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Reel them in: our guide to iconic film posters

Promotional material used for movies can vary from a two-minute trailer with the most visually appealing scenes spliced together, to a toy found in a McDonald's Happy Meal.

But there is little that competes with the iconic form of the classic film poster.

The most timeless examples have been crafted by the world's leading graphic designers, including Saul Bass and Tom Jung, whose work has become instantly recognisable (think arresting fonts, colour-blocking and simplistic form from Bass and painterly, illustrative detailing from Jung).

The very best movie posters remain as visionary pieces of creative output many decades after their release, long outliving both the film they were intended to market and their designer.

Inspired by Brightest London - the 1920s London Underground image that was today voted the best tube poster of all time - our round-up of the top 20 promotional posters encompass the creepy, the provocative and the downright visionary. Here are our picks.

 

A Clockwork Orange

American graphic designer Bill Gold combined just the right amount of threat and unusually applied eyeliner to hint that A Clockwork Orange might be a disturbing watch.

Alien

Who could have guessed that a giant Easter egg suspended over gridded rope would go on to represent one of the most terrifying movies of all time?

Amelie

The image that launched a thousand ill-advised micro fringes, the mischievous smile of Amelie Poulain said more about her magical world than any fancy CGI ever could.

American Beauty

Never before has a close-up shot of a belly button and a slightly damp rose appeared so sexually charged.

Braveheart

Background fighting scenes, the saltire artfully referenced in William Wallace's attire and Mel Gibson rocking a 13th century mullet. As iconic posters go, it's up there.

Gregory's Girl

That 1980s font! Those vintage Umbro shorts! The way Dee Hepburn is jumping for joy in Cumbernauld! So good, the image even gets a thumbs up from the eponymous Gregory Underwood.

Jaws

The Jaws theatrical release poster: making swimming in the sea abroad ten times more unpleasant since 1975.

Jurassic Park

The danger-hinting red background and the pleasingly simplistic form make the fact that the tag line has been unnecessarily capitalised easier to bear.

King Kong

Designed by prominent Chinese actor Keye Luke, the artwork to accompany the 1933 epic does what is says on the tin (well, poster).

Metropolis

Channelling a Modernist aesthetic, Metropolis's imagery speaks volumes about the film's science fiction content, despite it being a silent movie. Are we allowed to have a favourite poster? If so, this is it.

Pulp Fiction

A black bobbed wig and a sultry gaze was all that was needed to transform Uma Thurman into the poster-fronting, cocaine dabbling female star of Pulp Fiction.

Rosemary's Baby

An overexposed photograph and a Pacman-esque pram don't sound spooky separately, but putting them together meant one of the most unsettling promotional images ever made was born.

Scarface

Al Pacino: making ebony and ivory look amazingly cool before Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder even thought about combining them.

Scream

Showing that sometimes less is more, Scream's pared-back artwork balances visual harmony with some seriously Photoshopped blue irises.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

One for the fact file, designer Tom Jung posed his son and wife when trying to sketch the right aesthetics for the figures that would later be known as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

The Silence of the Lambs

The original poster for The Silence of the Lambs was named the best film poster of the last 35 years at the Key Art Awards in 2006. Not such a favourite with sufferers of Mottephobia, though.

Titanic

The image of Titanic's proud hull juxtaposed against Jack and Rose will always be synymous with one of the greatest cinematic questions of all time: surely there was room for two on Rose's raft?

Trainspotting

Trainspotting's promotional posters were available featuring the each of the main characters and used the greatest font known to man, Helvetica. 

Vertigo

One from the daddy of iconic film artwork, the imagery Saul Bass used to accompany the 1948 cult classic Vertigo is a thing of spirally orange beauty.

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