Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best (And Worst) Movie Posters of 2008

While many (including myself) have been overheard complaining 2008 was a lackluster year for films, it was an incredible one for movie posters. Last year I couldn't even come up with 10 deserving posters to fill a list of the best, but this time around there was such a plethora of great choices that I had cheat and squeeze even more in there, plus come up with a couple of new special categories. I didn't give much thought to ranking them (not sure if I could) but my favorites are at the top, or rather the bottom. That I own three of the posters on here so far (which is a record for me in a single year) is a testament to just how strong the creative output was.

Even the bad posters were interesting in some way. As usual, "SIMPLE" was the rule of the day. Posters that used a simple, direct image to convey the spirit of the film (while still being visually interesting) fared the best. I've come to notice the ones that rely only on a big star's face (or in most cases their GIANT FLOATING HEAD) to sell the movie are always the worst. More has to be offered than just a big name and face to get attention. There were so many more posters I liked but the cream of the crop is represented below, as well as is the cream of the crap. Poster images provided by


Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay- NPH. On a unicorn. No more needs to be said. Hysterical. You know a poster's great when you could have left out the title of the film and we'd still know what it is.

College- Say what you want about the movie but they couldn't have possibly come up with a better image than this. For better or worse, we know exactly what we're getting. I love the simplicity and the tag line. It actually looks like something you'd see hanging in a dorm room, which was probably the point.

The Wrestler- When I first saw this poster I didn't like it at all. I thought it was boring and that banner hanging down on the right telling us to "WITNESS THE RESURRECTION OF MICKEY ROURKE" was an unnecessary distraction. But as the Awards season has worn on it's grown on me a little each time I see it, to the point now where I can't think of many posters this year as effective. What I thought was boring is instead elegantly simple, conveying the film's message in a single, striking image. And that quote on the right is something totally different than anything we've seen on a poster. It also uses a color scheme and font design you don't see everyday.

Synecdoche, New York- Charlie Kaufman written films are known for their big, crazy ideas so for his directorial debut it's appropriate the ambitious movie has one of the trippiest, most memorable one-sheets of the year. A life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse? Huh? What? It got your attention. And no other poster looks like it. Love the blimp. And the critical blurb at the top has to be the longest I've ever seen on a poster. That took guts. It probably took that much space to even come close to explaining the movie. Just don't ask me to pronounce the title.

My Winnipeg- What's that guy doing out on the ledge? Who's the old lady? What's with the arrow pointing at him? Is the movie in black and white? I don't know anything about the film at all but this poster makes me want to find out. No lame photoshopping here. The unusual angle it was shot at is very cool as is what was done to the edges to make it look like an aged photograph. This one is as original as it gets.

Cloverfield- This is the first teaser poster for the film, before we knew anything, like the title who's starring in it, what it's about. And we don't need to. This striking image gives us all we need and want. It probably played a bigger role in the movie's success than many would like to admit.

Hell Ride- So maybe that "simple" rule can be thrown out the window for this one. Actually though, despite being very busy, it is simple. It lets us know simply that we're in for a grindhouse-like experience. Supposedly, it wasn't a very successful one from what I've heard but the poster at least got it right. I'm not sure how long I could look at it on the wall everyday without going blind but taken in a small dose it works exceptionally well.

The Bank Job- Move over Steve McQueen. This throwback design looks like it's right out of the 60's or 70's (which is when the movie's events take place). The off-white color and retro border are cool touches. One of the more underrated and understated posters of the year that also does the movie justice. Simple and effective.

Blindness- Very clever. Whoever thought of this deserves a raise. The eye chart idea is great enough on its own but having Julianne Moore reaching out for it from behind is a creepy effect. Not only the only poster on this list to use the transparent style (I'm sure you know what the other one is) but it's awesome nonetheless and would get someone who knows nothing about the film interested quickly.

Burn After Reading- No one will accuse this retro-throwback poster of being the most original of the year but you can't tell me it isn't slick and eye-catching. It's got that Hitchcock vibe going, which works and perfectly presents the tone of the film. The other character-centric versions weren't nearly as interesting as this.

Gran Torino- Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. He's Clint Eastwood. He's cranky. He's 75. And he can still kick your ass.

