Mike’s Favorite Movie Posters of 2013 (30-11)

Yesterday, I started counting down my favorite movie posters of 2013.

To me, the movie poster is a lost art. Everything now looks like the same poster. They all use the same templates, and rather than creating something that’s unique and bold, all movie posters are meant to make you feel comfortable and look like the posters for other movies that made a lot of money, in the hopes that that movie will also make a lot of money. It’s synecdoche for the entire industry — it’s more about commerce than art, in most situations.

Of course, that’s not always true, an once in a while, a poster will take a chance. Or the vision of a film will be so unique that it’ll give way to some powerful imagery that will undoubtedly make its way onto a poster. That’s what this set of articles is for — appreciating the movie posters that stick out among the dreck. We make year-end lists for everything else, so why not posters too?

What I love about a good poster is — it’ll make you want to see a movie. Even if you had no intentions of seeing that movie before (which is saying something, coming from the guy who sees everything anyway), a good poster will make you go, “I might just give that a shot.” Or, what’s even better, when you know nothing about the movie and it gets you to look it up and possibly see it. The beauty of the movie poster is that it can be enjoyed wholly separately from the film it’s advertising.

Today, we’ll be doing the next 20 posters on my list, culminating with a top ten tomorrow.

Spring Breakers

30. Spring Breakers

This film had a fantastic print campaign. I can’t count the number of people I knew who were insanely excited for this before it came out. (Definitely exponentially trumps the number of people I know who were excited about it after they saw it.)

What I like about this poster in particular is the fact that it captures what, to me, is the most memorable (and beautifully fucked up, in the best way) part of the film (which — if you haven’t seen the film yet, I don’t want to ruin it. This moment comes out of nowhere and will elicit some kind of laugh from you, positive or negative). The beautiful image is nicely juxtaposed with what’s actually going on, and it leads to a really memorable poster image. It only really works in context, but I felt that it was worth a spot this high, since I’m also a huge fan of the rest of the posters they released. They essentially boil it down to something we can all get behind — hot chicks in bikinis. That’s how you sell a movie.

(P.S. Second favorite poster from the film goes to this one. That’s just another beautiful image that adequately sells the film.)

Saving Mr. Banks

29. Saving Mr. Banks

And the honorable mention for Nice Use of Silhouettes (brought to you by The Phantom Menace) goes to…

Look, we all went apeshit when that first Phantom Menace teaser came out. It’s a neat little trick, and works really well when posters don’t overuse it, and when you’re dealing with iconic images. This is Disney. And since I haven’t really seen a poster use the silhouette technique in a while, this works perfectly to me. A movie about Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, and the poster shows you the stars, and shows you their characters, boiled down to the most basic representations of who they are and what they’ve accomplished — Mickey Mouse and Mary Poppins. It’s simple, and it works beautifully. It’s not wholly original, but, nowadays, it’s more original than most stuff out there, and when we’re in the realm of iconic images, I think this is definitely an acceptable route, since there are really only so many roads you can take. This, to me, boils down our story to its essentials, and cleanly and effectively tells you what this film is about. Which signifies a good poster.

Stoker 2

28. Stoker

I had a difficult time figuring out which poster to choose for this film (the alternate choice being this one). I felt most people would go with the second choice, but something about that one felt wrong to me. Just as a poor choice, since obviously I loved the poster enough to rank it this high regardless of which one I chose. I do like the artistry of that second poster, but I think it’s the fact that they’re both at the bottom of the frame, and there’s so much empty white in it that makes me not fully behind that one. Whereas, the one I chose, I like that it uses the same bordering technique, with the twisted branches and such, and does a better job of letting you know what the movie is about. The other one is just a weird, nice-looking poster, whereas this one has some of that, along with a nice image that sets you up for the film. What I like about this one in particular is the family photo aspect to it. It’s meant to look like a loving family in a photo, but based on the design, you can tell that something is definitely off. Big fan of that.

