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Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

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Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Honorable Mention

The Devil’s Double: Boasting the year’s best monochromatic design is this glossy, tacky beaut for The Devil’s Double, the star-making Dominic Cooper vehicle about Uday Hussein (Cooper) and his Iraqi-soldier doppelgänger (also Cooper). Littered with machine gun shells and coated entirely in gold, the poster evokes both the glorious, violent excess of Scarface and the opulence of the Middle East’s corrupt power elite, all the while looking like a gaudy bauble you’d snag at a novelty shop. The poster knows its movie’s milieu, its genre, and its character’s superficial appetite for, well, everything. [Poster]

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence: Yes, this creepy-crawly, nether-regions one-sheet for The Human Centipede 2 is as “sick” as its tagline suggests, and it’s anyone’s guess what an actual centipede serving as a woman’s landing strip has to do with a psycho’s victims being forcibly, gastronomically linked. But it is, like it or not, one of the more inspired poster designs to be unleashed this year, and for all its intentional tastelessness, it displays a cleverness and certain aesthetic restraint that transcends its content, and that can’t be found in any celeb-slathered collage. Besides, provocation is the chief goal of this after-midnight franchise, and here, that’s not just owned, but laid bare. [Poster]

The Mechanic: A poster that doesn’t look like much, but catches your eye and holds it, this clean and simple image for the Jason Statham actioner The Mechanic makes a fun puzzle of bad boy cinema’s ever-enduring necessity, and forces you to look closer to examine its parts. The amount of negative black space is as strong a visual choice as the inter-locking orange arsenal, which ultimately acts as a kind of starkly graphic photomosaic. [Poster]

The Best

10. The Tree of Life: People rightfully flipped over the flagship poster for The Tree of Life, which offered a generous and drool-worthy sampling of the countless breathtaking shots in Terrence Malick’s existential opus. But this single image is, in fact, much stronger, and certainly much cleaner, conveying the weight and beauty of human life with one loving, backlit shot of its central ponderer’s foot, fresh from the womb. Cradled in the graceful hands of his mother, the boy’s foot has yet to take its first step, and considering the tremendous places to which this film—and everyone, for that matter—marches, the poster is the perfect herald of an incredible journey. [Poster]

9. The Skin I Live In: Released when Pedro Almodóvar’s latest was still just mere whispers, this anatomical-diagram-meets-Audubon-print is appropriately beguiling, and though few knew it at the time, it speaks to the auteur’s devilish play on gender and transformation. Purposefully shielding its sex from the viewer, the figure is seen only from behind, and its flesh has been peeled away, leaving only androgynous muscle. The environment is, very tellingly, a garden of metamorphosis, filled with blooming flowers and caterpillars and butterflies in various stages of development. The figure in the center is also in flux, the true nature of its skin not yet defined. [Poster]

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: A grayscale beauty of superimposition, this (now ubiquitous) poster for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo effortlessly fuses its fundamental plot elements without sacrificing a shred of design integrity. Rooney Mara’s rockstar coif, whose silhouette has become the movie’s unofficial logo, contains the exacting heroine’s clues and obsessions, namely Harriet Vanger’s pressed plants and sleuthing journo Mikael Blomkvist, whose lurking in her headspace. The true triumph of the poster is in its details, like the precise way in which Daniel Craig’s left side cuts through Mara’s face, and how the edge of her chest is marked with the teeth of a zipper. Lesser designs wouldn’t bother with such things, but this one is as meticulous as the film’s director. [Poster] [Article]


Insidious, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Meek's Cutoff

7. Insidious: A little-seen poster that recalls the alternative designs released last year for Black Swan, this striking, throwback image for the haunted house boy thriller Insidious is a great bit of no-frills graphic directness, expressing all you need to know about the film’s demons-want-body plot with its menacing silhouettes and that dripping, retro title. The scariest part is reserved for those who’ve seen the film, and know that the boy’s white hollowness suggests his soul’s already gone adrift, leaving his vacant shell ripe for possession. [Poster]

