Mike’s Favorite Movie Posters of 2020 (50-31)
What’s my refrain whenever this article comes up? The movie poster is a lost art. And there’s no better proof of that sentiment than this year. Theaters were closed for the majority of the year and films were either pushed until next year entirely or released on streaming services or on demand. As such, you didn’t get the prolonged media blitz that we usually get when things are ready to come out. Which usually means, for the bigger films, incessant commercials, banners on websites, corporate tie-ins, billboards – you know the drill. But since nothing came out the ‘normal’ way, things felt pretty low key. Maybe that’s just because we had much larger issues to deal with for the majority of the year, but I do feel as though, unless you were specifically paying attention to when stuff came out, you really weren’t that privy to when they did. It was more of a, “Oh, that came out?”
And because of that, I feel like even less effort was put into movie posters than has been in years past. Which is just another mound of dirt on top of the movie poster, which is already struggling because of the increasing amount of films getting released on streaming services, meaning at most those movies are getting a single (usually uninspired) poster designed to tell you it’s theirs and it’s coming out soon.
This year was difficult for a lot of reasons, but picking my favorite posters definitely was made a lot harder task than it has been in previous years. I still managed to get to 50, but that’s just because I love movie posters and not because I was necessarily thrilled about my options.
So, with hope for the future, here are my favorite movie posters of 2020:
Beastie Boys Story
Everybody knows that Licensed to Ill cover. It’s one of the seminal albums of all time. So this is a nice play on that. Instantly iconic, and letting you know exactly what you’re in for with this movie. I don’t put it on the actual list because it’s basically just playing on another image. But it did it very successfully and sold this documentary the best way it could.
The blue/pink thing is nice. There’s not nearly enough of that in movies, let alone posters. Nobody really lights things expressively unless they’re in genre movies like this. But I digress. I do like the symmetry of the faces and the smoking guns between them. It’s nice. It’s a nice image. Oversells the movie, but that’s what a good poster should do.
There’s something so immediately energetic about this poster. I like a poster that confronts the audience. And this one just shows you the energy Zoey Deutch put into the performance. Somehow you get it even without seeing the movie. And the red, white and blue of it all, highlighting both New York sports team colors (it’s set in Buffalo) and, in a way, the American dream. It’s an effective poster hiding behind that striking image.
48. The Hunt
There’s a whole line of posters like this — replacing tall things with something else. So it’s not a new idea. I just like how this one does it. It immediately sells you on the Battle Royale concept — people running through a forest to not die, and you see all the weapons they’re being hunted with. It’s effective, if unoriginal.
47. Like a Boss
I love when they sell a movie in a single image. Perfume bottle hand grenade. It’s brilliant. Problem is, it’s kind of a boring poster outside that great image. So I couldn’t really put it much higher than this, even though it is a great image.
46. The Gentlemen
The gun as the ice cube in the scotch is such a nice image. That’s what this movie feels like for Guy Ritchie. Remember him doing all that for-hire bullshit? Well, now he’s back. And the movie is gonna be relaxed, cool and be about London gangsters. And you get all that just from lookign at this. That image sells you before you look at the crazy cast he has on it.
45. The Forty-Year-Old Version
The gold-plated mixtape is a nice image, especially given the black-and-white nature of the film. Which they somehow work into the background, in a beautiful way. Plus, if you look at the reels on the tape, one side is almost out, which means it’s almost time to flip the tape to side B. Sneakily great, thematically.
44. Inherit the Viper
I love a good ‘single image’ poster. I seem to have grouped them all together this year (full disclosure: I picked out my posters weeks ago and put them here and now I’m just writing my thoughts as they come to me now that I actually need to post the damn article. I like to keep things fresh here). This is just a great one — the pills in the shape of the gun and the crushed one to illustrate it having been fired. It’s brilliant. Wish the poster were a little more interesting, but otherwise it’s pretty great.
43. The Devil Has a Name
Another single image. I like it. It stands out. The beauty of the tree both being stuck over an ocean of oil and yet somehow rising above all of it. It’s good stuff.
