50 Best Movie Posters of the Decade so Far
I love movie posters. I’ve had them littering my wall since middle school, and I’m always impressed when a studio takes a chance on a design that isn’t a floating head or a blue/orange color scheme. Too often, studios play it safe, but when they go outside the box, they can come up with something you want to take out of the multiplex and bring home. It not only sells the film; it elevates the film by mere association.
With the help of the exhaustive IMP Awards archives, I went through thousands of studio released posters (meaning no Mondo or other boutique posters) and whittled it down to the fifty I thought were the best. These posters played with art style, perspective, or just went above and beyond in some way that was clever, daring, and unforgettable. Every film on this list may not be great, but it definitely had a great poster.
Just try to ignore the “From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan” at the bottom and you have a very cool, very aggressive image that does a good job selling a film that has no stars.
49.) Sound of My Voice
This one may get a little too deep into the film its promoting at the cost of alienating those who don’t get the reference, but it looks nothing like any other poster out there, and that’s enough to get you wanting more.
48.) The Visit
Again, you kind of have to block the “M. Night Shaymalan” part, but there really aren’t enough posters done in the style of needlepoint.
Parody posters rarely work, but they’re pretty successful when you A) feature an adorable kitten; and B) It actually ties into the plot of the movie. While Key & Peele may not be trying to get their kitten back from Mars, they’re trying to get it back, and that’s good enough for me.
46.) The Martian
This thoughtful design shows that Mars not only occupies Mark Watney’s mind; it’s also his prison.
45.) The Master
Using a Rorschach test is a clever way to show the mind games present in Paul Thomas Anderson’s thoughtful film about a manipulative false prophet.
44.) Rise of the Planet of the Apes
While I’m not really a big fan of posters that don’t have the title of the movie, here I’ll make an exception because here it cleverly plays into the imagery of the beloved original film to pitch the reboot.
43.) The Devil's Double
If you were walking by this, you would have to stop and look twice. The gaudy, saturated gold demands the viewer’s attention and makes he or she want to know more.
42.) The Cabin in the Woods
While it may not have the punchy taglines of earlier posters for the film (“If you hear a strange sound outside…have sex.”), this poster does a great job of teasing the mystery of the film rather than playing on horror beats. Its how you sell subversion in a single image.
41.) 127 Hours
This poster wins points for sheer cleverness. I went for years without spotting that this is an hourglass.
40.) Queen of Earth
Elisabeth Moss has certainly looked better, but these portraits turn her face into a haunting visage that makes you curious to know more about the film.
A dynamic image that makes terrific use of motion as well as perspective to make Jackie Robinson’s movement come off as both triumphant and exhilarating.
Clever Satanic imagery aside (although some might find it misleading since the horror stories in the film are more generalized rather than Satanic-themed), it’s also nice that they went with a five-sided piece of horror imagery considering there are five stories in this solid horror anthology.
Another word you could put on this poster is “provocative” and if you needed another, “fetishistic” would do. It’s a daring use of perspective, flesh, and it demands your attention.
36.) Finders Keepers
Credit to the designer here for finding a funny way to tell the film’s central conflict, which is about the fight over a severed leg.
35.) The Heat
A nice throwback style action poster, this looks like it belongs on the cover of a bootleg VHS box, which only adds to the overall charm of the poster.
34.) Inside Llewyn Davis
In addition to smartly evoking folk playbills, this poster for Inside Llewyn Davis gets bonus points for sneaking the cat’s eye into the guitar.
Sometimes a good poster is just good photography, and this poster for Fury makes terrific use of negative space and color to sell the tone of the film.
32.) I Am Big Bird
It’s such a sweet, simple, yet effective image that makes you want to know more about the man behind the big, yellow bird.
Leave it to Deadpool to parody marketing in general. If you’re going to sell your R-rated superhero action film in a different genre, you may as well do a complete 180 and play up the Valentine’s Day release date.
30.) Bone Tomahawk
This is a haunting bit of artwork that also has a nice throwback quality to it. If you could call a movie poster “rustic”, this would fit the description.
I’m a sucker for Saul Bass-inspired designs, and in addition to being a bit of a callback to Anatomy of a Murder, the poster for Buried has the benefit of creating a neat optical illusion.
28.) Conan the Barbarian
If this were anything less than Conan standing atop a mountain of skulls, it would be a failure. Instead, it’s exactly what it should be. It’s a shame the film isn’t half as badass as this image.
