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. Below you’ll find an overview with links to blogposts featuring over a thousand stills and dozens of videos.

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.

“For the average audience, the credits tell them there’s only three minutes left to eat popcorn. I take this ‘dead’ period and try to do more than simply get rid of names that filmgoers aren’t interested in.
I aim to set up the audience for what’s coming;
make them expectant.”

— SAUL BASS

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

    CARMEN JONES

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey, Olga James, Joe Adams
    Studio: 
    20th Century Fox
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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

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

    THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH

    Directed by: 
    Billy Wilder
    Starring: 
    Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Robert Strauss
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler
  • Saul Bass: The Big Knife (1955) title sequenceSource: the Arrow Academy blu-ray (2017)
    1955
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    THE BIG KNIFE

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

    THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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

  • Saul Bass: Storm center (1956) title sequence
    1956
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    STORM CENTER

    Directed by: 
    Daniel Taradash
    Starring: 
    Bette Davis, Brian Keith, George Sanders, Paul Kelly, Joe Mantell
    Studio: 
    Columbia Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Attack (1956) title sequence
    1956
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    ATTACK

    Directed by: 
    Robert Aldrich
    Starring: 
    Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Robert Strauss, Richard Jaeckel
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Around the world in eighty days (1956) Saul Bass - title sequence
    1956
    • main-on-end titles

    AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS

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

    EDGE OF THE CITY

    Directed by: 
    Martin Ritt
    Starring: 
    John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Jack Warden, Kathleen Maguire, Ruby Dee
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Saint Joan (1957) title sequenceSource: the Warner Archive DVD (2010)
    1957
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    SAINT JOAN

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

    THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION

    Directed by: 
    Stanley Kramer
    Starring: 
    Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Theodore Bikel, John Wengraf
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Century Schoolbook
  • Saul Bass: The Young Stranger (1957) title sequence
    1957
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    THE YOUNG STRANGER

    Directed by: 
    John Frankenheimer
    Starring: 
    James MacArthur, Kim Hunter, James Daly, James Gregory, Whit Bissell
    Studio: 
    RKO Radio Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Bonjour tristesse (1958) title sequenceSource: the Twilight Time blu-ray (2012)
    1958
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    BONJOUR TRISTESSE

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylène Demongeot, Geoffrey Horne
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Lettering: 
    Harold Adler
  • Saul Bass: Cowboy (1958) title sequenceSource: the Twilight Time blu-ray (2016)
    1958
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    COWBOY

    Directed by: 
    Delmer Daves
    Starring: 
    Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, Anna Kashfi, Brian Donlevy, Richard Jaeckel
    Genre: 
    Western
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Vertigo (1958) title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2012)
    1958
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    VERTIGO

    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore, Henry Jones
    Studio: 
    Paramount Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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

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

    THE BIG COUNTRY

    Directed by: 
    William Wyler
    Starring: 
    Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives
    Genre: 
    Western
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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

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

    ANATOMY OF A MURDER

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, George C. Scott
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: North by Northwest (1959) title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2012)
    1959
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    NORTH BY NORTHWEST

    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau
    Studio: 
    Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Psycho (1960) title sequenceSource: the Universal blu-ray (2010)
    1960
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    PSYCHO

    Directed by: 
    Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring: 
    Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) title sequenceSource: the Warner blu-ray (2010)
    1960
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    OCEAN’S ELEVEN

    Directed by: 
    Lewis Milestone
    Starring: 
    Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: The Facts of Life (1960) title sequenceSource: the Olive Films blu-ray (2017)
    1960
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    THE FACTS OF LIFE

    Directed by: 
    Melvin Frank
    Starring: 
    Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Ruth Hussey, Don DeFore, Louis Nye
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Exodus (1960) title sequence
    1960
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    EXODUS

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Ralph Richardson, Peter Lawford, Lee J. Cobb
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: West Side Story (1961) title sequence
    1961
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    WEST SIDE STORY

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

    SOMETHING WILD

    Directed by: 
    Jack Garfein
    Starring: 
    Carroll Baker, Ralph Meeker, Mildred Dunnock, Jean Stapleton
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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