I like the blending of the faces. It’s a unique image and honestly better than most stuff they could have come up with for this one. (Though I’m honestly surprised they didn’t try something like their faces etched in a fossil.) It’s basically just a romance between the two of them, so really you’re just selling it on their faces. So the fact that it’s at least marginally an interesting poster, visually, makes it all the better.
41. An American Pickle
The old timey photograph and him looking like that just gets to me. I love this poster, even though you might immediately look past something like this at first glance. It’s kind of impossible to sell this one, and this does about as good a job as you could ever do.
40. The Broken Hearts Gallery
Sitting on the love seat in the middle of New York City is a great image. I also like that they made the city out of focus in that West Side Story kind of way. Plus the neon sign is nice too, as it has relevance to the actual film. It’s just a nice image that makes you curious about the film. I’m a fan.
This poster not only highlights the fact that Tom Hardy is playing Capone (which I feel like you’d advertise way bigger than they have for people who don’t immediately know that’s him, but that’s just me) and hints at the general weirdness of the performance itself, but it’s also thematically relevant, since the film is about him slowly dying of dementia. So it works on that level too.
It’s a striking image, I’ll give them that. The girl shaving with the knife. Doesn’t really give you much in the way of what it’s about, but once you already know, it’s an effective image. I had this lower at first and kept going, “You know… that one’s staying with me.” And that’s half the battle of a poster anyway. They can be great images, but the more you remember them, the more they’ve done their jobs.
37. The Invisible Man
Those IMAX posters are always a cut above the regular ones most of the time. It’s an effective way to sell the movie. Just the reflection but nothing in the doorway. Plus the nice use of black, white and red. Horror movie colors. Good shit all around.
I just like the old wooden desk and foliage all around the frame. It’s a busy image and yet it works. I like it. That’s really all I have here. I just like it.
I love all of this as strands of the tape ribbon. All of the chaos you could fit on one VHS tape. Great way to sell the movie.
The piano keys as a stairway to heaven is a really nice touch. I kinda wish they did more posters because I feel like they could have topped this and gotten somewhere in the top 15.
ALTHOUGH… and this is fascinating. I was curious because off the top of my head I don’t really remember Pixar having that many outstanding posters. And so I went back to look at all my poster lists. I’ve been doing this article since 2011 and only 2013 onward did I have 50 posters per year. So looking back at my previous lists… only one animated movie managed to make my top ten, and that’s Brave in 2012 and that’s before I did this list with the depth with which I do it now. And while I do like the coloring of that poster, I realized… Inside Out, Coco… those posters didn’t even make my list at all. And all the Pixar movies that did — sequels that traded on established images. Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2, Cars 3, Finding Dory. Also fascinating… only 11 animated movies total on my poster lists 2011-2019. Five Pixar, three Disney, two stop-motion and a rando. Real interesting that animated movies don’t typically get here (I guess because they need to be broad and colorful to sell kids and can’t really delve into artistic license too much). And since there is only one more animated movie poster on this list, that means in ten years of doing this series, only 13 animated posters have made it on, close to half of which are sequels trading on established imagery.
It brings up a really interesting question — how many movie posters for animated films really stand out to you, historically? (I’m not gonna think about it now, but it is an interesting question to raise.)
I tend to remember the VHS covers from growing up more than posters. I wonder if that’s what they’re more interested in. (Well, even that’s not a thing anymore, home video.)
33. Small Axe: Lovers Rock
Simple and effective. That’s all you need. You get it immediately. Love.
32. The Wolf of Snow Hollow
I like the reverse of the red being the background and the wolf being white. And I just like the way they faded all the blood (I guess?) like paint. Just a nice image.
31. The Glorias
I just like all the stuff on this poster (which includes Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander and Janelle Monae). But I also like the ripped newspapers and highlights of her life. It’s a solid-looking poster that also highlights the hodgepodge of a mixed bag the actual movie is.
– – – – – – – – – – –