The Reason Names Are Reversed On Movie Posters
If you're anything like us, you've seen a lot of movie posters, and you might have noticed that a lot of them seem to follow the same design rules. These rules are intended to calibrate each image to grab as many eyeballs as possible. The more eyeballs, the more viewers interested in the movie the poster is promoting.
It's easy to parse out the reasoning behind some of these rules, while some have explanations that are a little more esoteric. One apparent rule in particular, though, doesn't appear to make any sense at all. It's common practice for movie posters to list the actors' names out of order, and often completely reversed, from how the actors themselves appear on the poster.
It's a mystery nearly as old as Hollywood itself, because this is in no way a recent thing. It's so prevalent that we the public seem to have collectively accepted it as just one of those weird things that probably has some explanation, even if we have no idea what it might be. Well, we're here to shatter the mystery, because there is indeed a reason for this odd phenomenon.
First of all, the way in which a film's cast appears on the poster is not at all random. It usually follows one of many incredibly specific templates. There are pretty much four hard-and-fast rules, and they are as follows. The hero of the movie is centered, and usually slightly to the right. The love interest is to the left of the hero, from the viewer's perspective. The villain or a major morally ambiguous character will be looming over the hero's left shoulder, while a buddy or ally will occupy roughly the same position over the other shoulder.
There are probably about a billion different reasons a poster artist could break down to explain why this is the way it is, but it boils down to one simple fact. It seems to work, and if there's one thing that's helpful to know about Hollywood studio executives, it's they love to stick with what works. Movies are expensive, and this precisely calibrated approach to poster design is the result of truckloads of market research conducted to maximize that investment.
So, we've covered character placement, but the question remains: Why are the actors' names always out of order relative to where they are on the poster? Well, this is where ego comes into play.
Obviously, there are several design templates for different types of movies, but regardless of the design, one thing remains constant. The names of stars on a poster are typically rendered either top-to-bottom or left-to-right, and are arranged in descending order of "billing." That is, the "top billed" star, the biggest name and/or box office draw, appears first. Some stars even have top billing worked into their contracts, and it gets weird in certain cases where the ostensible star of the film isn't the biggest name in the cast. Keep watching the video to see the reason names are reversed on movie posters.
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