9 posters for violent movies that didn't need guns or gore

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Movie posters that promote violence have become a target for a gun-sick society. These classic ads prove that less can sometimes be more

On Tuesday, Lena Dunham and "Girls" producer Tami Sagher summoned New Yorkers to rip out the very prominent guns in all "Jason Bourne" posters in the subway. Sagher posted on Instagram that she is "so tired of guns," and Dunham (briefly) reposted the call to action. A social-media firestorm ensued. 

Weeks earlier, Rose McGowan called out 20th Century Fox for an "X-Men: Apocalypse" poster that, to her eyes, glorified violence toward women.  

To some, the outrage is justified in a society that feels beset with violence and misogyny. Others wonder how, exactly, a studio can advertise an action flick like "Jason Bourne" or a movie about war between mutants, without showing guns or fighting?

Both have a point. But the fact is, some of Hollywood’s most famous — and effective — posters for violent films didn’t require scary imagery. Here are 9 of Hollywood’s best G-rated ads for horrifying films.  

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This chilling blockbuster about a charismatic cannibal produced one of the most celebrated movie posters of all time. Yet it used not a drop of blood, hint of a weapon or even a nod to the film’s villain, Hannibal Lector. The movie went on to become one of only three movies in history to win the "Big Five" Academy Awards — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay — and to haunt our dreams forever. 


Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho" was a violent movie for its day, particularly with its famous shower scene, which deftly implied brutality, vulnerability and nudity without actually showing anything. Likewise, graphic designer Saul Bass’ poster didn’t need any knives or blood to communicate the feel of the film. True, studios at the time were still abiding by the Motion Picture Production Code, which stated that the public display of firearms should be avoided. Bass had no choice but to eschew violent imagery. But that only goes to show how great artists can thrive within the margins. (Bass was also a legend in the corporate world, having designed the AT&T globe logo, Continental Airlines’ jet stream logo and United Airlines tulip logo.)


The Revenant (2015)
The main character in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning 2015 film endures a bloody ambush, the murder of his son and the most memorable bear attack since Grizzly Man. Yet all we get from the poster is Leonardo DiCaprio’s wounded face and a wintery background. Somehow, you know what you’re in for. 


The Godfather (1972)
Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ amazed audiences in 1972 with its seamless blend of family affection and cold-blooded brutality. Yet the iconic poster bears not a single horse’s head or (spoiler alert) exploding wife. Amazingly, people still went to see it.


Fight Club (1999)
For a movie that has violence built into its title, Fight Club’s poster is surprisingly PG. Instead of showcasing the smashed faces of Tyler Durden’s pugilistic pals, the poster merely shows the title of the movie on a bar of soap, a sly reference to Durden’s job as a macabre soap salesman.


Battle Royale (2000)
"Battle Royale" is best described as the original, more bloody Japanese version of "The Hunger Games." It is widely considered one of the most gruesome movies of all time. After his father’s suicide, a junior high student is forced by the government to fight his classmates to the death. Yet the film is advertised with just a class photo shoot and the government’s "Battle Royale" logo. No need to place blood anywhere else — there’s enough in the film.


The Departed (2006) 
Mob movies are always violent, and it could be argued that "The Departed" tops them all. While some posters for the film certainly show guns and Jack Nicholson brandishing fists, this one focuses only on the leading men.


City of God (2002)
A story about two boys in a gang-filled Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, "City of God" has plenty of gruesome moments, none of which made it into the poster.


Scarface (1983)
This is a light take for a poster for "Scarface," the enduring tale of a Cuban immigrant taking over a Miami drug cartel and dying in a dramatic, cocaine-fueled shootout. Somehow, you just know the tag line, "Live the American Dream," is to be taken cynically.


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