What to Put on a Movie Poster

By Johanna Ehrmann
Poster for The Wizard of Oz, which premiered in 1939.

A good movie poster has one goal: to convince viewers to see the movie. Everything about it is calculated toward achieving that end. Finding the perfect combination of art, design and text takes time and effort. What you include depends on what will create the most powerful poster, though the agreements you have with those working on the film and footing the bill may dictate certain items.

The Image

The foundation of the poster is an image that illustrates the central theme of the movie. The image should be memorable and its meaning easy to grasp.

Title and Stars

The film title must appear, unless the movie is so well known that an image can replace it, as in the 2009 "Star Trek" posters. If famous actors are part of the cast, their names should be highlighted.

Tagline

A poster will generally have a teaser to draw people in and show what sort of film it is. A memorable tagline like "Love means never having to say you're sorry" can even find its way into popular culture.

Additional Credits

Many posters also include people essential to making the film, like the director, producer and composer, as well as the film company and movie studio.

Additional Details

Most posters include the movie rating. Some include the start date, type of film and sound system used, additional cast and crew, the URL for the movie's website, a copyright notice and award information.

References

About the Author

Johanna Ehrmann has been a freelance writer, editor and copy editor since 1991. She is the author of four nonfiction books for young readers on César Chávez, origami, dance and the Smithsonian, published by Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, and two fantasy stories, published by Houghton Mifflin. Ehrmann holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Brandeis University.