  • Saul Bass: Walk on the Wild Side (1962) title sequenceSource: the Sony Pictures blu-ray (2021)
    1962
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

    Directed by: 
    Edward Dmytryk
    Starring: 
    Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter, Barbara Stanwyck
    Studio: 
    Columbia Pictures
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Nine hours to Rama (1963) title sequence
    1963
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    NINE HOURS TO RAMA

    Directed by: 
    Mark Robson
    Starring: 
    Horst Buchholz, José Ferrer, Valerie Gearon, Robert Morley, Harry Andrews
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2017)
    1965
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD

    Directed by: 
    Stanley Kramer
    Starring: 
    Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: The Victors (1963) title sequence
    1963
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    THE VICTORS

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

    THE CARDINAL

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Tom Tryon, Romy Schneider, Carol Lynley, John Saxon, John Huston
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: In Harm’s Way (1965) title sequenceSource: the Paramount Pictures blu-ray (2021)
    1965
    • movie title
    • closing credits

    IN HARM’S WAY

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Dana Andrews, Burgess Meredith
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Bunny Lake is missing (1965) title sequenceSource: the Twilight Time blu-ray (2014)
    1965
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Noël Coward
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Seconds (1966) title sequenceSource: the Criterion Collection blu-ray (2014)
    1965
    • title sequence
    • “The End”

    SECONDS

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

    NOT WITH MY WIFE, YOU DON’T!

    Directed by: 
    Norman Panama
    Starring: 
    Tony Curtis, Virna Lisi, George C. Scott, Carroll O’Connor, Richard Eastham
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Grand Prix (1966) title sequence
    1966
    • title sequence

    GRAND PRIX

    Directed by: 
    John Frankenheimer
    Starring: 
    James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Toshirô Mifune, Adolfo Celi
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Such Good Friends (1971) title sequenceSource: the Olive Films blu-ray (2012)
    1971
    • title sequence

    SUCH GOOD FRIENDS

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Dyan Cannon, James Coco, Jennifer O’Neill, Ken Howard, Burgess Meredith
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: Rosebud (1975) title sequence
    1975
    • title sequence

    ROSEBUD

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Peter O’Toole, Richard Attenborough, Peter Lawford
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976) title sequenceSource: the Warner Bros. blu-ray (2012)
    1976
    • title sequence

    THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II

    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
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: The Human Factor (1979) title sequenceSource: the Concorde blu-ray (2013)
    1979
    • title sequence

    THE HUMAN FACTOR

    Directed by: 
    Otto Preminger
    Starring: 
    Richard Attenborough, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Robert Morley, Joop Doderer
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    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)
    1987
    • title sequence

    BROADCAST NEWS

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

    BIG

    Directed by: 
    Penny Marshall
    Starring: 
    Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Perkins, Robert Loggia, John Heard, Jared Rushton
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Benguiat
  • The War of the Roses (1989) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the 20th Century Fox blu-ray (2012)
    1989
    • title sequence

    THE WAR OF THE ROSES

    Directed by: 
    Danny DeVito
    Starring: 
    Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sägebrecht, Sean Astin
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Syncopation
  • Goodfellas (1990) Saul Bass - title sequenceSource: the Warner Bros. blu-ray (2016)
    1990
    • title sequence

    GOODFELLAS

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

    PREMINGER: ANATOMY OF A FILMMAKER

    Directed by: 
    Valerie A. Robins
    Starring: 
    Otto Preminger, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Caine, Burgess Meredith
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Saul Bass

“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

  • Saul Bass: Doc Hollywood (1991) title sequence
    1991
    • title sequence

    DOC HOLLYWOOD

    Directed by: 
    Michael Caton-Jones
    Starring: 
    Michael J. Fox, Julie Warner, Barnard Hughes, Woody Harrelson, Bridget Fonda
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
  • Saul Bass: The age of innocence (1993) title sequence
    1993
    • title sequence

    THE AGE OF INNOCENCE

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

    HIGHER LEARNING

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

    A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES

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

    CASINO

    Directed by: 
    Martin Scorsese
    Starring: 
    Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone, Frank Vincent
    Country: 
    USA
     
     
    Title design: 
    Elaine & Saul Bass
    Fonts used: 
    Washington

“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