Black Rock

27. Black Rock

The imagery of this poster is spectacular. Still haven’t (and almost certainly won’t) see the film, but this poster is absolutely spectacular. It’s a South Park cut-and-paste version of a Jaws poster. And I love that. I’m not a huge fan of the folded-up look, since it feels like it’s trying too hard to evoke that old movie poster feeling, but I’m willing to overlook that due to the strength of the imagery.

Normally, this would go much higher for me, but that fold does feel a bit hipster-ish to me, and that loses major brownie points. So it’ll have to suffice with a spot just outside the top 25.


26. The Purge

This wins honorable mention for Best Marketing Campaign.

 The Purge has two posters, both of which I think are really strong (the other one is this one), but I’m not really sure if I love either enough to really put them any higher on their own. This one is more of a mention for the strength of the marketing campaign than anything else. That’s why this is #26. The two posters seem to work hand-in-hand more than on their own. (And I’m sticking to my “one poster per film” rule.)

The one I chose, I felt, was clearly the choice to represent the film with, since, if there’s one thing I’m a fan of, it’s posters that don’t tell you anything about a film. This one, in particular, only tells you the basic premise (which is genius, and definitely keeps a film riddled with cliches interesting, and even good). The other good thing about this — it works as viral marketing, to boot. I remember seeing this for the first time last May at a bus stop while sitting at a red light and doing a double take of, “Wait, what?” Not that I was actively reading it, it was one of those things that you just look over and see, and then you finally notice what it says without thinking, and then it makes you look at it for real, and you go, “Oh, that’s a movie.” So that’s nice.

And then the second poster I like because they took the iconic (I guess I should put that word in quotes) image from the film and put it right there on the poster. While the film does have its flaws, and while that face/mask was pretty underutilized in the film, it is a nice image and, in a stronger film, would have stuck out as one of the memorable horror(ish) images in recent memory. That’s a shame. But still, the poster is nice. So I’m awarding them an honorable mention for their marketing. It helped the film open to $30 million, which no one saw coming.

So, since the film has a great premise, a nice viral poster, and a nice horror image (that mask), I’m awarding them spot #26. Not high enough to make my top tier list of posters, but strong enough to know that I really appreciate them.

Iron Man 3

25. Iron Man 3

I love the image here. Stark falling from the sky, everything falling apart around him. That said, Iron Man 3 had way too many posters, and the effect ended up diluting each one’s effectiveness. This poster was also really solid, Tony standing in front of all the suits, or this one, with him kneeling and all the suits flying up behind him. The problem is, there are like four different variations on all of these posters out there. They even have multiple generic posters for the film, with all the characters there. It ruins the effectiveness of the singular poster image. You think Jaws had 15 posters when it came out? They should have stuck with one image, and went with that. Or stuck with their guns and kept the ones with the strong images, rather than go with the DVD cover of everyone on it. (Anyone notice how bad DVD covers are now, too? They’re even worse than the movie posters.)

I feel what makes this end up going so high for me is the fact that this is a poster for a genre that it’s prone to the most boring, generic posters out there. (See: The Avengers poster.) So I like when people really try to do something interesting with the posters for films like this. (Of course, like I said, they still went with the “everyone on the poster” route, as well as the “everyone gets a character poster” as well, but at least they have more than one solid one. That helps even things out.) The superhero film will almost never have a good poster (though D.C. has been doing a good job in recent years, which we’ll get to). Hell, the first Iron Man had shitty posters. And that film was the best Marvel film to ever (and that probably will ever) happen. Plus, we’ve spent three (plus) films with this character, so that also adds to the appeal. And, it’s nice to see a poster based around a character failing. You can clearly see the basis for this movie is “Shit goes wrong for Tony.” And, honestly, at this point, I’ll take any superhero movie that shows me bad things happening to a hero. Especially if it’s a sequel. So I’m a fan of that. Watching everything come crumbling down around Tony. Maybe I should have put a few other posters higher than this, but I like this one.

