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The Smashing Book #5

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What If Oscars Were Given To Movie Websites?


Many of us today probably use the Web to book tickets and find information about movies. By selling tickets and entertaining visitors, websites help movies succeed at the box office and earn public approval. And yet, website developers don’t get any public recognition for the success of movies. Isn’t it a bit unfair in the Internet era not to bestow a single bit of appreciation for the presentation of movies online?

Most modern movie websites are built in Flash, even when it’s totally unjustified. The websites often lack usability standards and require users to click through splash pages and introductions in order to access content. They have the luxury of being able to neglect common principles and standards because they garner attention merely by their association with the movies they promote. Let’s suppose, though, that these developers got their own Palmes d’Ors, Oscars and Bears. Wouldn’t this be strong motivation to create outstanding and usable websites?

In this post, we imagine Oscars being given to both movies and their websites. This is, of course, not a new award from Smashing Magazine and far less an attempt to assume the right and honor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s just a fun way to observe the latest trends in movie website design and to showcase the best websites of the 2009 blockbusters, as well as recent and upcoming movies.

Nomination: Graphics Link

This is perhaps the most prestigious category in our virtual ceremony. It refers to the way a design uses photos, illustrations and graphic elements to create a pleasing and memorable visual experience.

The Nominees Are… Link

Law Abiding Citizen1
For its use of bold and expressive photos.


For the Transformers models (of course).


Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs5 (UK official website)
For the icy illustrations.


Alice in Wonderland12210056427
For achieving wonders with illustration and photo manipulation.


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs83229
For the tasty illustrations and delicious little elements in the design.


How to Train Your Dragon124957411
For some red-hot graphics.


A Town Called Panic13
For the funky plasticine illustrations.


And the Winner Is… Link

The attention to detail on the Alice in Wonderland15 website is impressive. A seamless combination of digital illustrations and photographs and plenty of small Wonderland-style graphic elements makes this design eye candy.

Nomination: Interactivity Link

Many movie websites, especially ones for animated movies and action blockbusters, rely on interactive elements to engage visitors. The following websites of popular movies from 2009 deliver a solid interactive experience and are deserving nominees.

The Nominees Are… Link

Broken Embraces8016
For the beautifully executed stack of torn photos, which serves as the navigation menu.


Halloween 2692718
For the terrific (and terrifying) 3-D elements.


District 9106935320
For the interactive panoramic views of District 9.


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs83229
For the customizable food rain and lively characters.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince24
For the magical image gallery.


And the Winner Is… Link

The website for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs26 is a joy to explore, mainly because of its interactive features.

Nomination: Dynamic Effects Link

Movie websites have invariably included at least one trailer on the home page or on a splash page. The trailer usually plays automatically. But a growing trend is to use clips from the movie as a pre-loader or background. In doing so, film websites typically employ Flash animation and motion graphics for maximum visual impact. The following websites feature some excellent dynamic effects of various types.

The Nominees Are… Link

Halloween 2692718
For the spooky and shimmering video clips.


Where the Wild Things Are7829
For the beautiful and organically integrated video.


For the animated Transformers (showing actual transformations would have been better, though).


For the incredible dynamic effects.


Terminator Salvation35
For the well-styled video stream.


Lovely Bones12837
For the seamless combination of video fragments and images.


Star Trek1024539
For the fantastic transition effects.


And the Winner Is… Link

The navigation on Star Trek41‘s official website simulates the experience of walking around the spaceship. This effect is excellently implemented and takes the visitor deep into the movie’s atmosphere.

Nomination: Harmony With Movie Link

Movie websites are of course all about the movies they promote. But screenshots, trailers, photos and images alone may be not enough to convey the atmosphere of a film. A lot more can by done by weaving the story and concept in with the design elements. Each website showcased below does a great job of recreating its movie’s feel and drawing visitors in.

The Nominees Are… Link

Alice in Wonderland12210056427
For the gallymogger43 details throughout the design.


Star Trek1024539
For the great use of space-themed material, which everyone loves.


Drag Me to Hell47
For the shiver-inducing fly animation.


For the futuristic robot features.


Up in the Air1326251
For the nifty airplane-style elements and icons.


District 9106935320
For the great use of alien-themed material.


And the Winner Is… Link

Our virtual Oscar goes to District 955. The movie’s dismal atmosphere is communicated well on all of the website’s pages. In fact, District 9 offers six distinct “experiences” apart from the official website. Features include interactive panoramic images, stylized graphics and video clips, as well as separate pages for humans and aliens (being faithful to the movie’s spirit).

