The Review/ Feature/
The 25 Best Movie Posters of 2017
FilmArt's Craig Caron gathers his favourite posters of the year in a series of completely arbitrary categories
As the curtain comes down on 2017, we asked FilmArt writer Craig Caron to gather some of his favourite posters from the year. With any such list, themes and trends tend to emerge, so he suggested “What better way to present this as a bunch of completely arbitrary categories?”
Some of these films appeared at festivals in 2016, and some won’t see a wide release until next year. 2017 boasted an embarrassment of riches, so a lot of very fine work was almost certainly omitted or overlooked — if you think we’ve made a glaring oversight, be sure to let us know on Twitter or Facebook.
The Best Poster of 2017
TIFF programmer Giovanna Fulvi described Vivian Qu's Angels Wear White as "at once luminous and dark,” which is an equally apt description for this teaser poster for the film from HuangHai (a.k.a. Ahi), one of China’s most celebrated designers.
Best Use of Colour
Many fans feared Kiwi director Taika Waititi’s offbeat sensibility would be swallowed up by the Marvel Studios house style when he signed on to direct Thor: Ragnarok. This trippy one-sheet by Lindemann Associates did a lot to quell those fears. (Plus it’s got Goldblum dead centre!)
Runner-up: I have not seen the Jackie Chan film Railroad Tigers, but this poster has convinced me that I should.
Best Black & White Poster
Midnight Marauder produced this note-perfect throwback one-sheet for Bruce McDonald’s ’70s-set road movie Weirdos.
Runner-up: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Festival hit Loveless (opening at TIFF Bell Lightbox on February 23).
Best Use of a Limited Colour Palette
A tip of the hat to German agency Propaganda B for this pair of posters for Andres Veiel's documentary about sculptor/performance artist Joseph Beuys.
Best Use of a Typeface
While I’m not sure how much work this poster is doing for anyone unfamiliar with Tommy Wiseau’s original movie, kudos to A24 for sticking with The Room's use of the Revue typeface on this teaser for The Disaster Artist.
Runner-up: This use of the Blippo font on the biopic Nico, 1988. The film still alone doesn’t suggest much, but when paired with this font, its subject is revealed.
Best Exploitation of Christian Iconography
What better way to sum up the profane comedy The Little Hours than with this star-studded stained glass?
Best Close Crop of Eyes in the Top Third of a Poster
A couple of the campaigns for two of this year’s best documentaries coincidentally took advantage of the same very effective visual device. The choice between these two is as close a call as any on this list, but Gravillis Inc’s confrontational set for Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated I Am Not Your Negro slightly edges out Kristin Bye’s poster for Vanessa Gould's Obit.
Best Application of a Film Still
Sometimes the choice of a brilliant film still does all the work, and other times a designer can elevate an otherwise unassuming image to a place of brilliance. While both of the stills below are at least somewhat interesting on their own, the introduction of text intensifies them and adds a narrative, especially in the case of Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow.
Runner-up: InSync Plus' poster for the apocalyptic horror flick It Comes At Night.
Strangest Use of a Film Still
It’s unclear why the Italian distributor of A Fantastic Woman seems to have chosen to market Sebastián Lelio’s drama as a comedy, but they sure found a great still for the job.
Runner-up: I know people really liked Florence Pugh’s dark gaze on the North American art for Lady Macbeth, but give me this Korean poster any day.
Each of the posters for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water has focused on the same image of the film’s protagonist embracing a mer-creature. Though it’s since been replaced by an image from the film itself, there’s something special about this understated teaser, which employed the talents of James Jean.
Best UK Quad
British cinemas are some of the only venues in the world to regularly use landscape-oriented posters, spawning a long legacy of “UK quads” that frequently outshine their vertical siblings. Joining this proud fraternity is Andrew Bannister’s vibrant collage for Rungano Nyoni’s tragicomic I Am Not a Witch.
Runner-up: This quad by oink takes advantage of the extra horizontal space to really sell the restoration of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer.
Best Use of an Adorable Cast
I don’t know much about Paddington Bear, but I do know I’m going to see Paddington 2 thanks to Empire Design’s poster of him eating a marmalade sandwich shaped like a “2”!
Runner-up: It’s hard to believe that the Istanbulian cat on Fred Davis’ poster for Kedi had this honour stolen from it, but again: the bear is eating a sandwich shaped like a “2”!
Another year, another glut of mermaid films. Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s The Lure sure took its time coming to theatres, but when it finally did it came paired with this grimy work by Sam Spratt.
Runner-up: this subaqueous feat by one of the real-life mermaids from Canadian doc Mermaids.
A trend that’s emerged in the last few years is for studios to prepare exclusive artwork for a blockbuster’s IMAX release. Set in the era of the Vietnam War, Kong: Skull Island used its IMAX poster (designed by Little Giant Studios) to pay tribute to one of the most enduring films about that conflict, Apocalypse Now, and its iconic poster by artist Bob Peak.
