One company is out to prove that there is still a market for hand-drawn movie posters. Mondo, an offshoot of the Austin, Texas movie theater chain, Alamo Drafthouse, is an outfit that commissions artists to create alternate versions of film posters for famous titles from Star Wars to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Despite humble beginnings as a small t-shirt shop, Mondo has grown significantly, evolved, and become part of the public consciousness – at least in terms of hardcore movie fans.
This list celebrates the best posters, from some of the finest artists that Mondo has ever worked with. There are certainly a lot variant posters to choose from, but we decided to select pieces that create a mood that mirrors the tone of its corresponding film. Artwork that varies from that of its original counterpart, yet keeps the spirit of the movie alive ranked highly on this countdown.
Here is our list for the 16 Best Mondo Movie Posters of All Time.
16. Man of Steel – Ken Taylor
Ken Taylor’s reimagining of a young Clark Kent in this Man of Steel Mondo poster encapsulates the pure joy of the superhero genre. Imagination reigns on a Kansas farm in this simplistic, yet beautifully drawn piece of art.
The old wagon, the long grass, the old farm-house, and the all-embracing sky are painted with bland colors to accentuate the starkly contrasting bright, red cape. To parallel with the film’s narrative, Taylor looks to explore Superman as a person first, and later a hero, but only as an extension of this person. Fans of the film, or the character in general, could imagine themselves as this very boy in this nostalgia-inducing movie poster. Almost paradoxically, while this image suggests that this child at play is just like any other boy his age, the contrast between the vibrant cape and the scenery’s bland color scheme infer that he is anything but.
15. The Evil Dead – Olly Moss
Olly Moss pays homage to the iconic scene from Sam Raimi’s cult classic, horror/comedy, The Evil Dead, in which a hand erupts from the ground. Rather than showcasing the film’s main protagonist, or the dim scenery from the film, both are portrayed as silhouettes within the background of this massive, ominous hand.
Moss takes a minimalistic approach with color, but this simplistic idea is met with an immense amount of detail, such as bare trees inside the emerging appendage. This contrast mirrors Raimi’s juxtaposition of horror tropes and comedic elements, which has made The Evil Dead a series that redefined the genre. In the decades since this film has been released, many movies have tried to recreate the magic of this beloved franchise – with varying results at best – and this poster beautifully paints a picture of a story that is truly unlike any other.
14. Godzilla (2014) – Phantom City Creative
This poster for the 2014 reboot of Godzilla showcases a new take on a character that was villainized in its earlier 1998, big-budget, Hollywood installment. Much like other Mondo posters on this list, the use of color, or lack thereof, is noteworthy when reading into the iconography of this piece. The contrast between the grim, dark ruble, and the blood-red sky suggest that a massive battle is either about to, or has already taken place – the effects of which are obviously devastating.
It is also should be noted that not only is Godzilla emerging from the debris, the character is actually becoming it. The giant, building-crushing lizard has been portrayed as both a villain and a hero throughout its long cinematic history, but the more heroic aspects of the character are not necessarily well-known in the Western parts of the world. Phantom City Creative’s take on this 2014 blockbuster imbues the lizard with a complexity that’s often missing from the movies.
13. The Dark Knight Rises – Jock
One of the many themes of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is the idea of consequences. Drastic actions, regardless of intention, have equally drastic repercussions. The ramifications of Bruce Wayne’s radical actions to protect his beloved Gotham City finally come to a head in the final entry of this much-acclaimed franchise. The effects of which are ominously looming in this reimagined movie poster.
The use of white space in this picture showcases Gotham city, and also Batman, as being completely isolated from the rest of the world. The aftermath of the previous film’s events are finally addressed in the narrative of The Dark Knight Rises, and the tone is mirrored in this poster. It is also interesting to note that the city of Gotham is, although small in respect to the overall picture, very detailed – especially in comparison to the silhouette of the Dark Knight. This suggests that the film will perhaps focus more on the city and its inhabitants, rather than the vigilante himself.
12. Drive – Ken Taylor
Ken Taylor’s use of purple in the Mondo poster to this 2011 neo-noir arthouse picture can tell you a lot about this film’s tone. Symbolically, purple takes on several different meanings in art, as well as in storytelling; the color often is used to represent feelings of frustration and even contemplation – both of which can arguably be found on this portrait of the Ryan Gosling character.
