The power of love is a curious thing. According to some of the posters below it is also a force of nature, means never having to say you’re sorry, and all you need is love. You should also do some time with the one you love. It’s Valentine’s Day soon enough, so we couldn’t think of a better time to go back and look at some classic posters about Valentine’s and love as part of our Best Posters Series.
Not all of these are strictly speaking about love, or Valentine’s, and others get through on a flimsy premise. Still, much like a last-minute box of chocolates and reservations at the only place that wasn’t already booked out, it’s the thought that counts.
It Happened One Night (1934)
A classic Depression Era that in many ways set the mould for every romantic comedy that was to come: except that Frank Capra’s film has clever writing and flawless comic timing. It also started one of the great romantic comedy poster clichés, that of randomly floating heads. We can forgive it in this case, because it was the 1930s, and they hadn’t heard of Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Aniston yet. Clark Gable makes his first appearance on the list, but we are sure that if he was still alive, he wouldn’t give a damn.
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The poster below makes the bold claim that this is “This most magnificent picture ever!” There are circles that will debate this, despite it still remaining a highly popular DVD and Blu-ray re-release every couple of years. You don’t get much more old-school, Mills and Boon romance than a swooning Vivien Leigh being held aloft by Clark Gable, so stricken by a war that his buttons have been sold off into slavery. Is the background the Civil War, or just their passion igniting the poster? We may never know, but this image remains even more classic than the four-hour movie it is attached to.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
Arguably one of the most influential romances of the 20th century was itself a remake of 1939’s Love Affair, remade under that same title in 1994. It was also remade, trivia fans, as the Indian film Mann in 1999. We’ve all spotted the disembodied heads already, haven’t we? It’s only taken 20 years since the poster to It Happened One Night for this cliché to become a standard.
Love Story (1970)
From this film, and poster, we get the phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard” was star Ryan O’Neal’s response to those words two years later, when Barbara Streisand quotes the film in What’s Up, Doc? Ali MacGraw breaks the fourth wall by looking directly to camera in this poster, while O’Neal has perhaps noticed the copy of the book that sits strategically between the cast and the production credits. Love means never having to say “cash-in”.
There are so many of Woody Allen’s movies that speak to the nature of love, sex and everything in between. While Annie Hall is one of our personal favourite films, the classic scene on this minimalist poster speaks volumes about the director and his subject. Showing that the film is just as much a love story with the city of New York as it is between the lead characters, the leads are silhouetted against the magnificent backdrop of the city that Allen has only recently begun to move away from. “Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. Oh, I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be”.
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Perhaps not the most romantic of films this Valentine’s Day, but it does take place on that fatefully bloody of days, and it also has Valentine in the title. It was near enough for jazz. Plus, if you get rid of the freak in the mask with the nosebleed, this has all the classic pieces of a romantic poster. “There’s more than one way to lose your heart…” could just as readily fit on a Kate Hudson comedy as it would on a horror film, or public service announcement for that matter, and the light with the hearts and people is just darling. George Mihalka’s film was remade two decades later. One to cuddle up with some special over, and share tales of survival.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
It’s a timeless fairytale, and one of Tim Burton’s best films. As one of the taglines says “His story will touch you, even though he can’t”. Or to take a leaf from a certain Seinfeld episode’, “That Johnny Depp, he make me cry”. There is so much going on in this poster, even with the relative simplicity of it. His whole story is right there on the one-sheet if you know the film, right up to the story about the snow at the finale. We do get a disembodied head, not to mention a hand, but the poster has two things going for it that can never be taken away: Depp and dinosaurs!
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Disney had so much confidence in this release, they told us straight up: “The most beautiful love story ever told”. Beauty and the Beast remains a classic almost two decades on, so there is very little need to restate that the groundbreaking animation, wonderful songs (including the Oscar-winning score by Alan Menken and title tune, along with highly imitable tunes like “Be Our Guest”, co-written by the late Howard Ashman) and masterful storytelling keeps this as fresh as the day it was released. On the Australian 3D reissue poster, released back in 2010, the message got a little muddled: “The most beautiful love story ever, told as it has never been seen before”. Yes, it…what?
Another one that may not make you gush with desire, but it is also instructional in nature. “Love hurts” is the simply message of this poster, and it has all the right trappings. Roses, liberal use of the word “love”, love letters fashioned into a creepy mask. Put this one on for your signifcant other, and invite all your friends around. He or she will love it. Trust us*.
(*No, you probably shouldn’t).
