Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2017

I say it every year — the movie poster is a lost art. That statement is even more relevant this year. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it — this year sucked for movie posters.

In today’s marketplace, about half the product is based on built-in IP that can trade off iconic images in previously known versions of that product. The other half are smaller movies that maybe get one poster at most, and usually that poster is created off the same generic template as most posters and is designed to make you think of other movies that you went to see in the past. Or, the new wrinkle is that a bunch of movies are now being released on Netflix, who doesn’t need to bother marketing the films and doesn’t even bother giving you posters for them. As such, there’s really no great use of imagery out there anymore.

Last year, I felt, was actually a really strong year for posters. This year, it felt like every poster I saw was either trading off its own brand (Disney, Marvel, even Blade Runner) or reminiscent of some other movie poster from years past. Few posters actually gave a shit to give you a great image. Usually at least one of a movie’s posters is great — because, as I usually say, there are like five different posters for every major movie. Teaser, first official, second official, character posters, IMAX poster, etc — but this year it didn’t even feel like they tried on those.

A good movie poster is one that sells its stars and its subject matter, boiling down the themes of a film into a single image. Ideally, you look at that poster, know exactly what it’s about, and are left with the thought of, “Oh, I wanna see that.” Did anything really stand out to you this year?

What I do every year — and I struggled mightily this year. You’ll see that the first bunch is basically “Hey, this looks like that other one, so sure” — is find 50 posters that I liked among the films that came out that year.

So here are my favorite movie posters of 2017:

10. Detroit

The fact that it’s turned on its side is such a perfect way to present this image. This is one of those images that provokes you. Which is exactly the kind of feeling you want to give for a movie like this. It’s a genius poster, presented to look like a photograph from the era. I love this a lot.

9. The Florida Project

I love how simple it is. It captures everything about the film in a single image. Huge fan of this one. I’m sure this is one of those posters where, if you didn’t like the film as much, you wouldn’t feel the same way about the poster. Which I understand. But for me, this captures the fleeting innocence of childhood in a perfect moment. I like that this image shows you the beautiful and the not so beautiful, but in the same way that you don’t perceive reality the same way when you’re a child, you don’t necessarily realize just what you’re looking at. There’s such tragedy in that building back there, and yet, this is her ‘kingdom’. I love this poster.

8. Lady Macbeth

This is one of the most memorable single images of the year for me. It’s stunning. And it’s perfect for the poster. I love it. I really love it. One of those situations where, again, I’d prefer no quotes over the empty space, but I get it. You gotta sell people on this movie they wouldn’t necessarily know about. Bigger movies don’t need to do that, because you know what they are. (They also don’t need to be as creative in their posters… as we’re all painstakingly aware.) This hsot, though — ugh. So gorgeous.

7. Murder on the Orient Express

I give this movie so much credit for simply not just giving us a Brady Bunch-like barrage of faces, selling this movie purely on its star power. Sure, one of the posters does have everyone on it, but this is the main poster. The other main one is just the train and Poirot walking in front of it. So major credit for that alone.

That said — I love the image. The red smoke signifying what will happen on board. It’s simple, and it’s effective. All you need is that image and the title and you have everything you need. No one said it needed to be difficult. And it’s a simple poster like this that makes me wonder why so many films are incapable of even a halfway decent poster anymore.

6. Battle of the Sexes

Now this is a poster. This should win an award for marketing, this poster. It’s perfect. The tennis ball as a powder keg? That’s it. That’s the movie. The bonus of having it folded up like an old poster is even better, but unnecessary.

You know a poster is good when you don’t have to say anything about it. What more needs to be said about this?

5. The Post

Beautiful image. Walking up the long steps into history. The fact that the steps look like both newspaper print in an abstract way as well as redacted data from a classified document. I almost downgraded this because they’re selling the stars over everything else, but honestly, the image is so big and works so well that you don’t even look at the rest. This was gonna be my #1 for a (short) little while. That’s how much I like it.

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Until they completely shit the bed here, I’m always gonna love a Star Wars poster. This one’s all about the red and white motif. It’s beautiful. The film makes use of that motif as much as it can as well. Plus, the simply image of the girl and the lightsaber, with light on one side and dark on the other. Everything you need to know. Slight overrating because of my familiarity with the franchise, but hey, it’s not like these rankings really mean anything. We’re just celebrating nice looking posters.

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

I knew the minute I saw this it was making the top ten. This is stunning. The curtains look like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love it. I also love how, until you see the movie, you have no idea what this means, and after you see the movie it makes perfect sense. This is beautiful.

2. Logan

I’ve always loved the marketing for these Wolverine films. Hell, the previous entry in the franchise was my #1 back in 2013!

There were a few of these posters to choose from, and a lot that tickled my fancy in terms of what I like out of a poster, but what more do you need other than this simple image? This is the movie. I mean, I don’t need to say anything more than that. This is it.

Of all the things I’m gonna miss about Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the marketing is definitely a part of it. They have always been on point for these movies.

1. The Shape of Water

How could it not be? This is probably the most memorable film image of 2017. This is everything a movie poster should be, and everything a film should be. It transports you, and takes you into a world you didn’t know you wanted to see. Guillermo has always been one for great imagery, but this one really raises the bar. This is cinema in a single image.

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