To mirror these emotions, the twisted, winding streets in the background of this movie poster reflect feelings of confusion and suggest that everything in this film may not be as it first appears. The splatters of color, and the choices of when, and when not to apply detail, give this piece a surreal, almost dreamlike sense that indicates a less straight forward narrative than one might have originally anticipated by simply watching a trailer.
11. The Iron Giant – Kevin Tong
Way before Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Ratatouille, The Incredibles and the insanely long wait before the The Incredibles 2 (which is coming, by the way), there was this fan favorite, theatrical debut from a talented, young director by the name of Brad Bird.
Sure, we all know his name today, but in 1999, this no name filmmaker swept moviegoers off their feet with this story of a young boy who befriends a gigantic robot from outer space. With a paranoid government afraid of the ramifications of allowing a large, weaponized machine to roam free on this planet, conflict, bred out of fear, soon ensues. There is a lot to marvel at in Kevin Tong’s Mondo poster for the Brad Bird animated classic: the use of symmetry, the variations of the color red, and the fact that at the heart of this film, and at the center of this poster, is the relationship between a young Hogarth Hughes and this beloved, albeit massive robot.
10. The Lion King – Tom Whalen
Simba has arguably never looked more regal than he does in this variant poster, and perhaps no one can sum up the themes at play here better than Mufasa himself: “A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.”
Tom Whalen captures the true essence of this Disney classic in Mondo’s reimagining of The Lion King. The rise and fall of a kingdom, the dynamics of a family divided by power, and the classic tale of good versus evil are all featured in this one picture. Without seeing even the film, it is obvious to any onlooker which characters are the villains, and which are the heroes – simply by viewing this one piece or art. Not to mention, the use of shadows on the face of Simba is a nice touch, symbolizing the inner turmoil that he encounters throughout this film.
9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Dan McCarthy
Steven Spielberg is arguably the best director of this generation and already has numerous classics under his belt. Despite his incredible longevity in Hollywood, and a legacy anyone would be proud to hang their hat on, the legendary filmmaker has several exciting titles on the horizon: The BFG, Ready Player One and, of course, the highly anticipated Indiana Jones 5. Still, even with all of the hit movies to his credit, one of the most adored Spielberg films was released in 1982, and it goes by the title E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Sure, we all know the iconic image of E.T. dressed in a red hoodie, riding in the basket of Elliot’s bike, but Dan McCarthy goes for an entirely different, “otherworldly” tone in this unique piece of film artwork. Instead of featuring Elliot, Gertie, or any of the other human characters from the movie, McCarthy instead chooses to show E.T. in the middle of the forest, under the pale blue light of his spacecraft – all with an ultra-realistic attention to detail.
8. Star Wars (trilogy) – Olly Moss
In the previous six months alone, the moviegoing public has arguably been more Star Wars-obsessed than ever in the history of this beloved film series. With the recent release of the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the announcement by Disney, that its parks will soon include Star Wars-theme “lands,” and the ever-growing hype for future films, this franchise continues to stay within the realm of public consciousness almost weekly with unique and newsworthy headlines for fans to enjoy.
The original Star Wars trilogy stand as three of the most popular films ever made, so it only makes sense that one of Mondo’s most celebrated artists, Olly Moss, was tasked with creating variant art for each of these adored titles. While character silhouettes are not new to Moss’ style, this is some of his best work ever for the poster producing company. We especially enjoy how the scenery within each of the character’s silhouettes helps to form their respective facial features.
7. Back to the Future (trilogy) – Phantom City Creative
From one legendary trilogy to another, the next entry on this list features the iconic DeLorean (now heading back into production by the way) in this collection of Phantom City Creative’s variant artwork for the fan favorite, time-traveling film franchise, Back to the Future. Phantom City Creative is responsible for some of the most inspired posters in the history of Mondo, and they do not fail to deliver here.
Our favorite aspect of this set is how each poster works, both on an individual level, as well as together to form a single unit. Separately, each poster features one third of the famous time-travel vehicle, along with a scene from each respective film, but together, all three posters come together to create a unified work of art that makes all three a must own for any hardcore collector.
6. My Neighbor Totoro – Olly Moss
Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movies are some of the most highly revered films ever made; from Spirited Away to Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, this celebrated, Japanese, animated filmmaker has more than a few classics to his credit. Widely regarded as one of his best is the beloved movie My Neighbor Totoro.
