The poster is likely to be the first thing moviegoers will see of an upcoming film, so it’s vital that they make a good first impression. A great poster possesses many qualities; they’re visually arresting, they’re in sync with the mood and themes of the film and, most importantly, they increase your anticipation for the movie. Few posters fit this bill each year, which is why it’s important to acknowledge those that standout amongst the best and, for the sake of comparison, those that seriously miss the mark.
So without further ado, I present the ten best and worst movie posters of 2010.
To see a poster full-size, click on the image.
10. Saw 3D*
It would seem as though the marketing team at SAW HQ are the only people still involved in the franchise with an eye for creativity. Speaking of eyes, this striking poster design artfully toys with the notion of SAW now being in 3D, the imagery and title tying together nicely with an amusing tagline. The design has visual punch from a distance, but it also rewards closer inspection, cleverly containing an assortment of well-known images from the series within the eyeball. That said, I’m lost as to why the eye appears to be made of milk…
* UPDATE: I’ve received an interesting email from a reader who has drawn my attention to the fact that the SAW 3D poster pictured is remarkably similar to a promotional poster for the Playstation 3 from 2007. The likeness is too great to dismiss as creative coincidence, so if I were to rewrite this list again, rest assured knowing that Saw 3D would not make the list and this poster for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours would be in its place. Sorry for the oversight!
9. I Am Love
As this list will attest, 2010 has proven to be a standout year for typography. This poster for I Am Love deserves credit for its wonderful juxtaposition of the lurid, free-flowing title and a staged formal photograph. I love the emblematic way in which the text partially covers each actor’s face aside from Tilda Swinton’s, which immediately establishes her character’s centricity to the film. The elegant, warm colour palate tops off this impressive design.
Horror movies often have standout poster designs because they deal with arresting images and sharp contrasts. They also seldom have big names to promote, so there is no obligation to slap the heads of the actors on the front. It’s all about creating menace and intrigue, which is exactly how one would describe this fantastic theatrical poster for Devil. The low angle photography immediately makes the metallic death box imposing, while the hellish glow emerging from the cracks is tremendously foreboding. The glow’s reflection on the floor is what really sells the design, creating the image of a burning cross that faintly connects with the letter V in Devil. By linking the arresting image with the film’s title, the poster is influencing your visual memory so you won’t think of one without envisaging the other.
7. The Social Network
Probably one of the most widely recognised designs of the year, typography once again overshadows imagery in this powerful and imposing poster for The Social Network. The tagline is memorable in itself, but what really works is the way in which Jesse Eisenberg looks trapped within the browser window and appears behind the wall of text, symbolic of how Facebook enables users to hide, or at least regulate, their online identity. The “profile picture” of Eisenberg hasn’t been overly airbrushed, drawing on the actor’s geeky, everyman attributes and the insecurity of his character rather than selling him as a blemish-free movie star. I do, however, think the Facebook toolbar could have worked just fine at the top of the page rather than on the side. Still, a poster design that inspires numerous parodies is deserving of a spot on this list.
The title of the film is the most important piece of information a poster conveys. Sure, memorable imagery helps grab the viewer’s attention, but if it doesn’t somehow link back to the title in an effective way, it’s useless from a marketing standpoint.
That’s why this poster for Inception is so damn effective. Not only is it a mesmerizing image of a cityscape, but by means of some ingenious Photoshopping, it also doubles as the film’s title. In other words, one split-second glance at this poster and you’ve already processed everything you need to know about the film.
5. Let Me In
Similar to Inception, this great teaser poster for Let Me In is notable for its eye-catching title treatment. The designer has utilised one of the most common fonts, Times New Roman, and has turned it into something truly unique and unnerving. Blood and ice are both key components of this wintery vampire fable, while the notion of something being buried beneath the surface is both a central theme and plot point. The design could have done without the director credits on the left, as although it doesn’t completely spoil the poster, it does draw attention away from where it should be. Regardless, it’s an exceptional piece of work.
4.For Colored Girls
It’s risky business making a poster that employs actual works of art. As a poster designer, you’re trying to sell a movie, not merely please the eye, so using images that are either too obscure or too disconnected from the film can prevent the message from penetrating. Then again, a powerful piece of artwork can disarm the viewer, drawing them in so that they can subsequently absorb the marketing message. This poster for Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls is a great example of artwork doing exactly that. Marion Bolognesi gorgeous watercolour depicts the emotive power of eyes, but more importantly, it works seamlessly into the context of the film due to the obvious correlation between the title Colored Girls and the pastel-hued imagery. The tears streaming down the woman’s face effectively draw our attention to the title, while the tagline “Many voices. One poem.” illuminates the rich symbolism of the image.
3. The Last Exorcism
In terms of sheer visceral impact, this chilling poster for The Last Exorcism trumps all. It immediately grabs you by the balls, or if you don’t have balls, entangles your ovaries.
What you’re looking at is essentially two photographs: the first is of the possessed girl lying on the floor, manipulating her limbs in such a way that it appears she’s perched on a wall. This has been cleverly overlayed onto an upside down image of the corner of a room (notice how the floorboards are on the roof). Her shadow on the wall is a tad off, but the visual impact is still there. The harsh lighting on her face is positively terrifying, while the ample use of empty space gives the confronting imagery the breathing space it deserves.
2. Black Swan
Now here is a poster I would proudly hang on my wall. Each of the teasers for Black Swan could have made it onto the list, but this simple, elegant and utterly stunning vector-based poster takes the cake, expressively using silhouettes to capture the film’s central theme of light being consumed by darkness. Along with the classy 1930s vibe, I also love the wide kerning of the title; it adds such dramatic punch.
There is an important distinction between inspiration and imitation. Imitation is a creative copout; a tactless way to cash in on the success of someone else without brining anything new to the table. Inspiration, however, is what makes the world go round; every person who achieves greatness is inspired by someone or something before them.
One look at this poster for Buried and you might say “oh, that’s just an imitation of Saul Bass’ poster for Vertigo.” But it’s not. The two, why stylistically similar, are very different. Rather, it has been inspired by Bass’ work, functioning as a fitting homage to the iconic poster artist while also standing on its own two feet as a brilliant work of design.
It’s all about negative space. The hypnotic white lines create an optical illusion of depth, cleverly playing on the idea of being buried deep underground. They also lead the eye directly to the small figure in the middle, Ryan Reynold’s character Paul Conroy, who is also the centre of attention throughout the one-man show. The poster sucks you in with its stark simplicity and makes you want to explore its every detail. Buried is an intensely suspenseful movie, so it’s only fitting that this design pays homage to the posters belonging to the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense.
Buried also takes top spot because the entire poster campaign has been exceptional. Check out the other designs here.
Here are 8 great posters that almost made the list.
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