Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2019
What do we always say? The movie poster is a lost art.
Especially now more than ever, with Netflix. Netflix doesn’t even make posters for most of their movies, and if they do, it’s just one, and often times it’s generic and designed to be that little picture to get you to click on the film. Which means that on top of the general laziness that’s out there in creating memorable marketing images for films, an ever-increasing percentage of films aren’t even getting proper posters.
I started this feature originally to shout out some really great posters I saw back in 2011, but now that I actively seek them out each year to find the great ones, there’s been a considerable and noticeable decrease in quality over the years, which is disturbing since it was already bad back then!
Movie posters used to be works of art. They used creative imagery to sell you on a movie, perfectly capturing the essence of the film in a single image. Think of all the great movie posters people would have on their walls. What the hell is there now? What’s gonna be on people’s walls in ten years from this decade? And of course, because I’m a masochist, I try to find 50 each year that I point out as being my favorite for the year. But at this rate, we might have to cut that number down going forward because I don’t know if there are gonna be 50 good posters. Everything’s folding into the same three type of posters — famous people’s faces, character posters, collages. That’s it. That’s every damn poster.
So, here we are, dear friends, trying to find the diamonds in the shit pile that is modern movie posters.
Here are my favorite movie posters of 2019:
10. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Star Wars always makes the top ten. Because these posters just make me happy. They make you feel safe and they feel like throwbacks. This one in particular looks like it could be the Jedi poster or something. It’s not as crisp and photoshopped as posters from today are. Plus there’s the red and blue thing going on… I just like a good Star Wars poster. That’s it. If Palpatine weren’t on that initial one and it was just Rey and Kylo fighting on the ship, that would have probably been in this spot instead. But oh well.
9. Motherless Brooklyn
I just love this poster. One is the shade of green (or teal, or whatever it is), I also really like bridges and bridge architecture, so having the bridge be all around Norton as he walks solemnly between it is just a beautiful image to me. Plus, what’s a detective movie? the detective in his hat and coat walking the streets alone, on to the next case. Right? Now… the part that may not be apparent to everyone when looking at this poster is the fact that it does actually give you the plot in a single image. Because (not to really spoil it, but it’s all over the advertising and Norton’s interviews) the big ‘thing’ that Norton stumbles upon over the course of his investigation (because the detective’s case is never just about the case in these films. Look at Chinatown. It was about the water) involves the building up of New York City. Bridges, parks, etc. So quite literally the city is closing in around him. It’s a brilliant poster that seems deceptively simple at first glance.
8. Knives Out
It’s a murder mystery. A magnifying glass with a knife at the tip. Do you need anything more to explain to you what the film is about? And you have the director and the cast. It’s simple and it’s perfect. Just because it’s not as sexy as some of the other posters does not mean it’s one of the greatest of the year.
It’s one of the most iconic images of the year. Florence Pugh in the flowers. I couldn’t dispute it. I thought it was gonna go in the low teens for me, but here we are. It just kept going higher and higher because it just felt stronger next to everything else I put it next to. This is gonna go down as one of the posters of the decade because it’s so damn memorable. Especially after you’ve seen the film — you get it. You just totally get it.
6. Honey Boy
Another of the most iconic images of the year for me. It’s interesting that two of the best posters are just people’s faces. But they just work. This one in particular… this one works when you understand what the film is about, which I imagine most people do. It’s Shia LaBeouf’s story about his childhood and his relationship with his father and his eventual trip to rehab where he mined all this emotional stuff. And what makes this so extraordinary an image is that it gives you everything you need. The orange shirt is reminiscent of both Shia’s shirts on Even Stevens, the Disney show he came up on, and the orange suit he wore in Holes, one of the early films he’s best known for. The wires let you know that he’s an actor on a film set, and the pie in the face is just everything else. All this shit is being thrown at him and he’s just expected to work through it. It’s a really evocative image and it’s really one of the best I’ve seen in a while. The more I talk about it, the more I want to put it higher. But the rankings are arbitrary anyway. It doesn’t matter. This poster is amazing, and that’s the point.
5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
It’s just such a throwback. I love this. This is pure 60s. I almost went and put one (or all) of the fake Rich Dalton posters (Operazione Dyn-o-mite! is a favorite), which are also brilliant, but this is the one to go with. I got worried because the early posters for this were just Pitt and DiCaprio and the car, and it just looked cheesy and fake. But of course you have to build awareness with the two stars. This is the proper poster for the film, and it just works. It’s like Star Wars. It’s all on there, and it evokes a different time, and this one in particular is about that particular time, so it all just works. This is a great poster.
There’s always that one poster that I assume at first is gonna go in a particular area on the list. And then I start putting it together, and it goes up a few spots, and then up a few more spots, and before I know it it’s in the top ten. And now here we are at #4. I can’t explain this one except to say that whenever I look at this poster, I have an immediate and inexplicable emotional reaction to it. And that was before I even saw the film. There’s just something so affecting about this image, of a father hugging his daughter, and the water crashing all around and below them. It’s not even particularly an image from the film (though it kind of is). It just sort of evokes everything about the film to me. It’s about the difficulties of life, and love. And I just can’t help but feel it all swell in my chest every time I look at this image. This might be the one poster from this year that endures for me. I really love it.
3. Ford v. Ferrari
Damon. Bale. Cars. What more do you need to sell your movie? I love that they’re at the bottom and the rest of the poster is all monochromatic. Because that upper section just oozes possibility. We’re here doing our work and making what we’re gonna make and then the sky’s the limit. You don’t really think about that when you look at this poster, but it’s there. And that’s why this poster is so great. Even if you’re not realizing it, it’s giving off that vibe. I just love this poster.
2. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
How GREAT is this poster? The Wick franchise always has great posters. Most of them are him staring down a bunch of people shooting at him or some variation of guns or things like that. This one, though… this is like that Skyfall poster where Bond is walking down the barrel of the gun. It’s something you understand from the franchise but also subtly gives you the plot of the film alongside it. Because here, it’s Wick outside the hotel that we all know from the previous films, but he CAN’T GO INSIDE. Because he’s incommunicado. And the red/purple/blue hue in the corner, which is sort of the palette of the film and the rain and fog on the window. It’s all a wonderful touch. But you totally get it, don’t you, just from looking at it? This is such an amazing poster that I strongly considered for a while making it number one.
There’s no fighting it. This is the most iconic image of 2019. The Joker atop the stars. This film has a bunch of great posters. There’s the one of him just looking up at the bottom of the poster, the one of just half his face in the makeup, the flip playing card one with part Joker/part Arthur, or the one where he’s forcing his face into the smile. There’s even one where it’s just him in the suit and makeup walking up the street and it looks like gritty 70s New York behind him. They all are really evocative images. But this one on the stairs is everything about the film and the character in a nutshell, and there’s no arguing that it’s the top poster of the year.
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