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The 30 best movie posters of 2014

Sure, we saw the movies—and loved a bunch of them—but sometimes the posters were enough

1/30

Gone Girl

Even before David Fincher’s thriller dominated date nights across America, the poster did an evocative job of suggesting personal loss, a dash of media scandal and—subtly, with those eyes up top—a hint of omniscience.—JR

2/30

As Above, So Below

This trashy late-summer horror film about creatures roaming the catacombs beneath Paris was flattered by its poster, a sinister red-and-black design that conveyed the terror of a subterranean burial ground better in a single image than the movie could in 90 minutes.—DE

3/30

Birdman

Taking cues from the spandex-blockbuster mentality the movie skewers, this graphic-novel-like poster does an understated job of foregrounding Michael Keaton, while suggesting the anxieties that have taken roost inside his head.—JR

4/30

Godzilla

Slightly tweaking the climax of Gareth Edwards’s kaiju extravaganza, this fiery one-sheet perfectly captures the scale and painterly staging of the year’s most balletic blockbuster.—DE

5/30

Memphis

Tim Sutton’s beautiful and beguiling walkabout through the soul of the South is overrun with eye-popping visual motifs, but the poster’s dripping still of wandering star Willis Earl Beal nails the film’s agonized sense of spiritual awakening.—DE

6/30

Manakamana

Selling Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s exquisite Nepal-shot documentary (largely composed of long, static takes) wasn’t going to be easy. The playful poster playfully implies several journeys by cable car—and also serves to help with pronouncing the title.—JR

7/30

Blue Ruin

Foregrounding the brutal crime elements of Jeremy Saulnier’s indie thriller, the poster goes for big and bold, with graphic bullet-ridden text and a tagline straight out of an ’80s action flick (“Revenge comes home”).—JR

8/30

Fury

David Ayer’s “manly men manning a tank” movie produced a lot of forgettable posters, but this isolated glimpse of Brad Pitt’s character—thoroughly defeated as he rests on his weapon—resounds with all the portentous elegance that was missing from the film.—DE

9/30

Enemy

Denis Villeneuve’s headtrip starring dueling Gyllenhaals got a poster that managed to concisely capture the film’s premise while also delivering on its pulpy tone and jaundiced aesthetic. Bonus: There’s nothing on it to tip off any of the movie’s more arachnophobic viewers.—DE

10/30

Jodorowsky’s Dune

The year’s trippiest documentary—about a sci-fi epic that never quite got off the ground—finds a fitting expression in a lushly colorful poster, one with hints of royalty, sandworms and a far-crazier vision than even David Lynch mustered for his 1984 version. Like the doc itself, the poster is righting a cosmic wrong.—JR

11/30

Teenage

The retro vibe of this poster bottles the exuberance of Matt Wolf’s documentary—what being a teenager looks like changes every day, but what being a teenager means has never changed.—DE

12/30

Winter Sleep

The poster artist definitely nails the season—down to the windswept hair and the pale, setting sun. There’s also a fine sense of drama here (perhaps even more pronounced than the film’s). In short, this is how you sell a Turkish slow-burner.—JR

13/30

The Interview

Cleverly (and accurately) riffing on the style and coloring of North Korean propaganda posters, the one-sheet for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s mildly controversial comedy is a great distillation of the film’s giddily reckless approach to world politics. For now, it’s a poster without a film to promote.—DE

14/30

Starry Eyes

An awesomely ominous throwback to the kind of art that once adorned the VHS covers of the ’80’s seediest horror flicks, the poster for Starry Eyes promises that this ain’t gonna be your ordinary movie about an actor who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the part.—DE

15/30

Maleficent

The kind of poster that has the power to greenlight a blockbuster without a script, this striking high-contrast look at Angelina Jolie as Disney’s most iconic witch perfectly balances fashion and fantasy.—DE

16/30

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Iconically, this piece of art manages to convey everything about Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish debut: The burka is exotic, the red lips get at the vampirism, and the blank eyes are subtly empowering. If you haven’t seen this Jarmuschian horror movie, get on it.—JR

17/30

Advanced Style

Gloriously, the subject is loving the moment: She’s dolled up in a red explosion of feathers and blue eye shadow. Also, crucially, the photography captures her every wrinkle and age spot, serving the documentary’s message of finding comfort in one’s own skin, even as the years pass.—JR

