Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2014

The movie poster is a lost art.

That is always the first thing I say when I start talking about my favorite posters of the year. I started this feature back in 2011, when I saw the poster for The Ides of March and thought, “That’s one of the most original poster designs I’ve ever seen.” And it made me realize just how lazy advertising departments are now, regurgitating the same twelve poster designs, trying to remind you of all the other movies like that one that you saw, rather than doing something that sticks out and is unique, and makes you want to see the movie purely on its poster design. How often now do you see a poster and go, “Man, what is that movie?”

At this point so many different variations of a poster get released (teaser posters, first poster, second poster, character posters, DVD cover art), it’s hard to even keep track of them. So rarely are we left with a singular image from a film. It’s because the marketing team only cares about trying to make money for a film and not about truly selling the film. You’ll see more and more that what end up being the best posters of the year are films with a deliberate voice behind them, which either means that the director is very hands on and cares about their product, all the way down to the marketing, or because the voice of the filmmaker is so strong, it bleeds over into the marketing.

The point is — even though the art of movie poster making is a dying one, I’m still going to celebrating the good that is left. I look for posters that are simple, memorable, and tell you exactly what a movie is about in a single image. Or, sometimes things are just cool. It’ll be pretty obvious as we go.

So here are my top ten posters of 2014:

Here are links to the first two parts (50-31 and 30-11), in case you missed them:

The Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies Movie Poster

10. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

It’s almost a foregone conclusion at this point that a Hobbit poster will end up in my top ten. I’m sorry guys. I’ve said it each time — these posters just make me feel at home. I am comfortable in the world of Middle Earth. I grew up with these movies, and I just really like seeing them shown in posters. And I’ll be honest — the rest of the posters for this movie aren’t very good. And this poster really only represents what I’m sure is less than a third of the entire movie. Maybe a third. Maybe. But it’s nice. Smaug is coming toward the town and the dude is standing front and center to face him. Symmetry is a big deal for me, and I like the little bridge over water — there are a lot of things in this that appeal to me. And you add the world to it, there was really no way this wasn’t going to make my top ten, even though I’ve already pointed out a handful of designs that are way more unique and interesting to me than this was.

Inherent Vice Movie Poster

9. Inherent Vice

There are those neon colors again. And, if any poster this year looks like a book cover, this is the one. It’s just a woman’s legs. Originally, I wasn’t even sure I wanted this on my list. And then, when it clearly made the list, I thought it was gonna end up near the bottom. But it kept growing on me. It’s just a simple and great poster. This is what these detective movies are all about. And as I’ve been saying all along — simplicity works. Don’t be fooled by a simple poster. There’s more going on here than you think. And the more I looked at this poster, the more I realized that to be the case. And here we are.

Whiplash Movie Poster

8. Whiplash

I’m still deciding between whether or not I prefer this image with or without all the quotes. I like them both, I’m just not sure which I prefer. Not to mention this version of the poster, which is also a top ten entry on its own. Ultimately, I stuck with this one as the choice here, just because, like Jersey Boys, I like the idea of a spotlighted image in an otherwise dark frame. Both posters for this movie perfectly tell you what it’s about, and they’re just incredible. Easily top ten posters.

Gone Girl Movie Poster

7. Gone Girl

The lack of a title is a really bold choice. That’s what put this over the top for me. The knowledge that the poster would work on its own and that people would know what it was without it. Plus, this is another simple poster that’s got a lot more going on. The entire poster is about the search for Amy. Which is essentially what the movie is about. Except, there’s also a lot more going on there as well. Simplicity. It works. You’ll notice that my top ten is predominantly two things: really talented directors with unique voices who care about how their movies are marketed and put effort into their posters, or big budget movies with cool looking posters that get by on the awesome factor. But most of the movies with the best posters also turn out to be the best movies simply because the people who made them had vision and really care about the product.

