The Art of Movie Posters — The Best of the Year

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Movie posters have always fascinated me. I remember as a kid, when my older brother put up a poster for the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. Roger Moore has his gun drawn, and you see him far away, between the legs of a woman in a bikini holding a cross-brow. Perhaps only that 11-year-old boy loved that more than Ted Nugent.

As I got older, I loved looking at movie posters of my favorite films.

After I wrote a review on a documentary called Drew: The Man Behind the Poster, I appreciated them even more (my review and interview with the poster artist of some of the biggest ‘70s films, appears here:

The only reason I don’t have a lot of movie posters in my collection is because I don’t have places to hang them. I have two that are framed. The one of Taxi Driver actually broke on the way home from the framing shop, but the broken glass adds to the look of a decrepit New York City street Robert De Niro is walking down. The Some Like it Hot movie poster I got framed after Tony Curtis autographed it (and for some reason, he decided to also sign the names of the entire cast, which always makes people freak out when they see it in my office, thinking Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and directing legend Billy Wilder all signed it).

Over the years, I’ve gotten another 20 movie posters just because I loved them, although I’m not sure what I’ll do with them. One includes the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris, just because I thought it was interesting that the bottom half was a photograph (Owen Wilson walking the streets of Paris), and the top part was Van Gogh’s Starry Night (although it is odd that with all the historical figures in the film, Van Gogh is never one of them).

So this year, I decided to do a Top 10 of the best movie posters from 2018. Now, one of the weirder posters that came to mind was for The Death of Stalin. It has the cast lined up, a few in their military garb. A few weeks after the release of the film, I was at a screening in Hillcrest and noticed the poster had changed ever so slightly. It was the same, but missing actor Jeffrey Tambor (who had gotten into trouble for multiple harassment charges). The only other time I remember something like that happening, was with the movie There’s Something About Mary. It had Cameron Diaz standing there, bent over. Her hair was shooting straight up into the air (if you saw the movie, you know why that is). The dog in a cast is at her feet. I asked a manager at the Reading Town Square if I could have the poster. She said after the run of the film I could. When I went to pick it up a month later, I noticed it was different. Her hair was no longer going up in the air. The manager didn’t know why it had changed, but looked into it. Turns out, someone complained about the poster because of why her hair was going up, so the studio recalled them all and sent out new ones. I found that odd because anybody that knew why her hair was doing that, saw an R rated movie and so…who does that really offend?

I entertained the notion of writing the 10 best and worst movie posters of the year, but bad movie posters are all the same. They’re usually overstuffed with too many characters. A perfect example would be Mama Mia: Here We Go Again. It had 16 people standing (well, two were sitting) on a dock.

There was one poster this year with a cool image of actor Michael B. Jordan, but it was actually a spoiler alert. He’s in the ring, on his knees, yelling in triumph with the red, white, and blue shorts. Uh…I’m guessing that means he beat the Russian. The only other time I recall a movie poster showing something that spoils the end is Gravity. It showed Sandra Bullock on the beach, with pieces of a spacecraft falling from the sky. Guessing that means she made it back to Earth okay.

A few of the great posters from this year popped into my mind immediately. Yet I had to comb my brain to remember the ones that really caught my eye.

A few honorable mentions go to Black Panther, which had a great color combination and nicely showed all the people in the film in a way that worked, The Endless (a movie done by San Diegan filmmakers), which gave an interesting sci-fi look; and The Old Man and the Gun. The painting of Robert Redford, and the style of font used, reminded me of a Drew Struzan poster from the ‘70s. And an honorable mention also goes to Green Book. That pick is mostly because it was my favorite movie of the year and I wanted to give it another mention, but I also liked the color of it — the sky, the car,, as well as the actors both having slightly angry expressions on their faces. Now, for the best of the year.

A QUIET PLACE. I might be the only critic that wasn’t so enamored with this film. It was okay, but flawed. The poster is perfect — Emily Blunt sitting in a tub, with the shadow of a creature (and the poster is better after you see the movie and know why she’s in the tub).

THE CAPTAIN. A foreign film about a guy fleeing the Nazis, who finds a car and uniform and then…pretends to be one. That starts as a survival technique, but becomes something more. The poster of other Nazis pulling him in the broken down car is great.

ANT MAN & THE WASP. An average movie, but I loved seeing the poster a month before it came out. It was all white, and I wondered why there was no picture. As I approached, I noticed above the words for the film and the “coming soon” there was a small wasp, and an even tinier ant. It was funny, and reminded me of the great John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album that was an all blue sky, with a small white cloud (and some could say, reminiscent of the “White album” too).

AMERICAN ANIMALS. An interesting indie film about college kids plotting to burglarize a library that has valuable books, based on a true story (with the real people commenting between scenes). Posters that show criminals with masks on right before a heist…always look menacing. This had two posters — one with their old men disguises, and one with animal heads.

NANCY. Another indie picture, about a lonely woman who catfishes guys on the internet. She realizes her birth parents might be the ones featured on a news story, and the movie poster shows her holding up a childhood photo next to her face. Powerful stuff.

FIRST REFORMED. A great movie, and an intriguing poster. Usually movie posters that just have a big head, aren’t all that interesting. The line of firing darting through Ethan Hawke’s face…as well as his expression, are perfect.

TULLY. Another head shot with a great expression — Charlize Theron looking exasperated, as she tries dealing with a new baby and two other kids, one with special needs. Not only are there stickers plastered across her mug, she’s probably stepping on a Lego. It’s a shame the film wasn’t as good as this poster.

BLACKKKLANSMAN. A good movie, despite being 90% fictionalized. All the posters they released with this film were great.

GAME NIGHT. The best comedy of the year, also had one of the best posters. It would’ve been so easy to just show Jason Bateman with a goofy facial expression, and Rachel McAdams screaming and waving a gun, or who knows what. Instead, we just see some game pieces. One with a ski mask, another knocked over and bleeding. You realize it’s not all fun and games that you’ll be seeing.

THE COMMUTER. I am so sick of Liam Neeson action pictures, and even more sick of the movie posters for action pictures. You could probably take the poster from a Mission Impossible film, and superimpose Neeson’s face, and use that for one of his Taken films. They’re all so interchangeable.  Yet this poster is creative, and reminds me of the Saul Bass posters from the old days (he did Vertigo, Anatomy of a Murder, The Big Country, Exodus, Grand Prix, The Magnificent Seven, The Shining, The Man With the Golden Arm, and many more). Skip the movie on Netflix, it’s not that good. Just enjoy looking at the poster for The Commuter.


Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.