Saul Bass’ title sequences

“PROJECTIONISTS – PULL CURTAIN BEFORE TITLES”.

This is the text of a note that was stuck on the cans when the reels of film for “The Man With the Golden Arm” arrived at US movie theatres in 1955. Until then the credits were referred to as ‘popcorn time.’ Audiences resented them and projectionists only pulled back the curtains to reveal the screen once they’d finished.
Saul Bass’ powerful title sequence for “The Man With the Golden Arm” changed the way directors and designers would treat the opening titles.

In Bass’ own words: “My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film’s story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it.”

Bass created some of the best title sequences ever for some of the best directors who ever lived (Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese) and some of the best films ever made (Vertigo, North by northwest, Anatomy of a murder, Spartacus, Goodfellas).

Most of the title sequences Bass designed are available on blu-ray and DVD. I’ve located 46 of the 55 title sequences he created. On the next six pages you’ll find an overview with links to blogposts featuring over a thousand stills and an occasional video.

20 years after his death Bass’ work is still very much alive, yet few people who claim to be inspired by him have seen much of his work. Here’s your chance to see a fraction of the work Bass has done during his long and prolific career: Saul Bass’ title sequences.

  • Carmen Jones (1954) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the 20th Century Fox blu-ray (2017)

    CARMEN JONES

    (1954) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams
    Studio: 
    20th Century Fox
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler

“I began as a graphic designer and as part of my work I created many film symbols for ad campaigns. During that period I happened to be working on the symbols for ‘Carmen Jones’ and ‘The man with the golden arm’ for Otto Preminger. At one point in our work Otto and I just looked at each other and said: “why not make it move?” It was really as simple as that.”

— SAUL BASS – “Bass on titles,” 1977

  • The Seven Year Itch (1955) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the 20th Century Fox blu-ray (2017)

    THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

    (1955) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams
    Studio: 
    20th Century Fox
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler
  • The Big Knife (1955) Saul Bass - title sequence

    THE BIG KNIFE

    (1955)
    Directed by: 
    Robert Aldrich
    Starring: 
    Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Network blu-ray (2015)

    THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM

    (1955) [buy]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler

“‘The man with the golden arm’ woke everybody up and said: “This is what the potential is for main titles. You thought this was just a throw-away kind of thing where we just put the type up and noone really designs it.” And Saul Bass said:“Hey, wait a minute designers, directors, here’s an opportunity for us, to take advantage of this real estate at the beginning of a movie and use it to help tell the story or just use it to make something real interesting or beautiful,” and everybody woke up.”

— KYLE COOPER, designer of the Se7en title sequence,
in the documentary “Saul Bass, title champ,” 2008

  • Storm center (1956) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Sony Pictures MOD DVD (2010)

    STORM CENTER

    (1956) [buy]
    Directed by: 
    Daniel Taradash
    Starring: 
    Bette Davis, Brian Keith, George Sanders, Paul Kelly, Joe Mantell
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Attack (1956) Saul Bass - title sequence

    ATTACK

    (1956)
    Directed by: 
    Robert Aldrich
    Starring: 
    Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Around the world in eighty days (1956) Saul Bass - title sequence

    AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS

    (1956)
    Directed by: 
    Michael Anderson
    Starring: 
    Cantinflas, David Niven, Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich
    Country: 
    USA
    • main-on-end titles
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Edge of the City (1957) Saul Bass - title sequence

    EDGE OF THE CITY

    (1957)
    Directed by: 
    Martin Ritt
    Starring: 
    John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Jack Warden, Kathleen Maguire, Ruby Dee
    Country: 
    USA
    • main-on-end titles
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saint Joan (1957) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Warner Archive DVD (2010)

    SAINT JOAN

    (1957) [buy]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Richard Widmark, Richard Todd, Anton Walbrook, John Gielgud, Jean Seberg
    Country: 
    USA, UK
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • The Pride and the Passion (1957) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Olive Films blu-ray (2016)

    THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION

    (1957) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Stanley Kramer
    Starring: 
    Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Theodore Bikel, John Wengraf
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Century Schoolbook
  • Bonjour tristesse (1958) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Twilight Time blu-ray (2012)

    BONJOUR TRISTESSE

    (1958) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylène Demongeot, Geoffrey Horne
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler
  • Vertigo (1958) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2012)

    VERTIGO

    (1958) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
    Studio: 
    Paramount Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass, Harold Adler
    Fonts used: 
    Clarendon, News Gothic

“Bass fashioned title sequences into an art, creating in some cases, like Vertigo, a mini-film within a film. His graphic compositions in movement function as a prologue to the movie – setting the tone, providing the mood and foreshadowing the action.”

— MARTIN SCORSESE

  • The Big Country (1958) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the MGM blu-ray (2011)

    THE BIG COUNTRY

    (1958) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    William Wyler
    Starring: 
    Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives
    Genre: 
    Western
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass

“There’s a story about someone seeing the titles for Wyler’s ‘The Big Country’ (1958) and remarking to Saul that it “didn’t look like a Saul Bass title sequence.” He was taken aback, because for him, there was no such thing as “a Saul Bass title sequence.”

— MARTIN SCORSESE – “Saul Bass’ cinematic art”
February 2010 issue of Architectural Digest

  • Anatomy of a murder (1959) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2012)

    ANATOMY OF A MURDER

    (1959) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • “The End”
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • North by Northwest (1959) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2012)

    NORTH BY NORTHWEST

    (1959) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau
    Studio: 
    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Psycho (1960) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2010)

    PSYCHO

    (1960) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Warner blu-ray (2010)

    OCEAN’S ELEVEN

    (1960) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Lewis Milestone
    Starring: 
    Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Spartacus (1960) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2015)

    SPARTACUS

    (1960) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Stanley Kubrick
    Starring: 
    Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton
    Studio: 
    Universal Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Clarendon
  • The Facts of Life (1960) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Olive Films blu-ray (2017)

    THE FACTS OF LIFE

    (1960) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Melvin Frank
    Starring: 
    Bob Hope, Lucille Ball
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Exodus (1960) Saul Bass - title sequence

    EXODUS

    (1960)
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Richardson
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • West Side Story (1961) Saul Bass - title sequence

    WEST SIDE STORY

    (1961)
    Directed by: 
    Robert Wise
    Starring: 
    Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Something Wild (1961) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2017)

    SOMETHING WILD

    (1961) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Jack Garfein
    Starring: 
    Carroll Baker, Ralph Meeker, Mildred Dunnock, Jean Stapleton
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Akzidenz Grotesk

“So important have the titles become that they can be a menace to the movie itself. The titles for the 1962 production of ‘Walk on the wild side,’ for example, were so arresting and so widely acclaimed that the film is remembered for little else.”

— DAVID ZEITLIN
LIFE magazine, 7 february 1964

  • Walk on the Wild Side (1962) Saul Bass - title sequence

    WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

    (1962)
    Directed by: 
    Edward Dmytryk
    Starring: 
    Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter, Barbara Stanwyck
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Advise & Consent (1962) Saul Bass - title sequence

    ADVISE & CONSENT

    (1962)
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Franchot Tone, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Gene Tierney, Burgess Meredith
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Nine hours to Rama (1963) Saul Bass - title sequence

    NINE HOURS TO RAMA

    (1963)
    Directed by: 
    Mark Robson
    Starring: 
    Horst Buchholz, José Ferrer, Valerie Gearon
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
Saul Bass It's a mad mad mad mad world 1963 title sequence
  • The Victors (1963) Saul Bass - title sequence

    THE VICTORS

    (1963)
    Directed by: 
    Carl Foreman
    Starring: 
    Vincent Edwards, Albert Finney, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Eli Wallach
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • The Cardinal (1963) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Concorde blu-ray (2013)