18/30

Listen Up Philip

Alex Ross Perry’s literary comedy rides hard on its associations with the dust jackets of Philip Roth, especially in the typography of this poster (and the movie’s stellar credits sequence), evoking a bygone moment of intellectual egoism. Additionally, the artist’s rendering of the main characters—intentionally naïve—adds a wonderful dollop of neurosis.—JR

19/30

Borgman

In Alex van Warmerdam’s dark Dutch comedy, the title character is a home invader whose weapons are mainly psychological, alienating a snooty family from each other via his vagrant’s presence. On the poster, he seems to welcome them into his stomach.—JR

20/30

The Better Angels

Posters that rely on big, blocky text usually smack of laziness, but the monochromatic one-sheet for A.J. Edwards’s Malickian portrait of a young Abraham Lincoln boasts the simple grace of a flashbulb memory (and that stark title treatment earns all the space it chews up).—DE

21/30

Nymphomaniac

The iconic one-sheet for Lars von Trier’s magnum opus might not have been the prettiest poster of the year, but it was certainly the most parodied. Brilliantly reinventing the “floating head” approach, this impish bit of marketing depicts the film’s ensemble cast all frozen in the violence of their “O” faces, the confluence between pain and pleasure perfectly setting the scene for a movie that obliterates the line between the two.—DE

22/30

The Great Invisible

The most deviously simple poster of the year, the one-sheet for Margaret Brown’s documentary about the Deepwater Horizon explosion succinctly distills the horrifying scale of a natural disaster that polluted the water, the skies and everything in between.—DE

23/30

The Double

Big props to whoever designed this poster for not falling on the easy visual gag of having two Jesse Eisenbergs (he plays his own doppelgänger in the movie). Rather, it doubles down on the Kafkaesque atmosphere via a punishing spotlight.—JR

24/30

The Babadook

As with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (see No. 15), this poster grabs you with an iconic distillation of a monster—this one’s even creepier for having no details, just a silhouette. Jennifer Kent’s terrifying debut favors those who bring their own imaginations.—JR

25/30

Stranger by the Lake

The primary colors push the poster into a beachy, blissed-out realm—but that black-and-white dude seems out of place, as does the bold white title on black. The hint’s a subtle one: All is not right here. This won’t be your everyday gay romance.—JR

26/30

Palo Alto

Somewhere between a Polaroid and a heavily filtered Instagram, this simple shot of Emma Roberts is flushed with the hazy, wistful energy that defines Gia Coppola’s high-school drama. This poster looks like how being a teenager feels, and there’s just something about that top pull-quote that really ties the whole thing together.—DE

27/30

Under the Skin

If you’re going to do a big-head poster, Scarlett Johansson’s got a lovely one to feature. But just as Jonathan Glazer’s experimental sci-fi thriller dares to reconfigure its leading lady’s appeal, this image opens up ScarJo’s mind to a universe of stars. The flush of red adds a touch of emotion. This is extremely suggestive work.—JR

28/30

Inherent Vice

That foot, leg and tush actually belong to costar Katherine Waterston, whose alluring performance as the troubled Shasta in Paul Thomas Anderson’s stoner mystery brings its appeal closer to L.A. noir. This art hews closely to Thomas Pynchon’s original book jacket (down to the neon letters), but why change what works?—JR

29/30

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Just because it’s basically a photo of a miniature set against a matte painting and framed by some text doesn’t make the poster for Wes Anderson’s latest confection any less perfect. Even as a static image, that hotel looks like it’s bursting with life.—DE

30/30

Actress

Robert Greene’s documentary about an actress (Brandy Burre) at a crossroads toes the line between slice-of-life portraiture and Sirkian melodrama, and every inch of the quietly tragic poster commissioned for it is informed by a deep understanding of what makes the film so powerful. Sharply contrasting the glitz of the poster’s typeface against the domestic chokehold of its action, this hauntingly painted still-life casts Burre in the role she was born to play.—DE

RECOMMENDED: Best of 2014

Some of the best movies of 2014 weren't easy sells. For every “a boy grows up right before your eyes over 12 richly detailed years!” (Boyhood) there was a “Yet another Coppola is making movies, and she's into teenagers too!” (thanks, Palo Alto). As it turned out, we were impressed by some of the sensitive work that went into the year's best posters, delivering more than just their respective movies, but a full-on mood.

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