Every cover in the Criterion Collection designed by Sean Phillips, rated

Sean Phillips is a prolific comic book artist. After the first works for 2000 ADthe most important comics magazine in his native UK, Phillips has worked across the pond for the “2 big” comics companies, working on titles like Batman, hellblazerand Marvel at zombies. In recent years, however, Phillips has become famous for his collaborations with designer-owned Ed Brubaker.

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Outside of comics, Phillips draws covers for the Criterion collection, a video company dedicated to the preservation and distribution of important, classic and contemporary films. Phillips’ clean, down-to-earth style suits Blu-Ray covers perfectly.

11 In the heat of the night got a solid blanket


In the heat of the Night

In 1967, the late Sidney Poitier starred in three iconic movies that made huge strides for black Americans in Hollywood: To sir, with love, guess who’s coming to dinnerand In the heat of the Night. The latter features Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia police officer who is forced to help with a murder investigation while traveling through Mississippi.

Tibbs’ African heritage angers the townspeople, but Tibbs forms a kinship with police chief Gillespie (Rod Stieger). Phillips cover of In the heat of the Night depicts realistic portraits of Poitier and Steiger overlooking the crime scene. The scene is drenched in red, matching both the titular heat and the murder mystery.

ten Mister Johnson has portrait quality


Mr Johnson Criterion

In 1990, Bruce Beresford adapted Joyce Cary’s 1939 novel, Mr Johnson. The title refers to the film’s protagonist, a Nigerian clerk who lives under British colonial rule. To prove his own “Anglicity”, Mister Johnson (Maynard Eziashi) adopted the style and mannerisms of his oppressors. The colors and composition of Phillips’ cover have a portrait quality, with the pink shading of the sky indicating a soaring sunset. The cover also places Johnson in the central frame posed in the archetypal position of a British gentleman.


9 Flight Of The Phoenix Focuses On Jimmy Stewart


Flight of the Phoenix

Phillips’ most recent work for Criterion was the cover for the collection’s upcoming Blu-Ray release. Flight of the Phoenix. Directed by Robert Aldrich and released in 1965, the film follows a cargo plane crew (played by actors such as Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough and Ernest Borgnine) who must survive a crash landing in the Sahara.

The cover of The Flight of the Phoenix is a platonic ideal of the Phillips forces. There is a strong use of color contrasts, from the shaded yellows of the ground to the cool blues of the sky. Phillips’ strange reenactment of Jimmy Stewart is presented front and center.


8 Mildred Pierce discusses black sensibility


Mildred Pierce Criterion

Mildred Pierce was adapted from the eponymous novel by prolific crime/noir author James M. Cain and directed by casablancait is Michael Curtis. The film revitalized Joan Crawford’s career – she stars as a woman torn between career, love and motherhood.

Phillips cover for the Criterion release of Mildred Pierce is similar to its cover for In the heat of the Night. It projects a wide shot of the scene, with Mildred overlooking a pier and the composition in one color.


seven Breaker Morant sells the film with a single image


Breaker Morant

Phillips covered the job for another Bruce Beresford addition to Criterion – Breaker Morant, a 1980 war drama made in Beresford’s native Australia. Set in 1902 South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, the film centers on three real-life Australian soldiers – Harry Morant (Edward Woodward), Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown) and George Witton (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) – on trial for war crimes. Phillips’ cover depicts one of the soldiers, hands tied, facing a firing squad.


6 On the Waterfront shows Terry Malloy Brooding


On the waterfront criterion

At the water’s edge was directed by Elia Kazan and stars Marlon Brando. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a fighter-turned-enforcer for local mobster/dock syndicate boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Unlike the rest of his ilk, Terry is conflicted but held in line by his brother Charley (Rod Stieger) before inquiring about Friendly.

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Phillips’ cover captures two of At the water’s edge most significant places: Terry is sitting on a roof where he will retire from life, with the docks visible from the roof.


5 The sweet smell of success depicts the hustle and bustle of New York


The sweet smell of success

by Alexander Mackendrick The sweet smell of success is an unconventional film noir – it has crisp black-and-white photography and an urban setting, but the villain isn’t a gangster. The antagonist is powerful gossip columnist JJ Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), client of the protagonist, Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis).

While The sweet smell of success may be black and white, Phillips’ cover makes exquisite use of color. The art features a diverse palette: the top half is bathed in the red neon lights of the Big Apple while the bottom half is covered in the dull blue and gray of city streets.




4 Blast Of Silence Looks Like A Great Comic Book Cover


Burst of Silence

The bulk of Phillips’ comedic collaborations with Brubaker are black homages: Criminal, crime scene, The crossfadeetc Phillips’ first cover for Criterion was for the 2008 release of Burst of Silence, a neo-noir film directed by and starring Allen Baron. cover of Phillips for Burst of Silence is a simple composition – a side portrait of Baron’s character with a cityscape in the background. The cover reminds Criminal, with the mix of white and purple shades on the subject’s face.


3 12 Angry Men spotlight the stars of the movie


12 angry men

Cover of Phillips for Sidney Lumet 12 angry men is a panel-by-panel portrait of the titular jurors, ranked 1 through 12. Phillips recreates the features of each actor with a red background.

Audiences sometimes think that films like 12 angry men are “filmed theatre”. However, Lumet’s management grants a talented cast of actors the opportunity to demonstrate their talent.


2 Night of the Living Dead captures the horror


Night of the Living Dead Criterion

night of the living dead is the birth of the zombie movie as modern audiences understand it. cover of Phillips for night of the living dead features a trio of the film’s main characters (including Duane Jones’ Ben and Judith O’Dea’s Barbara) recoiling from an oncoming horde of undead. Even with only their hands visible, Phillips makes the zombies look ramshackle and grotesque.


1 The Great Escape has iconic images


The great Escape

Cover of Phillips for the Criterion release of The great Escape showcases Phillips’ talent for drawing faces. The composition features Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) emerging from a hole he and his fellow inmates dug in an attempt to escape from a Nazi POW camp. The image immediately sets the framework and the stakes of the story; McQueen is discernible on the cover even without the lower half of his face showing.

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