Movie Poster of the Week: Antonio Stella’s Top 10 Favorite Movie Posters

One of the best contemporary movie poster illustrators selects his all-time personal favorites.
Adrian Curry

Above: Tony Stella’s illustration for an alternative poster for Suspiria for Alphaville.

One of my favorite working movie poster illustrators is the Italian-born, Berlin-based artist Tony Stella, a true connoisseur of cinema as well as a prodigious and prolific artist. I profiled Tony in this column a few years ago. Tony recently joined forces with the designer known as Midnight Marauder to start the boutique movie poster design agency Alphaville, and since I recently asked MM for his ten favorite movie posters it was only fair that I ask Tony too, a task he took up with alacrity.

So, without further ado, here are Tony Stella’s ten favorite movie posters of all-time, in ascending order, with his own comments. His choices take us on a tour through some of the best movie poster illustration of the past 50 years.

10. Get Carter (1971)

“The number ten spot was a toss-up between Renato Casaro’s 1982 Conan the Barbarian poster and this for the Michael Caine, Mike Hodges classic Get Carter. This U.K. quad poster is by Arnaldo Putzu who was born in Rome but created the bulk of his work in England for Eric Pulford, along with fellow illustrator Renato Fratini. (As well as movie posters Putzu created fantastic covers for Look-In magazine.) This is Caine in his prime and my favorite portrait of him. I long for the days when painted posters of this quality were the main campaign.”

9. The Wild Bunch (1969)

“My favorite poster for The Wild Bunch is this American half sheet by Howard Terpning who created many iconic film posters, most recognizably the 1967 Gone with the Wind re-release poster with Clark Gable carrying Vivien Leigh over a burning Atlanta. Here the Wild Bunch are portrayed in nervous pencil-lines divided by the shadows of their final walk. The square six sheet in a brighter orange hue is also amazing.”

8. Woman in Chains (1968)

“I’ve always loved this French poster for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s La prisonnière by Roger Excoffon. Chains and lips—two colors, light and shadow—are created in simple brushstrokes.”

7. Seven Samurai (1954)

“It would be easy to fill a Top 10 list with all Hans Hillmann posters. His free reinterpretations of the classic arthouse canon are a staple of the hopeful German postwar outlook that aimed to rebuild a country with the power of art and architecture and, not least, film. His poster for Rashomon is one of my prized possessions but my absolute favorite of his is the large horizontal version for Seven Samurai depicting the final battle. The film’s muddy, bloody, rain soaked showdown is transformed into a primary colored Guernica. But it works in its own language and can stand alone, apart from the film.”

6. Ronin Gai (1990) 

“The Japanese master Noriyoshi Ohrai is probably best known in the West for his Star Wars posters—his Empire Strikes Back being another of my all-time favorites. As well as thousands of paperback covers he also created unbelievable posters for the Godzilla films, The Goonies, Mad Max, The Beast Master… but it is his super detailed pen and ink style that he used for Musashi that is truly mind-blowing. This 1990s poster for Ronin Gai shows the portraits of Yoshio Harada, Shintaro Katsu, Kanako Higuchi, Kunie Tanaka and Renji Ishibashi.”

5. El Topo (1970)

“For many years El Topo was not available to watch—my father had seen it in Florence in the 70s in an old porno theatre and he always stoked my fantasy about this incredible religious Western. This poster by the legendary Jean Giraud a.k.a. Moebius was an unbelievable tease until I finally saw the film in 1999. The poster hadn’t revealed too much. It’s a stunning ink drawing of Jodorowsky in his “Blueberry” manner with a thin watercolor wash. The desert—where Moebius located so many of his stories since his own Heavy Metal mushroom tripping days—is a simple color block that says it all.”

4. Onibaba (1964)

“The 1968 Czech poster for Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba by Hermina Melicharova. I love that the comical interpretation of the the classic "Hannya" Noh-mask is still scary as a jealous female demon.”

3. Harakiri (1962)

“One of the best artists to ever work in movie posters was Averardo Ciriello. Like his Venetian forefathers he was masterful in capturing likenesses with the simplest, loosest brushstrokes. Masaki Kobayashi’s Seppuku [a.k.a. Harakiri] is one of my all time favorite films—in many ways it is the culmination of all the great Samurai epics—and Tatsuya Nakadai’s portrayal of the avenging Ronin triumphs over all of them. Ciriello made two other action packed posters for Harakiri but this composition and portrait is unbeatable.”

2. The 400 Blows (1959)

“A formative film for me—as for so many others—was Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. There are many cool posters for the film—the Polish and the Russian are especially beautiful—but this portrait of Antoine Doinel by Hisamitsu Noguchi is my favorite. It also appears in the famous triple portrait photo shot of Jean-Pierre Léaud in the three ages of Doinel.”

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

“Bob Peak is my idol. As an illustrator it doesn’t get much better. He formed a legendary partnership with the iconic Bill Gold: an illustrator-and-designer working model that I try to aspire to in my own work with Midnight Marauder for our studio Alphaville. I could have included any number of Peak’s masterpieces—Enter the Dragon or For a Few Dollars More—they are all in my pantheon. This is the very special German version of his incredible Apocalypse Now run. No sunsets, just Brando emerging from the darkness.”

Many thanks to Tony. In addition to the Alphaville website, you can see more of his work on his Tumblr and you can follow him on Twitter.

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Movie Poster of the WeekTony StellaArnaldo PutzuHoward TerpningRoger ExcoffonHans HillmannNoriyoshi OhraiJean GiraudMoebiusHermina MelicharovaAverardo CirielloHisamitsu NoguchiBob PeakColumns
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