Mike’s Favorite Movie Posters of 2013 (50-31)

The movie poster is a lost art. Don’t believe me?

See what I mean? Nowadays almost every poster feels like a retread of a retread of a retread. Now don’t get me wrong, it was always like this. It’s not like there were an abundance of iconic posters back in the day. It’s just that now, things feel even less original than it did back then. Not only that, now the pre-release portion of a movie is so long, we get five, six different posters before a movie even comes out. And if it’s a big movie, we get character posters, and then the DVD art is something totally different — there’s too much out there. Very rarely are we left with a singular image to take away from a film. I’m sure part of it has to do with the visual aspect of film taking the back seat to the financial aspect, and marketing teams ultimately not really trying much anymore. Either way, the poster is a dying art. But that still won’t stop me from celebrating what art we have left.

This has become an annual thing for me. I just like looking at posters. It’s an art form that is separate from the films that are being advertised. That’s what I love about it. You can have a really great poster for a really shit film, and vice versa. A good poster should be able to tell you what a film is about in a single, memorable image. And I’m not just talking about a giant closeup of the star’s face. I’m talking something like The Dark Knight Rises, with the bat symbol etched among the debris of Gotham falling, or one of my favorite sets of film posters last year, Killing Them Softly, which had a series of American symbols mixed with gun imagery. Or Argo, which had a teaser poster that looked like it was reassembled from bits of shredded paper, telling the audience it was based on a “declassified true story.” These are good posters. They’re simple, they’re memorable, and they look great. That’s how you make a poster. And that’s what I’m going to celebrate.

I was going to start with a few posters from the year that didn’t quite hit the mark (like The Great Gatsby poster, which had a promising teaser, but failed to deliver with any of the final posters), or ones that exemplified the generic, cut-and-paste style of poster making that’s so prevalent nowadays, but why bother? Let’s just celebrate the good stuff. Last year, I only covered my top ten, plus an 11-15 and some honorable mentions, but I felt now, let’s just be inclusive. Since last year, I really only went by what I found over the course of the year, but this year, I sought out all the posters for films, even the foreign ones, so I could create a bigger list. So now there will be 50 entries. The first twenty are today, the second twenty are tomorrow, and then Saturday will be the top ten.

The last thing I want to include before I get into the list is that I will only be including the posters from the films of 2013 on this list. Too often do people, when they make their “best posters of 2013” list, include just the posters that came out that year, which will include Oscar posters from 2012, as well as 2014 film posters that came out early, typically because either the film got bumped, or it’s just an early teaser. I say fuck that. I’m only including 2013 films on here. I’m very particular about this. Like when people say “2014 Oscars.” Bullshit. It’s the 2013 Oscars. The ceremony just happens to take place in 2014. You’re all saying it wrong. (I included only two films that didn’t definitely come out in the U.S. in 2013. One I have in my possession, so I’m counting it, and the other came out in its native country, so I’m counting that too.)

So that’s how this is going to work: 2013 films only, 50-31 today, and one last thing — only one poster per film. I might link to alternates that I liked underneath an entry, but only one poster per film will be featured on this list. Otherwise it’s just overkill.

Onto the list:

We’ll start, of course, with one honorable mention (because fuck rules), which is the film that narrowly missed making it onto this list, and is my unofficial #51. So our #51 and Honorable Mention on this list (brought to you by Puerto Rico) is August: Osage County. I like the stark yellow background. I like when posters use colors that aren’t black or white for a poster background. It also gives it that theatrical feel. How, in a play, this house, and these characters are your world. This is the stage, these are the players, this is everything. Reminds me of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, how it’s all set in this house, and outside is this thickening fog, which is just slowly enveloping all the characters. I like that. And we know how much I love images of characters against a stark background, pulling them and only them forward in the frame. So this poster has all that. Plus there’s that nice image of the roof opening up and all the family spilling out. I like it. In terms of execution, it probably should have been my #50, but I decided to go with pure emotion over execution.

