Mike’s Favorite Movie Posters of the Decade (20-11)
I’ve said it for near ten years now — the movie poster is a lost art. So many of them nowadays are just so bland, and it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to get a poster that truly feels like something special; selling a film on a single, memorable image. Getting you to understand immediately what the film is about while also staying in your mind. It’s hard to remember posters. If I told you offhand to name ten truly memorable posters from this decade off the top of your head, you’d have trouble doing it. And even if you got to ten, chances are some of them are just because the film was so big and widespread that you remember it just because it was so out there.
Anyway, the point of this list was me looking back on my years of going over my favorite posters (and I started this list in 2011, so I’ve done nine years of it officially on the site) and revisiting all the posters from all the years and picking out the ones that I think have held up to me as the best examples of truly strong imagery.
So, with that said, here are my favorite posters from this past decade:
20. Moonlight (2016)
I love the tri-coloring on the face, separating each of the film’s different segments and letting you know that, as the title says, the ‘story of a life’. It’s one guy at three ages. And it’s just such a striking image, even if they gave you only one of the actors on the poster. There’s something indelible about this image that makes it impossible for me not to think it’s one of the top 20 most memorable posters of the decade.
19. Skyfall (2012)
It’s trading on Bond iconography, sure, but the franchise was 50 years old at this point. It’s hard to do someting that feels fresh and unique when you get to 50. And when I saw this, I gasped. This… he’s WALKING DOWN THE BARREL OF THE GUN! That’s so fucking genius. I was hopeful this movie was gonna be great but I still wasn’t quite sure. And then I saw this poster and knew — this was gonna be amazing. It’s just so thematically rich and even, to an extent, relevant to the story. Because this, for the first time, really delves into Bond’s childhood and backstory, so in a way, this image actually does mean something for the story, rather than just being a twist on a famous image. I really love this poster.
18. The Shape of Water (2017)
This is one of the most iconic images of the decade. From the moment it came out, you just knew it, too. Most people, whether they’ve seen the film or not, have seen this image and remember this image. It’s beautiful. There’s not really much more to say. It belongs here.
17. The Social Network (2010)
Another one of those really iconic images from the decade. This came out before I started actively seeking out great posters, and even still, I remembered this one exactly a decade later when I thought about what I had liked from 2010 before I started looking them all up. That ‘profile’ picture of Zuckerberg and the sideways browser, plus that giant tagline — it’s just great. And, the thing you learn with movies and posters and things — it’s really just about what stands the test of time as much as it is what’s the best-looking. And this one is standing the test of time, so who am I to argue?
16. The Birth of a Nation (2016)
It’s a shame the movie wasn’t that great, because this poster is stunning. The American flag, with the stripes bloody images of the people involved in the rebellion depicted in the film. It’s just so jarring and so evocative — which is the point — I just immediately go to put this poster high on sight. There’s not even really an intellectualization about it for me. I see it and I think, “That’s an incredible poster.”
15. Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
Time is making me love this one even more, because not only is it insanely simple, but — they’re doing it without being able to do it, which is what the film is. The film was shot (unlicensed, but legally) at Disneyland. The actors went in like regular tourists and the crew all showed up on their own, and filmed surreptitiously without being caught by secret Disney park security or anything. And the film is about a guy on vacation at ‘the happiest place on earth’ who slowly has a mental breakdown. And it gets weird. But, while they were able to film there, they weren’t able to use anything that was copyright of Disney, including logos or music. So this poster is 100% legit, but on the other hand… clearly Mickey’s hand covered in blood, and clearly the Disney typeface. And that translates immediately upon seeing it. It is a perfect poster, and like the film, it’s the story that goes behind it as much as the poster itself. But still. It’s awesome.
14. Logan (2017)
Yes, trading on the Wolverine claws, but also, it’s just so simple and so tender. All the other posters did extra stuff (and shout out to the Wolverine motion poster, which was stunning at the time but I’ve deemed ineligible for this list because a poster shouldn’t need to move to fully work for you), but this one — it represents what the film did with the character. Stripped it down and just got to the bare emotion of him and the series. It’s about Logan the man, and you get that there’s gonna be a child involved. Seeing this poster makes every ounce of emotional resonance the film has come right to the surface. It’s hard not to want to even put this higher at this point. But I also know that there’s still some amazing stuff coming.
13. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Oh, this is such an amazing idea for a poster. The reflection/reverse angle of the door is something you almost never see. And I love the rain streaks and wetness of the glass on top of that. And the fact that they don’t even bother giving you the title or anything in a way that you can easily read. Because they don’t need to. You understand that this is John Wick and you understand that this is the Continental and everything about the situation. That’s when a poster plays into its hand perfectly. It doesn’t overdo it. It knows what its audience understands and goes with it. This is a perfect poster. And it’s rare for a third entry in a series to be this good.
12. Lincoln (2012)
Daniel Day-Lewis. Lincoln. What more do you need? All you had to see was a picture of him as this man, whose face is etched in the brains of every American just from school, history and pop culture, and you get it. It truly does not need to be any more complicated than that sometimes. This is the perfect example of not needing to do anything more than you don’t have to, but also making the perfect poster to sell your film.
11. Chappaquiddick (2017)
Somehow this did not make the top ten. But oh my god, do I love this image. The sideways American flag, with the blue area being the water the car is upside down in. I suspect most people will at least have heard of the incident, and the minute you know what this movie is about, this image just jumps out at you. Even without it, it’s still a stunning image. I’m jaded about posters, so to me, it’s hard to come up with anything that feels smart or original anymore. But when you see this, even before you realize how amazing it is, thematically, you just know — this is a great image. It’s a poster like this that makes me feel okay about the fact that there’s still some artistry left in film marketing.
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