Nomination: Best Exclusive Content Link

Thousands of online resources and databases are available where users can find out information about past, current and upcoming movies, watch trailers and book tickets. So, exclusive content is a kind of trump card for official movie websites. Without it, the websites are almost useless. Still, many studios continue to offer a minimum of content, such as trailer, screenshots, synopsis and a couple of posters for downloading. By contrast, all of the nominees for our Best Exclusive Content award offer treats for even the most fastidious of movie fans.

The Nominees Are… Link

Alice in Wonderland12210056427
For the fun facts about the movie.


For the screenplay, which is available in PDF format.


An Education60
For the extensive information about the film.


Up in the Air1326251
For the precise “departure” and “landing” info.


For the incredible character profiles.


The Wolfman66
For the fascinating insight into werewolf legends and mystery.


And the Winner Is… Link

Besides its comprehensive overview of the movie and a number of videos and photos, The Wolfman68 website offers a good amount of information in the Features section about the mysterious events depicted in the movie and the horror legacy of Universal Studios. Both the content and presentation are wonderful.

Nomination: Typography Link

Typography greatly affects the user experience. Everyone loves beautiful typography, and we just couldn’t leave this element out of our categories. In most cases, a movie website’s attention to typography amounts to choosing an appropriate font family. On some websites, though, you’ll find some really nice work with styling and arranging.

The Nominees Are… Link

Halloween 2692718





How to Train Your Dragon124957411


Inglourious Basterds76


Where the Wild Things Are7829


Broken Embraces8016


And the Winner Is… Link

The Inglourious Basterds82 website is practically the only design here that expands the work of the film’s art through typography. Both the selection and arrangement of type here evoke the spirit of the film and make the website easy and enjoyable to read.

Nomination: Fun Games Link

Games, fan kits and other activities of the sort can be found on movie websites from various genres, from family comedy to horror. This entertainment engages visitors, in turn further promoting the film. Truly unique and engaging activities have made it into this category.

The Nominees Are… Link

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs83229
For its five ways to play with food, one of which is in 3-D!


Fantastic Mr. Fox85
For the lovely game interface design.


For the fan kit and fan art sections.


Sherlock Holmes89
For the clever test of deduction.


For the virtual surrogate creator.


District 9106935320
For the “non-human” support.


How to Train Your Dragon124957411
For its wide range of craft activities.


For letting you create your own avatar (not as beautiful as the movie’s, though).


And the Winner Is… Link

The website for How To Train Your Dragon99 offers seven online games and fifteen activities to print out and play. Good enjoyment for the whole family.

Nomination: Cross-Media Interaction Link

The increasingly popular mobile Web and social networks just can’t be ignored by movie companies. Many movies are represented on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks and bookmarking services. Many movie websites have social media panels and widgets that let users get updates and share information about the movies on their own websites and social network pages.

iPhone and iPod apps have become common promotional tools as well. Some movies even have community websites that bring people together around certain topics discussed in a film. The deepest and most versatile social media integration is exemplified by the following websites.

The Nominees Are… Link

Alice in Wonderland12210056427
For the wonderful mobile applications.


Star Trek1024539
For the complete collection of social network links.


For the deep media interaction (widget, social networks, iPhone game, etc.).


District 9106935320
For the earthling and non-human communities.


For providing numerous ways to spread word about the movie.


The Twilight Saga: New Moon109
For attending to all kinds of Twilight fans (take the TwilightMOMs community for instance!).


And the Winner Is… Link

With 5 official streams on major social networks, over 15 community websites and 4 items in the App Store, The Twilight Saga: New Moon111 is the clear winner in this category.

Nomination: Best HTML Website Link

Many movie websites use Flash when HTML, CSS and a couple of good JavaScript effects would do. The four websites below break from this convention and prove that good movie website design does not necessarily have to include Flash.

The Cove112


Music by Prudence114


Food Inc.116


When You’re Strange118


And the Winner Is… Link

The website for Music By Prudence120 fully deserves this award. The website was created by New-York based design duet Bartlett de Boer121, which explains the idea for this design this way: “Together with our client, we decided on a Flash-like site, to be supported by WordPress’ content management system. We combined bold typography, huge background images and a smart jQuery application that creates a dynamic effect, presenting all the info in semi-transparent sections. This was one of the most exciting projects we’ve worked on so far.” No doubt, the Music By Prudence website is a credit to Matt Mulleneweg’s brainchild, WordPress, too.

Nomination: Best Flash Website Link

Movie websites usually contain a massive amount of media content, which is why Flash is the most popular platform on which to build them. While many websites either overuse animations and dynamic effects or don’t justify their use of Flash at all, some Flash movie websites deliver attractive, entertaining and informative experiences quite well. Below are six movie websites that are worthy of our imaginary Best Flash Website Oscar.