And with that, here’s my official list:

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

50. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

I was way too excited for this film to come out. I was expecting something way better than I got. Not that what I got wasn’t good, it’s just — my expectations were too high.

That said, I really like this poster. It’s just pure emotional power. It’s a really striking image, and really helped raise my expectations and excitement level for this film. Unfortunately, this literally happens within the first ten minutes and the rest of the film is nothing like this. Which is a shame. But the poster resonates well.


49. Riddick

I like the blood rain and him being bathed in red against the darkness. That’s really my only reason for having this here. He looks way too CG for me, and it’s not a particularly good poster. But conceptually, I like the blood rain over the blackness. Having watched Riddick for three-plus films now, that is pretty much what this character is about. So I have this on here for that. Otherwise, the poster doesn’t look that great. But, points for ideas.


48. 42

I just like that the poster is vertical and not horizontal. That makes this so much better than if they went for the obvious angle. Plus, I love me some Brooklyn Dodgers colors. And I like how it’s simple. Him, sliding, the dirt, the uniform colors, and the white background behind him.

And, I guess, you can say that the angle is him pushing down on racism and oppression and all that stuff, but that’s not why this is here. In fact, if that’s why the poster is like that, then I probably would consider taking it off this list. I’m just figuring it’s this way because it’s more unique and looks cooler this way.


47. Trance

Purely because of the colors. That’s the only reason this is here. I love colors. It’s a unique use of color, and more posters need to use color like this. Other than that, the poster isn’t that great. But I’ll always single out some colors. And on pure color design (and shapes — I like shapes), this merits a spot. I likes what I likes.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

46. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

The advertising campaign for this film (not surprisingly, given that’s what its protagonist does for a living) was really strong. One poster just said the title, “Charlie Sheen,” and had an open banana on it. Simple, and brilliant.

This one, I liked more, because for one, it wasn’t a character poster, and two, I like how it has the paper ripping effect on it. His brain is spilling out into all this weird shit. That’s nice. Its use of color is really strong, using the red as a border between the blue and yellow areas, and it does paint a nice picture of what the film is supposed to be about. Of course, I found the film way too weird for my taste, but the poster does a good job of setting up for everything.

Oz the Great and Powerful

45. Oz the Great and Powerful

Let’s not beat around the bush — this poster started on third base. It had to fuck up real bad to not get home (like which there is no place). And this poster is basically a slow trot on a no-doubt-about-it single to left-center. 90% of the poster is made for it by the already-iconic imagery. The yellow-brick road, Oz, the burst of color. The poster makes itself. So let’s not pretend like this is original by any stretch.

That said, it still looks good, and I still prefer looking at Oz to looking at most of the posters that come out. So while all the work was done for it, and all the rest of the posters for the film released after this one sucked, I still like this one enough to throw it a mention at the bottom of my list.

After Earth

44. After Earth

Film aside, I like this poster. Crash-landed ship and a nice foggy landscape. It is the plot of the film in a nutshell. Of course, all the stuff underneath that fog sucks, but the poster does a nice job of conveying the overall plot — he’s gotta get from there to that waterfall and not die in between. So, good job with that, poster. It’s not your fault the film was lifeless. (“Monotone?”)

Hunger Games-Catching Fire

43. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Somehow, despite the Instagram filter, I like this poster. Of course, I will hate all of this type of coloring when everyone starts to use it, but for now — it’s cool. It’s not like this is anywhere but the bottom 10. The bottom 10 is for “I like the look of that,” without much reason or explanation. It is what it is.


It’s a nice image. It might have gone higher if it weren’t so obviously CG, but an image is an image. The rest of the posters for this suck. Which is a shame. There was potential there.

To the Wonder

41. To the Wonder

I like the frame within a frame, and I like the fold in the middle. Other than that, it just looks nice. Nothing too great, but nice enough. (Which is exactly what this movie is in Malick’s filmography.)

