The Best and Worst Posters of the 2010s

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They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but they also say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, right? Well, fortunately movies aren’t books so I don’t think I’m going against nature to abide by the second saying for this post. Let’s see what the heck they’re saying, these intros are tiring me out to be honest, let’s just get into the thick of it. 30 posters each, go hard or go home, hajime!

THE WORST POSTERS OF THE 2010s

30. The Ides of March

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This is low on the list and will remain low on the list because I really get what they’re trying to go for and think it’s admirable. They just picked the flattest possible way to execute that idea, especially with that had transplanting and the insistence on stressing Gosling and Clooney’s different eye colors.

29. Christopher Robin – Tigger character poster

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Tigger’s got some dead eyes up in here. All the stuffed animal characters in this movie have dead eyes, but Tigger’s hard green are the most alarming and I don’t want them staring at me. They literally remind me of the Cryptkeeper’s live eyes in a corpse.

28. Tangled – Teaser

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Ah yes, when Rapunzel’s hair in the movie got to make some Killer Klowns from Outer Space cocoon. I’ll forgive how much it obscures its own design principles that are the raison d’etre for the movie to begin with but it’s such a painful overdipping in the principles of teaser posters.

27. Shelter – International Poster

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Gets this low solely because it’s not a home release poster but they could not have airbrushed Jonathan Rhys-Meyes and Julianne Moore further into Twilight characters if they tried.

26. The Old Man & the Gun – International poster

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Not only does any of this reflect the quiet little matinee that the movie actually is – there is not even an explosion, let alone one that looks this stock – but it’s blindingly bright in a way that I find hurts my eyes as hard as an overexposed light in a pitch-black cave.

25. The King’s Speech – Pulled poster

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Again, gets away with this low a status because even the distributors saw it and said “nope, this is not the poster”. That tagline, the fact that Colin Firth has dramatic lighting that goes against the light-heartedness of Rush’s reaction or the pseudo-Andy’s-Room-in-Toy Story background, that sickly color, it’s all making me dizzy honestly. It looks like a fake comedy that would be watched in a terrible Downton Abbey ripoff.

24. The Trust

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Heck of a lot of graininess that makes me feel like I’m passing out looking at this image and also Elijah Wood looks like somebody is draining his blood while he holds the world’s most overlit pistol.

23. Extraordinary Measures

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Brendan Fraser got halfway through his evolution into Harrison Ford. And this also makes me feel like I’m about to die with how overly bright it is.

22. American Hero

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First of all, neither actors head is fully attached to their body, especially Griffin who looks like his will tumble off any second. Second of all, this is shot with the unsteady focus pull of a Punk’d video and with the color palette of a post-apocalypse rather than a comedy. And last of all, somebody overly fill-lit Dorff’s left arm so it looks like it’s in the oven and I am a gnat who has to stare at the brightest thing in the room.

21. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Ugly bunch of gray, dizzying usage of background business, but the real star of the show is the clumping together of the heroes (another superhero poster will mess this up later in this post) to a manner that messes up their scale with each other. Iron Man looks like he is protecting his baby children Black Widow and Hawkeye, who are in turn protecting their baby child Nick Fury, who you definitely didn’t notice before because there’s less light on him than the backlit Vision in the sky and he’s just hanging off the side like a Swiss Army Utility. Matter of fact, how are any of them standing up with the ground crumbling at the bottom of this image?

20. 6 Underground

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Either everybody is about to get hit by the green car or the chopper is about to crash into the city of Venice due to the Earth beneath it shifting. Either way nobody is getting out of this poster alive.

19. A Dog’s Journey

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They picked the least cute angle you could shoot a dog.

18. Sex and the City 2

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Kim Cattrall is pod-personed here. You can tell because the pod people didn’t finish the contours of her face.

17. Juliet, Naked

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For something trying to use lines to look neat, it’s ended up not looking neat all that much. In fact, it stresses the separation of the subjects on a planal level and also made Chris O’Dowd look like he had a growth spurt.

