By most accounts, 2015 was a pretty solid year for movies. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t gotten to watch nearly as many as usual (although I’m still ticking off my checklist, and hope to be caught up in time for the Oscars).
But in addition to being a movie fan, I’m also a fan of movie art, particularly posters. And I don’t need to see a movie to know whether or not it has a cool poster. So I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of my favourites from the past year.
The runners up are displayed above. I did it this way because I wanted to open with a nice image but didn’t want to spoil my actual list. And before I get on with the show, I just want to stress that what follows are my favourite posters, not my favourite movies. I haven’t even seen half of these movies, and judging by some of the reviews, I probably never will.
Enough dilly-dallying. Here are my picks for the best movie posters of 2015 (click the posters to see larger versions):
10. Body – Designed by Unknown
Okay, so this one is obviously very reminiscent of Saul Bass’s work (specifically his Anatomy Of A Murder poster). But, setting that aside, I still really like it. I love a good minimalist design, and this one gives you the premise of the film in one image. Plus, the movie was marketed as having a “Hitchcockian” style to it, so the tie-in to Bass (who frequently collaborated with Hitchcock) is fitting.
If I have any criticism here, it’s that the colour scheme is a bit too plain. I mean, if you’re gonna steal from Saul Bass, at least go all the way. He usually used at least three colours, and this poster only has two. Maybe they could’ve thrown in some white or orange on the stairs, just to give it a little extra something.
That said, I do like the way they worked the movie’s title into the actual body at the foot of the stairs. Nice little bit of composition.
9. Sicario – Designed by LA
This poster is one of two on the list by design firm LA. I like the simple colour scheme coupled with the elaborate skull design. You don’t often see yellow used as a main colour in movie posters, but it works nicely here. And the skull itself is just fun to look at. There are so many details tucked away, most of them having to do with death. Crosses, nooses, machine guns, the rattlesnakes… This poster puts it all out there upfront: “See this movie, and you’ll be seeing a lot of people get killed.”
The one thing that doesn’t really do it for me here is the inclusion of the definition of “sicario.” Granted, I didn’t know what it meant. But I do know how to use Google. This is what most people do when confronted by something they don’t know. So it feels kind of unnecessary. But on the other hand, if you’re advertising a movie, you probably want to make sure people know what its title means.
8. We Are Your Friends – Designed by Concept Arts
I dig this design by Concept Arts a lot. It’s simple, but it’s also rather clever, as a pair of headphones and a record are used to form a smiley face. The message is simple, “music brings happiness.”
I feel like this is one of those movies where the poster has to do a lot of legwork. I mean, the title alone could basically mean anything. To me, the phrase, “We are your friends,” sounds weirdly ominous in a way. It’s the sort of thing you might say to a guy right before you jump him. Maybe I just have issues.
Anyway, getting back to the poster… It just communicates good times, basically. A nice visual joke, bright colours. I haven’t seen this movie yet, but if the poster’s anything to go by, it looks fun.
7. Bone Tomahawk – Designed by Jump Cut Creative/Brandon Schaefer
This year saw a good number of westerns make their way to theatres – and a lot of different kinds of westerns, at that. You had The Keeping Room, a kickass feminist western. Then there was The Revenant, a gritty revenge epic. Then you had The Hateful Eight, Tarantino’s mashup of Agatha Christie and Sergio Corbucci. And then there was this.
Looking at the poster for Bone Tomahawk, you might think, “Oh hey, this looks like a pretty traditional western. Nothing weird going on here.” Oh, how wrong you are. This is one of those instances where you don’t fully appreciate the poster until after you’ve seen the movie. Frankly, it’s a dishonest piece of marketing. And that’s why I love it. You look at Kurt Russell’s mustachioed visage and expect something akin to Tombstone, but what you actually get is… Well, I’ll leave it to you to find out.
The in-joke of having such a traditional poster for such a crazy movie is one thing, but the poster itself is executed beautifully. This is why it’s on my list. Everyone looks maybe a little bit more orange than I’d ideally want, but that’ s just me being pedantic. Floating head posters are a dime a dozen, but this one just looks right.
6. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – Designed by LA
The second LA-designed poster on my list. When this one originally hit the web, a lot of movie blogs misattributed it to poster design guru Drew Struzan, the artist who created the prequel trilogy’s posters. Say what you will about those movies, the posters were cool. Not quite as cool as Struzan’s poster for The Thing (a copy of which hangs in my office), but I digress.
The point is, if you’re copying the work of a legend well enough that people confuse yours with his, you’re probably doing something right.
This poster is packed with detail, but it doesn’t overwhelm the eye. The new characters are front and center, while the old favourites are still there, but are smaller in size. In that way, it’s a good representation of the film itself. The torch is being passed, and this poster’s composition reflects that nicely.
I also enjoy the way Kylo Ren’s head and lightsaber break the border at the top and side of the poster. I just makes him “pop” in an eye-catching way.