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin: Akin to Lynne Ramsay’s directorial approach only in miserable tone, the very best poster for We Need to Talk About Kevin abandons modern tendencies for an evocation of Renaissance art, its rain-pelted, window-shielded handling of subject calling to mind an aged, cracked portrait by Vermeer. A single, dragging tear that’s both disguised and distinguished amid the sea of droplets makes this image a total knockout, ingeniously blending private maternal pain with a bleak public atmosphere. [Poster] [Article]

5. Meek’s Cutoff: A moody, hand-drawn sketch is paired with appropriate western font in this chic, homespun Meek’s Cutoff poster, which ably presents the film’s blank landscape, stewing feminism, and modest indie roots. Details like the leafy flourishes surrounding Kelly Reichardt’s name add to the poster’s elegance, and the muted colors are a stylish spinoff of Reichardt’s muted palette. The danger implied is the sort that draws in passer-by interest, but what unwashed viewers won’t anticipate is that it’s dread, not action, that fuels the movie’s thrills. [Poster]


Jane Eyre, Young Adult, Tyrannosaur

4. Jane Eyre: Another handsomely muted entry, this haunting poster for Jane Eyre perfectly reflects what director Cary Fukunaga does so well with his stellar adaptation, marrying shadows of the classic with signs of the contemporary. Plain Jane stands sturdy amid the dusty gray while ultra-modern, sans-serif font dominates the foreground, a sure nod to the filmmaker’s ace efforts to both adhere to traditional material and infuse a current tone. Surpassing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in its subtle, superimposed workmanship, it also offers a ghostly shot of Michael Fassbender’s Rochester, who proves one with Jane as his chiseled profile shares the curve of her arm. [Poster]

3. Young Adult: An irresistible, all-around winner, the absurdly clever one-sheet for Jason Reitman’s Young Adult represents the best kind of pop culture recycling, that which provides charming, cutting nostalgia and speaks volumes about its context, theme, and creative inspiration. This poster points straight to the strengths and interests of Gen-X screenwriter Diablo Cody (who’s got a Sweet Valley High project in the works), and with its presentation of the film’s YA-penning antiheroine and her stunted existence, it gives a transgressive twist on the school-issued books so many of us lugged around in our backpacks. Sure, the Caldecott-Medal-style seal and the price sticker are a bit much, but…actually, no. Strike that. They’re perfect. [Poster] [Article]

2. Tyrannosaur: Though certainly riveting on its own terms (when’s the last time sepia looked so beautifully foreboding?), the poster for Paddy Considine’s kitchen-sink debut, Tyrannosaur, requires viewing of the film for full appreciation. Post-screening, the image’s layers just keep on pulling back, revealing secrets and multiple avenues of interpretation. The fossilized skeleton, the figure’s bouquet, the title, the roots, the barren trees—all contribute to a semi-clear enigma that bests the film in quality, and serves to enhance its experience. It’s a poster that adamantly demands more than a passing glance. [Poster] [Article]



1. Shame: The unforgettable teaser poster for Shame might as well show a naked man in a noose, because that’s the kind of humiliating, hopeless, pitiful condemnation it bluntly and brilliantly dumps onto the viewer. The title reads like it’s at the center of a bullseye, and it’s so fully defined by its pathetic surroundings that even childish, trivial things like forgetting to make the bed are unwittingly evoked with vigor. What’s ostensibly a pretentious, anti-art shot of a bunch of rumpled sheets evolves before your eyes to say more about its subject than any other movie poster this year, with more grace in its “H” than in Steve McQueen’s entire film. The sheer, careless force with which the top sheet was (apparently) post-coitally cast aside starts to reveal itself as part of an evil, vile act, and all those shadow-casting wrinkles make the whole mess look ever more like a sick sea of guilt. With one piercing, drastically minimalistic shot, this definitive one-sheet (get it?) nails the essence of sex addiction in the way the movie only wishes it could, painting the bed, most people’s ultimate place of comfort, as a sad and ugly prison. [Poster] [Article]

To check out The Worst Movie Posters of 2011, click here.