16. X-Men: First Class – character teaser posters

They messed up the clip art deep fake, clearly. Starting with having to pick the grainiest possible photos for headshots.

15. Ready Player One – teaser poster

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That boy’s leg is still way too long, what are they doing to the poor kid?

14. The Counselor – one-sheet

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You know what happens when you have too many name actors that you end up having to create a monstrous two-headed beast out of Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem’s unfinished hair-do. Was no man in this tequila print ad able to be centered at all?!

13. One for the Money

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One: that ain’t how you hold handcuffs. Two: the handcuffs against the titles make it look like one of those trick images where I can’t figure out if they are meant to be behind or in front. Three: that is the ugliest shade of teal I’ve ever seen and throwing sickly yellow on it makes it look like somebody vomited on a department store catalog.

12. Left Behind

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OK, even beyond the ridiculously hot coloring for whatever green-screen the actors were in front of (absolutely not in the same room together), what really kills me about this is how it does not look like Nic Cage’s facial features are at the slightly wrong position of his head, like it feels approximately correct but like his eyes, lips, and nose will slip off at any moment.

11. I Am Wrath

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Think Cage’s face is bad in the Left Behind poster? The touching up of Travolta’s face here makes him look like a corpse BEFORE the mortician gets to work. Call yourself wrath if you want, but I know one thing you can’t call yourself…

10. Inferno

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Venice is upside down and in negative and if not on fire, it’s smoking and I can’t tell Tom Hanks or Felicity Jones apart. And the prom’s tomorrow.

9. Aloha

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Geometrically inconsistent. All you have to do is start by fixing your eye on the “O” in Aloha and watch it all roll around to different lines and ends like a horrible Choose Your Adventure book. Also that tagline is a bad joke.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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There is no possible way that the curvature of the Oscorp sign, Spider-Man’s stance, and the positioning of New York make any spatial sense unless this poster takes place in the world of Inception or Spider-Man’s foot is broken.

7. The Adjustment Bureau

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s poster except now you CAN’T ignore that spacing is all wrong here because movement is at the center of it and they didn’t disguise its failures by making it upside down. Also gray is officially the worst color, I declare it here on this post.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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So like… MOST superhero movies of this decade have had frankly garbage posters (probably outnumbered solely by the romantic comedy), but this is particular… you notice how everything is so weirdly forced into the centered space so there’s a lot of emptiness around these folks? It looks like a visual swirly of colors and figures that simply won’t match together. Especially given how blatantly it’s trying to apply our favorite enemy of teal-and-orange to its color scheme? And that central light on Magneto’s hand like it’s the chosen one. Can’t take it, man.

5. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

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You guys are seeing what I’m seeing, right? This isn’t a silhouette… it’s clip art!

4. The Bachelors

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A poster about which I would have never had to see if not for Alternate Ending and I didn’t even need to read the caption before noticing the recycling of Delpy’s image and the illogical of that car seat.

3. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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At least I can laugh at the X-Men: Days of Future Past version of the poster because if you look at that one again, Patrick Stewart is farting fireballs. This…. This has nothing that I get ironic enjoyment from.

2. Yogi Bear

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Oh, something coming in bears, alright.

1. Hit by Lightning

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No further comment.

THE BEST MOVIE POSTERS OF THE 2010s

30. Super 8

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In a decade where Drew Struzan (tributed by the header page on this post) was exemplified by all kinds of movie campaigns whether It‘s childhood nostalgia angle or the fact that Star Wars came back, this is the best invocation of his work. Plus it tells the truth about JJ Abrams’ lens flare fetish.

29. John Carter – IMAX midnight release

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The single time in the entire ad campaign where they finally recognized that maybe we should actually make our “space opera” look fantastical and vast. The softness of the landscape’s colors and what that says about the wistful horizon before us promised more adventure than this movie was capable of delivering.

