A new beginning of the end

In the early days of cinema almost every film had it’s own ‘The End’ title. The reason for this was that the credits were shown at the beginning of a film. This changed in the sixties when only the most important people like actors and directors were mentioned in the opening credits, the rest of the cast and crew would be mentioned during the (now often minutes-long) closing credits. The ‘The End’ titles vanished from the silver screen and wouldn’t be seen again until 2007, when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez paid homage to the exploitation films of the seventies.

Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007)

Both Death Proof and Planet Terror feature a ‘The End’ title. The one from Death Proof is ‘just a font,’ the title from Planet Terror is the same ‘The End’ logo RKO Radio pictures – one of the so-called Big Five studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age – used from 1929 to 1956. The studio is now famous for it’s film noir films, Fred and Ginger musicals, King Kong and last but not least: Citizen Kane a.k.a. The Best Movie ever made.

Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007)

A zombie movie like Planet terror won’t ever be as highly regarded as a film like Citizen Kane though and very few people might refer to it as The Best Movie ever made but it definitely has the best ‘The End’ title of the last four decades!

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941)

EDIT: Alexandra from Atlanta, GA points out it’s not technically correct to say the ‘The End’ titles have vanished completely; in 2001 the final words Ewan McGregor writes on his typewriter are ‘The end’ in Moulin rouge.

EDIT 2: I’ve located a few more recent ‘The End’ titles: Maelström (2000), Spirited away (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), Youth without youth (2007) and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs (2009).

You might also like ‘The End’ of Warner Bros, a collection of ‘The End’ titles from Warner Bros. movies from 1924 (Beau Brummel) to 1967 (Cool hand Luke and Wait until dark).

New page added: trailers 2005-2009

If you ever watched a trailer before you watched the actual movie you might have noticed that the design of the title that appeared on the silver screen was different from the title you’d seen before in the trailer.

One might expect that a film would have it’s own ‘corporate identity.’ One title design as a logo for the film, used in the advertising and promotional campaign, the poster, packaging, the credits in the movie itself. When you look at the images below you’ll notice this isn’t always the case. The typography or logo for the film used for the poster oftentimes appears in the trailer, but surprisingly hardly ever in the movie itself.

The images below show the main movie title on the left, the trailer title on the right, and a detail of its poster in the middle.

Sweeney Todd:
The titles from the poster reappear in a slightly different form in the trailer. A less detailed version is used for the main movie titles.

The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford:
The title and credits at the beginning of a movie are normally designed to put the viewer in a certain mood. I’m not sure if they tried to do so here, but if they did they failed. In case you haven’t seen it: it’s a western! Westerns usually have their own typographic language, something the designer of the trailer understood better. They probably hired a third designer for the poster and a fourth to do the packaging.

No country for old men:
The same title design is used for the poster, as well as the trailer and the cover of the DVD, but a cliché font is used for the main title as it appears in the movie.

Burn after reading:
Like The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford, the ‘corporate identity’ of this movie is a mess. The design of the Saul Bass style poster is used for the packaging, but there’s no trace of it in the title credits and the trailer.

Death proof:
The grungy retro typography of the poster has been used for the trailer, but the main title that appears in the movie is again ‘just a font.’

Movies with budgets of tens of millions of dollars are made every year. Millions are spent on advertising campaigns featuring posters, websites and trailers with appealing images and slick design to draw audiences into the theatres. Some of the major studios hire specialized firms to design opening sequences, which are sometimes even better than the film that follows them. Other studios don’t seem to give title design much priority.

A few decades ago, only audiences in cinemas would watch movie trailers. Today, movie trailers have become extremely popular on the internet. Of some 10-billion videos watched online annually, movie trailers rank #3, after news and user-created video.

To see the difference between the main titles and trailer titles of recent films I added a new trailer titles page to the Movie title stills collection. Some pretty well designed titles, but overall not as good as I expected. Just a few of those titles are ‘logos’ for the movies they represent, the majority of the titles are ‘just fonts.’

See for yourself: trailers from 2005 to 2009. Scroll over the trailer titles to view the main titles.More trailer titles can be found here: 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s