Essays · Movies

Year In Review: The Best Movie Posters of 2010

By  · Published on December 31st, 2010

Best Movie Posters 2010
There are two reasons why looking at the best movie posters is fascinating. The first is the inherent interest that all advertising brings. It’s art that’s meant to sell something that can’t admit it’s trying to sell anything in order to succeed.

The second is that rating the best of the best in the poster world has the most potential to showcase films that never end up on lists this time of year.

This is a celebration of the beauty and effect that movie posters can have. It’s for the films released in 2010, and it’s the posters from the studios (or else Tyler Stout and Olly Moss would completely dominate). The awards are broken up into five categories in order to recognize the wide array of styles and concepts, and because there were a lot of great posters this year (among the absolutely terrible photoshop jobs that still haunt us).

See if your favorite made the cut.

The Classic Revisited

Buried

This Saul Bassian poster evokes the Vertigo poster with its design and with the concept of the film. Fear, paranoia and a desperate situation all get communicated not only by the title but by piggy backing on the coattails of a classic film (and an iconic look).

Due Date

It’s been done to death because faces sell movies, but there’s something impressive about the understated character poster here. There’s nothing quite like seeing “American Gothic” done with a broken wrist, a dog with a cone of shame, and a goofy smile.

Tron Legacy


What do you do when the movie you’re selling has a cult audience? Excite them, arm them, and then set them loose on the theater. This is a great example of using the old to hype the new, and even if nothing else, the look of Tron Legacy was pretty damned cool.

Even more posters await you (but you’ll have to stay on this page to stare back at Olivia Wilde)

The Bold and the Beautiful

Clash of the Titans


Arrrrrggghh! Victory! It’s primal. This poster has so much action in it. A fighter who’s just ripped off the snake-covered head of some she-devil and is now screaming to the Heavens about it. Rocks are exploding for some reason. It definitely gets the blood pumping (and creates a sigh of relief since we’re all finally free of that snake-headed woman).

Countdown to Zero

There’s a hint of the old Lyndon Johnson “Daisy” political ad here, except it’s two children, and they’re running like crazy to avoid being nuked to death. There goes our future.

Never Let Me Go

It’s always nice to see a beautifully-shot film use itself as the main marketing. The image here is stunning, and it manages to say a lot about the film in one still. Plus, there are few things bolder than tossing out the “Best Novel of the Decade” moniker. Hyperbole aside, it’s still a great piece of advertising.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

Wow. There are few times that zooming in this closely on a face can do much, but zooming in on the face of one of the largest film franchises in history does the job. The entire line of these character posters was stark and stirring, and they also let the viewer know they were in for a far different ride than ever before. In fact, all the posters for this film were strong examples of how beautiful movie posters can be.

Up Next: The Exact Opposite of This Category…

Simple But Effective

Let Me In

What the hell happened in the minutes before this image was created? The simplicity of the abandoned snow angel and the deep red blood stains uses almost nothing to say everything. (Seeing the Hammer logo again was also a bit of a guilty pleasure.)

127 Hours


A man between a rock and a hard rock. And an even bigger rock. The image makes the viewer instantly put themselves in the middle of the poster without climbing equipment (and nothing for miles around), and the result is the slightest increase in heart rate.

The Virginity Hit

What do you do when your film has very little to spend on advertising? This. Virginity Hit’s ads asking “Still a Virgin?” and offering a hotline number to call were clever, but these two eternal(ly childish) symbols are even better. However, it’s unclear whether they missed an opportunity to use “Coming in September.”

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

The Spanish-language poster for You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger says absolutely nothing about the film that the title doesn’t, but it’s got this sensual feel to it achieved solely by not filling in certain spaces (and by painting nail polish on other).

The Last Exorcism

Arguably the best horror poster this year, you can imagine the eyes of the artist lighting up when he/she heard there was a girl who bends over completely backward in the movie. The poster was done five minutes after that. Simple, but heebie-jeebie-inducing.

Up Next: The Best Poster of 2010…

The Most Daring

Piranha 3D

Yes, there was also the ass-heavy poster for I Spit on Your Grave (which could have ended up in the Classics bin if it was better), but this poster gets bonus points for telling us that the young derriere-owner is also topless and that she’s only a few feet away from a giant school of living razors that plan on eating everything in her swimsuit.

Repo Men

In taking the award literally, this poster really wants you to have a cheeseburger. The entire campaign for this film probably did more to smile at the threat of the premise than the movie did. It’s tongue firmly in cheek and actually helps explain a little bit of the science fiction going in by showing a heart that looks like a Norelco shaver. Plus, don’t you really want a cheeseburger now? Wait, that’s not what they’re selling?

The Best In Show

Animal Kingdom

A bit shocking to the senses, original, moving, deadly, dangerous, violent, metaphorical. This poster is great in so many ways. It’s beautiful, tells a story, puts the viewer on his/her guard. The wild dog bearing its teeth gives the tone of the film better than any other poster this year, and the large print (second only to the title) “A CRIME STORY” enforces the expectations that have already formed. Hand down the best of the year – a truly brilliant piece of movie marketing.

Bonus Entry: The Most Misleading

Finnish Valentine’s Day Poster

The people of Finland were probably in for a shock when they headed into theaters expecting a poignant film about love and coupling that had something new to say about the human condition. There were a metric ton of misleading posters this year, but this one is especially insidious because of how poetic the image is and how cheap, awful, and worthless the movie itself is. That’s not the poster for Valentine’s Day. It’s the poster for a movie where Kevin Spacey ends up realizing a great truth about life and changing the world because of it while Godspeed! You Black Emperor plays in the background.

What made your list?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.