28. The Lobster – US release

The emptiness of that space within the two hugging posters and the idea that the characters can not be complete without the other feeling altogether hard to stomach with the sickly backdrop color satisfies me enough to place it here.

27. The Handmaiden – US release

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Looking hella like that opening shot from Midsommar where we see the story essentially mapped in invisible ways, but here the rustic colors (and textures even with the brown having those stains around) just force us to sink into it rather than interrogate it.

26. Portrait of a Lady on Fire – US release

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Again, the tangibility of the paint, the warmness of the colors, and I mean… at this point, I’m not gonna reiterate what it looks like but we know what it is and how well it delivers eroticism without being smutty about it.

25. Mad Max: Fury Road – Full Campaign

Almost certainly my favorite ad campaign of the entire decade and it’s terribly hard to pick one poster from the several hot and large images they’ve decided to deliver in anticipation of this movie, but I think I will provide two for example and encourage you to go wild with google images. The army of two poster that does immensely well to communicate the sort of relationship the duotagonists will carry through out and has the smartness to vary in levels and profile direction so that each actor has power in this image (plus the way the motorcycle fills the shape and the chain makes the action feel like it’s approaching). And this singular orange one that actually uses the kludged habit of action movie posters to give it a controlled frenzy and then has that brilliant usage of horizon below to give it momentum, all the more so because of the canted angle of that horizon.

24. Alien: Covenant – Orgy

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Close enough to monochrome to grab that starkness and horrifying in its evocation of the concept’s inherent sexual violence imagery, it’s not at all a subtle poster but it is a very effective one, quoting classical art in statuesque form.

23. Wonder Woman – teaser

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Nice and powerful and dramatic, from the light to the stance to the tagline. DCEU definitely wanted to cover their bases with the movie that had to keep them afloat.

22. Suspiria – teaser series

I mean, when the initial teaser poster came out with that solid pink S, it was some kind of joke to me. Like was it trying to emulate Screen Gems?! And then each subsequent iteration of this poster ends up transfiguring the graffiti into thick smudges of blood in different manners and the result is an extremely effective use of shocking visual violence to tell exactly how dark things will go in this movie.

21. The Dark Knight Rises – teaser

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A nicely epic image invoking the familiar image of the batman logo in the middle of this urban and apocalyptic atmosphere, doubling its impact since we know it’s the ending installment of the trilogy and pretty much follows one of the most popular movies of the 21st Century.

20. Blue Ruin

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Intense presentation of the title, with those bullet holes and cracks that already present violence well before our eyes crawl down to the bottom and see what a rural backwoods crime in the making looks like in silhouette.

19. Joker – teaser

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Effectively cold as an image, where we get to see enough of the figure and his weird posture to recognize him (and that smudge of blood on his chin) and then allows the rest of the poster to be swallowed by black and blue because of how moody those two tones can be.

18. Black Swan – Polish pop art series

I don’t even know what to say about these. They feel like the blocky shadow-based artwork one would find in a gothic metropolitan area, particularly the top-based one. But even the one that looks like evil nega-Bjork is impressive in its usage of subjects and lines to feel like fine art.

17. Buried – “Paul Conroy Isn’t Ready to Die”

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I mean this one is not even trying to hide its lifting of Saul Bass but it works extremely well in establishing a sense of trapped darkness and… dare I say… vertigo?

16. Magic Mike XXL – teaser

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Admit it. You smiled too.

15. Deepwater Horizon – teaser

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Filling up the space with all that smoke for a sense of alarm, letting the blue of the sky and the ocean function as negative space to let that disaster below look that much more isolated and small and doomed.

14. Buried – Pull Quotes

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Almost the same reasons as the Bass homage poster, but this does a more excellent job of trapping Ryan Reynolds into a fixed shape, adding discomfort by shuffling him to a corner of the poster, and most importantly accomplishes that with the power flex of flaunting all its reviews. It’s not just that it feels like the good version of what Her attempted 3 years later, it’s basically the character “suffering from success” as DJ Khaled put it.