Anchorman 2

40. Anchorman 2

No title, just the moustache. And you know exactly what this is. That, my friends, is a perfect teaser poster. You don’t need a title to know what this is. Perfection.

Before Midnight

39. Before Midnight

It’s simple, it looks great, and it’s a perfect representation of what this film is and what the films in this series are. What more could you ask in a poster?

What Maisie Knew

38. What Maisie Knew

It’s that red and white. Reminds me of West Side Story. That’s all. Not over the moon about the poster as a representation for the film, but the red and white and the use of the silhouette is nice. So, for sheer beauty, this gets points. Otherwise, meh.


37. Carrie

Took me a while to come around on this one, but honestly — it’s a nice poster. Her face, the blood. That’s the film in a nutshell. And it’s a striking image, to boot. It’s one of those posters that kept coming back to me until I had to acknowledge how good it was.


36. Her

I love how simple it is. The red shirt and the pink background are perfect, and his face says all you need to know. And I love the tagline: “A Spike Jone Love Story.” That’s terrific. Deceptively simple poster. But the colors help it stand out. At first I saw it and threw it out for inclusion on the list. But the more I look at it, the more I love it. It really does work.

Night Train to Lisbon

35. Night Train to Lisbon

This is a film that hasn’t come out yet, but I have a copy, and it’s still a 2013 film, so I’m counting it. That said — this design is something I like. I like architecture, train stations are always full of that, plus you have the wide shot of the person standing on a platform, the nice overexposure from the sunlight, and, like I said — train station architecture is nice. This is one of those posters that is exactly the type of thing I go for.

Last Exorcism 2

34. The Last Exorcism 2

It’s a horror movie. Those who know me or read this blog know how much I dislike horror movies. So the fact that I’m mentioning a horror poster in a positive way shows how much I did enjoy this one. Usually horror posters are pretty generic. Typically what makes a good horror poster is an iconic image (see: The Exorcist), or an iconic film (see: Halloween). Otherwise, most horror movies typically do not have very good posters, even the iconic ones. (You guys remember the Nightmare on Elm Street Poster? It’s not that great.) That said, I like this one. I’m a big fan of simple images. Figures placed against a stark background. This one has the added bonus of having the possessed chick all contorted as shit, which is essentially what this movie is about. And it has her all bent in the shape of the number two, which I think is just a really great, schaudenfreude touch to it all.

(I’d also like to mention, there’s another poster this year that will end up on people’s top poster lists — 12 Years a Slave — that also uses this figure against a stark white background model. That film will not feature on my list at all, past this mention. I deliberately chose that Last Exorcism poster over it, because, while the black slave running in front of a bleached white background is an evocative image for that film, they fuck it up by putting the cast list and title and company details right on top of him. They should have just let the poster be him running and that’s it. Put that out as a teaser, no title, no anything, like that Anchorman 2 poster, and then later release the one with all the stuff on it. This way, it reeks of classy, Oscar bait poster, and ruins what an effective image that actually is.)



33. Frozen

This one is more of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, but me really liking the parts. Disney, the snow, the sense of adventure this poster brings. As you’ll see much later in the list, I like this type of poster. I can’t really point to why this poster is this high with any concrete reasoning. I just like it. So there you have it.

Mortal Instruments- City of Bones

32. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

This poster is why I love making this list. Even the most awful movies can have good posters. And this poster — I like it. It creates a really nice and succinct image that tells you what the basic premise of this movie is about. There’s our world, and then there’s a dark, evil one lurking just beneath the surface. Simple, effective. And it looks nice. The dark city reflected in the water. Anyone who tells you this poster isn’t any good is just lying. This, on a pure imagery level, is a good poster. And I’m glad this is here. Because now I will have something positive to say about the film.

Almost in Love

31. Almost in Love

This is this year’s example of a poster so good it made me look into what the movie is. And now that I’ve looked into the movie, I really want to see it. This poster actually made me want to see this movie. If that’s not reason enough to put it here, I don’t know what is.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we go over the next set of posters, before we finish with the top ten on Saturday.


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