The Best Movie Posters of 2023

Our movie poster columnist unveils his favorite designs of the year.
Adrian Curry

In the comments section of last year’s Best Movie Posters of the Year I got a nice shoutout from an unexpected and most welcome source: the Alhambra Cinema in Keswick, in England’s Lake District. Built in 1913, the Alhambra is apparently the sixth oldest continuously-running cinema in the UK. I’ve been writing introductions to these annual Movie Poster of the Year roundups for fifteen years and so I am quite happy to cede the floor this year to the good folks at the Alhambra, because who better to talk about movie poster design than the people who run one of the cinemas that rely on it?

Excellent choices and all great posters. For our cinema in the Lake District, the five quads we have outside make a big difference. When a poster is truly impactful, it definitely draws people in (I would only have added “The Duke and “South” to your list on that basis). We are frequently astonished at how bad posters can be; the distributors seem to often demote poster design to low importance, which we believe is an appalling error given how much is invested in the films further up the production process. All too often they are recessive, dark, dingy, or the designer couldn’t work out that less is more and covers them in copy that is unreadable to the person glancing at them in passing. Truly astonishing given that any designer ought to know how to make an impact given the distance viewed from and time for viewing. Final thought is that when we display posters next to each other we’re often disappointed that we are showcasing a wall of men. It’s a delight when there’s more diversity. Raising a New Year’s glass of bubbles to all good poster designers—thank you!

I couldn’t have said it better myself. So with that in mind, and hoping that this year’s selections live up to the Alhambra’s high standards, here, in order, are my favorite movie posters of 2023.

1. De Humani Corporis Fabrica

This simple, elegant, yet mildly disturbing poster for Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s body odyssey doc De Humani Corporis Fabrica manages to both encapsulate and stand in stark contrast to the messy, gory, colorful film it is promoting. And that’s what makes it a perfect entry point to a film that you could easily be put off seeing by much of its imagery. The poster is designed by Midnight Marauder, who is no stranger to readers of this column, and MM is certainly a proponent of and an expert practitioner of the “less is more” philosophy, as well as a master of typography. The poster was unveiled in March of this year, ten months after the film’s Cannes premiere. Just last month Posteritati revealed seven of MM’s unused comp designs and one alternative layout of the above, all of which are equally stunning, but I think Grasshopper, the film’s distributor, made the right choice with this baby.

2. The Zone of Interest

After quoting the Alhambra’s objection to the “dark” and “dingy,” I realize that I have kicked things off with two of the blackest posters of the year. In fact as you scroll down Neil Kellerhouse’s poster for Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, all you see at first is a black square. But then trees and a beautiful bucolic garden come into view. And people at a garden party. Yet look closely and you’ll also see a concrete wall topped with barbed wire, as if the black sky hadn’t already warned you that something was wrong with this garden of Eden. Just as Glazer had to visualize the obscene dichotomy of the privileged life of a concentration camp commandant’s family living on the other side of the wall from Auschwitz (originally imagined by my favorite writer Martin Amis, who died, shockingly, on the day of the film’s Cannes premiere), Kellerhouse had to encapsulate it in a single image, and his dark sky tells you all you need to know. You almost don’t need the barbed wire wall. But it’s there.

3. They Cloned Tyrone

If ever a poster leapt out of the screen or off the wall this year it is this one for the sci-fi comedy conspiracy thriller They Cloned Tyrone. Everything from the yellow background, its hyper-realist illustrations by ace Marvel artist Mike Thompson, and its dizzying spiral of faces, to that introductory “Damn...” screams look at me in the best way. Netflix and design studio GrandSon went all out with the posters for this film, also producing these three character posters below for which designer Sister Hyde brilliantly constructed the faces of John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx out of hundreds (thousands?) of tiny cloned versions of the same. (Bonus: I love to see good poster art get reused in unexpected ways, as it is here.)

4. Poor Things

So far there have been not one but three posters designed by the legend that is Vasilis Marmatakis for Yorgos Lanthimos’s outlandish fable Poor Things. Best known for his brilliant study in absence, The Lobster, Marmatakis has been making posters for Lanthimos since 2009's Dogtooth. Of the three Poor Things posters this is my favorite, though seen on a phone screen it might come across as a simple close-up of Emma Stone with smudged make-up. Look closer and those smudges are recognizably the men who use and abuse her on her picaresque journey: Ramy Youssef, Willem Dafoe and, looking like a mouse dangling from a cat’s mouth, Mark Ruffalo. Title lettering by Vladimir Radibratovic.

5. R.M.N.

It was a treat to see another movie poster illustrated by Javi Aznarez, the Spanish artist who created the magazine covers seen in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, as well as a slew of posters for the film which made my top ten in both 2020 and 2021. If I had had to guess where Aznarez’s work would pop up again I would not have imagined a poster for the new film by the Romanian auteur Cristian Mungiu, but it actually makes perfect sense. R.M.N., the story of prejudice and distrust in a small Transylvanian village, is as full of distinct characters as an Ealing Comedy (or a Wes Anderson film) and they are all here in Aznarez’s tableau (which better suits the horizontal quad format than the upright one sheet), from the owner of the bread factory to the craven local priest, and from the patronizing French aid worker to the poor Sri Lankan bakers whose arrival precipitates the crisis of the film. If you look closer, there may also be a spoiler, or a clue, to the film’s mysterious conclusion.

