The Best Movie Posters of 2011

1. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES

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. 

2. THE TRIP

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).

3. SHIT YEAR

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. 

4. SUPER

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.

5. EAMES: THE ARCHITECT AND THE PAINTER

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.

6. L’AMOUR FOU

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).

7. BURNING MAN

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.

8. MELANCHOLIA

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).

9. DRIVE

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.

10. BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK

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.

Responses

19 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • --------

    Fantastique collection. Thanks Adrian, and a Happy New Year!

  • Edwin N

    I believe the rest of your 25 favorite posters are better than your actual top ten , and especially We Bought A Zoo , The Tree of Life and Th Black Mix Tapes. Also , I find Shame’s poster to be extremely efficient

  • Mark Walker

    Drive’s pink little font fits sweet for those of us who have memories of the 80’s set Grand Theft Auto: Vice City games/phenomenon with which Refn must be familiar…

    Great collection though and the Chris Ware poster is beautiful. I love him.

  • Graeme Higginson

    This is really cool.

  • Narain Jashanmal

    Thanks for putting all of these together on one page.

    While I agree that Michael Gillette’s work on the Bond books was fantastic, I can’t agree with you on the poster for “Shit Year” – is it a great poserter if one can’t even read the title? It reads more like “Dirt Year”…the running paint effect is lovely though.

    Agree with Edwin that “Shame” is particularly effective.

    “Burning Man” is pretty awesome too.

    Actually bought an “Urbanized” poster immediately as I really loved it.

    Can’t say that “Uncle Boonmee” does anything for me, but maybe that’s due to the fact that I found the film to be a snoozefest…

    Great to see so many non traditional posters and some real work going in to these.

    Who said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?

  • Uli Cain, Cinefidel¹³

    I think the Winnie the Pooh poster is just classic and perfect, It should have been higher on your list in my estimation, but a great list nonetheless

  • João BotaDouro

    I love the Apichatpong´s “Uncle Bonmee…” poster, but I prefer the portuguese poster off the same film. Usually the films have several diferent posters …

  • ecostantini

    Melancholia is not only one of the best films of the year, i love the poster !!!

  • willythesalesman

    I can’t believe how good the poster looks for I saw the devil, considering how I really didn’t like the film

  • Imani Hill

    I love the winne the poo Poster ! It looks so funny and cute! then I love The Innkeeper poster! I looks really cool! o both of them Got my vote

  • Ouibonjour

    The other 25 posters are better than your top 10!

  • ibee

    Shit Year and Super are my favorites.

  • norton straub

    Great list. The Melancholia one is lovely but a bit Pre-Raphael lite.

  • Trip Hazard

    3. SHIT YEAR

    Great list but maybe an acknowledgement of Edward Bell’s cover artwork for David Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters and Super Creeps’ would be in order here?

  • Danny

    Shame’s poster says it all…..=}

  • Rupert Pupkin

    Cool List :)

  • Brian Oakes

    Great list Adrian! Totally agree about the Burning Man Poster. Such an arresting image and sad to see it wasn’t the release. I’ve seen this happen to many original (usually film festival) posters that get totally bastardized when the studios get a hold of them. Have to disagree on the DRIVE poster though. Take Gosling off that poster and it’s run-of-the-mill I think. And I would have to say the typography on THE INNKEEPERS is just brilliant. I grew up in New England with a lot of bed and breakfasts and these guys just nailed it. Very nice and thanks for the post!

  • Alain

    Great collection. And Martha Marcy May Marlene is on my top 10 movies this year. Amazing film.

  • gukbe2000

    While not as well known as these other films, the poster for the 2011 indie flick “The Night Shift” had a great throwback style. It’s viewable at the film’s site: http://www.thenightshiftmovie.com/poster.html

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