Get inspired: typography in film title sequences

Film title sequences function similarly to book covers: they serve as first impressions. Today we not only assemble a list of our favorite title sequences, but also ones that feature brilliant use of typography.

In film, opening title sequences play a key role in evoking the film’s overall mood and set the tone. With the help of fascinating graphics and elaborated typography, title sequences are no longer perfunctory. Many title sequences are fun and witty, successfully combining the art of graphic design and film-making that keeps audience hooked from the moment the lights go down and the first scene of a film.

01. Anatomy of a Murder (1959) & Psycho (1960) – Saul Bass

An iconic graphic designer and visual storyteller, Saul Bass ran the gamut of techniques in his wide repertoire of film title sequences, from typography to montage to cut-out paper. Bass is said to be the pioneer of modern opening title sequences with his experimental styles that crystallize a film into a metaphor. We particularly like Bass’ title sequences to Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) that best show the designer’s approach.


02. Dr. Strangelove (1964) – Pablo Ferro

Pablo Ferro’s title sequences to Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire Dr. Strangelove makes a departure from the 1960s American title design that mainly uses clean and geometric typography. The aerial footage of aircraft—mainly from stock photos—works well with handwritten typography to prepare the audience for the mood and story of the film. The quirkiness from the elongated and condensed letters was masterful that Ferro features the style again in the sequence of Men in Black (1997).

(Images via Art of the Title)

03. Se7en (1995) – Kyle Cooper

The title sequence to David Fincher’s Se7en, featuring subliminal imagery of fingertips, photographs, pages with intense handwriting, overlaid with grungy typography, is one of those classics that remains delightfully evocative to this day. The whole sequence feels manic and abrasive, projecting what the viewers are about to experience: a mind-boggling thriller. Cooper was highly praised for this sequence that the style reprises in his main title for Mimic (1997).

(Images via Art of the Title)

04. Catch Me If You Can (2002) – Kyle Cooper

Saul Bass’s lasting legacy inspired many title sequences that remain indelible throughout the year. Kyle Cooper’s visually pleasing title sequence to Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002), for example, uses playful typography with elongated letterforms to establish the stage for the story. The balance of typographic contrast and the silhouettes that deliver strong messages is a knockout.

(Images via Art of The Title)

05. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – Danny Yount

In his title sequence for the 2005 crime-comedy “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, designer Danny Yount made use of strong graphics in tried-and-true color palettes coupled with clean letterforms, a reminiscent of Saul Bass style graphics, to recreate the look of 1960s detective stories.

(Images via Art of the Title)

06. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Jessica Hische

Wes Anderson’s have always been one of a kind, but we find Moonrise Kingdom’s title sequence is the loveliest of all. Fun fact: Jessica Hische, the designer of the type, first based off the lettering on Edwardian Script ITC for the 60s American style but ended up with 40s French look for a more classic feel. Embedding such delicate type serves as a playful introduction to Anderson’s coming-of-age story.

(Images via Art of the Title)

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