We don’t cover the movie poster beat too much around here, and for good reason: most movie posters are terrible. They seem to all traffic in the same clichés, unimaginatively slapping the biggest possible picture of their expensive stars’ heads above a title and a release date. But some films go the extra mile, taking imaginative leaps with their key art (or, often, with the alternate versions they release on the Internet for extra buzz). So let us take a moment to salute some of the more eye-catching, ingenious, and beautiful movie posters of 2013.
There’s certainly an argument to be made for just filling out this list with those hilarious/horrifying character posters from Lars von Trier’s upcoming sex epic, and calling it a day. But instead, we’ll go with the simple and (erm) elegant (?) imagery of the first teaser poster.
Randy Moore’s surrealistic, black-and-white guerrilla-style indie was shot on the sneak at the Disney theme parks, so what better way to convey not only its backstory but its dark themes than by stealing the Disney font and slapping a little blood on Mickey?
Though clearly engaging in some shady business when it came time to put out the final version, the simple design of the first teaser poster for Spike Lee’s remake of Park Chan-wook’s cult classic is clean, direct, and perfect.
Again, a stark, clean design, coupled with loaded iconography, is far more interesting than the “look at our handsome movie-star lead” posters that have followed.
And at risk of overstating the point, here we go again: key in on an object, let it pop against a white background, and let that tell the story.
Say what you will about the terrible movie it’s promoting, this poster is sheer genius, repurposing the iconic cover of Salinger’s most famous book (complete with beat-up edges) and squarely targeting those who know it so well.
Again, a promotions team using the visual shorthand of a film’s subject to market directly to its ideal demo — this time, utilizing the familiar fonts and splashy style of pulp-fiction novels for their documentary profile of pin-up queen Bettie Page.
The final poster was your standard, boring, push-the-stars affair, but the teaser poster for Steven Soderbergh’s erotic thriller focused on the prescription drugs element and created a clever “doctor’s script”-style package, coupled with a tantalizing image of star Rooney Mara.
Credit where due to Lionsgate: when you’re selling the second Hunger Games movie, you don’t have to do much more than slap “CATCHING FIRE 11-22-13” on a piece of paper and call it done. But they went the extra mile, taking a cue from the narrative to create a series of slick, propaganda-style “VICTORY TOUR” posters.
Frank Pavich’s documentary looks at the aborted production of what would’ve surely been an all-time mind-melter: surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. And, ingeniously, its art campaign imagines what the poster for such a bananas project might have looked like.
Obviously, when you’re making a movie about a film technician going a little nuts, the self-referential graphic possibilities are endless.
Roman Coppola’s absurd comedy gets an awesome throwback poster, with an appropriately sun-bleached ’70s-cinema vibe.
The Coen brothers’ moody masterpiece could only get a poster with a decidedly gray pall, along with a key image that recalls the iconic Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan poster (but with a cat!).
Another clever throwback poster, expertly mimicking the distinctive early-’80s aesthetic that makes Andrew Bujalski’s oddball comedy so memorable. And, as always, the creases are a welcome touch.
Confession: I have heard of neither “Big World Pictures” nor Frankenstein Created Bikers. But if they were going for the old-school exploitation vibe that the title conveys, then this poster gets a standing ovation.
This ’80s-style, hand-drawn number is an impressive enough achievement by itself — but its quality increases tenfold when you compare it to the horror show Fox decided to use as the primary poster.
And OK, maybe that last one just made the list because of my personal weakness for hand-drawn art. But that makes this poster utterly perfect for Josh Johnson’s wonderful documentary valentine to the joys of wandering video store shelves, looking for the cheapo video box that you can’t look away from.
Director Xan Cassavetes is not just a movie maker, but a movie lover (check out her wonderful Z Channel documentary for proof), so it only makes sense that her debut horror movie would so evocatively recall the horror posters of the ’70s.
Talk about stacking up your iconography.
And here we find another distinctive hairstyle placed front and center, to great effect.
And thus we conclude the “hair” section of the countdown.
Well, maybe not. Character posters have become a de rigueur piece of the film promotion pie, but they were quite welcome in the case of David O. Russell’s late-70’s crime epic — in order to give us the opportunity to gawk a little closer at the permed-out hair and plunging necklines. And your film editor’s personal favorite of the bunch, this fierce portrait of show-stealer Amy Adams, offers both.
Okay, maybe I’m now just showing my weakness for the character posters of sultry redheads in period dress. Moving on…
Documentaries can be a tough sell from a poster standpoint (well, in terms of film marketing in general, really). The poster for this doc portrait of the fascinating magician, historian, and character actor Ricky Jay manages to graphically convey his story, his darkness, and his distinctive mug, all at the same time.
The colors pop, the art is eye-catching, and the facial hair tells us all we need to know about the characters. Why, it’s such a good poster, you almost wonder if a certain ubiquitous studio comedy might be aping it.
Like trailers, movie posters too often tell us way more than we actually need to know. You can’t accuse this key art for Shane Carruth’s head-scratcher of doing that: Who are these people? Why are they in the bathtub? What are they hiding from? Aside from its attractive design, it’s just a good tease; it makes you want to see the film and find out. (Good luck after that!)
Stark type, a foreboding gray sky, and two figures near the car that terrorized a city. Simple, scary, and effective.
This moody, gorgeous, watercolor-style poster perfectly captures the handmade feel of David Lowery’s exquisite small-town drama.
Park Chan-wook’s Hitchock homage is a delightfully demented trip, and this illustrated poster beautifully captures its anything-goes feel — and replicates countless tiny details from the picture to boot.
Harmony Korine’s spring-break head trip pretty much won the movie poster sweepstakes, if for no other reason than sheer volume: not only did its bikinis-and-guns aesthetic yield several terrific official posters, but the film’s French distributor got amateur designers to create scores of amazing fan posters.
And just for good measure, here’s the runaway winner for the worst movie poster of 2013. It’s a remarkable stew of terrible elements: ugly background, clumsily repurposed actor headshots, a horribly miscalculated vertical title design, and the weakest tagline imaginable. It’s “A FUNNY MOVIE,” you see, if you couldn’t guess from the poorly placed exclamation mark after the title. This, friends, is what 20 minutes of work and a barely rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop will get you.