Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2013

The other day, 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 finish our list with my ten favorite posters of 2013:

Spectacular Now

10. The Spectacular Now

I love the shit out of this poster. It’s absolutely perfect. 85% trees, 10% road, and the rest is jut the two of them, off-center in the frame. It’s such a great composition. And it perfectly represents the theme of the film. Look at the beautiful world around us. Oh, and by the way, there’s this great little love story that’s also happening here. This poster is so incredible, and this film is a nice little slice of perfect on top of it.

Upstream Color

9. Upstream Color

The image here was too good to not use. The two of them, intertwined in the bathtub like that. So, so good. (P.S. This would have made a nice poster for Let the Right One In.) It’s also thematically relevant, even though I know most people aren’t able to make heads or tails of what happens in the film. Take my word for it, though. It’s thematically relevant. And the image is just perfect. This had to make the list.


8. Oblivion

There’s something so great to me about the idea of a set of skyscrapers being part of a waterfall. It’s a really beautiful image. And it does provide the basis for the setup of the film. (Of course, the rest of the posters beat this idea to death, but, on their own, they are nice.) Regardless of the quality of the film, this poster makes me want to see the movie, which is what a good poster is supposed to do. And, for what this film is supposed to be, this is a really perfect image to put on a poster. I haven’t seen anything like this before.

Escape from Tomorrow

7. Escape from Tomorrow

Everything about this film deserves major credit. Just the fact that it got made. And how they made it. And that they had the balls to make it. This film was notorious from the second they screened it at Sundance. And it all made our “most anticipated films of the year” lists from that point on. And then they released this poster — it’s so perfect. In case you know nothing about this film — they shot it at Disneyland. Guerilla-style. They brought in a bunch of iPhones and camcorders and shot the film at the park over a series of days. And it was all perfectly legal, because Disney allows you to take videos while at their parks and resorts. So they just had the actors act all this stuff out amongst all the other people in the park. And they managed to blur all the official logos and they inverted all the music so as not to engage in any copyright infringement whatsoever (Disney is the most litigious studio there is, so they must have had teams of lawyers combing through this movie to make sure they could show it in public). And it’s about a dude who gets laid off, and slowly starts losing his mind in the happiest place on Earth. The less you know, the better. It’s so audacious it’s wonderful. And this poster is so absolutely perfect it defies words. You know exactly whose hand that’s supposed to be (and what that font is meant to symbolize), and it’s not copyright infringement whatsoever. This is a perfect poster.

Inside Llewyn Davis

6. Inside Llewyn Davis

It’s simple, and it’s terrific. What more needs to be said? I love the little snapshot in the center of the frame. The sparse coloring. I love how the Coens always find a way to do something unique and interesting with every poster. Each poster, like each film, has its own color design and feel. It’s really a work of art, every time they come out with a poster (and every time they come out with a film, for that matter).

Hobbit-Desolation of Smaug

5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

These posters make me happy. I feel comfortable in Middle Earth. That said — I’m a huge fan of this design. Small man on big quest. I love the framing of Bilbo standing directly in front of (but a ways away from) the door to Smaug’s domain. It’s a perfect image. And, like I said, my familiarity and love of Middle Earth (cinematically) really adds to my love of this poster.


4. Gravity

Come on, buddy. Everyone knew this was going on the list. This is a film that strips narrative to its barebones, and this is a poster that brilliantly conveys that. This is perhaps the simplest poster there could ever be. Astronaut, in space, in the middle of nowhere. That’s the film. Obvious this goes this high. Sometimes the simplest poster is the best poster.

Blood Ties

3. Blood Ties

This one is… kind of a stretch, since it was at Cannes, and Toronto, and got an overseas release, but has yet to get a U.S. release. Though I’m still considering it a 2013 film. And because I love this poster so much. So I’m counting it. This — is a 70s poster. Look at this. This is the 70s. And if you didn’t think I’d jump all over this poster, you are absolutely nuts. This poster is perfect. I hope this movie is amazing, because I want to buy this poster and put it on my wall. This poster is so good. This is one of those that is so perfectly me I couldn’t help but put it here. Man, do I love this one.

You're Next 1

2. You’re Next

At first glance, looking at this poster, you go, “Wait, what? He chose that poster?” And then you notice it. This is perfect advertising. It’s so off-putting when you notice it. It’s really a bit of genius subliminal advertising. And they did it more than once, too. This did what The Purge did, only it did it better, and more subtle. Plus, this film has its own version of memorable horror image. (That’s the official poster for the film. It’s nice, but it’s not great on its own. It’s great when you see it in context of the poster up there.) There’s also this poster as well, which looks pretty great. But there’s nothing that’s gonna top the one up there. I’ve never seen anything like that before, and it’s just spectacular.


1. The Wolverine

Of course.

It’s not the first motion poster, and it sure as hell won’t be the last, but this is the first one that broke through into my consciousness. I had no idea these were even a thing until I saw this. This poster is just — man, this is perfect. That character, that film — this poster is actually better than the film it’s advertising. And the film isn’t all that horrible. But this poster is a work of sheer art, and whoever came up with it deserves a giant raise. This is far and away the best poster of 2013.

(P.S. Shout out to this poster. It’s also really good. The print campaign for this one was quite good.)

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow (and Monday) we’re going to get into some recap — films that defied my expectations, for better and for worse.


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