I've always wondered why they don't do this properly. It seems wrong to me to place a different name on top of an actor's/actress' photo.

Why don't they align actor & actress names with their photos in film posters? I've seen this myriads of times.

An example:

enter image description here

  • Ha! I have no idea who any of them are, so I have no reason to think those aren't the right actors names. "Nick" could be a nickname for "Nikki", for example. Such a bad choice for this particular poster...
    – Izkata
    Mar 8, 2012 at 20:03
  • 3
    I always thought that Steel Magnolias was the, er, "poster child" for this weird alignment.
    – LarsTech
    Mar 9, 2012 at 1:56

4 Answers 4


It is probably a combination of the decisions of graphic designers (who may not agree with you that there is necessarily a 'proper' way to do this). Plus the order of names in credits and posters is carefully negotiated in contracts with the stars.

In the example above Nick Stahl probably got top billing, and negotiated his name to be first in all marketing, and then the graphic designers and marketing people wanted to put both the main star in the center of the poster, and slightly larger, and framed by the two women. They probably could have put Nick Stahl's name above the others and complied with the contracts, but a graphic design decision was made that the order of the names was unimportant compared to the overall look of the poster.

  • 4
    I had always assumed it was to create some sort "cognitive dissonance": you glance and recognise the face (or name) of your favourite actor, then look up (or down) and "hey!", the name (or name) doesn't match -- making you double take and pay more attention to the poster. Job done. Attention caught. But I guess you're right, it's all driven by money (contractuals). Some references to back up your answer: Posterwire.com, Straight Dope Message Board, Movie News, TV Tropes - Billing Displacement.
    – Hugo
    Mar 9, 2012 at 13:18
  • @Hugo: Thanks for the references. You are also correct, I assume that the graphic designers and marketing people don't mind messing with people like that too.
    – iandotkelly
    Mar 9, 2012 at 16:49

This is a great question and I think Ian nailed it - but I also wanted to bring up the classic story of The Towering Inferno:

Stars Paul Newman and Steve McQueen apparently argued intensely over who should get top billing. In the end the producers settled for a compromise: reading the film poster (which is reproduced as the DVD cover) top to bottom, Paul Newman is first, i.e. higher, or "top" billing. But reading left to right, Steve McQueen is first. The same applies to their photographs either side of the main artwork, McQueen on the left but Newman (marginally) higher up. Ironically, this billing format was an issue when McQueen was considered for a role in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

enter image description here

Taken from MovieMistakes.com.


I think it's because the functions are separate. Agents determine the order of the performers' names for publicity, but the art work of the poster is not created until much later, probably just before the film is released. Since it may incorporate a scene or collection of screenshots that need to be aesthetically pleasing, the order of the names previously determined may not fit.


Its based on graphic design decisions:

TEXT- We, as occidental people (mainly) read from left to right, so the main actors name is almost always in that order, or top to bottom.

PHOTO- Visual hierarchy defines that the protagonist face (or an important element of the movie) is going to be the biggest, or at the center of the poster.

If the composition is more interesting than "centered" or "left to right", this "rules of thumb" could be changed, showing more of the story or the mood of the film.


enter image description here

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