Thriller films have been producing suspense, mystery, and adrenaline-inducing narratives since the Hollywood Golden Age. However, in recent years, it feels as if many poster designs for this genre have become more and more formulaic. Which feels like they’re missing a trick! Thrillers often depend heavily on the element of surprise, so surely designs that embrace an unexpected approach can be even more intriguing for an audience? Luckily, I’ve been spotting work that is doing just that. In this article, I will explore posters for five thrillers that have taken the road less travelled. 

Master Gardener

Rather than relying on the traditional dark and cool colour scheme associated with thrillers, this poster turns things on its head with a backdrop of lush green and warm pink – a colour also used for the title typography. 

Joel Edgerton’s shifty gaze and dark clothing maintains the mystery brewing beneath the surface and even though his skin is rendered in a warm tone – there is enough detail in it to give a gritty feel. 

These contrasting visuals really subverts the traditional thriller aesthetic and entices the audience to uncover the secrets that lie within the seemingly peaceful setting.

Master Gardener poster


Many thriller posters go for a stark approach with minimal characters to reflect the bleakness and isolation at the heart of the film, but this one flips the script with kaleidoscopic imagery that connects to its unconventional structure (the film is divided into non-linear vignettes titled after the five main characters). 

A layered film full of intricate schemes and double crosses, the poster presents Sharper as a puzzle for the audience to solve. The rich colour palette and city skyline indicate a story about the wealthy elite and the characters’ many reflections suggest that no one knows just who they can trust.

Sharper poster by Ignition


Another opulent set of colours, Sanctuary brightly lit design goes against the conventional darkness of a lot of thriller posters. Margaret Qualley’s louche pose lacks the tension of most character poses, but her leering look invites the audience to uncover a seedy story. A blurred foreground on the left creates a feeling of voyeurism and it’s clear that not everything will be as it appears.

Sanctuary poster

Killers of the Flower Moon

This is a much more muted palette that the other examples but its earthy warmth is still going against type – as is its domestic setting. But rather than create a cosy feeling, these elements evoke decay and wear – which is further emphasised by the worn effect on the typography and background. Lily Gladstone looks sweet but sickly and Leonardo DiCaprio wears a haunted look – despite not looking like anything else right now, it’s clear that this will be an intense ride.

Killers of the Flower Moon poster


The colour scheme and playful imagery are truly unexpected for this genre – although of course, it would be difficult to have a film called Tetris without tetris blocks in the design! On closer inspection, the colours are actually slightly more muted than they appear which fits in with the retro typography and of course, the 80s setting of the story.

The blocks are always used in a way that reflects more traditional thriller design – partially obscuring a character’s face – which hints at duplicitousness or evasiveness. The arrangement of the blocks piling up also make full use of thematic idea of a game that needs solving – for the characters and the audience.

Tetris poster by Concept Arts

Thriller film posters have traditionally relied on cool and dark aesthetics, obscurity and tense character facial expressions and poses. However, these approaches show that by breaking free from convention – and connecting differently and perhaps more deeply to the stories being told – designers can infuse an extra layer of intrigue into their creations. By capturing viewers’ attention with unexpected choices, these posters can capture audiences who might have walked on by and generate heightened anticipation for the thrilling experiences that await them on the screen.

How do you like these approaches? Do they whet your appetite for this genre, or do you prefer the traditional approach? Have any recent thriller posters caught your eye? Let me – and the rest of us – know in the comments!

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