7. The Homesman
In another case where distance and perspective are utilized to strange effect, this poster for The Homesman features Tommy Lee Jones creepily lurking right behind Hilary Swank, whose eyeline suggests she’s unaware of his presence. Jones appears to be going in for the kill or, at least, attempting to intimidate Swank, as if imparting his intent to an onlooker with whom he exchanges a knowing grin. In a film filled with gorgeous wide shots, this poster curiously opts for none of them, instead offering its stars as if lifelike portraits of themselves.
6. Draft Day
If Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day functions as a feature-length advertisement for the NFL, then this poster services that advert in microcosm, with Kevin Costner’s rugged (you know, because of the slightly loosened tie) sports agent palming his pigskin while the league’s logo is featured prominently in the background. The greatest victories might not always happen on the field, but they certainly aren’t happening anywhere in this disgustingly transparent piece of cross-promotion.
Fact: the original one-sheet for Ridley Scott’s Hannibal is the scariest poster ever made, such that many posters since, like those for Frailty and this year’s I, Frankenstein have tried to duplicate it. The design’s terror comes largely from seeing a face in shadow, usually that of a psychopath, masked by darkness and unable to discern the culprit’s desires or intent. So why, then, did Warner Bros. elect this very model for Tammy, with Melissa McCarthy’s half-smile and clearly airbrushed face creepily peeking out from the right side of the frame? Moreover, why is she holding her nametag rather than wearing it? Finally: Who the fuck is Tammy? Is she funny, weird, serious, kind, deranged? She’s all and none in this disastrous poster that says zero about Ben Falcone’s film and squanders any evocation of McCarthy’s star persona.
4. The Judge
Another victim of “loose-tie” banality, this hokey poster for The Judge is symmetrical to a fault, offsetting Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall with a pair of flags and a bookshelf split straight down the middle. Each actor’s facial expression suggests mild constipation, while the tagline “defend your honor” sounds more appropriate for a Mortal Kombat adaptation than an apparently bone-dry drama of father-son remorse. A bad poster does not necessarily make for a bad movie (The Immigrant is a great example), but when the film’s concept can’t inspire more than a mugshots-style approach, it likely means the film to follow is just as dispirited.
3. Exodus: Gods and Kings
This poster for Exodus: Gods and Kings makes it seem as though the film were taking a Sin City route to the bibilical epic, with flashes of color sparkling through an otherwise CGI-conceived, black-and-white palette. Since that’s not the case at all, what the hell was 20th Century Fox thinking when they decided to adorn A-list stars Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton in shiny pieces of gold while standing in front of an anonymous Egyptian pyramid? Ridley Scott may not have been willing to cast “Mohammed so-an-so from such-and-such” in his film, but this garish appropriation of Middle Eastern bling is an equally offensive gesture, stylizing a stereotypical sense of cultural significance for Western consumption.
2. Walk of Shame
Slut-shaming reaches new levels of offense in this horrific poster for Walk of Shame, which implies that professional women can’t also don a pair of heels and a skin-tight dress without it resulting in utter humiliation. Moreover, any poster that uses the word “epic” in a tagline for a film that doesn’t feature sword-and-sandal battles is immediately vaulted to the top of the “worst” heap. But add blatant misogyny disguised as good-natured ribbing, plus an unimaginative single-color backdrop and you’ve created one of the most despicable and expendable posters in recent memory.
1. The Expendables 3
As bad as many of these posters are, the number one slot easily goes to this all-time fail of a poster for The Expendables 3, which seems to imagine tales of gunfire and bloodshed as fodder for the ol’ gang to light cigars by. There are 16 faces Photoshopped into this abomination, all of them mugging with an approving smile, as if standing around a family-reunion barbeque, only with, you know, high-powered automatic rifles in tow. Apparently this franchise has gone so far off the rails that its entries are now marketed as Last Vegas-style romps, but with hundreds of lives lost in the process. No wonder audiences have grown steadily apathetic; if this poster is any indication, these actors and filmmakers have reached psychotic levels of self-worth, such that a sense of what First Blood or any of the canonical films from each of these respective twilight-years actors meant has been buried under a kitschy mountain of genre bastardization.