5. Baskin – Designed by Phantom City Creative/Justin Erickson
Even after watching the trailer for Baskin, I still wouldn’t be confident in trying to give you an explanation of what the film’s about. But what I do know is this poster is badass.
The giant face is just ominous and unsettling, and the image of the man screaming through the keyhole is even more so. The red glow emanating from the keyhole accentuates this. From what I gathered, the movie features a group of cops stumbling onto a satanic ritual. So you get the image of a guy burning in hell, trying to escape.
This is also the first poster on the list to feature any sort of tagline. “Enter a world of suffering and madness,” doesn’t quite have the same unique ring as something like, “In space, no one can hear you scream,” but at least it lets you know what you’re in for, if for some reason the imagery wasn’t cluing you in.
4. Pawn Sacrifice – Designed by P+A
This poster is great because it illustrates what the movie is about. Bobby Fischer was, by all accounts, a genius. But he also said the following, shortly after 9/11: “”[I hope] the country will be taken over by the military, they’ll close down all the synagogues, arrest all the Jews, execute hundreds of thousands of Jewish ringleaders.” In short he was super anti-semitic, and kind of a nut.
I don’t think the movie delved into all that stuff, but at the very least, this poster illustrates a mind consumed by chaos, as dozens of possible chess moves spiral off into space in a disorganized mess. It’s kind of like the great poster for The Game, except done in reverse. Whereas that film was about a man trying to piece together this puzzling sequence of events, here we have someone who is unraveling on the world stage.
The tagline is nicely phrased too, although if I’m being nitpicky it’s a bit long, which necessitates a smaller font size that makes it hard to read. Although to be fair, this wouldn’t be as much an issue on the full 27″ by 40″ poster.
3. Stung – Designed by Phantom City Creative/Justin Erickson
God, this poster makes me flinch just looking at it. It’s the second poster on my list by Justin Erickson, and it’s definitely a reminder for me to keep an eye (hah!) on his work in the future.
When I look at this, I’m immediately reminded of the excellent poster for Candyman. But this one ups the ante. It’s one thing to have a bee just casually hanging out on your eye, but it’s quite another to have a wasp about a millimeter away from jabbing you in the cornea.
(Incidentally, another image this poster brings to mind is this scene from Mission: Impossible II. Terrible movie, great scene.)
I love the hand-drawn look and the simple mix of red, black, and white. And the typography is great, with the “t” in “stung” mimicking the wasp’s stinger. It all comes together to make one of 2015’s most memorable posters.
2. Queen Of Earth – Designed by CHIPS/Anna Katrina Bak-Kvapil
Like many of the movies on this list, I haven’t yet seen Queen Of Earth. But this poster, in combination with the intriguing trailer, has me interested. Both are definitely going for a vintage, throwback feel. And they succeed in spades.
The art style on the three drawings of Elisabeth Moss is lovely, and I like the way they descend down the page as you look from left to right. It kind of figures in to the whole “psychological breakdown” angle the pull quote mentions. She’s descending into madness, both figuratively and literally.
I can’t exactly pin down the style that’s being cribbed here, because I’m not an art history student. The closest analogue I can come up with is in the work of Luigi Martinati, an artist who created a great number of Italian posters for American films in the forties and fifties. But this poster looks a bit more impressionistic rather than realistic.
I was listening to a podcast with the artist, Anna Katrina Bak-Kvapil, and she mentioned the Repulsion poster as an inspiration. Which makes sense, as that movie is also very much about a woman who is losing it. And both that poster and this one feature several portraits of the lead actress, with various facial expressions.
Regardless of where the inspiration came from, this poster is excellent. If the movie’s of similar quality, this one might be hanging on my wall in the future.
1. It Follows – Designed by Akiko Stehrenberger
I’ve been an Akiko Stehrenberger fan ever since I laid eyes on her disturbing yet beautiful poster artwork for the English language remake of Funny Games.
This poster takes the top spot for me because it so perfectly captures the paranoia and unease of the film. It Follows is a horror movie, but the poster doesn’t show you the monster, because the monster can be anyone.
As I think I’ve mentioned a few times now, I dig minimalism and simplicity in my movie posters. This one definitely ticks those boxes. Sure, you could put a bunch of stuff in the negative space. It would make sense to see something through that windshield, right? But that wide-eyed gaze is what you’d really be drawn to anyway, so why bother?
While the overall look of the poster is rather sparse, the little details really help to sell it: the subtle gleam in the eyes, the hair looking slightly unkempt, the mirror askew.
The retro styling is a big selling point for me, as we’ve seen elsewhere on this list. Stehrenberger got good mileage out of this approach in 2015, also employing it in her poster for The Editor.
And I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t help that It Follows happens to be an excellent film. I know this list is supposed to be all about the art, but I’m still just a teensy bit predisposed to like this poster because of how much I enjoyed the movie. Just saying.
That’s my list. Agree? Disagree? Want to scold me for not including your favourite poster of the year? Comment away!