Anyone familiar with the work of Miyazaki may have recognized the fact that nature often plays a key role within his films, and My Neighbor Totoro is certainly no different. Playing off of that fact is Olly Moss’ representation of the variant art for this adored film. Doubling as the ears of the titular character, the lush forest is a prominent feature of this stunning poster.
5. Halloween (1978) – Phantom City Creative
The beauty of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, is that it was absolutely terrifying without being particularly graphic or violent. The film allowed audiences to use their imagination to fill in the blanks with their own brain power – along with a little push from the narrative of course. What Carpenter understood is that the scariest images are within the minds of the respective viewers watching the film – allowing for a little wiggle room for moviegoers to implant their own ideas, adding to the element of fear.
In the same vein, Phantom City Creative displays nothing particularly graphic or violent in this poster, and yet, the image creates the perfect mood for this film. For those who have not seen this movie, the tone is set, but for those who have, they are reminded of the iconic scene from this genre defining classic. Even without the film title on the upper right corner of this picture, the poster stands on its own as a very creepy image.
4. Mulholland Drive (2001) – Kevin Tong
From Elephant Man to Blue Velvet, and even television’s Twin Peaks, David Lynch has been a premier writer/director in Hollywood for decades. While many of the aforementioned films have received the Mondo treatment, Kevin Tong’s variant art poster for the 2001, psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive, is among the very best ever put into production – not only in terms of the filmography of Lynch, but from the Mondo company as a whole.
Mulholland Drive follows a starry-eyed young actress by the name of Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), as she moves to Los Angeles and befriends an amnesic woman played by Laura Harring. The ensuing events are as twisted and unforeseen as one would expect from a David Lynch film. The unraveling of the faces in this surreal portrait reflect that fact, and corresponding with the complicated and intertwined relationship between the two woman, is the little detail that Harring’s character can be found inside the portrait of the Watts-portrayed Betty.
3. Rear Window – Laurent Durieux
Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is one of the most influential films ever created, and this poster, as created by Laurent Durieux for Mondo’s alternate artwork posters, captures the most iconic and anxiety-inducing shot in the entire film. Depicting the scene in which the suspected murderer Lars Thorwald finally realizes that he is being watched. Durieux captures the essence of the entire film in one image.
One of the little details that we enjoy the most is that L.B. Jeffries’ binoculars, which double as the villainous eyes of the suspected Lars Thorwald. Not only do we see the outlined silhouette of the films antagonist, but the reflection of the titular “rear window” also displays the respective windows and balconies of Jeffries’ many neighbors – which are absolutely essential to this film. Not only is this poster visually striking to audiences today, but it also fits the time period in which this film was released – making it worthy, even, of the master of suspense himself.
2. The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) – Olly Moss
As revealed by this list, the duo of Mondo posters and Olly Moss have proven fruitful over the years. While there are several fantastic works of art to choose from in the large library of Moss’ distinguished, variant art posters, his reimagining of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is among the very best from this celebrated artist, as well as the poster producing company in general.
There is just so much to admire about this poster: the sparse use of color throughout, the almost Biblical imagery of the fellowship, the duality of the broken sword and the eye of Sauron, the contrast between light in dark which reflects themes within the films themselves, and perhaps our favorite hidden detail, the little tiny Gollum hanging on the last ridge, which doubles as the legendary sword, Andúril. Moss’ attention to detail is obvious to observers throughout each of his various pieces for Mondo, but there is arguably none that come together more beautifully than his interpretation of The Lord of the Rings.
1. Taxi Driver – Martin Ansin
When speaking about attention to detail, there is perhaps no Mondo poster more visually striking than Martin Ansin’s variant artwork for the Scorsese classic Taxi Driver. 1970s is seen through the eyes of the Robert De Niro-depicted Travis Bickle. The bland coloration as used by Ansin assigns the New York City streets a dark, almost dirty connotation. In contrast, the detailed vehicles and street signs leave the viewer with a sense of wonder. The balance between the surreal and the very detailed, ultra-realistic aspects of the landscape creates, arguably, the most visually stunning poster that Mondo has ever produced.
The use of color, in regards to the De Niro character, makes it appear as though he is stepping out of a painting – apart from the picture itself. This stark contrast acts to make Bickle the focal point of this poster, despite not being centered in the frame.
Do you agree with our list? What are some of your favorite Mondo movie posters and artists? Make sure to let us know in the comments section.