now and not just be like, “oh, I will wait until it comes out on Prime.”

A way to do this is to give you a fairly standard scene but put a twist on it, so you are intrigued and need to see what is happening. 

Check out the Parasite poster; it seems like just a family in a garden, but why are there lines across their eyes, and is that a dead body? I need to see this film to find out!

8. Whip Up A Frenzy

A great movie poster needs to appeal to as many people as possible. Die-hard Star Wars fans will go and watch the film regardless, so all you have to do is remind them when the film is out. A Star Wars movie poster actually needs to get non-super fans interested in seeing the movie. 

The Wonder Women 1984 teaser poster is an excellent example of this.

A stupidly hot woman stood in a skimpy outfit… tick. However, it shows more than that.

A fan of the first film will instantly recognize it, so will fans of the current DC World. The poster will catch the eye of people who, just like superhero films in general, it could grab the attention of women who are sick of films having male leads all the time. The color palette is very 80’s so it could also tempt people to watch the movie because they want to reminisce about growing up in the ’80s.

wonder woman poster


However, the film studio does it, and whatever tricks they use, a good film poster is only perfect if it gets bums in seats at the cinema or drives DVD and streaming sales. 

That is the cold hard truth. 

While I like collecting movie posters, and I hope it continues to be a great area of artistic expression, the realist in me knows if studios thought they could sell tickets to movies with just a white piece of paper and the title in black, then they would do that for every film if they could. 

Make Your Own Posters

Whether making fan art posters or working in the movie industry, you will have to learn how to use Photoshop and other design software. The cool thing is that we are currently producing online classes to teach precisely that.

Because they are not out yet, we highly advise you to sign up for our newsletter, as subscribers will be the first to be notified when classes are available.

Also, check out our YouTube channel, as there are numerous “free” art and design tutorials.