The majority of film posters rely heavily on the face or a figure of a character to take pride of place in their imagery. There’s a good reason for this: viewing faces creates empathy, guides our gaze and grabs our attention. Think no one wants to see anymore of your selfies? Think again. On Instagram, pictures with human faces are 38 percent more likely to receive likes and 32 percent more likely to attract comments than photos with no faces.

Faces help the audience form a relationship with a character and a story, before even seeing the opening frame of a film. Sometimes though, that isn’t the aim. In film genres where the object may be alienation (often horror or satire), body parts can be used to create a more objective (or objectifying) feel.

Below, I examine some of the classic tropes.

All eye(s) on you

A popular option for horror films (where in the past, the actors were traditionally unknowns) – the eye is both anonymous and intense. The eye is usually wide and scared, and sometimes features another horror element such as blood or a strangely coloured iris.

The Eye, Avatar & Candyman - examples for Eyes

Lip service

Images of lips on film posters are incredibly homogenous – they’re nearly always female, coated in thick and glossy red lipstick and are usually suggestively open. They make for a strong visual image that conveys sexuality and deviancy but are, for the most part, overdone and clichéd.

Inside Deep Throat, True Blood, The Rocky Horror Picture Show & Jennifer's Body - Lips poster examples

Get a leg up 

Similarly to lips, legs on posters are nearly always female or feminised (see Kinky Boots) and it is rare to see this subverted. Often this formula does feature the faces of other (usually predominantly male) characters between or behind the legs – making it clear who we the audience should empathise with.

The Graduate, Kingsman, Kinky Boots & For Your Eyes Only - Legs poster examples

A helping hand

A hand reaching or grasping conveys a dark atmosphere and the suggestion of a threat. It’s commonly used in horror, but hands clasped can also be used to depict hope and connection in a drama (such as the iconic imagery of Schindler’s List). Contrary to some other body parts, it is much easier for the audience to connect with the human emotion that hands can communicate and project themselves into the film.

Logan, Psycho, Schindler's List & Us - Hands poster examples

Body of work

You may feel that body parts in film posters have been done to death. Clichés abound and the associations with much of this imagery can feel very outdated. However, it’s worth understanding how these images have been used to take and subvert any expectations they may create if perhaps, you are looking to create something truly original.

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