The Totally Crazy Ways Hollywood Uses Fire To Sell Movies

13 Nov


[NOTE: I originally wrote this story for, where it was first published]

In the newly released poster for Insurgent, we see a brave, stoic Shailene Woodley standing on top of a cube-shaped building which is on fire. It’s also floating in mid-air through the middle of a post-apocalyptic cityscape, but that’s beside the point.


While admittedly the poster is a bit surreal, what really seems to set the tone is the blazing inferno raging beneath Woodley’s feet, pouring out of the windows.

It’s almost as if the poster designers were worried that the strange image of a warrior woman on a floating building wouldn’t be eye-catching enough. However, like sex and the color red, fire is used all the time by poster designers for a whole multitude of reasons – and with an equally large variety of insane results.

Sometimes, the fire in the poster is totally appropriate, and makes perfect sense. For example, in this one-sheet for The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, the city of Lake Town is engulfed in flames due to an attack by the evil dragon Smaug. It makes perfect sense within the context of the subject matter.


Or in this poster for the historical action film Pompeii. After all, the movie is about a massive volcano that destroyed everything in its path in a storm of fiery devastation.


While the fire makes sense, the thought process behind using a picture of Kit Harington making that bizarre face is inexplicable.

The fire used in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 poster makes slightly less organic sense, but Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is known as “The Girl On Fire,” so it fits a motif.


In some posters, however, the fire that is awkwardly Photoshopped in makes absolutely no sense at all. Just look at this brightly colored ad for the John Cusak/Thomas Jane “classic” Drive Hard.


Where is that fire coming from? Why does it have no effect on their driving? Why would anyone use that tag line?

However, that’s nowhere near as out of place as the flames they used in the poster for Hercules.


How would that not just burn his arm, if it were actually, contextually, in the photo with him? It looks like they had a totally normal, badass pic of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson with a massive club, and then felt that people wouldn’t find it badass enough. And that makes no sense at all.

But at least it isn’t as awkward as the fire shoehorned into the X-Men: Days Of Future Past poster, in which a massive explosion seems to be an afterthought, relegated to a tiny little bit of the poster in the middle.


Were there even any massive explosions in X-Men: Days Of Future Past?

But what’s worse than random fire added to a boring movie poster? How about a random explosion that gets you accused of making fun of a national tragedy?

This is the hot water that the Australia branch of Paramount found itself in when they ran this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ad.


It might not look bad at first, but examine it a little closer. Four figures jumping out of a burning New York skyscraper with the words “September 11” below? Yeah, that wasn’t thought through all the way.

Technically it was an Australian poster, and 9/11 was the film’s release date down under, but it feels like they should have run that one by a few people before going live with it.

Sometimes, out of context explosions are used for really great effect. Check out this poster for the super-funny adventure comedy Knights Of Badassdom. Once you give your movie a title like that, you are kind of obligated to feature a massive, pointless, insane fireball in your advertising.


Even The Lego Movie had fire in their poster. Albeit, The Lego Movie was parodying big budget action films – and the fire is technically plastic – but it still looks pretty cool.


As for Godzilla, it was really just their entire advertising campaign. Almost all of their super-cool posters had fire, in one way or another.


And don’t get us wrong. Fire – even out of context fire – isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, it can look absolutely amazing. Especially for a movie like Transformers: Age Of Extinction, in which every single aspect of the film feels like it’s totally out of context anyway, even if you watch the whole thing sober.


However, it’s fairly clear that the only time fire in a movie poster is truly appropriate is when the flames are used as a backdrop to Nicolas Cage’s stoic, hovering face or half-interested full-body stance, like in the poster for the religious sci-fi flick Left Behind.


Or basically every single other poster Nicholas Cage has ever appeared on…



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