Movie marketing can be a weird thing to celebrate, no doubt. Posters, trailer and all kinds of promotional materials are selling tools explicitly designed to captivate (dupe?) the broadest, biggest audiences into attending your movie. These materials are created to attract the most mouth-breathing-friendly flies which usually means, big, dumb, loud and in the case of many posters, a healthy dose of criminal Photoshop abuse. Sometimes that means an overwrought collage-diarrhea on a superhero poster where it appears that one character is inevitably flatulating out an explosion, or the designer is just visually impaired, and sometimes it’s just the most egregious concept of all time. Generally, eye-sore movie poster design provokes hilarious memes and throws you in the design doghouse for life (not something you want on your résumé).
But the clash and constant battle of art versus commerce is central and inherent to the medium of film; an art form that is expensive af and actually quite difficult to pull off given all the disparate elements thrown together to try and make a symphony of drama, character, plot and emotion on top of whatever other complications you’re giving yourself. The truth is every film strives to be seen by as many people as possible and commercially viable (so you can at least make another one), and every film is trying to be as artful as possible at least given the framework and context of the kind of movie you’re making (“Gotti,” maybe being cinema’s greatest exception). In short, commerce and creativity always co-exist in film and thus, must do the same in the marketing efforts, which sometimes, can be extremely artful, tasteful and carefully constructed. So this is what we’re here to celebrate.
Regardless, as 2018 starts to close, we decided to mount our always extensive, always laborious, always mentally-draining Best of the Year-end marathon and this year is no different. Now that we have our 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2019 feature out of the year (we have a penchant for making our lives difficult), we can settle back and relax a little bit with something more low-key: the Best Movie Posters Of 2018 (subjectively decided by us, but objectively the only possible correct answers).
20. “A Simple Favor”
It’s tempting to say no one liked or saw Paul Feig‘s stylish, post-modern mommy thriller “A Simple Favor” with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick because it was released during the fall film festival season and any buzz it had was drowned out by the onslaught of new Oscar contenders. The truth is cinephiles looking for the next Cuarón discovery missed it, but the fact is, “A Simple Favor” was a modest hit that pleased its intended audience, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide and landing with a very impressive 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps media folks weren’t able to amplify its buzz over the din of the fall film circuit, at least in our myopic circles, but those posters, designed by LA posters —colorful, mysterious and sexy —really capture the delightful frothiness and blackheartedness of Feig’s chic little bauble. – Rodrigo Perez
a simple favor posters are really… something pic.twitter.com/gp4nPh6Pa4
— guilherme (@suspiriorium) September 16, 2018
19. “Black KKKlansman”
Sometimes an image can convey all the information one needs to understand a film. And sometimes that image is so striking that it can’t help but draw eyes towards it. If you can somehow do both those things, then you have one compelling poster, such as in the case of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” The 1970s-set film about the true story of a Black detective that goes undercover with the KKK requires an equally controversial image to accompany the polarizing film. And you can’t get more controversial, compelling and striking than an image of a Black man with a badge around his neck, holding a hair pick, giving the clenched Black Power fist, and wearing a hood from the Ku Klux Klan (what a wonderful mélange of visual contradictions). And if that wasn’t enough, the retro font and torn edges of the poster immediately transport us back in time and lucidly evokes the era of the ’70s, further explaining what you need to know about the film. The title, cast, and even Spike Lee’s name are just added bonuses because the image alone is going to stop people dead in their tracks. – Christopher Kevranian
There’s something rotten in the city of Bisbee. The one-sheet for Robert Greene’s critically-lauded, now frighteningly timely “Bisbee ‘17,” designed by High Council, expresses in stark terms the colors of alarm, anxiety, and dread. The title in question is all at once a documentary and historical reenactment about the horrid mass deportation of immigrants in an Arizona mining town in the early 1900s, and the poster displays the same crimson-soaked intensity you might find on a faded spaghetti western poster at an abandoned movie theater. Its bold, shadowy silhouette of a man holding a rifle, backed by a nearly-bloody background showing the tumult of the subject matter and creates a feeling of instant horror. Its tagline? “The past is present.” If you want a poster to alarm you to latch onto its story, this one will do it. It’s more than a tease; it’s a visual rally cry to enter into a hyper-relevant story. – Cory Woodroof
17. “Madeline’s Madeline”
For all of the mental anguish the title character of Josephine Decker’s eccentric, maddening, beautiful, “Madeline’s Madeline” endures—about a young star who starts to take a theater performance role too seriously and reality begins to blur—the poster offers something nearly misleading in its simplicity. It’s Helena Howard as Madeline, her face shaped by the silhouette of a cat, a strong recurring motif as the young, aspiring actress uses the character of a cat to captivate others as well as using it as a performative tool. Everything from the soft imagery to the feline delicacy does the tricky act of masking the ferocity behind Howard’ s eyes. Most tellingly and what differentiates it from other posters for the film is how its sole focus is on Madeline— she is the delightful surprise of the theater play, the breakthrough of the movie and even a surprising revelation to herself as she discovers her abilities and limitations. Decker’s artful, expressive drama is a startling film and sometimes, for stories that have so much to say and wish to do so by way of minimalism, the best way to do so is to mirror the intent, rather than final image. – Ally Johnson
16. “Sorry to Bother You”
Few films in 2018 allow you to live vicariously through their poster as and writer/director Boots Riley‘s “Sorry to Bother You” does. Big, bold, outrageous fonts employed by Annapurna on the one-sheet and the image of an exacerbated LaKeith Stanfield with a bloodied bandage around his forehead quickly communicate a poster for a quirky, eccentric movie likely to stand out from the regular ilk. The tagline is flashy and telling too: “Lakeith Stanfield is Sorry to Bother You,” hinting at the film’s surreal telemarketing plot. Above all else, the poster is a feeling, a brazen, loud one, one that practically comes with The Coup’s signature film tune “OYAHYTT” blaring in the background. The poster, much like the film, is a singular vision for Riley and his genius gonzo satire. If anything, it’s an announcement to get ready for something that’s unapologetically weird, strangely funny and scathingly audacious. – CW