In the Always On™ age, first impressions are everything. When a movie receives its Sundance premiere in January— but often won’t reach audiences until many months later— reviews are important. However, posters are arguably just as crucial. If you’ve got a good poster, your audience is halfway into purchasing tickets. Some one-sheets are elusive, remembering that simplicity is key and bright colors are good at distracting contemporary viewers with a short attention span. You’ve got the perfectly representative ones, building a patchwork of all the finest and sweetest moments of the picture as to honor fans who know what’s worth loving, and entice those who haven’t yet had the privilege.
But then there are the wholly generic ones too. In a year of superhero summits, the culmination of decades of work – posters attempted to squeeze every excessively earning star into the frame. Hey, it was even the year of a whole new character design when the first try proved so problematic. But in spite of it all, some tremendous designs came out of the woodwork, both from established names and new designers, championing cinema of all sorts with delicious visual treats to whet appetites of cinephiles far and wide.
Now that the recap on the decade behind us, and the preview of the year ahead, have been taken care of—it’s time to reflect again, more calmly, with the very Best Movie Posters of 2019. Chosen subjectively, but, of course, the only possible correct answers as ever.
“Booksmart” felt fresh when it burst onto the scene, with its fresh characters and decidedly 2019 storyline. But it inevitably owes a debt to a history of high-school movies—something that director Olivia Wilde has never denied. “I just went with: What’s the movie that made me want to make movies?” she told Entertainment Weekly. The result? A handful of digital posters honoring her own favorites – with the clearly “Ferris Bueller” inspired one coming out on top. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein have such a determined stare, one that allowed their characters, Amy and Molly, to reach their greatest academic ambitions, and one that now lets them have as much fun as humanly possible before they have to close the door on their youth. Annapurna’s clean design on these throwback posters trusts the star presence of their leading actress, and also immediately warns the viewer of their prejudice. “You read them wrong,” they say, and next to the sky-blue car with flames down the side – it’s hard to disagree.– EK
19. “Ad Astra”
What’s out there, in the unknown? James Gray’s “Ad Astra” is far from the first film to send a man to space and see what happens, but it is in its commitment to traditional soul-searching, to earnest helplessness and a staunch determination to mend emotional bonds that it finds a genuine heavyweight payoff. The simple pitch-black emptiness offers a blank canvas for the viewer, alongside the film’s hero Roy McBride (Brad Pitt on outstanding form) to write their own questions – but then it’s in the smart distortions, the faint elasticated drag of the crisp white spacesuit from all ends, that suggests that one person’s volition to reach their deepest truths can, sometimes, be halted by the wills of the world around us. The title looms large, and big – itself an indication, with the use of another language altogether, of just how much more lies out there than the written words we might be able to muster up ourselves.– EK
Put aside your feelings about “The Joker” for a moment—even the ones where you wrote a positive, or even glowing review of the movie initially, only to cowardly walk that opinion back in podcasts, subsequent written pieces or even Playlist features because the tide had turned on the movie and you evidently have no conviction in your thoughts, *COUGH*— as divisive and loathed as it was in many circles, “The Joker” certainly took over the discourse for better or worse for many months in September, when it festival premiered, and October when it was released to the public. And much of that started with the first alluring poster, which included one of the first official images of Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime. The poster for “Joker” was simple, clean and with a hint of subtle, creepy menace—a green sheen of light coming down on the protagonist, hinting towards the moment when Arthur Fleck would majestically open his arms, invite in chaos and say goodbye to whatever was left in his frayed ends of sanity. Like it or not, the “Joker” poster was an arresting image that hinted at the deeper madness to come. – Rodrigo Perez
17. “A Hidden Life”
Terrence Malick’s latest film clutches onto the crucial emotions that keep a person alive, even when the entire world has decided against it. It’s a historical picture, but it’s also a love story. In the rough mesh of textures, a spectrum of browns and greys, the poster conveys the immediacy of intimacy. The film focuses on Franz Jagerstatter (August Diehl), who was an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to fight for the Nazis. “A Hidden Life” frames the grim truth of this revolutionary decision, but also captures the urgent love between Franz and his wife Franziska (a revelatory Valerie Pachner). Her hair and his skin collide, his fingers curl around her shoulder. You can almost feel the yearning, the sadness between the two lovers of ever having to be separated. Although their world is colored by enormous fields of green and skies that are almost always blue – this color palette feels most fitting to convey the visceral, human nature of such a story. – EK
Lupita Nyong’o never necessarily needed a comeback, but Jordan Peele most certainly gave her the role of a lifetime as the lead in his sophomore feature “Us.” Nyong’o plays both Adelaide Wilson, and Red. That’s as far as we’ll go in terms of plot details, to preserve the galaxy brain twist, but it’s a smart move of designers LA to capture Nyong’o’s two parts in one poster. Her lips are perfectly glossed, and the sheen matches that of the tear rolling down her eye – wide, round, and totally pupil-less. She holds a mask of her own face in her hand, itself dressed in a sole fingerless glove, and the two faces entirely contradict each other. What’s so chilling is that the mask is just as human, just as detail with the gloss, the skin texture, the promise of a smile full of teeth. As much in the doubly unsettling protagonist as in the romantic lettering of the title, almost taunting in its whimsical beauty – fear is completely in the eye of whoever beholds this one. And don’t even start on the other poster focusing in on the gloved hand and those scissors. Nightmares for weeks. – EK