    THE CARDINAL

    (1963) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Tom Tryon, Romy Schneider, Carol Lynley, John Saxon, John Huston
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • In Harm’s Way (1965) Saul Bass - title sequence

    IN HARM’S WAY

    (1965)
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal
    Country: 
    USA
    • movie title
    • closing credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Bunny Lake is missing (1965) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Twilight Time blu-ray (2014)

    BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING

    (1965) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Seconds (1966) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2014)

    BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING

    (1965) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    John Frankenheimer
    Starring: 
    Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Not with my wife, you don’t! (1966) Saul Bass - title sequence

    NOT WITH MY WIFE, YOU DON’T!

    (1965)
    Directed by: 
    Norman Panama
    Starring: 
    Tony Curtis, Virna Lisi, George C. Scott
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    • The End
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
Saul Bass Grand Prix 1966 title sequence
Saul Bass Phase IV 1974 title sequence
Saul Bass Rosebud 1975 title sequence
  • That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Warner Bros. blu-ray (2012)

    THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II

    (1976) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Gene Kelly
    Starring: 
    Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • The Human Factor (1979) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Concorde blu-ray (2013)

    THE HUMAN FACTOR

    (1979) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Robert Morley, Joop Doderer
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass

“I want everything we do – that I do personally, that our office does – to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether a client understands that that’s worth anything, or that a client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things. Even if nobody cares.”

— SAUL BASS, Bass on Titles, 1977

  • Broadcast News (1987) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2011)

    BROADCAST NEWS

    (1987) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    James L. Brooks
    Starring: 
    William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Jack Nicholson
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Bodoni
  • Big (1988) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the 20th Century Fox blu-ray (2009)

    BIG

    (1988) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Penny Marshall
    Starring: 
    Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Benguiat
  • The War of the Roses (1989) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the 20th Century Fox blu-ray (2012)

    THE WAR OF THE ROSES

    (1989) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Danny DeVito
    Starring: 
    Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sägebrecht, Sean Astin
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • Goodfellas (1990) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Warner Bros. blu-ray (2016)

    GOODFELLAS

    (1990) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Starring: 
    Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Helvetica
Saul Bass Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker 1991 title sequence

“Saul Bass wasn’t just an artist who contributed to the first several minutes of some of the greatest movies in history; in my opinion his body of work qualifies him as one of the best film makers of this, or any other time.”

— STEVEN SPIELBERG
“Saul Bass 1920–1996: A celebration of an extraordinary life,” 1996

  • Doc Hollywood (1991) Saul Bass - title sequence

    DOC HOLLYWOOD

    (1991)
    Directed by: 
    Michael Caton-Jones
    Starring: 
    Michael J. Fox, Julie Warner, Barnard Hughes
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • Cape fear (1991) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal DVD (2011)

    CAPE FEAR

    (1991) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Starring: 
    Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Martin Balsam
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • The age of innocence (1993) Saul Bass - title sequence

    THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

    (1993) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Starring: 
    Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Gough
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • Higher Learning (1995) Saul Bass - title sequence

    HIGHER LEARNING

    (1995)
    Directed by: 
    John Singleton
    Starring: 
    Jennifer Connelly, Ice Cube, Omar Epps, Laurence Fishburne
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • A personal journey with Martin Scorsese (1995) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the BFI DVD (2000)

    A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES

    (1995) [buy]
    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson
    Starring: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Casino (1995) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2008)

    CASINO

    (1995) [Blu-ray]
    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Starring: 
    Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, Frank Vincent
    Country: 
    USA
    • opening credits
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass

“There was only one Saul Bass. He was a gentleman, a brilliant raconteur, a marvelous collaborator and, as I’ve said before, a truly great artist. And – let’s be honest – a giant.”

— MARTIN SCORSESE – “Saul Bass’ cinematic art”
February 2010 issue of Architectural Digest