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Baz Luhrmann’s bold vision of bohemian Paris was spectacular, spectacular but once again, it was the case of a very simple love story wrapped in a shiny bow. As the simple poster, one of many released for the film, explains “Above all things, this story is about love”. In fact, the film is full of great slogans and taglines about love. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return”, “Believe In Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and above all things, Love” and in contradiction to all of that “No Laws. No Limits. One Rule. Never Fall In Love”. Based on classic tales that informed Romeo and Juliet and La Boheme, this is essential Valentine viewing.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
“Love is a force of nature”. While the film was undoubtedly set in cowboy country of Wyoming and traced the sexual and emotional relationship of two cattlemen (brilliantly portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger) in the 1960s, it was overwhelmingly about the universal theme of love. This modern take on the western merely took the backdrop of the western to tell its tale, but the film (and by extension Annie Proulx’s original short story, adapted by Pulitzer Prize winning western writer Larry McMurtry) very knowingly uses this most masculine of settings to contrast its doomed romance against. The poster speaks volumes as the two characters are neither facing the camera or each other, or are simply unable to. Some have speculated that it is only Ledger in the poster, with the memory of Gyllenhaal in the background.
Our only Australian entry, not by any design but because we used lots of good ones in our recent list of great Australian posters, and of course we had to once again use the work of the great Jeremy Saunders. The film goes through the highs and lows of any relationship, only the lows in this one are fairly painful for everyone involved. This poster goes the opposite route, capturing a moment of pure joy in the troubled lives of the two leads.
Across the Universe (2007)
Based on the songs of the greatest musicians the world has ever known, The Beatles, the songs are like the poster and tell you that “All you need is love”. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess look majestic, floating in a paint apple in the middle of the cosmos. It is hard to look anything other than graceful under such circumstances. The striking image recalls all things The Beatles, along with giving off a kind of heart-shaped vibe. The film has kind of been forgotten a bit lately, especially with director Julie Taymor‘s more recent spectacular fails on Broadway’s Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark, and to a lesser extent, The Tempest.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Before Ryan Gosling became a ubiquitous heartthrob and star of the “Hey Girl” Internet meme, he had a meaningful relationship with a sex doll. In an incredibly classy move, the doll is not featured on the poster, but rather cheekily suggested by the shipping crate and the tagline “The search for true love begins outside the box”. Gosling’s goofy mustached grin and bunch of flowers makes the whole thing awkwardly sweet, and the cake frosting wallpaper behind him adds to the retro innocence of what is an otherwise worrying mental condition. If you look up “Unconventional romance films” in Google, chances are this will be high in the search results. We should have verified that.
Why are Pixar geniuses? Is it because they always produce stunningly beautiful animation? Is it because they rarely miss with their pitch-perfect storylines? Or is it because they have a secret window into our minds? It could be all of those things, but in this case it’s because they managed to tell one of the great love stories of the 21st century with animated robots who don’t speak. This Russian poster is the most “Awww” inspiring of a great batch, with the wide-eyed WALL-E innocently offering flowers to EVE. Tears are welling as we type.
I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
Unfairly overlooked by the people who look at things, I Love You Phillip Morris is another unconventional romance. Not because it is a comedy about two gay men, played wonderfully by a top-form Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor, but because it is about a con man who will do anything on both sides of the bars to be with the man he loves. From the Crazy, Stupid, Love team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, this is incredibly based on the true story by Steven McVicker. How much more perfect can a poster get than two people in orange jumpsuits forming a heart above razor wire. We rest our case, your honour.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
This is Not a Love Story. This is a Story About Love. Every Zooey Deschanel film or TV show now seems to be an excuse for her to sing, and this is no exception. If you love Zooey, and we do, this poster offers hundreds of her, done in the great romance movie tradition of the montage. Here it cleverly forms a sun and a blue sky, which naturally indicates summer. Did we mention that Zooey’s character is also called Summer. Genius. Really, this is a terrific poster from those fabulous boffins at Mojo.
Valentine’s Day (2010)
The poster to this hyperlinked rom-com was an obvious choice from the start, but instead of using the obvious ones with the tried and true montage (see above), we went with this much simpler Finnish poster that has a single heart-shaped balloon floating over Anywhere, USA. It makes the film look far more interesting than it actually is, and more importantly removes any trace of Taylor Lautner from the film. If only life were that simple.
Blue Valentine (2010)
As devastating as it is beautiful, Blue Valentine is a film to savour. Films such as this don’t come along very often, and the hidden beauty (and horror) of the film will only be revealed the more one contemplates the respective contributions to the breakdown. It is rare that a film dubbed a romance is actually romantic, and a drama is all too often melodramatic. Yet Blue Valentine finds the hidden truths that lie between the moments of falling in and out of love. This raw poster (from Tarharn Creative) lays it all bare, in a single passionate moment on the streets, before it all goes wrong.
Only released in Australia earlier this year, the film describes itself as “A (sort of) love story between two guys over a cold weekend in October”. The poster speaks volumes about the simultaneous intimacy and distance that exists between the two lead characters, who we spend much of the film with.