The Dark Knight (Take Your Pick)- The Dark Knight had a wide variety of posters to choose from this year but these were by far the most memorable, and brilliant. I know very few people who don't own AT LEAST one of them. How fitting that a film that was in many ways a victim of its own expectations had them raised to even more unreasonable levels when these teasers came out. I don't think any film could have lived up to them. Speaking of which:

Funny Games- If the actual film were as good as the poster, Michael Haneke would be preparing an Oscar acceptance speech right now. I liked the film a lot but wouldn't blame anyone who walked away from that film expecting more on the basis of this unsettling, terrifying image. On the other hand, you could reasonably argue that the movie was as uncomfortable and polarizing as the image. And look what they did with the credits. Forget about this being the best poster of the year, this should rank among the best of the decade.


Changeling- Help!!! Angelina's going to eat me!

Seven Pounds- Who cares what its about? Will Smith's in it! I do appreciate that the studio going to great lengths to conceal the plot in trailers and commercials but unfortunately, that tactic doesn't play nearly as well in print. There is such a thing as too much restraint.

Body of Lies- Here's a movie whose poster somehow actually lives up to its lazy, generic direct-to-DVD title. Of all the posters on this list this is one that most make me want to flee any theater showing the film. It's like the designers gave up and said, "Well, the movie's gonna suck anyway." The others featuring Crowe and DiCaprio solo were even worse.

The Women- It takes a lot of work to make a group of reasonably talented and attractive actresses look this foolish and ugly in a poster. This features so much airbrushing it would make Maxim covers look like mug shots. And is that Annette Bening? I swear I couldn't even tell. It's also a cluttered, cut-and-paste mess. If the movie's as bad as this suggests I'm scared to death.

My Best Friend's Girl- You know it's bad when even Dane Cooke himself commented on his blog how embarrassing it is. Less a poster and more an ad for how to abuse Photoshop. Apparently, Kate Hudson now not only stars in bad movies, but bad posters as well. Her almost equally awful Fool's Gold poster just missed the list.


Frost/Nixon- Homicidal maniac David Frost sets his sights on future Presidential candidate Bob Dole in this taut, psychological horror/thriller from 1985. Okay, not exactly, but can you blame me? I wasn't sure whether this belonged in the "best" or "worst" so I just put it here. If they were looking to recapture the time period during which the events of the film took place (even if they're a decade late) then this might be the most brilliant poster of the year. If not, then it's among the funniest I've ever seen. So either way, it's a win. The photo and style of print makes it look like one of those cheesy VHS covers from the 80's. And how about Langella's C. Montgomery Burns pose? Hopefully this will be the DVD cover art, or better yet, just release it on VHS! But what I really want to see is a film set in the 80's with this poster on someone's wall in the background. I might have to own this, except I worry after looking at it for a week the joke will get old. Taken on its own merits it's just a hilarious misrepresentation of the film but when you consider said film is one of the biggest, most serious Oscar contenders of the year then it suddenly seems a whole lot more ridiculous. Don’t know what they were thinking but I'm glad they did it.

Valkyrie- Ocean's 14...with Nazis!

BEST FAKE POSTERS (These Aren't Real But Should Be)
The Dark Knight Returns- If Nolan decides to go for one more sequel he could do a lot worse than looking to this poster for inspiration. It had me fooled. And better than a few of the best ones above.
(Source: Cinematical)

Wonder Woman- I never seriously entertained the idea that Megan Fox could be a viable candidate for the role...until seeing this. Now THAT'S a good Photoshop job.


JD said...

Your comment on Valkyrie had me rolling.
The worst and the films were pretty bad too.
I wished Hell Ride was cool like its poster though.
Awesome list!!

Fred [The Wolf] said...

I love your poster blogs. THE DARK KNIGHT and CLOVERFIELD definitely had the best ones this year. And that HAROLD AND KUMAR 2 one is one of my all-time faves. NPH rocks in anything he's in.

As for the bad, yeah I totally agree. I laughed at THE CHANGELING and VALKYRIE. Holy shit, it does look like OCEAN'S 11 with Nazis! And I can honestly say that THE WOMEN is as bad as that poster. Don't bother with it unless you want to be annoyed. The original is much better.

And I'm checking the box to vote Megan Fox as Wonder Woman. Holy smokes is she hot! She can lasso the truth out of me anytime she wants!