Transformers Age of Extinction Movie Poster

6. Transformers: Age of Extinction

Speaking of the awesome factor. This poster is so good. It’s so badass. There’s no way this wasn’t making my top ten. They really outdid themselves with this poster. I’d also like to point out that there were some really good alternates here as well. I actually had about five options here. Granted, none of the other four would have cracked anywhere near the top ten, but they’re still a really good crop. There’s this one, which is great because it’s Optimus Prime riding a dinosaur. That alone would probably have cracked the top twenty. Then there’s this one, which is cool. The fire and all. And then, the IMAX posters again. This one and this one. IMAX is pretty on point with their posters. So, in all, great set of posters for this one. But this image trumps everything.

The Voices Movie Poster

5. The Voices

My one cheat in the bunch. They’re putting this on VOD for Valentine’s Day (perfect), but it played both Sundance and Toronto this year. So it’s very much a 2014 movie, even though it wasn’t released in 2014 proper. I’m counting it. I know none of us have seen it yet, but hopefully this will get you all excited about it as much as I am. I’ve been talking about this for over a year now. I read this script four years ago and have been waiting for someone to have the balls to turn it into a movie. And this poster tells you exactly what it’s about. If you know nothing about this movie, don’t look it up. Just watch it. Trust me when I say this poster is amazing. It has it all. Thematically, this is the movie, and it’s got the pink background which stands out and also is oddly appropriate. Easy top five poster for me this year.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Movie Poster

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

What more do you need? It’s the hotel. That’s what the movie is about. And you have the entire cast listed. I can’t imagine a year where a Wes Anderson poster wasn’t in my top ten. The man just makes quality.

Men Women and Children Movie Poster

3. Men, Women and Children

And while we’re on the subject, I also can’t imagine a year where a Jason Reitman poster wasn’t in my top ten either. His posters have been amazing. Every single one of them has been good. (With the exception of Labor Day.) I can look at this poster all day. It’s so great. There’s a reason the same people end up at the top of my list every year. They make the best posters. They look good, are thematically relevant, and are unique. And simple.

Birdman Movie Poster

2. Birdman

Oh yeah. A lot of people thought I was gonna go with the alternative poster here. That does seem initially to be more my style. But this one was the one for me. Because the stark black and white and simple image of it all — the whole thing just feels very Broadway. Very theater. And it feels more evocative of what this film is than the other one, which is just a great image. Either way, both of them would have made my top five, and they’re both amazing posters. This one, though — this is a poster I could actually see myself buying and putting on my wall. It’s so good. There’s something so perfect about the simplicity of this poster. (Plus, having New York in the background of a poster makes everything better.)

Godzilla Movie Poster

1. Godzilla

It was never a choice. This was by far the best marketed film of 2014. Every single poster for this movie was glorious and gorgeous. I had marginal interest for this movie until I saw the marketing. That’s what made me crazy excited for it. This poster is absolutely incredible. This is how they marketed the movie. Variations on this image. And it was perfect. And, if this alone wasn’t enough reasoning to be the #1 choice, there are about ten more versions of this poster that are just as good! Here’s the Comic-Con poster, which is great. Builds Godzilla out of building debris. Then, to go with similar designs, there’s this one, where he comes out of the smoke of the rubble. Then there’s this poster, which is just a great representation of what the franchise is at its core. And this one, which is just glorious. Godzilla, land of the rising sun, and the title on his back and tail. Perfect. And then, of course, the ones that are alternate versions of the one up top, that show what this version is all about and continue with the dominant color scheme. This one, showing you only the tail. This one, that is more of an up close version of the one I chose. This one, which is essentially what the trailer is all about. And, my favorite, which was this close to being the choice, this poster. I still kind of want to choose this one instead, but I felt that I had to have the red smoke in there somewhere, since the marketing was so focused on that. But that last poster is exactly what Godzilla is. The title, the destruction, and I love the design of that one. Either way, though, this was the only choice for my top poster of the year. Nothing topped the marketing of this movie for me.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, I’m gonna talk about the films of 2014 that defied my expectations. First for better… then for worse.

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