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The Best Movie Posters of 2014

Written by on December 29, 2014 

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column (with a special year-end retrospective today) focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.

I usually find myself needing to whittle down a list of around twenty posters to the fifteen showcased below. For 2014, however, my list was at forty-five. Now that’s what I would call a good year. Seeing how many came from the big boys like BLT Communications, LLC (who reigns supreme with three entries) similar to 2013 only makes it sweeter because they’re taking note of the little guys and their more risqué creativity to compete on the aesthetic front regardless of deeper pockets or name recognition providing unfair advantages.

It seems to have also been a year for inventive photo manipulation. Or at least it’s a year where my personal tastes skew towards just such examples. There are a couple illustrative examples—as there should—but designers have really gone above and beyond in their ability to turn film stills and portraiture into something more than glossy magazine covers. A good font, better concept, and a fearless desire to depict tonality above celebrity goes a long way and it appears studios are finally willing to take the risk and choose their marketing materials accordingly.

Honorable Mentions

#15: SnowpiercerSnowpiercer #14: The DoubleThe Double
Empire Design
#13: Blue RuinBlue Ruin
#12: Venus in FurVenus in Fur
Gravillis Inc.
#11: Men, Women & ChildrenMen, Women & Children
BLT Communications, LLC

Calvary #10

I find something truly captivating about posters mimicking their own medium or at the very least utilizing it as a feature of itself rather than merely the canvas upon which it lies. This dark, brooding one-sheet depicting a contemplative Brendan Gleeson looking off into the distance does exactly that. Little more than a portrait on its surface, the bullet holes ensure we’re aware the image is nothing but a paper representation—a target standing in for the real thing. The orientation of the frayed-edged holes speaks to his spirituality, as the absence of what used to be foreshadows his potential end.

Fury #09
BLT Communications, LLC

Another tumultuous sky arrives with more melancholy and despair thanks to Brad Pitt‘s solemn stare downwards to hide the pain in his eyes. A brilliant use of empty space, the white text at top is visible for us to read but never-overshadow the mood on display. There’s no need for a title font when you can integrate it directly into the scene and there’s even less necessity for a group of characters when one’s defeated gaze is enough to portray the horrors of war his movie promises to show. The silence is deafening.

Mr. Turner #08
Mr. Turner

Unlike the previous two sets of squinting eyes, Timothy Spall‘s pierce through the page with a ferocity of creation straight past us and into the ether of whatever new image he’s about to paint. The poster might actually be just as effective if we could see his full body poised to lay down that first stroke of pigment, but the swath of color concealing everything but those eyes makes it all the more dramatic. Its sense of space with the viewer puts us in his presence a few steps away and his kinetic act appears coiled to move despite its being frozen in time.

Son of God #07
Son of God
Gravillis Inc.

A daring piece I’d be surprised to learn was displayed at any US multiplex, its dirtily scrawled aesthetic is less the draw than its juxtaposition against the content it’s meant to convey. A condensed version of a well-regarded TV-movie, you’d expect the advertising to put “sexy Jesus” front and center with a smile that says, “Follow me to Heaven.” Instead we receive an acid bath nightmare of suffering on the cross, a controversial conversation piece of stunning beauty for a glossy epic pared down to fleece Catholics of ticket revenue despite most having already experienced its unedited tale on cable.

Inherent Vice #06
Inherent Vice
Dustin Stanton

What better way to portray an adaptation of a pulpy, hallucinatory detective romp than the bright neon lights of big city sex appeal? It’s a perfect illustration from the smooth legs bent towards the sky to the florescent glow of the logotype virtually shimmering in its inconsistent current of electricity to illuminate its otherworldly look into the paranoid mind of Doc Sportello. The way the feet frame the text is fantastic, but it’s the color scheme that truly sets this design apart. An aura of sunset ushers in its evening escapades while also marking the transition from drab reality to drug-fueled adventure.

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