As a result of globalisation, we are constantly exposed to goods, products, art and ideas from across the world. And one of the most influential of these is stories – in the form of films, books, theatre and folklore. However, even as stories transcend borders, cultural norms and differences still pervade.

Consequently, when we present these narratives outside their original environment – they can be perceived differently. Because of this, production companies will often create different posters (and other marketing materials) for each country or region in order to preserve the message of the film or, more commonly, its box office potential. These changes can be anything from subtle tweaks to complete redesigns.

In this article, we delve into just how film posters diverge from country to country, shedding light on the cultural, artistic, and contextual influences that shape these variations.

Rebel with a Cause

The history of film posters in Poland follows a very different path to the development of the medium in the US and the UK. There’s a big reason for this. After WWII, Poland was under communist rule and under the Stalinist regime fine art was essentially censored. The Polish artistic community found a loophole however: film posters. The state-owned film industry was hiring artists to create film posters for upcoming releases – but – unbelievably – they didn’t care what they looked like. This created a unique situation where artists could work free from the constraints of either studio and government interference – and the results are astounding. These striking interpretations were much more abstract and symbolic than most other poster art and showed influences from diverse artistic styles including Surrealism, Expressionism and Dadaism. 

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by Witold Dybowski, ROCKY by Edward Lutczyn and Apocalypse Now by Waldemar Swierzy

Hazard a Guess

In our increasingly connected world, you can access information about a new release from anywhere in the world – but this wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s, mobile cinema operators would travel throughout Ghana with a television, VCR, VHS tapes, and a portable generator – offering makeshift screenings in villages with no electricity. Without access to official posters or affordable printing, these operators employed local artists to hand paint posters onto canvas (often on used flour sacks) – sometimes without having even seen the film! The results were every bit as wild as you might imagine and these items are now popular collector’s items.

Ghanaian Movie Posters

Setting the Tone 

Some territories seem to enjoy certain genres of film more than others. For instance, Action is particularly popular in Asia and Horror and Rom-Coms go down well in Mexico. With this in mind, some marketing campaigns seek to emphasise different aspects of a film depending on where it is being advertised. So whilst the US poster for ‘Big Hero 6’ focuses on adorable robot Baymax, the French version is a much busier design depicting the more adventurous side of the story. Likewise, the US poster for ‘That Awkward Moment’ highlights the male relationships in what has been described as a ‘bro-mantic comedy’, but the Australian poster looks like a sweet romantic date movie and has even been renamed (‘Are we officially dating?’) to reflect this.

US poster by Proof / BLT Communications, LLC (left) and French poster by Art Machine (right)
US poster by WORKS ADV (left) and Australian poster by Carnival Studio (right)

No Offense 

At times, it can be necessary to make changes to a poster to sidestep upsetting audiences. The Italian version of the ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ poster is virtually the same as the US version – except for one key change. Doctor Strange’s hand gesture – whilst totally acceptable in much of the world – has a different meaning in Italy and some other regions. In these places, making this gesture towards someone implies that the targeted person is a cuckold (man whose wife is unfaithful). So a simple swap for a much less innocuous sign is an easy way to avoid stirring things up.

Italian poster (left) and US poster both by BLT Communications, LLC (right)

Seeing the Funny Side

On the flip side, some cultures may have a more liberal approach towards what is acceptable – which explains the tagline for the French release of ‘Barbie’. The imagery for both posters is in a very similar vein but the tagline is a little more risqué. Whilst the tagline for the US/UK version of the poster reads: ‘She’s everything. He’s just Ken’ – the French tagline reads: ‘Elle peut tout faire. Lui, c’est juste Ken.’ Which at first glance, seems like a pretty faithful translation. But here’s the thing, in France ‘ken’ is slang for f*ck/sex and when read out loud “c’est” sounds like “sait” which means knows – so the whole line could be read as ‘She can do everything. He just knows how to f*ck’. Now some people have claimed that it’s just an innocent mistake, but given that they changed the first part of original line from ‘She’s everything’ to ‘She can do everything’ – I feel like someone knew what they were doing!

US poster by BLT Communications, LLC (left) and French poster (right)

Controversial Choices

Controversies around posters and their changes can get a lot more heated though. The Chinese market has been accused of racism several times over changes to posters that displace or even remove black actors from their designs. This can be seen in the posters for ‘Black Panther’ and ‘The Force Awakens’ which conceal and minimise the film’s black leading men. Chinese state media denied claims of racism at the time, but there hasn’t been much other reasoning for why these changes were made.

US poster by Art Machine (left) and Chinese poster by Art Machine (right)
US poster by LA (left) and Chinese poster by eclipse (right)

Taking a Risk

As we’ve seen from the earlier days of experimental Polish film poster art though, releases in other countries can lead to some really interesting designs. Whether that is because they are less averse to risk-taking or something in the story resonates with a particular culture – I don’t know – but the bold visions presented by the Polish version of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and the Chinese version of ‘Venom’ – remind me that it can be worth looking a little further afield for inspiration.

Saving Private Ryan poster by Leszek Żebrowski
Venom poster by Spin Destiny

There are many incredible variations of film posters across the globe and these examples have hopefully given you a taste of the rich diversity of human creativity, cultural identity, and artistic interpretation that goes into each one. As stories traverse borders, the cultural nuances they encounter can shape their reception, creating something new and fresh. And these different interpretations can resonate deeply with people both within and outside a culture – reminding us all that there is more than one way to look at the world and its stories.


What do you think of these posters? Do the posters of any particular country inspire you? Have I missed any great ones? Don’t forget to let me know in the comments!

For poster and graphic design services for your latest TV or film project, drop me a line at