13. Shame

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Remember how I spent the trailers post saying how “Oh THIS trailer is better than the movie and THAT trailer is better than the movie”? Not that I hate Shame (though it is dead last in my McQueen rankings), but this poster definitely tells us all about sex and misery more than the movie does.

12. Gone Girl – teaser

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Call me hokey as heck, but the incompleteness of the tagline works for me in the context of this soft and lonely image, with the news banner beneath just quietly invoking the idea of emergency.

11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – teaser

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Whatever else I say about Harry Potter, the fact that I was particularly in the right age just as the phenomenon was at its height and so I have an irreversible nostalgia for the image of the Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone teaser poster hanging on my 3rd grade classroom door giving mysticism to the children approaching Hogwarts in the night. Wisely returning back to that first image we ever had of the film series – even with such stressed melodramatic context (“IT’S ON FIRE!!!”) – taps right into my association with how far it has come and the heavy steps towards the end of the series. Looking at this poster is the only emotional response I had regarding a Harry Potter movie.

10. Blindspotting

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The most novel possible way to communicate the relationship between its two characters: how they can be tight but they are fundamentally not going to exist in the same experience. Effective usage of lines and profile to tell us that before we even see the movie.

9. Wonder Wheel

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Points enough for having the titular Coney Island attraction in the backdrop of what is a softly nostalgic image, but on top of that, if you had told me the poster with this touch of shadow and color had been shot by Vittorio Storaro himself, I don’t know that I could contradict that save for hard evidence. I haven’t bothered watching it because I know I’m just not in the mood for Woody Allen anymore, but the screener sits on my tv stand just because I love that image.

8. Aniara

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All about the directness of the lines – spaceship included – and the big red target of Mars and how all of that is disturbed by the trajectory of one ship. The patterns in this poster absolutely feel like something you would encounter in an old-school pulp sci-fi novel.

7. Godzilla – Comic-Con teaser

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Wonderfully impish tease that gives us enough to know how big the titular creature was gonna be, but beyond that knows that all good things come to those who wait. And also as someone who actually loves the approach the movie had to the character, the fact that the poster is just as much a tease makes me feel vindicated.

6. The Wolverine – teaser

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Japanese woodblock stylization of the quintessential Wolverine pose? That about does it for summarizing the movie that is to come. That insignia in the bottom left especially in red like a little artistic signature.

5. The Paperboy

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As a deep Lee Daniels apologist, I’m glad at least one of his movies had the marketing to reflect his tawdriness and this one gets it best of all because of how flushed everything looks with pink hues and that angry streak of John Cusack’s eyes. Nice and novelesque look for Southern scandal.

4. Crimson Peak

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First of all, this supersede my childhood memory of the Bram Stoker’s Dracula teaser poster for the best usage of “Beware” as a tagline. But even beyond that, you can’t have a movie with “Crimson” in its title without invoking red and you can’t have a ghost story without invoking blue and this is just a beautiful utilization of both colors overlapping with each other in a smooth manner that distinguishes those primaries but also makes this merge well in the superimposition. Plus I know that “Lovecraftian” is used way too much (and I mean nothing in the movie proper resembles Lovecraft, it’s hardly even a horror movie!) but Wasikowska’s hair in this image… is Lovecraftian.

3. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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Quietly simple with its usage of shape and color and spacing to define what sort of menace to expect with this directness, except then you look closer and see how crudely the central figure is defined by her outline or the fragmented lipstick and you realize this is a really good horror movie image in its own right.

2. Moonlight

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Had its color scheme delivered to it by the source material, but more importantly, it doesn’t try to hard to tie together its three actors – it knows that it just needs to connect via the eyes and the rest will lay in place to give us this feeling of development in one person. That is finds a way to sneak in implications of the violence of the second third and the performative look of the final third gives this depth.

  1. Gravity – IMAX

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Sometimes the answer is right in front of us the whole time. Zero ambiguity whatsoever about the terrifying reality of its scenario.

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