The 30 Best Movie Posters of 2014


The image on its poster often bolsters a good film, leaving a remarkable impression before we’ve even seen it. The image often sees us through the film, casts its own lens over our perception of the whole experience. Of course, there’s no dearth of mediocre films with beautiful posters out there, and these can long outlive their lesser, more time-consuming counterparts. Here, we’ve gathered and ranked the best film posters of 2014 based on both their aesthetic appeal and the ways they work alongside their source material.

30. Men, Women and Children — Jason Reitman

This almost didn’t make it onto the list: depending on whether or not you know about the heavy-handedness of this film in regards to the obstacles technology poses to relationships, the poster seems far too on-the-nose. Yet every time I see it (despite the silliness of a couple clutching one another within a Luddite image of celebrity Where’s Waldo?), it makes me want to fall into its warm melancholy and rewatch the film, despite knowing better.

29. Maps to the Stars — David Cronenberg

This is lower on the list because this film has only been released in festivals so far. But the superimposing of the film’s monumental celebrities onto the largest emblem of celebrity culture perfectly reflects the film’s depiction of the luxurious imprisonment of fame.

28. Particle Fever — Mark A. Levinson

This minimalist poster, setting an electrified, excited circle against blackness, encompasses our fervor to comprehend the particle-based unknown. It also hints at the threat some theorized these massive, circular particle colliders posed. (Would they create tiny black holes that’d eat away at the Earth? Would the world end, out of some great irony, because of something created in Switzerland?)

27. Obvious Child — Jenny Slate

It wouldn’t have made sense for the Obvious Child poster to feature anything but Jenny Slate — this was the role and the film in which she broke out of Marcel’s shell. And the way it captures her, looking dumbfounded yet still smart, staring up at her accolades, is perfect.

26. Jodorowsky’s Dune — Frank Pavich

This poster may be a bit busy, but hell, Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been unfathomably busy, and that’s one of the reasons why the monumental and monumentally unachieved project on which this documentary is based makes for such an electrifying fantasy.

25. Palo Alto — Gia Coppola

Perhaps this poster employs easy Instagrammification to give a nostalgic, mysterious quality to the American Teenager Experience, but who cares?! It gives that quality to the experience! It also uses its grainy pinkness to cast a removed lens on nascent femininity, while the photo of Emma Roberts interestingly recalls that of Kirsten Dunst on the poster Gia Coppola’s sister’s directorial feature debut from 15 years earlier, The Virgin Suicides.

24. Pulp: a Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets — Florian Habicht

The decision to focus the poster on these elderly women from Sheffield — Jarvis Cocker’s hometown — as opposed to Jarvis Cocker himself speaks to the anthropological scope of this rockumentary, and, as The New York Times put it, the way it “capture[s] the bond between this former steel town’s spirit and the ineluctable tug of Mr. Cocker’s lyrics.”

23. Leviathan — Andrey Zvyagintsev

For this film loosely based on the Book of Job, the poster (and title) beautifully draws on the recurring symbol of the leviathan within the book — here, we see man dwarfed by the massiveness of all that’s outside of his control.

22. Foxcatcher — Bennett Miller

The best supporting actor in Foxcatcher was, quite possibly, Steve Carell’s nasal prosthesis. The schnoz gave a sense of foreboding, and underscored John du Pont’s snooping antics, his burrowing into other people’s lives for fear of the hollowness of his own. This poster captures his symbolic profile and fills it with an image of his mansion — the place that, as a decorous cage, ensured his life would never be full.

21. Memphis — Tim Sutton

This gorgeous Portrait of a Worn-Out Artist perfectly captures Willis Earl Beal’s Willis Earl Beal-y character’s musically procrastinating search for self in Memphis (in Memphis).

20. Mistaken for Strangers — Tom Berninger

This is a surprisingly active poster, both for a documentary and, even more interestingly, for a documentary predominantly about the emotional dynamic between two brothers. Not only did Tom Berninger, the underdog to The National’s Matt Berninger’s recently risen star, film his brother extensively for the movie — the crux is that, in fact, he’s spent his whole life watching his older brother as he climbs various hierarchies, stagnating in his own, observational position. The very existence of this film underscored Tom’s problem, but was also, perhaps, a way to shake himself out of it. It’s all there on this oddly thrilling poster.

19. Clouds of Sils Maria — Olivier Assayas

As with Mistaken for Strangers, this poster beautifully maps the dynamics of an envious gaze. Reflected in Juliette Binoche’s character’s sunglasses, we see on the left an image of her younger self in the role that made her a famous actor, and on the right, the image of the actor (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) who’ll now be playing that role.

18. Maleficent — Robert Stromberg

If the best part of Maleficent was seeing Angelina Jolie looking like the most sultrily evil thing to ever walk the planet, then nobody need look any further than this poster. If you stare at it for three minutes while listening to Lana Del Rey’s “Once Upon a Dream,” you’ll essentially have seen a better version of this film.

17. Bad Words — Jason Bateman

This film was not good! And I’m not even sure if the poster was good! But I recall, towards the beginning of the year, when it began appearing all over the New York subway platforms, being irked, even repelled by the pixellated close-up of Bateman’s raspberry-ing mouth. I’d fixate on the poster. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I loathed it, which I’m pretty sure meant I kind of liked it.

16. L’inconnu du lac — Alain Guiraudie

For this film about a lakeside anonymous hookup gone very awry, the poster image depicts an idyllic scene of physical connection; the colors, however, are so saturated as to be almost ugly, violent. It presents itself as a sweet threat.

15. Whiplash — Damien Chazelle

This poster gets the award for best visceral usage of font, turning critics’ praises into what looks like the manifestation of the protagonist’s furious percussion.

