18th August 2017

The resurgence of the illustrated film poster

The resurgence of the illustrated film poster is, to the delight of all film buffs, entering full swing around the world.

There’s something nostalgic (and somewhat comforting) about an illustrated film poster. It evokes one’s desire to embrace the film’s true fantasy, presented before them in a medium that directly suggests reduced realism.

In comparison, the photographic poster (although still stunningly creative) is just too real to our imaginative sensibilities.

The 1980s aesthetic shift

In December 2015, a wonderful watercolour series emerged from Disney as early promotion for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The beauty of this series was not only in the visual style, but also in how it showcased our upcoming heroes without revealing their faces.

Star Wars fans were frothing in anticipation.

Currently plastered across tube stations, billboards, and buses alike is Rory Kurtz’s wonderfully artistic poster for recent film, Baby Driver.

With its near-realism illustrative style, you can’t help but stand and stare. Studying the marvelously precise artistic depiction of the actors, it is almost as if you are standing in a gallery, analysing the piece.

Then you realise that you’re actually standing at a bus stop.

These notable examples are just a taster of a growing number of hand-painted film posters harking back to an age old method. They make particular reference to those of the 80s.

It was in the 80s that we saw the beginnings of the posters we know best today. Large photographic backgrounds began to be paired with overlaid photography and typography. Often these appeared to be a representation of the actors rather than the film or characters.

While this style has become the norm, many have argued that it represents a loss of artistic value; the skill required for a simple Photoshop task does not always match up to the skill behind a fully-illustrated poster.

Star Wars the last jedi illustrated character posters

Star Wars: The Last Jedi illustrated character posters

Illustrated posters now

Social media is rife with debates over the correct use of photography on film posters, from the meanings of facial expressions to the positioning of the title. Meanwhile, the once-quiet resurgence of the illustrated film poster has been growing louder.

This second coming of the illustrated film poster came to the attention of many not from a film, but from a TV show.

stranger things illustrated film poster

Stranger Things illustrated poster

Netflix’s 80s-based cult horror series Stranger Things earned a huge amount of praise from fans.

Its artistic creator, Kyle Lambert, was commissioned to create modern artwork that was a celebration of the 80s era and its iconic illustrated film posters.

When film company visionaries commission illustrators for a poster, they’re looking for something unique that will capture the audience’s imagination.

Illustrated posters imagine their chosen world in a totally self-contained environment.  Photography simply cannot achieve this (no matter how good your photoshop skills).

Obviously a film poster’s brief is based on emulating the intentional tone of the story being told.

If a film were about MPs discussing world issues, then an illustrated world of wonderment wouldn’t be representative.

But either way, we are glad to see that the illustrated film poster will never die. We are even more thankful that modern classics are embracing illustration as a way of showing us their worlds.

Long live the illustrated posters.