Ready to design an amazing movie poster for a drama? Not sure which kind of typography is appropriate? Well, we have got you covered and selected 7 of the best choices.
This article will explain why these are great font choices, why they work with the movie poster artwork, and help sell the dramatics of the movie.
Let’s start with some definitions. You may have heard the word “drama” as a reference to any production involving actors and actresses playing different characters to tell a story that was neither tragic nor funny.
That is technically correct, but when we talk about drama as a film genre, then it’s time to get a handkerchief because things are going to get sad.
In this sense, drama is a form of fiction that prioritizes a serious tone to talk about difficult subjects. There are many subgenres related to drama: a drama film can also be about history, romance, social conflicts, war, mental illness, adolescence, crime, etc.
While other genres have clear guidelines when it comes to choosing typography for the posters (for example, action movie posters need dynamic fonts, comedy movie posters almost always have a big red title, romance posters are all over the place, horror movie posters can be hand made or use basic san serif and Sci-Fi movie posters use fonts that look futuristic), in the case of drama movie posters, things get more complicated.
Sure, the genre has some clichés to it like any other category of narrative fiction, but each dramatic story tends to be unique on some level.
Not all movies are dramatic for the same reasons: sometimes a movie feels tragic because the main character goes through all kinds of horrible experiences, but sometimes the life of the protagonist is pretty average and overall, okay, and then the movie explores why that still feels like a huge existential void.
On occasions, a drama is about finding oneself and earning a happy ending, and other times a drama is doomed to end up badly.
When a graphic designer or art director gets the challenge of designing a drama movie poster, there is no easy way out: understanding the film’s message is necessary to choose the right font. The right font for one drama can be completely different from the right choice for another.
Not quite sure what this means? Let’s figure it out!
Moonlight & Gotham Light
In 2016 a film that hadn’t exactly been a blockbuster (like AT ALL) made history when it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Moonlight was then put in the spotlight (no pun intended), and everyone started to reconsider the movie, thinking perhaps they had underestimated it, and it deserved a second chance.
That was an interesting phenomenon because the movie had an all-black cast, and it focused heavily on LGTBQ+ issues: it was literally about people that had systematically been underestimated by the whole world.
Let me tell you that the movie was a big surprise as an Oscar winner, but the poster was destined for greatness, as it is a jewel of design.
The film tells the story in three acts of a person named Chiron, during his childhood, his teenage years, and his adulthood. The main character is represented by three different actors, and the poster does a great job of making them look like the same person in different moments of his life.
Furthermore, this movie was based on a play called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” The poster seems to address that by using a blueish color palette highlighting the melancholic look in Chiron’s eyes.
But there’s a second implication to the name of the movie because it also refers to the fact that even in your saddest moments, you can still find some comfort in remembering a happier past, like when you were a child underneath the moonlight.
This idea is -incredibly enough- also represented in the movie poster. And how? Through typography.
The film’s title is written in the poster in a font called Gotham Light, to which a glowing effect was added. Tobias Frere-Jones designed this geometric sans serif in 2000, and Steve Reeves was probably the one to choose it for the Moonlight poster.
On Behance, Reeves wrote, “So excited to share this poster I designed with you guys! In my own personal experience, it’s rare to see a poster go to finish without having gone through countless rounds of revisions and alterations. As many of us in the industry know, that’s just the way it is. Fortunately, this poster was able to finish with no art changes aside from a few color adjustments.” it was simply THAT good.
The Beguiled & Kunstler Script
Even though it belongs to the same genre, and it was produced simultaneously, this movie varies a lot from Moonlight.
The Beguiled was directed by Sofia Coppola, and it is set during the American Civil War. It tells the story of a school for girls in Virginia, where a wounded Union soldier suddenly arrives, affecting the lives of the women that study or teach there.
In the movie poster, the title is set in a font called Kunstler Script, designed in 1957 by Hans Bohn for the Stempel foundry. But to understand why this is the perfect choice for this drama movie poster, we need to go a bit back in time.
The Beguiled is a film based on the 1966 novel “A Painted Devil” by Thomas P. Cullinan; it is not its first adaptation. A movie, also called The Beguiled, was released in 1971, directed by Don Siegel, and starring no other than Clint Eastwood.
Even though the two movies are based on the same book, they tell the same story from two very different perspectives. Coppola decided to direct this remake, but this time from the point of view of the female characters. This decision was made very clear in the movie poster, where the women are dignified, and the soldier can barely be seen.
The disruptive intention is also represented because the title (as most of the text in the poster) is written in a vertical line.
And to make it as clear as possible that this story had a feminine perspective, the designer chose a font that has all the characteristics that we traditionally associate with femininity (so, of course, it is a font from the ‘50s when gender roles were being reinforced all around through design): inherently intimate because of its handwritten style, the font is elegant, full of curves, it has perfect little details, and it is actually pink.
