The Art of the Sell — Alien movie poster

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 

alien movie poster

When it came time to create a poster for its strange new horror film in space, 20th Century Fox turned to one of the best in the business. The studio hired Bill Gold, who’d made his name on no less than the poster art for Casablanca and had only bolstered his reputation in the decades since with striking, unforgettable designs to help promote Dirty Harry, The Wild Bunch, The Sting, and countless others. Gold had a knack for creating iconic campaigns that almost outshone the movies themselves, even when they were classics. And Gold delivered an image that was truly amazing for Alien, a one-sheet design that featured a close-up on a face bathed in red light, the mouth wide in a scream, the eyes seemingly ripped away to reveal the vastness of space instead. In direct opposition to the satisfied assurances of many obituaries printed in solemn response to Gold’s recent passing, his design didn’t prevail, however.

Instead, Fox rejected Gold’s pass at the campaign and turned to another design firm, where Steve Frankfurt and Philip Gips tried to figure out how to get some attention for this grim film with a tricky premise and no major stars. They locked in on the idea of the menacing, murderous aliens incubating, and placed a modified version of the egg that appears in the film against a black background. The egg is cracking open, and a creepy green light sprays forth. As memorable as the image is, the effectiveness of the poster is made by the tagline, which was lit upon by Barbara Gips, Philip Gips’s wife, as she washed dishes. “In space no one can hear you scream” arguably stands as one of the movie poster taglines that defines its film as much or more than element that actually resides with the frames.

As I’ve acknowledged previously, the print ads for Alien, built around the poster design, frightened the skeleton right out of me when I was a kid. Well before I’d ever seen Alien, the movie terrified me. Now that’s a helluva ad campaign.

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