Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2018
I start this article every year with the same statement: the movie poster is a lost art.
It gets truer each year, and actually becomes more disgusting as time goes on, because now, with the rise of the streaming service, they don’t even bother putting out posters for some movies anymore. And the big mainstream stuff, it’s devolved into character posters and giant collages of all the actors’ faces on them. They’re only interested in selling the IP and the people in the movie rather than selling the movie. They’re either trading off a known property or images from great posters from years back, or they’re putting famous faces into the same collage they use for everything else. If you love a good movie poster as I do, you should be disgusted with the stuff they’re putting out.
A good movie poster should give you everything you need to know about a film in a single image. It should be both eye-catching and thematically relevant. Bonus points if you look at it and immediately want to see the movie more than you did before you saw it.
Offhand, can you immediately name more than five posters you saw this year and went, “Oh wow”? And here I’m trying to come up with 50. So that’s my struggle each year. But in listing as many as I do, you start to learn certain things. One, you’ll realize just how little the big studio films need to bother doing anything creative in their marketing. Two, you’ll learn that certain filmmakers are always the same ones putting care and consideration into their marketing, which always makes them stand out. And three, you’ll see, with me including so many different posters, just how few there really are that are truly fantastic. And four — this one’s more of a pipe dream — hopefully you’ll learn just how easy it is to put any kind of creativity in a poster, and if you end up being someone that is a part of this process at any point, maybe you’ll help change this disturbing trend we’re on.
But anyway, here are my favorite movie posters of 2018.
10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This one was originally just outside the top ten. But every time I do this article, something ends up jumping as I move along. That’s why I write it in order after I pick everything, so I can see something and go, “Nah, that should go higher.”
I love the old leather feel of it. That’s the big selling point for me. It’s a well worn tradition they’re working in. Plus the title has the six threads and all the stories are emanating from it and leading into it. Plus, each of the six threads is a visual representation of what the stories are actually about. Which is really nice. I can always count on the Coen brothers to give me a great poster.
9. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
This franchise makes cool posters. The last one was the image of the tunnel, which admitedly is not as cool as this. I love this image. The skeleton with the double flags and the guns. Amazing stuff. It’s just a striking image, and the only knock I have on it is the title, which is not the poster’s fault.
8. The Old Man and the Gun
Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go. What are you ultimately selling this movie on? Robert Redford. So why do you need anything else on it?
And I know what you might say — but you can’t even see his face. But that’s the point! Not only is this perfectly simple, it’s even thematically relevant. Because this dude is a bank robber. So this is literally him, with his case, in his nice suit, about to rob a bank, taking off his hat to be charming to the woman he’s about to rob, while also shielding his face from the cameras. It’s brilliant. Plus, most people going into this know it’s Redford on the poster, so you don’t need his face. His is one of those faces that’s been etched into our national consciousness over the years.
I love how simple this poster is. And the off-white is a nice touch too. It’s got a nice worn-in feel. Sometimes making a great poster really is that simple.
Love it. Love it. Love it. Sure, my love of the original and my pure excitement for this film adds to it, but I still think this is a great poster. The others are nice, but this one I like the most, just because of the splatters of blood. Which, if you’ve seen the film… yeah. I can’t really explain why I love this one, I just do. It’s a beautiful poster.
6. Mary, Queen of Scots
I’m slightly cheating here, since it’s a double poster. But pick whichever one you want, they’re both gorgeous. It’s a two-hander of a film, and these posters are meant to go in tandem. If you wanna quibble, take this other one, equally as gorgeous:
Though the problem with that one is, the point of the story is that they are in separate frames. To me, there’s no better reason to break the guideline of the “single” poster entry than this film. It’s two strong rulers, two strong actresses, and it’s about their relationship. They only share a single scene in the film. They’re meant to be separate. It’s like a heavyweight fight — you’re waiting for them to get into the same ring.
That said, how amazing are those posters. The red and blue backgrounds pop and are beautiful, and all you need are the two actresses front and center. You get it, you’re there, and it’s great.
There’s another great poster for this movie too.
It was a real struggle choosing between the two. It’s rare to have two posters from the same film that would both make the top ten on their own. The reason I chose the one I did over that one is because I just haven’t seen that image before. The parachutes as blood drops. That’s just an incredible image. Perfect for a war movie, and perfect for this. You sell the movie in a single image. Guys being dropped into something that is not good. To me, that second poster is great, but it’s not as thematically relevant as the one I picked. Plus, like I said, the parachutes as blood drops really stays with you as an image.
4. Bohemian Rhapsody
Kinda hard to have a bad poster for this movie. It’s all about him on the Live Aid stage, rocking out. But it’s the coloring that I like most about this. The purple into the yellow is a really nice touch, and makes this stand out way more than if it was just colored like real life. But is there nothing more exciting than seeing a poster for Bohemian Rhapsody that’s so clearly Freddie Mercury rocking out on stage? That’s all you need to sell the movie. Don’t believe me, watch it.
Of course this is top three. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. The title alone tells you what teh poster’s gonna be, and you know what? They did it right. Black man, under a Klan hood, giving the black power salute. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Also one of those images that, if you knew nothing about the move, you went, “What?” It’ll make you stop. And that’s what a good poster should do. There was no question this was gonna make my top five from the minute they released this. What an incredible, incredible poster.
Another one I knew immediately would be in my top ten from the minute I saw it. How perfect is that image? That’s the movie in a nutshell. The car, upside down in the water, with the blue of the flag being the water and the flag being turned sideways.
I’m almost at a loss for words about this, because this is one of those where — you get it. You just get it. The American flag gets used a lot in posters, but rarely is it used as well as it is here. The blue as the water is such a perfect touch. I just love this poster. It would have been number one, only…
1. The Front Runner
The Chappaquiddick poster is amazing, but this poster is not only amazing… it’s funny. Welcome back, Jason Reitman, to my top five. Dude always makes great posters. Up in the Air, Young Adult, Men Women and Children, even Tully from two days ago which made this year’s list… dude knows how to sell his movies.
The image of the campaign bus going off the cliff is so perfect and just so hilarious. It’s not a funny thing that happened at all, but it is sickly funny that… yeah, this is kinda what happened with that campaign. I also like how they incorporate the red, white and blue without being blatant about it. But also, you get it. If you know what happened with Gary Hart, you get the image, and I’d wager that you’d also chuckle a bit, because yeah. That’s what happened.
At first glance, I wouldn’t have thought this would be my favorite poster of the year. Especially with some of the others in this top ten. But the more I thought about it, the more it felt like the perfect poster for 2018, not on just a political level, but also — in an era where nobody puts any effort into selling their movie, here’s a poster that perfectly encapsulates everything in a single image. And it’s also trying to make a point. It’s what a poster should be.
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