6. Cinémondes Film Festival

Cheating a little here, because this is a poster for a film festival rather than a film. It is designed and illustrated by the brilliant young Polish poster artist Aleksander Walijewski, whose most memorable work distorts, bifurcates and opens up human heads with surreal invention (ones mind boggles at the thought of what he would have done with the De Humani poster). The intact human heads in the Cinémondes poster however come from Fred Wiseman’s documentary masterpiece Welfare (1975) and that makes this a de facto fan poster for the kind of film that never gets fan art but which definitely should. (Bonus points for Walijewski also having designed the exquisite title treatment and the multi-colored, multi-font title cards for Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool this year.)

7. Touched and Our Body

Bodies, bodies, bodies. These two posters—one for a German drama, the other for a French documentary—are so beautiful that I could have selected either but they go together so well that I would be foolish not to recognize both. Touched was painted by Elisabeth Moch and designed by Julie Gayard, while Our Body was painted by Leah Goren and designed by Brian Hung. Both use watercolor so elegantly and type so deftly, and their soft, bleeding colors stand out in stark contrast to almost every other movie poster out there.

8. Typhoon Club

And talking of Brian Hung, anyone who reads this column knows I’ve been celebrating Brian’s designs for the past few years (in fact, his Riotsville USA poster topped my list last year). While Hung continued to produce lovely posters for the films of Hong Sang-soo this year, with designs for Walk Up and In Water, it was Our Body and Typhoon Club that I really fell in love with. Brian started out mostly collaging photographic images and type in very clever ways, but with this poster for Cinema Guild’s reissue of Shinji Somai’s cult 1985 apocalyptic high school drama he moves effortlessly into illustrating and hand-lettering. I also love that his drawings were recreated as a set of buttons.

9. The Disappearance of Shere Hite

Further to the Alhambra’s comment that “when we display posters next to each other we’re often disappointed that we are showcasing a wall of men,” I’m happy to say that women appear in almost every poster on this list (except the first and the last) but, along with Touched and Our Body, the most femme-centric of all would have to be Akiko Stehrenberger’s poster for Nicole Newnham’s documentary about the life and work of legendary sexologist and feminist Shere Hite. Akiko brilliantly obfuscates her own poster beneath swathes of semen-like white-out, hinting at the chauvinistic hostility and censorship Hite endured during her career and her ultimate erasure from public consciousness. Beyond the title, credits and quotes, just the occasional word or two of Hite’s typed text is visible, but since Hite is so little-known these days (which is one of the points of the documentary) those words tell you a little of what you need to know about her and at the same time make you want to know more.

10. The Whale

I know, The Whale seems like old news by now, doesn’t it? After it made its tear-streaked debut at the 2022 Venice Film Festival last year it seemed to be all anyone could talk about and it rode that wave of sentimental enthusiasm all the way to Brendan Fraser’s Oscar win. But when A24 released the film in theaters last December they did so with a very unremarkable poster, as if the back-from-the-wilderness hype machine was all they needed. Since then I have seen three alternative posters—none of which made their debuts until early 2023—each of which would have made a much more suitable and eye-catching choice. The official alt poster for the film (in the center) was drawn by James Jean, who painted my favorite poster of 2017 for Darren Aronofsky’s previous film, mother!, and if A24 had released this as the official poster last year it would have hands down been my favorite poster of 2022. I love the way Jean fills his frame with Fraser’s face and his beautiful Dürer-esque cross-hatching, proof yet again that, despite the prevailing wisdom, big heads in movie posters are not always a bad thing. The other two posters are the German release poster (artist TBD) on the left, and a lovely piece of fan art from two very talented Croatian artists Sara Kern Gacesa (who did the painting) and Neven Udovicic (who did the lettering). (Note also that, bringing things full circle, half of Sara and Neven’s poster is just a swathe of black, just like Kellerhouse’s poster for The Zone of Interest.)

10 Runners-Up (in no particular order beyond an aesthetic one)

Runner-up posters above designed or illustrated, where known, by Akiko Stehrenberger (Biosphere), Brandon Schaefer (Totem), Jasmin Siddiqui and Gus Deardoff (Story Ave), Sayana Khomonova (The Cord of Life), Grier Dill (Once Within a Time), Maria Jesús Contreras (The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future), AV Print (The Holdovers), Bianca Moran Parkes (Anatomy of a Fall) and Andrew Bannister (Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande).

You can see my all previous Best of the Year posts here: 2022; 2021; 2020; 2019; 2018; 2017, 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009. And if you’re new to this site, do check out my regular (if not always weekly) Movie Poster of the Week columns on Notebook, and my daily Movie Poster of the Day posts on Instagram.

Many thanks to the Keswick Alhambra and a glass of bubbles to all!

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Movie Poster of the WeekColumnsBest of 2023Midnight MarauderNeil KellerhouseMike ThompsonSister HydeVasilis MarmatakisJavi AznarezAleksander WalijewskiElisabeth MockJulie GayardLeah GorenBrian HungAkiko StehrenbergerJames JeanSara Kern GacesaNeven Udovicic
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