As some of you may know as you pour through page after page of my writing – I have a slight interest in advertising and film marketing. That’s unfortunate, because marketers are becoming lazier and lazier at what they do. Photoshopping a bunch of bodies to look like they were all in one room and doing the title in a giant font just doesn’t cut it, friends.

The bright side to that laziness is that when movie posters appear on the scene that are truly fantastic, we are wholly justified in lifting them up on our shoulders as brilliant examples of the blend of art and commerce that they should be. Beauty and ticket sales. Everybody wins.

Even with a ton of crappy posters, there were still a whole host of great ones, making this year’s selection a difficult process that resulted in not a few runners-up (that are conveniently featured in a photo gallery at the end). So who was in the running? Any films that were released in 2009. We’ve already seen some great imagery for the films of 2010, but they will have to be in the running next year.

Without further blathering on, the Ten Coolest Movie Posters of 2009:

(And click on the image to enlarge)

10. Pandorum

This poster was about as evocative as it gets, utilizing a theme of insanity into a really frightening image. It didn’t give away much of what the film was about – and really none of the marketing did – but as far as capturing the eye and attention, a woman screaming through the sides of her face works instantly, and the tagline “Fear what happens next” lets on that there might be a fate worse than seeing all your Siamese twins pop through your skull after years of growing bitter underneath the surface.

9. Coraline

The odd difficulty here was in choosing which of the Coraline posters would be featured considering that the campaign did a stellar job showing us the ABCs of movie poster-making. But, featuring the main character herself is never a bad idea. The posters were playful, a tad dark, and included nursery rhymes while spotlighting the look of the film.

8. The Unborn

I’ll probably get hate mail from Rob Hunter for even mentioning this film again considering his review, but the poster is a work of genius for two reasons. Shameless sex appeal and class. Odette Yustman stands in a pair of white cotton panties and a wife beater, staring into the mirror where a sunken-eyed child in 19th century garb stares back at her. Yes, fine, okay, the most prominent feature of the poster is her posterior, but it’s not presented in some garish fashion (which probably makes it sexier), and it’s matched with the painting-esque imagery of the bathroom and boy. It’s sexy in an innocent way, and it ends up making the film seem far more interesting than it ended up being.

7. The Girlfriend Experience

On the more suggestive front, Sasha Grey looks off into the distance with her lips slightly parted, hidden behind phone receiver-style circles. They obscure the image just enough, but the tagline “See It With Someone You ****” is good enough to drive the point home. Damn, this is a great poster. Different than anything else out there this year, experimental, eye-catching, and (even better) we’re constantly trying to figure out what the image cutting into her is. It’s great advertising imagery that also calls out the film on a metaphorical level to earn a few Bonus Points.

6. Avatar

I’ll admit there’s a certain unfairness here. After all, the poster is just the faces of the two stars (one of them being an alien) and a shot of the world of the film. It’s been done a thousand times, but there’s something to be said for simplicity when the imagery you’re working with is so breathtaking.

5. Thirst

A ton of first-year advertising students will at some point spout off about how sex sells. But as we know from Don Draper, sex doesn’t sell. Or at least it only really sells itself. The minds behind the marketing for Thirst wanted to take the opposite approach by having No Sex in the poster – and they still managed to get it banned. That takes skill. Meanwhile, the picture itself deserves to be hung in a gallery somewhere. Sexy. Or not. It’s impossible to say – which is all part of the draw.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

With the trailer already being touted as the best of the year, it’s no surprise that at least one of the posters would garner some praise. Everything works perfectly in this shot from the font to the primal scream to the giant, faceless thing that has his arm around a little boy. Another example of beautiful imagery giving it an edge, the tagline is great because it universalizes the movie to anyone seeing the ad.

3. Taken

Back in December of 2008, you had no idea that Liam Neeson was going to come kill you. But you soon found out. The shadowed simplicity of this poster – featuring the star in barely recognizable repose – focuses more on the giant words he speaks in the trailer: “I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE BUT IF YOU DON’T LET MY DAUGHTER GO I WILL FIND YOU I WILL KILL YOU.” Were there ever words that deserved to be in block lettering more? That statement makes me think Neeson is about to jump out of the poster and shoot me right in the damned face. Proof that you can sometimes just let the words do the talking.

2. Inglourious Basterds

A bloodied knife cutting through a swastika, held by a sweaty hand against a stormy background. The beauty here is in how cool and still the image is. It’s beautiful yes, and it’s great they resisted the urge to show any action because this effect is much stronger. It’s shocking, making a promise to the audience that if they go see the movie, they’ll get to see how the knife got so much blood on it. That they’ll be transported back to “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…”

1. The House of the Devil

As far as I’m concerned, this is a piece of perfect film marketing. It tells a story while delivering the tone of the movie and is done in the same style the film sets out to emulate. The image of the girl above the house is haunting, the fire gives us an idea of what’s to come, and the whole thing should make any 1980s horror geeks shiver with anticipation. More than that, it achieves the two main goals of film marketing: It’s a beautiful image in its own right, and it makes you want to go see the movie immediately.

There were a lot of Runners-Up:

Read More: Year in Review


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