The Nominees Are… Link

Alice in Wonderland12210056427


How to Train Your Dragon124957411


Inglourious Basterds134126


Lovely Bones12837




Up in the Air1326251


And the Winner Is… Link

Inglourious Basterds134126! An attention to detail at all levels of the website, nifty yet unobtrusive effects and plenty of information make this Flash movie website stand out gloriously from the others.

Red Carpet Stars Link

Some movie websites that did not win our imaginary Oscars are still worth being showcased. Most of these, though not all, are done in a minimalist style, containing some basic information and a minimum of Flash effects. They are quite easy to navigate and their interfaces are visually appealing. Despite not being nominated here, they deserve some serious Hollywood buzz.

City Island135
A lovely combination of photographs and sketches makes the website for City Island special.


Mid-August Lunch137
This is more an interactive movie poster than a website. The page contains practically no information about the film itself, referring visitors instead to the studio website. Still, it features an original theme that we just couldn’t pass up.


Like the films of maestro Clint Eastwood’s oeuvre, the website for Invictus tries to show the present through the prism of timeless values. How else to explain the use of Flash for this elegant and contemporary design, which could have been done with plain HTML and jQuery?


The Hurt Locker141
Grungy typeface, sandy colors and good still images make this website a worthy online counterpart to the movie.


Green Zone143
Some really great styling in the navigation menu.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid145
Funny cartoons and a graph paper texture contribute to the theme for this movie website.


The Square
The content here is contained in a stylized grid, which doesn’t in the least impair readability and usability. Dark colors and bold grungy textures make for a true “website noir.”

Plenty of games are integrated smoothly in the content here, resulting in a kick-ass movie website!


Shutter Island149
The website for this brilliant movie is another black pearl in our collection. The focus here is on the dark island landscape, complemented by little polished details.


Brooklyn’s Finest151
This is one of the few websites that have a good splash page. Overall, the website for Brooklyn’s Finest has some great photos and unobtrusive Flash effects. The city line shown as a film negative is the cherry on top.


The Road153
The website for this impressive film, based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy, is lean as can be. The minimalist design builds mainly on still images from the movie. The quotes from the novel that appear while the page loads (an feature also seen on the Inglourious Basterds website) contributes to this information-rich website.


Hot Tub Time Machine155
The headshots that appear when you mouse over the menu items would make anyone smile. The short introduction is a nice touch, too. The Hot Tub Time Machine website certainly won’t leave you cold.


This website is notable for its atmospheric, pseudo-3D background images. The graphics are enriched by transparent elements with frames that mimic a plating effect.


This website has what you could call a camouflage design: it looks like pure HTML but is fully Flash. But don’t let that annoy you. The website loads relatively quickly and is easy to use. Also, the panorama on the main page is adorable.


The Secret in Their Eyes161
When the subject matter is secrets, a dark laconic design is the way to go.


The website for the Oscar-winning film (really!) Precious shows great use of video to get visitors involved in the story.


Valentine’s Day165
The website for Valentine’s Day has a social network-ish look and feel, mainly because the background photos look like the profile pictures on a social network.

Please Give166
Although this is only a “Coming soon” page, showing a trailer, press notes and a Facebook link, the typography merits its inclusion on this list.



Footnotes Link

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Julia May is a freelance copywriter and digital marketing consultant who's been helping great teams (TemplateMonster, MotoCMS, Onyx) implement great ideas since 2009.

  1. 1

    As a movie fan, I hate film websites. It’s all flash, annoying wait times, little content and horrible interfaces. The examples here illustrate that. I wouldn’t spend more than 5 seconds on either one of these sites.

    Just like the real Oscar selections actually, isn’t that ironic!

  2. 2

    This is quite a fantastic light read on a lazy Wednesday evening!! Thanks :)

  3. 3

    Love the idea of the article. It’s unusual and natural at the same moment to give awards to web designers, even virtual..

  4. 4

    That’s really interesting and well written article! I also agree with almost every choice You made for awards :) For me personally the best sites at all are Alice in Wonderland and Inglourious Basterds, I really like them!

  5. 5

    Edward Calugtong

    April 14, 2010 2:10 am

    Wow! The nominees are great! I really admire the Alice in Wonderland website along with Cloudy with a chance of meatballs!

    I really wish websites are considered on the Oscars! :D

  6. 6

    All Layouts is nice

  7. 7

    Design Informer

    April 14, 2010 2:15 am

    Unique post. Great job with this Julia. There are actually some really nice sites listed here.

  8. 8

    Awesome post and excellent movie sites!

  9. 9

    Superb Collection. A very very different thought to showcase all these at a place. Thanks for sharing.

  10. 10

    What a cool idea!!
    You should launch this concept for real! :D

  11. 11

    Being built in Flash is not totally unjustified. As movies are the “plot” here, their websites should be even more dynamic. I really don’t think people expect anything else then movie scenes, special effects and other crap on a movie website. They are a website species of their own.
    My problem was that I saw very little attention to details on most of the websites

  12. 12

    Cool One but seems many great sites are missing here….

  13. 13

    KILLER LIST. Thanks!

  14. 14

    Nice websites, awards required * I also agree with almost every choice You made for awards :)

  15. 15

    Flash is totally justified for these websites. Every one of these sites is built in Flash because usability is no where near as important as presentation for this subject medium. The whole point is for them to be a complete and utter visual feast, to persuade the user to go see the movie.

    You honestly think the average Joe is going to go see a movie because the website validated as XHTML or it can be indexed by Google? Give me a break, usability and standards take a back seat here. Joe is going to go see the movie because the website was completely over the top with animation, full screen video and a fluid experience – something Flash is still king at.

    This article would have been great if it wasn’t for the underlying message that Flash is the Antichrist, a message seems to sneak into every SM article these days.

  16. 16

    lol i like this!

  17. 17

    Thanks for the comprehensive article, great job.

    I can see why Flash seems to be the development medium of choice – they look fantastic when compared to the websites simply utilizing “HTML, CSS and a couple of good JavaScript effects”.

  18. 18

    I agree with Dudefella, every SM article these days is dissing Flash and it’s really annoying.

    What exactly is your problem?

    This article illustrates how amazing Flash websites can be and all you say is that it’s not according to standard or something in this manner.

    You know what?

    Give yourselves at SM a challenge, create ANY of these websites without using any Flash!

    I’m waiting.

    • 19

      you are so right. but the best part is:

      “it looks like pure HTML but is fully Flash. But don’t let that annoy you.”
      why the heck should this annoy anyone? 95% of the internet users don’t even know the difference between flash and html.

      • 20

        I hate that SM has become a magazine for bitter web developers who don’t know how to develop in Flash (or know AS2 but have hard time learning AS3).

        They really talk about Flash like it’s the year 2000!

        Wake up Smashing Magazine!
        In 2010, Google CAN index Flash websites!

        If this is the direction SM is going to, then I’d better stop reading its articles.

        • 21

          Smashing Editorial

          April 14, 2010 7:37 am

          You are misinterpreting the article, guys. The writer of this article is designing Flash-sites for living, and we didn’t correct her text in any way.

  19. 22


    Very nice article.
    The twilight saga deserves more awards. its amazing movie.

    keep it up.

  20. 23

    Cooool Article…

  21. 24

    Id love to do the design for a movie’s website – you’d have to follow certain guidlinelines but you could do something really different!

  22. 25

    Awsome works. This is a nice collection of sites that really raise the bar in content presentation. I also enjoy game sites as well, but these are mind blowing also! Thanks for sharing Smashing :D

  23. 26

    Flash is definitely the tool of choice. Every entertainment site or even data visualization site that has ever wowed me was in flash. Too bad none of these will work on iPad. Why is everyone against flash all of a sudden? I hope it stays around for ever and I’m not even a flash developer.

  24. 27

    Typically the kind of sites I never visit.
    But I always appreciate showcases.
    I would just remind the writer of this article that cinema also exists outside of US.

  25. 28

    Did any HTML /non-Flash sites win an award (other than the HTML award)? Does this mean the Flash sites are superior?

  26. 30

    As a designer, many movie sites I have visited may be nicely put together, but I don’t have the patience to wait for long loads and skipping videos. If the overall goal is to promote tickets sales at the box office, then why aren’t these sites more accessible and of course FASTER!! Awards? Lol.

  27. 31

    Enjoyed reading this article and ingenious idea!

  28. 32

    I thought, from your previous post that “Flash sites were dying” All those sites are Flash Sites…
    Curious huh? ^_^

    • 33

      i think flash site is Okay for those kind of website.. promotional site. but using flash in website with informative should be banned.

    • 34

      Exactly. Sorry everyone, but for the most part, the industry standard for entertainment promotional sites is still Flash – and thats a huge business. Flash isnt going anywhere all too soon.

  29. 36

    article is nice approach and fresh~

  30. 37

    just a question, but why is a freelancer writer qualified to dissect flash websites? should that be done by a flash designer/animator/developer or creative/art director?


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