Runner-up: Though it doesn’t directly allude to any particular work, thanks to an illustration by Tony Stella Midnight Marauder’s So Help Me God looks like it came to us from another era altogether.
Best Aloof Gaze
From Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird to Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone, many of the year’s best one-sheets had their protagonist staring off at some unseen obstacle. (Count the author of this piece among the guilty parties with this poster for Lina Rodriguez’s Mañana a esta hora). In this post describing some of his process working on Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, designer Diego Berakha reveals that almost every concept had the film eponymous protagonist (played by Daniel Gimenez Cacho) staring off at something or other.
Runner-up: This was a close call. P + A’s poster for Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled almost took this award with not one but three(!) ominous gazes.
Best Downplaying of Star Power
In an interview with FilmArt earlier this year, designer Vasilis Marmatakis credited The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s distributors as being “quite brave” to bring the film to market with “just a tiny Colin Farell, without Nicole Kidman.”
Runner-up: Considering that John Carroll Lynch's Lucky was hailed as a celebration of its recently deceased star Harry Dean Stanton, it’s an equally brave choice for Magnolia Pictures to have used this image of a faceless, underwear-clad, spindly-legged Stanton for their poster.
Best Long Shot
Taking the idea above to its logical conclusion, Studio B O N D’s teaser for James Gray’s The Lost City of Z is pretty much the antithesis of floating head syndrome. Stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller are nowhere to be found: instead, this teaser aims to suggest the scale of the wearying journey into the Amazonian interior that the film's characters endure.
Runner-up: Another close call. Studio B O N D seems to have embraced this idea a couple of times this year: their poster for the TIFF ‘17 People’s Choice Award winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri captures both the levity (type) and the seriousness (image) of Martin McDonagh’s film.
Runner-up: None. Nothing even comes close to The Snowman.
Best Motion Poster
Digital billboards and bus shelter screens are occupying more and more of our public space. In theory this should provide advertisers with an arena to create some truly engaging and magical things with a moving image, but few digital movie posters really add much to their flat counterparts. Not so with this amazing Atomic Blonde poster from Lindemann Associates, which piles on the hype for the best action scene of the year (sorry, John Wick: Chapter Two). Like the scene itself, this poster is exhausting in all the best ways.
Runner-up: Of course, the world would be a vulgar place indeed if every bus shelter were so effusive. As most of the work on this list illustrates, understatement is a virtue, and it is expertly exhibited in this second Lindemann motion poster for Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, which uses subtle animation to create a crumbling portrait of star Jennifer Lawrence.
Best Mondo Poster
For the past decade, Austin-based Mondo has created a cottage industry commissioning and selling original art based on pop culture, including alternate artwork for first-run films that, unsurprisingly, often outshines their official counterparts. Case in point: Brian Stauffer’s lambent take on Ingrid Goes West.
Runner-up: This alternate poster by Mondo artist Akiko Sterehnberger for Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is refreshingly far afield of the one-sheets distributed by US distributor NEON.
Netflix’s user interface doesn’t exactly lend itself to great poster design, so it’s nice that the company is endeavouring to create memorable artwork for some of their original films, such as this face-melter for Gaga: Five Foot Two. Director Chris Moukarbel discovered and tapped artist drømsjel via Instagram to create an “iconic piece of key art” for the film. Mission accomplished.
Runner-up: That’s an unrecognizable Mark Hamill up top as a sinister sun god in the Lonely Island-produced oddity Brigsby Bear.
Best Food Callbacks
Both of these posters reference specific (yet very different) uses of food in their respective films. While neither of these is an official poster — the Call Me By Your Name is a work of fan art by Raph Lumbroso, while the Get Out was a limited release by artist Jay Shaw for Mondo — both warrant full marks.
Best Character Poster Set
The “character poster” — i.e., creating individual posters for a number of a film’s main characters — is another marketing tactic that’s grown in popularity in recent years. Expectedly, many of the big tentpole blockbusters of 2017 rolled out character posters (e.g., Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, the Star Wars posters above), but a few smaller films used the tactic to introduce their quirky casts, including Empire Design’s flashy ten-pack for Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire.
It was a great year for fans of the classics, so it’s perhaps a little unfair to pit all the year’s re-releases against one another, but one piece of art truly outshone the competition. Top marks to Borys Tarasenko for this piece celebrating Predator’s 30th Anniversary.
Runners-up: Francine Spiegel & Dylan Haley,* Kill Baby Kill* re-release poster (Kino Lorber); Manuele Fior, The Marseille Trilogy re-release poster (Janus Films); Monterey Pop re-release poster (Janus Films); Maurice re-release poster (Cohen Media); Dylan Haley, Steamboat Bill Jr. re-release poster (Kino Lorber); Tamas Horvath, Stalker re-release poster (Janus Films); Adrian Curry, The Sacrifice re-release poster (Kino Lorber); Sean Phillips, Rawhead Rex re-release poster (Kino Lorber).