Star Trek Into Darkness

24. Star Trek Into Darkness

When this poster came out, I said, “Wow, that’s actually really solid. It’s just Khan standing there, amidst the wreckage, perfectly framed by the rubble, which is conveniently in the shape of the Star Trek logo. It’s perfect. But, unfortuntately, when this poster came out, people went fucking apeshit over it and I saw this everywhere for about four months. It’s good, but it’s not that good. So, for that reason, and that reason alone, this poster gets no higher than #24 from me. It’s nice, but people fucked it up for me. I’d rather use my space to talk about some stuff that maybe everyone else hasn’t already covered, ad nauseam. Putting this on your poster top ten list just feels easy and boring. And I think we’ve established that I don’t do easy and boring. (I put a horror movie on my list over an Oscar contender.) So, maybe this had a shot at going top 15, but because people fuck things up, we’ll never know.

Fast and Furious 6

23. Fast & Furious 6

This one is kind of like Iron Man 3, in that, it had one really great poster, but the film overall had too many posters, which diluted the effectiveness of the one that really works. This film has one of these types of posters for every character, plus one with all the characters, in pretty much the exact same location. The problem is — you only needed this poster. Dom, walking to the car, on the highway, the sky, the tagline – it’s perfect. You don’t need anyone else on it. Vin Diesel by himself is what this franchise is. That’s all you need to sell me. But unfortunately, they gave every other character a poster and had one with everyone standing at a car on the highway. Though unlike Iron Man 3, the fatigue here isn’t from too many posters, it’s from overuse of the same image. It completely diminishes the strength of the image. But, as it stands, this one poster is amazing. So there’s that.

Grudge Match

22. Grudge Match

Because I love the old-school boxing poster design. Odds are, if you make your movie poster look like any kind of poster made before 1960, I will really like your poster.

The template for this poster is so good, I don’t even mind that Kevin Hart’s face is on it, plastered front and center at the bottom.

This is definitely one of my favorite posters of the year.

Also, kudos to the character posters, giving Rocky and Jake LaMotta their own posters.

Now, of course the whole thing looks like a giant publicity stunt, casting these two in a boxing movie. But you know what? However this movie turns out — the posters are great.

Side Effects

21. Side Effects

This poster is spectacular. Both of them are. I’ll have more to say about that second poster in a second. But this one — man, this is great. The little prescription pad at the bottom, the cast list on there — perfect. And then her face on top — her face is in that perfect expression where you really can’t tell what her motivations are and what’s truly going on. Which is essentially what this movie is about.

I can always count on Steven Soderbergh to have a great poster for his movie.

And, to talk about that second poster for a second — we’ve all seen that poster before. The four main stars of the film plastered in their own corner, each getting the same amount of space. It’s more about the stars than it is about the film. And in a sense, this is that same way. Only here, we have that red cross linking them all together and taking what would have been an otherwise generic poster and spicing it up a bit. I don’t think it quite fully overcomes Generic Movie Poster Syndrome (or GMPS, as it’ll be referred to from now on), but it is a nice little variation (the way the film is a nice little variation on the typical… whatever genre this is meant to be) from the norm.

So, in all — good job, Side Effects. The movie, and the posters, were way better than I was expecting, and I was expecting pretty solid to begin with.

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I was really nervous when I heard about this movie. Because I saw the original. I thought there was no way they could properly remake that well. But, fortunately, the more I’ve seen about this (trailers and such), it seems like they’re focusing on the right part of the story to remake, and taking out the part of the original that doesn’t work (which I won’t talk about now. Let’s let the film come out first).

But, that aside — I really like this poster. It perfectly highlights what this film is about. It’s a nice image. It doesn’t overdo it, and really gets you intrigued as to what the film is about. So I’m a fan of this one. For a second, I was about to put this in my top ten. That’s how much of a fan I am of this.

Man of Steel

19. Man of Steel

(Note: I almost went with this poster, but the more I looked at them both, the more I felt the one with the logo just popped more. Which is strange, since I’d have figured me to go for the simpler of the two.)

