Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2016

You know what I’m gonna say — the movie poster is a lost art.

Because the movie industry is divided into movies with built-in audiences that don’t need to market and tiny movies that aren’t gonna get a giant audience no matter how hard they market them, nobody much cares about the posters anymore. Either they’re the same cut-and-paste jobs with the same five templates or they’re putting the stars’ names on them with some sort of stock image from the film that is only there to get you in the theater.

But a good movie poster is about tying stars and subject matter. It sells your stars and encapsulates the themes of a film in a single image. And no one cares about that now. Plus, there are so many posters for a movie — the teaser, the first official poster, the second official poster, character posters — that they don’t take any chances and all fit them into a standard format that you’ve seen a hundred times over.

By the time this year is over, I’ll have seen over 350 new films from 2016 alone. And I barely found 50 of them that made me at least go, “Oh, that’s kinda nice.” Which, if you’re doing the math, is less than 15%. So if you’re in a movie theater and walk by five movie posters, the odds that two of them are gonna be great is not in your favor. It’s a shame.

But, since there are a few really good ones that come out, I like to celebrate the ones that actually do put a little effort into selling themselves. So I comb through 85% of shit in order to uncover the 15% of diamonds among them. Well… maybe like 8% diamonds and 7% cubic zirconia.

That said, here are my favorite posters of 2016:


10. Loving

Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Jeff Nichols is the kind of beautiful, understated films about people. And what’s a more simple, effective way to create a poster for this film than to have this image? That’s all you need. You get it. Really love this poster.


9. The Light Between Oceans

I’m such a sucker for a simple poster. How simple is this? All ocean, and two people finding love in a small corner. That’s basically what this film is. It’s their personal melodrama. It’s simple, and it’s a perfect poster. Very much attuned to my own preferences, but isn’t that what this list is all about?


8. American Pastoral

Glorious image. This is what made me really want to see the movie. It was a throwaway for me until I saw this (and subsequently, a trailer). Turning Americana on its side and examining the dark side. Plus, this is such a striking image. There’s no way you look at all the posters from this year and not have this in the top 15. It’s so memorable and such a great image that it’s impossible to ignore.


7. American Honey

I kept coming back to this one as one of the most enduring images of 2016, poster-wise. I don’t know why, but this is a perfect image to me. This is what the film is about. This girl. It’s a beautiful poster. I don’t care if not everyone can see why this is so brilliant. I love this. I’m gonna remember this poster for years to come, even after I forget more than half of these other ones.


6. Moonlight

This will be in everyone’s top ten. Because it’s a fantastic poster. One man’s life, three different eras. Incredible poster. Most people will try to include how good the film is in their description of why the poster is so good, but I don’t even care about that. This film could have been a piece of shit and I’d have put this poster here. Because this truly is a perfect image that encapsulates everything about this film in a single image. The fact that the film is great is only a cherry on top.


5. O.J. Made in America

Not the first time a documentary has made this list, nor the first time one’s made the top ten. This is a perfect poster. It’s the doc in a single image. OJ, the bloody glove, and America. Absolutely astounding work.


4. The Birth of a Nation

Remember what I said about Moonlight? That applies here. I didn’t particularly care for this movie, but this poster is beautiful. Everything you need to know in a really smart way. American iconography, slaves revolting, and the flag bleeding. It’s really well done, and unfortunately seems like it’s gonna be lost to history because of all the controversy surrounding the film. But this is a really nice poster that is actually one of the better ones of the decade.


3. Sing Street

It’s a concert poster. I’m nothing if not a man of simple tastes. The color fade is beautiful, and I’m a sucker for posters that do this. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I love this so much. The fact that the film is as infectious as the poster only helps.


2. Jackie

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this when I first saw it. But then I saw this poster in a theater, the way it was meant to be seen, and… it works. It’s really striking. And even though I’ve yet to see the film (as of the time of my typing this sentence, I will be seeing the film within a few hours), I already know (as do we all) this is everything you need to know about the film. It’s pretty self-evident. This actually reminds me of one of my favorite images from A Star Is Born, where Judy Garland is singing in front of a wall of flowers. This is very much like that. It feels like she’s in front of velvet or something. Absolutely perfect image. And it would have been number one this year. Except… well, we all know me.


1. La La Land

Please. You knew this was gonna happen. There’s been no film so perfectly attuned to my cinematic tastes since The Artist five years ago. This was gonna end up a top three poster for me almost however it turned out. But that also says how smart Damien Chazelle is, that I knew his film would be so bold and unique that there was no way they’d fuck up its marketing. Also, there are other great posters for this film that they’ve made. I normally link to alternatives, but I somehow haven’t this year, so I’ll keep it pure and not ruin it here. But I could have easily had two or three altnerative posters from this same film that would have also made #1. This just makes me so happy that there was really nothing else that was gonna be rated higher for me. This is all I want out of a film and a poster.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow I post my final batch of reviews, because after that, we’re wrapping 2016 the fuck up.


2 responses

  1. These are all fine posters! Good choices :)

    December 14, 2016 at 9:37 pm

  2. smokeandmirrors

    I haven’t watched Jackie yet, but I love the poster just for the way her name’s written on it – it’s curling around her figure, almost protective in a way, something powerful. Simple, but very arresting.

    December 14, 2016 at 11:03 pm

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