27.) The Conjuring
A brilliantly creepy poster in more ways than one. Be honest: did you notice the shadow beneath the noose the first time you saw this poster?
26.) How to Survive a Plague
It may be a very simple image, but the paper dolls become a symbol of men standing together to fight against the rise of HIV, and the spare use of red hammers home the effectiveness.
Like the film it’s selling, this poster says, “Hey, here’s something you never thought to be afraid of until now, and now you’ll be afraid of it forever. You’re welcome.”
24.) Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
This striking piece of art does a terrific job blending the film’s imagery from the videotape that launches Kumiko on her quest to the disparate locales she visits.
23.) Spring Breakers
I like the juxtaposition of the playful and the dangerous, and it hints at the insanity of Harmony Korine‘s bizarre crime picture.
There were so many great Godzilla posters that it was tough to pick just one, but ultimately I went with the one that kept the King of the Monsters hidden from the front, kept his sense of scale, and utilized a bold color scheme.
21.) How to Train Your Dragon
While most of the posters for the film opted for something sweet or comical, the best poster borrowed from one of the best moments of the film, which is when Hiccup touches Toothless’ face for the first time and their friendship is cemented.
20.) Kingsman: The Secret Service
This clean, neat design captures the film’s cheeky sense of humor and crisply packages what we love about spy films into one closet.
19.) Let Me In
This poster wonderfully combines both the innocence of its protagonists while also showing her utter brutality. Although she’s a vampire, she’s not too far off from an angel of death.
18.) We Need to Talk about Kevin
While I’m sure it would have been tempting to put the Oscar-winner front and center on this poster, the designers wisely went for conveying the psychological discomfort of Lynne Ramsay’s film.
17.) Young Adult
You never notice how standardized something like young adult books are until something like this poster comes along to point it out and then subvert it.
16.) It Follows
I love a good throwback poster, and this one feels like it could have come straight from the 1980s. However, it also sells the film’s central paranoia about the “It” that continues to be one step behind the terrified teenagers.
15.) Only God Forgives
Another great piece of artwork that helps put you in the trippy headspace director Nicolas Winding Refn likes to send his audience.
14.) Hobo with a Shotgun
I love a poster that’s as grimy, gritty, and filthy as the film it’s promoting, and this one perfectly matches Jason Eisener’s bonkers 2011 action film.
13.) Jodorowsky's Dune
Hey, if the artists for Mondo do a brilliant poster for your movie, why not make it the official artwork? Few documentaries get posters this badass.
12.) The Kings of Summer
There were multiple posters for The Kings of Summer, but none of them captured the triumphant joy conveyed in this illustration. It’s vibrant, it’s verdant, and it makes you want to rush outside and play.
11.) Hitman: Agent 47
It may be an awful film, but the posters for Hitman: Agent 47 featured some stellar design work. This one in particular takes Agent 47’s signature red necktie and turns it into a backdrop.
10.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
If only all posters had this attention to detail. This is just great art, period, and I wish this designer would take on more films.
9.) Red Army
When you look at this poster, you’re left to wonder, how could they do anything less than artwork based on Soviet style propaganda?
8.) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
It’s hard to think of the Burj Khalifa as minimal anything, but it makes for a great piece of minimalist artwork when turned into a fuse.
7.) Man of Steel
This poster just makes you feel good about Superman. He’s punching the sky, but without violence. There’s no mistaking him for a bird or a plane, but this red blur is absolutely glorious.
6.) The Social Network
Far too many posters do the giant text over the face, but The Social Network did it before it got tired, and it did with a cool use of typography, layout, and Jesse Eisenberg‘s enigmatic expression.
This poster not only conveyed the film’s Japanese setting through art style, but it also showed that Wolverine is an icon and at this point we don’t need to see his face; we know his image by heart.
4.) You're Next
This is a poster I would love to hang on my wall and just stare at it. It’s got a great level of detail, plays up the creepy masks, and shows off that the film is a home invasion thriller.
3.) Willow Creek
It’s a bigfoot made out of screams. How can anyone not love this poster?
2.) Killing Them Softly
Talk about a ballsy poster. It shoots the Statue of Liberty–one of America’s proudest symbols–and splatters her brains all over the paper. And to be fair, that’s the tone of the movie.
1.) Black Swan
This gorgeous poster makes use of a striking color palette and also slyly represents its protagonist’s shattered psyche. It was part of a terrific set of artistic posters, but this is the best of bunch.