The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Adrian Curry selects his favorite new movie posters of the year, from Boonmee to Bill.
Adrian Curry


Back in February I called Chris Ware’s poster “definitely an early contender for the best of 2011” and eight months later nothing has come close in terms of ingenuity, beauty and sheer graphic skill. It’s fitting that Uncle Boonmee was also one of the year’s best films. Read all about it here. 


Not the official poster for Michael Winterbottom’s foodie road trip, nor even the wonderful teaser poster which channelled Vik Muniz in a couple of dirty plates, but one of eight strikingly varied and witty alternative posters designed by Mojo, for what purpose I’m not entirely sure. All of them were terrific—you can see them here—and I’m ranking them second for the collective effort, but my favorite was this take on the great 1932 Dubonnet posters of A.M. Cassandre (whose Triplex poster also featured prominently on the wall of Gare Montparnasse in Scorsese’s Hugo).


Somehow I missed this when Cam Archer’s film opened in New York in September and only came across it the other day. Designed by Welsh-born, San Francisco-based illustrator Michael Gillette, who also designed the poster for Archer’s 2006 film Wild Tigers I Have Known, this black and white watercolor, with its sad clown Barkin, tearful ink drips and scrawled lettering, is the most perfect melding of title and image I’ve seen all year. Whereas the Boonmee poster teases the ineffable mystery of its subject, this one says it all. Gillette, like Ware, is a major talent. I’m not sure if he’s done any other movie posters but he has been justly feted for a fabulous series of Bond girl book covers for Penguin. 


I always liked the Rainn Wilson version of the Super poster, which I wrote about back in March in relation to many lesser variations on the photo/cartoon trend; but it was discovering its sister design that sealed the deal for me. They make a beautiful pair. Like The Trip, these also came from the house of Mojo.


The film, while fascinating, is standard issue American Masters, but it would have been sacrilege to produce an ordinary poster for a film about America’s greatest designer duo. I don’t know who created it*—I’d like to think that it was one of Eames’s former colleagues—but its use of type (love the block serif title) and composition is faultless, connecting a charming portrait of Charles and Ray with snippets of their greatest hits and giving the whole thing a nice mid-century modern feel.

*I’ve since found out that the poster was designed by New York studio Brian Oakes Design.


Designed by Michael Boland (creator of many fine Criterion covers) for Pierre Thoretton’s documentary about Yves Saint-Laurent and his long-time partner Pierre Bergé, this poster forgoes fashion, and YSL’s creations, for the elegant simplicity of a portrait photograph and some rather lovely hand-lettering. Simple, yes, but one only has to look at the original French poster to see how Boland dramatically improved it both graphically and thematically for the US release (though Bergé himself may not agree). Coincidentally, the famous YSL logo was designed by A.M. Cassandre, 30 years after Dubonnet (see above).


My rule for the Best Posters of the Year tends to be that they have to be posters for films released in the U.S. this year, but since I have no idea if Burning Man will ever be released here, I’m bending the rule for a film released in Australia in 2011. I wrote about Jeremy Saunders’ stunning teaser design here. Far preferable to the eventual release poster.


Sometimes elegant type over a beautiful photo is all that’s needed. Designed by Gravillis Inc. who produced another great poster this year—The Black Power Mixtape—by judiciously placing serif type over a stunning photo (see runners-up), and their alternative Melancholia poster is equally fine. (Gravillis can also take credit for two more runners-up, The Innkeepers and I Saw the Devil).


I wasn’t sure about this poster when I first saw it but it has grown on me with the slow burn of a Ryan Gosling stare. The sticking point for me, and for many, was the pink script title treatment which is supposed to evoke 80s movies but just never seemed quite right for either the era or for the film. Even if it did have a certain 80s feel it seemed more suited to a sorority house flick than a moody thriller. (It looks especially wrong in this version). But I love the film and with the passage of time that pink cursive, coupled with the Hey Girl photo (that ray of light, that black glove), has since assumed a certain rightness, making it my favorite mainstream poster of the year.


OK, so I am not one to blow my own trumpet, at least not in this forum, but this poster, which I had a hand in, has a special place in my heart and if these are my favorite posters of the year then this is definitely one. Exactly one year ago I was putting the finishing touches on this design, which was a collaboration with director Richard Press and, in spirit at any rate, with Bill Cunningham himself, whose “On the Streets” column for The New York Times this pays homage to. I can’t take credit for the ensuing popularity of the grid layout in 2011 (incorporated into both Tree of Life and Eames) but maybe Bill can. For those of us who worked on the film, 2011 was definitely the year of Bill and I was very happy to see my design reproduced on tote bags and popcorn bags.

Below are the rest of my 25 favorite posters of the year, in a purely aesthetic order.

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