Fan Fiction Meets Graphic Design in the Groovy Online Subculture of "Alternative Movie Posters"

The Royal Tenenbaums by Chay Lazaro and The 400 Blows by Matt Chinworth
(Courtesy Alternative Movie Poster)

We do not exactly live in a golden age of the movie poster. Today’s movie ads invariably involve a clichéd catchphrase, a photoshopped pastiche of the protagonist wearing an unironic “blue steel” expression, and a titillating dollop of cheap sex and/or violence. But take heart, film-fans: A global network of rogue graphic artists is working to inject design, humour, and style back into this forgotten medium. Founded by British designer Simon Hawes in March 2011, “Alternative Movie Posters” is a Web site dedicated to showcasing artists’ unorthodox, usually loving, and quite often aesthetically adventurous interpretations of their favorite films. 

“The idea for AMP [Alternative Movie Posters] came about purely by chance,” Hawes told ARTINFO. “One day, I thought I’d have a go at creating my own versions of some of my favourite movie posters… Whether it held up as a viable contender to the original didn’t really concern me.” Realizing that there was a vast but disjointed community of artists doing similar homages all over the world, Hawes decided to unite their work under a single url.

Stylistically, many of the posters featured on the site veer towards reductive minimalism, distilling a movie’s narrative into a single iconic image. These low-key, stylish posters capitalize on deadpan wit and graphic elan. See, for example, Jamie Bolton’s “Jurassic Park” poster. There’s no T. Rex in sight, only a rippling water glass — a reference to Spielberg’s famous ominous shot of impending doom. Equally clever is Matt Owen’s take on “Dawn of the Dead,” which foreshadows rampant zombie infestation in suburban America with a floor plan of a shopping mall.

“We hear from lots of people who are annoyed that a great movie had a poster that didn’t work hard enough or was just a composition of the main characters,” Hawes says. “With Alternative Movie Posters, people can express the movie in a more creative way, because they’re not selling the film, they’re creating they’re interpretation of it. I think the future lies in these more stylised posters.”

Might the alternative movie poster be the thinking man’s answer, not only to unimaginative commercial posters, but also to the creepy/sad DIY fan art thriving on the Internet? From Brian St. Denis's disturbing portrait of Josh Brolin's head in orange and yellow for an imagined "No Country For Old Men" poster  to Chay Lazaro’s fittingly quirky take on "The Royal Tenenbaums," see a selection of our favorite Alternative Movie Posters.