It could only be more typically girly if it had a bow on top.
25th Hour & FF Trixie Heavy
This drama movie from 2002 was based on a novel of the same name by David Benioff. Directed by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton, the movie narrates the last 24 hours of freedom that a man has before going to prison for years because of dealing drugs.
The font used for the poster title looks very similar to FF Trixie Heavy. The FF Trixie display typeface was designed by Erik van Blokland in the ‘90s, and it has a grunge and dirty look that makes it perfect for a movie that talks about prison and drugs, themes that generally have to do with aggression, crime, and street life.
Room & Rockwell Regular
This 2015 drama film was written by Emma Donoghue, based on her own novel of the same name. Room tells the terrifying story of a woman that was kidnapped and repeatedly abused by a man from whom she now has a child.
Despite her circumstances, the woman loves her son and tries to make life easier for him in the limited space of the room where they are forced to live. The little boy believes that the room is all that there is to the world until he is given a chance to escape and see the outside for the first time.
This is a story about trauma, overcoming tragedy, and learning to keep going. In the movie poster, the title is set in a font that looks like Rockwell Regular, a geometric serif designed by the Monotype Corporation in the ‘30s.
The genius design keeps the letters of the word “Room” enclosed in a rectangle, and the selected font makes a big difference between the O’s and the other letters so that they kind of remind us of two people trapped somewhere.
The Rokkit typeface, designed by Vernon Adams, offers a potentially free alternative to this font for your own projects.
Wonder & Coolvetica
Based on the bestseller of the same name by R. J. Palacio, Wonder is a drama film that follows the story of a boy with a severe facial difference while he tries to attend a mainstream elementary school for the first time in his life.
The movie deals with heavy themes such as bullying and discrimination, but it also has a heartwarming message of love and inclusion.
The film’s narrative navigates between those two extremes of anguish and hope, so the designers of the movie poster took the smart decision of staying in the middle.
They chose a font that wasn’t too inclined to one of those two poles: a typeface called Coolvetica (a fun nod to the classic Helvetica).
This sans serif was designed by Ray Larabie to be legible and sober but also fresh. Coolvetica Regular is free for everyone and can be downloaded on the internet so that you can use it on your own design projects.
The Hate U Give & Linotype’s Din 1451
Also based on a New York Times bestseller, The Hate U Give is a 2018 drama film. The protagonist is a black girl from a poor neighborhood that attends a predominantly white and rich school.
Her world is shattered when a police officer kills her best friend out of prejudice and mistrust: now this girl -that just wanted to make it through her teenage years- has to become a leading voice in her community against racism and police brutality.
The sans serif used for the movie poster is thought to be either Linotype’s Din 1451 or Peter Wiegel’s TGL 0-1451 Engschrift (this second option can be downloaded if you would like to use it in a poster of your own).
The title in the poster appears in a sign that the protagonist is holding, just as she would do if she were in a public protest.
The social issues she’s protesting against are so old that she’s already tired of them, even though she is only a teenager. That is why the font was edited to have a worn-out effect that perfectly fits the movie poster. The words in the title are organized so that the initials spell “thug” to represent that many times, people targeted as criminals are actually victims of hate crimes themselves.
The font used to represent this concept is black, solemn, legible, and seems to have been used way too many times.
The Wind Rises & Aldus Roman
The genre of drama is not exclusive to live-action films. The Wind Rises is an animated historical drama film and the last film to date of the incredible Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of the beloved Studio Ghibli.
This movie is a biography (with a lot of artistic license) of the aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who was chief engineer of many Japanese fighter designs during World War II.
In the version of the movie poster in which the title is in English, the font chosen for it was Aldus Roman by Hermann Zapf. This lovely serif type offers a sense of history and dignity and shows a dynamism that can only be accurate for a movie about planes.
In these seven examples, it is clear how the perfect font for one drama movie poster could be a terrible choice for a different film. The right font for Moonlight would have no place in the poster of The Wind Rises. The cursive lettering of The Beguiled would be designed for assassination in the posters for 25th hour or The Hate U Give.
The genre of drama has fewer trends unifying the typography choices for the posters, so designers cannot rely on already proven formulas: they need to know typography well, understand the personalities of different fonts, the feel of a serif type versus a sans serif type, the involuntary associations that people make when they see a certain piece of text, etc.
Where to learn?
The best way of learning these things is by observing and doing: try to analyze the typography in the movie posters you like the most, and use multiple fonts in your own designs until you find the best options. And don’t worry, the drama is only for the genre; you are allowed to have fun while learning.
And one of the most fun ways to learn about typography and movie poster design is by studying our free tutorials on YouTube.
The other cool thing is that we are currently producing an online course dedicated to poster design and typography (taught by designers in the movie poster business), which will be available shortly. If you are interested in this course, then you will need to sign up for our newsletter, as subscribers will be the first to be notified when the course is available.
Thanks for reading, and good luck out there!