typography in movies

vcr's picture

Hi. i'm currently completing research on typography in movies
I'm searching for movies that have text in scenes with particular attention to typography styles.
As an example i'm thinking about something like Stranger then Fiction or Wes Anderson movies.
Do you have any suggestions ?

JamesM's picture

Not sure exactly what you're looking for, but here's a scene from Steven Spielberg's movie "Artificial Intelligence" in which a poem in an distinctive font was important to the plot.

A video clip (with captions for some reason) which shows the same poem at a different point in the movie is at

Joshua Langman's picture

Two comments:

1. That poem is incorrect; the line is "to the waters and the wild"; "faery" is misspelled; the last two lines should be one; and the first line ends in an exclamation point. (William Butler Yeats, "The Stolen Child")

2. The font is Mona Lisa.

JamesM's picture

My guess is they wanted a contemporary spelling for "fairy", and the line break was changed to make lines similar lengths, but no idea why "and" was changed to "of".

This was originally a Stanley Kubrick project, but after Kubrick died it was taken over by Spielberg (Kubrick had previously talked about letting Spielberg direct it). Perhaps "of" was a typo in the script and Spielberg didn't want to correct it in case it a deliberate change by Kubrick.

Thanks for the font ID; I wondered what it was.

donshottype's picture

I wonder if Stanley Kubrick chose Mona Lisa? The digital font was released in 1991. He died in 1999. The hard edges and formal structure of this Art Deco serif design -- tall, thin and very regular -- suggest a futuristic cold spirituality rather than joy or human warmth. A good fit for this rather depressing movie.

Mark Simonson's picture

This older discussion may be of interest: http://www.typophile.com/node/36404

Nick Shinn's picture

Papyrus as subtitle style in Avatar was roundly dissed by typographistas.

hrant's picture

The Avatar insult was compounded by the fact that Cameron spent $100K to have a language invented. For that price he could have had a custom font and a custom writing system!

On a much more modest scale, yours truly was commissioned to make a custom font for an upcoming British horror movie: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BY5uBRXCUAAsw78.jpg:large


alvaroefe's picture

I always wanted to read an article about the type used in silent movies, specially after watching 2011's "The Artist" but all I ever found were notes about how historically inacurate the Artist's type choices were. What exaclty is your research gonna be about Victoria?

hrant's picture

IIRC David Berlow* once did research on silent movie lettering; there might even be an article by him somewhere.

* http://typophile.com/user/2969


vcr's picture

Thanks everyone this is great!

vcr's picture

Hey Alvaroefe,
my research will be an observation of typographie in movies starting by silent movie until now (hypermodernity). Mainly is a tougth about how design influence movies trew history. I'm still searching a lot since their is not a lot of informations about it, if i find a good article i'll let you know !

alvaroefe's picture

Merci beaucoup Victoria! J'aimerai bien de lire ton travail quand il-est finie :-)

Hrant, thanks for the link and the reference, found some rather interesting things, found no article but it's already a nice place to start looking when I've got time.

JamesM's picture

If you're interested in title sequences you might check out the opening credits for some of Hitchcock's movies, such as North by Northwest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIlqatMQSgI and Psycho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tek8QmKRODw

Another famous one is the crawling text in Star Wars, which Lucas said was inspired by early science fiction movies like Flash Gordon.

quadibloc's picture

I would have thought of Piranesi - or Typo Roman - upon seeing the typeface from A. I..

Special-K's picture

I just watched a sci-fi movie, "the Abyss" (1989) and at the last 20 minutes or so, LCD fonts are prominant and playing a critical part to the ending of the movie.

donshottype's picture

Some fonts do not age well. Technology changes. LCD was great for a 1980s movie to show the cutting edge of technology. Today it is beginning to look increasingly quaint. Same for OCR shaped fonts -- so 70s. For a movie maker who wants a film to continue to communicate with people for many years into the future tried and tested works well. Consider Windsor in Woody Allen's movies, or Bernhard Modern in Downton Abby. Might be something of interest in http://fontmeme.com/movie-fonts/
Apologies Victoria, for having strayed from fonts in scenes to fonts in titling, but the thread was already drifting in that direction :( Perhaps a typophile is prepared to put us back on track.

Special-K's picture

The green LCD waterfall fonts in "The Matrix" might be what you're looking for too.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

A new site, exploring the typography of classic sci-fi movies: http://typesetinthefuture.com

Very entertaining and enlightening!

JamesM's picture

Another idea -- if you haven't done so already, go to your library and ask a reference librarian to help you research the topic. They maybe be able to help you find books or magazine articles on the topic.

For example, there are some movie magazines (not fan magazines) that discuss technical aspects of filmmaking and possibly a back issue touches on this topic. Also maybe some graphic design magazines (Graphis, etc) discuss it in a back issue.

pknation's picture

I am agree with you . this is very informative post . I like it very much. Sindhi Culture

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