This movie sure talked a good game. The trailer for this movie was really solid. This poster looks incredible. And then… the movie. But, we’re here to talk about the poster. And I love this poster. It’s simple, and it works. This is all you need to get people excited for a Superman movie. The logo, and him flying upward. That’s it. This was a brilliant move by the advertisers. It’s the barebones of what makes Superman work. (Too bad nobody told Zack Snyder that.)

Huge fan of this poster, and this was another one that definitely ranks among my absolute favorites of the year.

Pacific Rim

18. Pacific Rim

I’ve fluctuated quite a bit on this poster. At a glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly amazing about it, and yet, the more I look at it, there’s something there that really makes me love it. It’s just memorable. And it doesn’t even really tell me what the movie is about. Yet the image of the giant robot coming out of the ocean like that is just incredible. This is something that happens in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. And it really, like I said, doesn’t tell you all that much about what this movie is. Yet — still really love it. Can’t explain this one, I just love it.


17. Wrong

This poster is wonderful. It’s simple, and surreal, and just as bizarre as the movie itself. (Well, all right, maybe not quite as much as the movie itself.)

(Also, please do yourself a favor and go see this movie. It’s so hilariously weird.)

Pain Gain

16. Pain & Gain

“Their American Dream Is Bigger Than Yours.” I rest my case.

How beautiful if this poster? Johnson, Wahlberg, the American flag. Pure Bay. The only thing missing is a hot chick, and… oh.

P.S. This other poster is also brilliant.

But seriously, that American flag is perfect.


15. Oldboy

Beautiful poster. Not to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen either version, but this is essentially what this movie is in a single image. I like the greyscale and the simple framing in the background, and on Brolin, allowing the beautiful coloring in the center to take prominence. And you have the hammer, which — of course. I love this poster. And for those who’ve seen either version of this story — really tells you what the film is about. Which is perfect.

Also — the teaser poster for this film is also really good.

Dead Man Down

14. Dead Man Down

As you can tell, this is the Italian poster for the movie, and it’s way more interesting than what the American posters look like. I saw this and stopped on a dime. This poster is amazing. How come American studios don’t have the balls to drop a poster like this? It’s not even that crazy. It’s your two stars, and a body falling, and the color design is spectacular. It’s not that crazy a poster to put out there. We need more of this out there. This poster is tremendous, and I bet if you had people scroll through 100 random posters, and this was one of them, almost all of them would stop at this one and say how good it looked.

Charlie Countryman2

13. Charlie Countryman

love this poster. I love everything about it. I thought long and hard about putting this in my top ten. Still thinking about it. I love the watercolors, I love the image, I love the simplicity of it all. I can’t understand why so few films choose to go the simple route like this one did. It looks great, and it tells you what the movie is about. It’s a perfect poster. And it’s still one that I think about moving into my top ten when I look at it.

(P.S. Props to this poster, which also looks great, and is essentially the same thing, just with a heart instead of the eye. I guess I went with the eye one because it made up for the lack of a great Gatsby poster (ridiculously intended) this year.)

Kings of Summer3

12. The Kings of Summer

This film has a lot of posters. The main one seems to be this one. Then there’s this one, this one, and this one. There are probably more, but these are the ones I liked best. I think the second one, like I said, was the main one. They’re all great posters. I honestly almost went with that main one. But something about this one made me settle on it. Probably the artwork. And the predominantly green scheme. It’s beautiful. And it is basically what this movie is about. Another one that almost made the top ten and is still in heavy consideration about potentially going there. Absolutely gorgeous.

All Is Lost

11. All Is Lost

Sometimes simplest is the best. The concept is as simple as this poster. And this poster is all you need. The weathered (ridiculously intended) face of Robert Redford is the rock that holds this image in place, and it’s the same for the film, which is why this is a perfect poster. Most people might not consider this as a perfect poster, but it is. And this is another one that I almost consider as part of a top ten adjunct. It’s so great.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we count down our top ten.


One response

  1. You’ve picked some great ones here. I love the poster for Side Effects. Never saw the film, but always loved the poster.

    December 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm

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