In 2023, character posters are hot property. With adaptations from books, comics and videogames, remakes, sequels (or ‘requels’ as per last year’s Scream film) and star-studded blockbusters dominating film and TV – producers are keen to whet audiences’ appetites and get them talking way before a production’s release date – and these sets of posters profiling the main characters can be a great way to do this.

But there’s a whole lot more to creating great character posters than just a simple image. Let’s break down the ways these posters can world-build, pique interest and play with audience expectations before they even start watching!

ID please

For character posters to be compelling, there needs to be clear differences between them. Bringing out the personality of each character with dynamic poses or facial expressions is a great way to do this. Damien Chazelle’s ‘Babylon’ does this well with the contrasts between Jean Smart’s cool gaze, Li Jun Li’s turned back and Margot Robbie’s frenzied dancing, suggesting a wide range of personalities.

It’s more difficult to pull this idea off in close up but ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ manages it well – with a lot being conveyed in the powerful way that the characters interact with the camera: some characters meet it’s gaze head on, others are more wary and some are looking away altogether.

Plays well with others

Character posters must work as a set. This is usually achieved by simply pulling some branding from the design across all of them – such as title typography or a backdrop like in ‘Star Trek: Picard’. But it is can also be done by pulling a theme across the set, for instance focusing on hands not faces in ‘Rings of Power’ or with something more abstract like the waves of colour in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. 

Importantly, these poster sets don’t lose sight of what they are trying to communicate about the film or show itself – character posters still need to be offering a taste of the overall advertising campaign and of course, the story behind it all.

However, the best character posters also work effectively on their own too. The posters for ‘Wednesday’ make a great set – combining to spell out the title in stark black and white – but apart from the ‘W’ poster with Jenna Ortega, they paint a slightly confused image when viewed in isolation.


Character posters are particularly compelling when using to highlight the ‘whodunnit’ nature of a film.  For ‘Death on the Nile’, the posters use descriptions and poses which label the characters like suspects in a game of Cluedo – very fitting for the adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel.

This idea is used even more powerfully in the character posters for last year’s ‘Scream’. Recognising that we will spent the film guessing who Ghostface is – the character posters depict each character peering out from Ghostface’s iconic mask, indictating that everyone’s a suspect now.

Look closer

Character posters are often deceptively simple and taking a closer look will reveal details and Easter Eggs to get fans talking. ‘Shadow and Bone’ was already a beloved book series before Netflix adapted it – and character posters focused on the torso – with richly textured images that allowed viewers to speculate on the meaning of (for instance, Ben Barnes dark colour palette reflecting his ability to control shadows and darkness). It was also a canny choice for the faces of the actors to be hidden initially to allow fans who had previously pictured the characters in their heads to be gradually won over with the look of the show.

Everything is its right place

You can reveal a lot about a person from their settings, and some character posters really lean into that by choosing different environment to showcase each character. This can be done overtly – like with Disney’s ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ which depicts Keira Knightley’s too-good-to-be-true Sugar Plum Fairy against a sickly sweet pink background and Morgan Freeman’s Drosselmeyer surrounded by several cogs, reflecting the way the character sets events in motion in the story.

This idea can also be used more subtly – as in ‘The Last of Us’: emotionally conflicted Tommy is shown against a tangled mass of trees and protective Henry literally has his back to a wall. Another example are the colourful and zany posters for ‘Knives Out’ that ooze personality from the way the characters interact with their environments (Jamie Lee Curtis lounges, Toni Collette poses, Ana de Armas stands awkwardly) as well as sneaking clues and easter eggs into the mix.

So what do you think of character posters? A crucial part of modern movie marketing or just all a bit too much? A passing trend or here to stay? A fun way to engage audiences or not as clever as they think they are? Did I miss any of your faves? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!

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