Mike’s Top Ten Movie Posters of 2020

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:

10. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Shout out to the Swallow poster from yesterday at #11. That’s an honorary top ten member this year and one I consider to be just as good as the ten in this article.

Anyway, this poster. This just somehow instantly became one of the most iconic images of the year for me. There’s something so beautifully mundane about this image and yet you feel all the hidden complexities of it at the same time. You sort of know there’s more to this image than meets the eye. And yet, there kind of isn’t. Which somehow fits the Charlie Kaufman ‘thing’ to a tee. Or just, life. It all depends on how much you want to dissect life. It’s a beautiful poster and somehow perfectly captures this movie (which is impossible to capture and explain at the outset).

9. Blow the Man Down

Love it. The two tone, the mermaids, the blue and white and the little bit of red on the knife. Stunning, memorable image.

8. Tesla

I really didn’t expect this to make the top ten, yet it’s such a goddamn funny and perfect image for me that I had to. You sort of get it. Tesla the man helped make electricity what it is today, and they put the mustache on the outlet. It’s brilliant. Look at that. How can you not love that poster?

7. Da 5 Bloods

This film has about four posters worthy of this spot. And honestly it just ended up being this one by chance. Because I easily could have gone with any one of the others. The Black Power fist in the Vietnam uniform is a brilliant piece of imagery for this film, plus you get the folded, faded old poster look that adds to the period nature of it all. It’s a great image. Spike’s usually really great on the posters.

6. Nomadland

I almost put another one for the film here, the one with the title spelled out from different state license plates. But this one I liked so much better. It looks like a road map, and it’s brilliant. It fits the tone of the movie perfectly and it hits all the important elements of the film and just has that really great feel to it. I feel like this is the map on the back of the diner mat you get when they give you crayons as a child. Plus the title spelled out as the roadway — this is a brilliant, brilliant poster.

5. Promising Young Woman

The other poster for this film is also worthy of being on this list. But this one just felt so instantly iconic and one of the most memorable images from the year. I remembered this poster immediately when I started thinking of what posters stood out to me from the year (before I carefully looked through everything, that is. Since it’s important to know which ones naturally stay with you). The lipstick on the mirror over her face is beautiful, and it sort of gives you those weird Joker vibes, which is kind of how you want to sell this movie. This poster sells both versions of this movie at once — the one you think you’re getting and the one you actually get.

4. The Booksellers

Documentary poster in the top ten. Why? Because this is an image that makes me feel warm and happy inside. I love a bookstore. And a proper bookstore. Not a Barnes and Noble. Those look sterile. A good, mom and pop bookshop. They probably have a cat inside. The books are new, used, all over the place. People recommend things. This is exactly one of my personal slices of heaven, a place like this. So this image just speaks to me in ways that it might not to everyone else. I knew about this movie long before I normally would have purely because of this poster. I love it. And honestly I’m still considering making this number one even as I type this.

3. Mank

I love the black and white painted aspect and how they tried to make it look like a poster from the 40s. It’s really interesting how this movie somehow tries to emulate the era yet still feels modern at the same time. And the poster evokes that as well. I think what I like most is that the poster is an ‘action shot’. He’s mid-toast, probably doing some speechmaking on top of the bar, causing a scene. And the image is a snapshot of that moment. That’s probably why I ended up so high on this. Because it’s tough to make a poster for this movie that doesn’t feel cliched and doesn’t feel too burdened by the imagery of Citizen Kane… since the movie isn’t about Citizen Kane. So you do yourself a disservice by putting that in the poster. They really found a great way to sell this one.

2. Totally Under Control

A second documentary poster in the top ten. This one just perfectly sums up 2020, doesn’t it? Trump, standing on the edge of oblivion/the end of America, with the COVID virus tumbling down on us and him standing there, doing nothing about it. You just get it. Political cartoonists couldn’t do much better than this in terms of letting you understand something in a single image.

1. The Vast of Night

God, this poster is so good. I probably would have put the #2 here, but I felt like not having the list end on a total downer. So I went with this. I love it. The dark, small town, the radio station, the two main characters and that black-and-white fuzz that somehow represents radio waves and old school TV/the 50s era at the same time. It’s brilliant. It’s one of the most memorable images of the year for me and one of those things that I feel will get you intrigued about the movie even if you know nothing about it. I can’t remember the last time I saw a poster do something like this, with all the static on the image. And it’s really striking. That’s how you make a great poster — do something people haven’t seen before that stays with you. It gives me hope that we’ll keep getting great ones going forward when I see something like this.

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