Best and worst movie posters -- EW rates this summer's blockbuster ads from ''Jungle Fever,'' ''Thelma & Louise,'' and more

The movie poster is to movies what seduction is to sex: No come-on is too devious, no promise too glittering or empty, if it entices successfully. Of course, not every film actually delivers the advertised excitement, bliss, and satisfaction, but great movie posters can be appreciated as works of art, if not exactly moments of truth. How do this summer’s posters stack up against the films they’re fronting for? Here’s a report card.

In hopes that bankable faces sell movies, this poster serves up a thick stew of stars. What this in-crowd approach hides is the endearing wackiness of Kevin Kline and Sally Field, as Robert Downey Jr.’s face gets center billing. Perhaps that’s why this funny film’s box office receipts aren’t leaving much of a ring around the bathtub. C

An exercise in outward bonding with three vexed urban angsters hitting the trail, City Slickers could make Robert Bly blush. But the poster, a mushy mix of star close-up and Louis L’Amour book jacket, lets the joke get away: Billy the Kidder’s identity is far from Crystal clear (a more photographic image was quickly substituted in newspaper ads). Still, the summer’s lamest poster didn’t slow the box office stampede. D

Could this poster be launching a new line of sportswear, the United Colors of Spike Lee? For all its elegance, it tells us only that a black man and a white woman are holding hands. Alas, even in 1991 that’s enough to seem daring and sensational. The harmonious image hardly prepares us for the most strung out and pessimistic Romeo and Juliet since West Side Story (look who’s not coming back to dinner), but with graphics as grabbing as this, who’s complaining. A-

Of all the summer posters, the neo-deco-retro rocket man is the one that actually looks like a poster, or at least like posters used to look. Like Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer‘s main attraction is its sensational look, but stars Bill Campbell and Jennifer Connelly are no Beatty and Madonna (who, let’s face it, are no Gable and Lombard). Since The Rocketeer was inspired by a nostalgic comic book, which is all design and style, and is mostly about design and style itself, the sleek, accessible poster tells us everything important about the movie — and you don’t have to buy a ticket to enjoy it. A

With a real old-fashioned star (Errol Flynn, maybe?), this movie Sherwood be better, though it’s jolly good enough fun to be doing great summer business. But the brooding poster — with its politically correct language, the ritually heroic Kevin Costner as the Bow Brummell du jour, and a romance-novel tryst scene dropped in — makes a terrific romp seem like yet another Hollywood benefit to save the whales. Or should that be the woodsmen? C

Julia Roberts, every producer’s fantasy of the perfect helpmate, is the face that’s launching a thousand scripts. This poster of the Pretty Woman is simplicity (and boredom) itself — sensitive boy meets supportive girl. But this time, something’s missing: These two, who aren’t making eye contact with each other, or with us, don’t seem to be an item. Maybe that’s why Dying Young is dying fast at the box office. D

This movie about two increasingly butch Cassidys on the highway to freedom and destruction is the summer’s cultural touchstone: No dinner party is complete without guests taking sides on the picture. Despite good fun and great acting along the way, T&L‘s climax is as morbidly macho as a biker’s tattoo. Yet the poster is upbeat, all smiling faces and blue sky — the irony and the ecstasy of bosom buddies unaware of what’s ahead on their bummer vacation. C+

City Slickers
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes