Year-end lists don’t need much introducing, but in any case, I’ve spent nearly every week this year elbow deep in movie posters for This Week In Posters, so when I choose my top 15, you know I’m no dilettante. That’s right, I’m a professional guy who bitches about posters on the internet. Also, I’m red-green colorblind. That’s your disclaimer if any of these have a sickening green tint I didn’t notice.
I pared them down to 15, which seemed like the minimum number needed to recognize the posters that truly stood out. I judged them on two basic criteria: did they look cool, and did they make me want to see the movie in question. Posters aren’t pure advertising, because if they were just great sales pitches and didn’t look cool we wouldn’t care, and if they just looked cool and didn’t sell a movie they wouldn’t be posters. Makes sense, right? Okay, enough palaver, it’s time to quantify.
15 (tie). 9/11
Sheesh, I probably shouldn’t have started this list with my most controversial picks. I admit, this isn’t a great poster, graphically, so much as a thing that you’re shocked exists. But all things being equal, it’s fantastic at being that. And it’s the only poster of the bunch that so piqued my interest that I drove 45 minutes out of the city to see it on a Friday morning. The movie itself was even weirder than the poster, not just a stunt-cast Charlie Sheen movie about 9/11, but a stunt-cast Charlie Sheen movie about 9/11 that was weirdly also kind of a libertarian morality fable — from the production company who did the John Galt movies. Anyway, not the year’s coolest poster, but one could make a case that it was the most memorable.
15 (tie). Flatliners
Not every good poster has to be great art, some of them are just great pulp. This is a poster you look at and think, “Now that’s a movie poster.” This is the moviest movie poster that ever postered.
“You haven’t lived until you’ve died” is absolutely the perfect brilliant-stupid tagline for this nearly transcendently stupid movie.
European arthouse cinema and pulp combine in this beautifully simple poster for Julia DeCornau’s Raw (which I loved). She looks like she’s having the ol’ “Cathartic Moment Near A Body Of Water™” from every arthouse movie, only she’s… also some kind of a cannibal? That sums up Raw pretty well, actually. And “bound by love torn by flesh!” and “disturbingly erotic” is a perfectly chosen pull quote/tagline combo.
13. Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde had easily one of the year’s most memorable homage posters (and the movie itself had enough good imagery that you could overlook the plot). It’s hard for me to even look at this without hearing the intro to “Call Me,” which seems like a success. Simplicity plays.
12. The Disaster Artist
This feels a little like cheating, in that all they had to do was remind us of an unforgettable moment (…sort of), but it’s wonderfully done. Choosing the perfect frame to represent an entire film is as much an art as the design parts.
11. The Fate Of The Furious
For a movie that was almost a montage of preposterous scenes, most of the posters for The Fate Of The Furious were actually pretty terrible (see my upcoming worst posters column). This one finally did the obvious and just chose a frame from the movie. Do you honestly think anyone cares Tyrese enough to feature his face in the poster? No, they want to see suped-up zoom cars revving across shattering artic ice pursued by a Russian nuclear sub. This poster is the only one that does justice to the ridiculousness of the thing it’s advertising.
10. King Arthur
I’m not going to pretend the oversharpened, hyper-contrasty imagery has never been done before (and the movie was incredibly wack) but nothing sells me like Jude Law sneering from under ridiculous headwear. The man can wear the hell out of ridiculous hats.
9. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
This poster for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer mostly fails the “makes me want to see the movie” test — I’m not sure what I’d even assume it was about if I hadn’t seen it — but it’s possibly the greatest and only good floating head/silhouette poster design ever. There’s a sculptural quality to it.
8. Ghost In The Shell
Yeah, yeah, you hated the movie and it was a travesty that it even got made (I thought it was fine), but admit it, that’s a cool poster.
7. Brigsby Bear
Between the old-school Apple font and the awesome family photos-style silhouette, this Brigsby Bear poster might be the year’s best homage poster.
6. War For The Planet Of The Apes
I didn’t love this movie (mostly because the Caesar character is one-note sullen and he sucks the fun out of everything) as much as everyone else, but this was easily a top 10 poster. I was convinced it was an homage to something when I saw it, but if it is, I’m still not sure to what, even months later. I think it just captures the ineffable quality of a war photograph so well that you assume it’s a reference to something. And the movie has “war” in the title, so you know, thematically appropriate.
Almost $700 million worldwide is a testament to It‘s marketing campaign. How many Halloween costumes did you see that involved yellow rain suits and red balloons?
The posters for mother! don’t necessarily tell you what the movie is about, but then, how could they? They lean far more towards art than advertisement, which, again, makes sense for an art movie.
They may not make a ton of sense if you haven’t seen the movie, but they fit the themes pretty well if you have.
3. John Wick 2
Not many posters make the list two years in a row, but John Wick 2 managed.
“Relit” is probably the best of the three. It’s easier to make a cool poster when everyone knows the plot, and the plot is super simple, but these are still pretty fantastic.
2. The Void
The Void barely got a release and I never saw it, but these posters stood out as some of the year’s best.
They look like the best of ’80s VHS cover art, but they’re so well done that they barely seem like homage.
1. Proud Mary
It’s fitting that the further down this list I get, the less I have to say. These posters for Proud Mary just look great and mostly speak for themselves. I would wear this on my body. I would hang this on my wall.