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Big Heads Floating in the Sky

City of Angels movie poster

The Top Movie Poster Cliché

Stop us if you have seen this poster composition before: Large images of movie star faces (often of a couple), with a small scene (usually at the bottom of the poster one-sheet) depicting some sort of action or activity. Sound familiar?

Casablanca Italian movie poster

Casablanca Italian movie poster

In the film advertising industry, this is known as Big Heads Floating in the Sky. The “big headed stars” layout is so common it is often a point of criticism directed towards modern poster art. But this type of layout has been around since the beginning of movie advertising for one simple reason:

Movie stars sell movies.

In fact, another name for this type of movie poster is called a Star Sell. This star sell mantra was true back in the days of Casablanca, and it is even more true today. After all, if Paramount just paid Tom Cruise $20 million dollars to star in a Summer “tent-pole” motion picture for the studio, you can bet they aren’t going to keep his participation a secret from the film’s one-sheet art.

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5 Comments

  1. karl sinfieldJune 21, 2006 at 10:01 AMReply

    Hmmm…of the 20-odd film posters I’ve designed, I’ve managed to avoid it – until today. It happens to us all. Anyway, I’d be interested to know if you or any readers have any favourites…

  2. karl sinfieldJune 21, 2006 at 10:31 AMReply

    I should also add that there’s generally a lot more legwork in designing a “big heads floating in the sky” poster than some more arthouse-style posters. So let’s spare a thought for the poor designer – you have a bunch of stills that you have to grade equally, do all the vignetting and, every designer’s least favourite job: the masking of lots of hair. Ultimately you find yourself working all hours for something you want nowhere near your portfolio. Great.

  3. Attack of the Movie Poster « Posterwire.com « the movie poster weblogFebruary 8, 2008 at 10:57 PMReply

    […] have seen us mention the infamous “Two Big Heads Floating in the Sky” cliché of movie poster design many times in the past. (This “Big Head” type of movie […]

  4. The Scariest Movie Poster Ever « Posterwire.com » the movie poster weblogJanuary 28, 2010 at 2:54 PMReply

    […] Horror), it’s hard not to take notice. (This movie poster is also yet another example of the “Big Heads Floating in the Sky” movie poster layout cliche. Or in this case, a “Big Head Possessed by a Demon Floating in the […]

  5. Sunglasses at Night « Posterwire.com » the movie poster weblogJanuary 28, 2010 at 4:48 PMReply

    […] could be better than “Big Heads” on a movie poster? The answer is obvious: “Big Heads Wearing Sunglasses” on a movie […]

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