14. Only Lovers Left Alive — Jim Jarmusch

This poster is a still from one of the opening shots of Only Lovers Left Alive, with a camera spinning around a supine Tilda Swinton (her vampiric character is in a blood-as-opiate haze). The shot, set in the film to SQÜRL’s cover of Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love,” is probably the hottest thing to happen in cinema this year, so this German poster undoubtedly had to go on this list.

13. The One I Love — Charlie McDowell

This hypnotic poster reflects (in more ways than one) a scene in the film which the characters, themselves, attempt to reflect. That sounds confusing, but so is this mirrored room of a film. When Elisabeth Moss’ and Mark Duplass’ characters were still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship, they broke into someone’s backyard and swam in their pool. Later, as their relationship has deteriorated, they attempt to remake the moment, to no avail. Thereafter, things start getting weird… and reflective. Like the film, this poster intrigues with its sinister attractiveness and pleasantry.

12. Nightcrawler — Dan Gilroy

After seeing Nightcrawler, you know that Louis Bloom’s (Jake Gyllenhaal’s character) is not a face you’d like to get close to. Seeing the film, then wandering through a world plastered in this face, likely gave quite a few people unpleasant sensations. That his eyes are obscured by glasses, and that the glasses reflects Los Angeles, Bloom’s empire of inhumanity, makes it all the more creepy.

11. A Field in England — Ben Wheatley

Not to be flippant in regards to this complex, gruesome English Civil War drama, but the poster is just fucking beautiful. The fungi in the lower half of the poster evoke both the hallucinogen-induced state that leads to the film’s tragedies and the earthly rot of war.

10. Borgman — Alex van Warmerdam

This retro poster for the film about a wanderer who charms his way into the homes and lives of a wealthy family illustrates this character’s abilities to manipulate and shatter the structure of the nuclear family.

9. Le Meraviglie — Alice Rohrwacher

The bee-mouth seen above isn’t just a surrealist touch: this film is about a small-town Italian apiarist family. Their lives change with the arrival of a troubled teenager they take in, as well as with the imposition of a culinary-show film crew documenting the goings-on of the town. These additions bring many dormant questions to the surface (… like bees coming out of a mouth? OK, perhaps this is a symbol that need not be parsed).

8. Under the Skin — Jonathan Glazer

Scarlett Johansson, as everyone is surely well aware, seems to have come to a strange point in her career, where male directors seem to want to make her the embodiment of womanhood so mysterious it’s not even human. The most successful, thoughtful, and astonishing example of this is Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, which sees Johansson as a ruthless, man-eating alien who slowly catches the contagion of humanity. As her personality begins to fit more and more with her human skin, she becomes removed from the seemingly soulless space-provenanced thing we saw at the beginning. In this breathtaking poster, we see her staring out at space, as tough, like any human being, she’s puzzled and made vulnerable by its vastness.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson would have to have devastatingly fucked up to have released a film whose poster didn’t make it onto this list. This list was made for Wes Anderson films. Of course, The Grand Budapest Hotel was as successfully Wes Anderson-y as any Wes Anderson film, and so here is its poster, in its stoic dollhouse-like glory.

6. Frank — Lenny Abrahamson

The head you see floating above both defines and confines Michael Fassbender’s character Frank’s existence in the movie. Though Fassbender gives the static, papier-mâché face emotional range through his body language (while refusing to remove the mask), it’s telling that the poster shows it as a disembodied thing: here, we see the face as its own beast, as something from which the body underneath could, possibly, be liberated.

5. Birdman — Alejandro G. Iñárritu

This hilarious yet oh-so-handsome poster satirically monumentalizes the importance of the action-hero actor, showing him both ennobled and weighed down by the icon with whom he’s indelibly affiliated.

4 & 3. Inherent Vice — Paul Thomas Anderson

1970’s Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus? Absolutely. And in case you’re not the religious type, the neon pink legs below, which, like the novel’s cover, amusingly suggest Pynchon works as smutty beach reading, might do the trick:

2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night — Ana Lily Amirpour

In an earlier discussion of this film’s politics, I’d said, “On the poster, and in the film, the lead character, Girl — the perpetrator of mass murders that are displayed not-at-all-clandestinely in a pit just outside the Iranian/Californian town of Bad City — wears a chador. By dressing her central character in a chador-like garment, and coupling this image with the movie’s heavy reliance on Western cinematic tropes and a setting Bakersfield, CA, the filmmaker disrupts her Western audience’s knee-jerk reaction to the symbol. She sets the film in a vaguely Western (as in the film genre) environment, inviting the interest of a Western audience, then asks them to consider exactly how they consider the chador as a symbol. Because of our country’s complicated, often highly prejudiced affiliations with Islam, the chador automatically reflects our own condescending ideas about victimization. The fact that she’s the ‘Girl’ walking home ‘alone,’ but is also the predator, speaks to America’s strange tendency to read the chador as a symbol of both victimization and threat: the fearfulness of the shrouded ‘vampiric’ figure also makes us consider Islamophobia.” For all those reasons, this is one of the year’s most layered and powerful posters.

1. Nymphomaniac — Lars von Trier

So many actors, so many orgasms. Such a long, messy film. Such a long parade of messy orgasms. Regardless of what you thought of this polarizing film, it seems undeniable that this is the loudest, weirdest, most repellent, and yet the most graceful series of posters this year.

Honorable Mention: Bad Johnson — Huck Botko

Because it was obviously hard to choose between this and Nymphomaniac. The two are in such close competition as far as psycho-sexual honesty goes. Let’s not forget the harrowing performance given by the “Bad Johnson,” aka the “little friend,” so centrally pictured on this stunning poster.