1. The Heat
The actual posters for The Heat are less than thrilling — and the U.K. version is downright horrifying. But this variant poster commissioned by Mondo is exactly the kind of over-the-top throwback image that should have been selling the film all along. Why throw together a forgettable jumble of Photoshopped images when you can make something dorm-room-wall-worthy like this?
2. August: Osage County
If you’ve seen the film — or the award-winning play it’s based on — you know this image is lifted directly from one of the climatic moments in this family drama. There is something dark and angry about this poster that does the movie much better service than the oddly upbeat trailers for the film.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
The movie itself has divided audiences, but there is no denying that this striking single shot from the film lets you know exactly how much manic, hard-partying energy director Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio are expending for this film. (That would be all of it.)
4. The Kings of Summer
Everything about this poster, from the shot to the tagline, evokes the unfettered joy of an adolescent summer. Lovely.
It was a smart choice to rotate by 90 degrees this image of historic pro baseball player Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) sliding into (likely) second base — it immediately gives the image more triumphant power. But it’s the tagline that is the most powerful thing about this poster, directly addressing the central racial component of Robinson’s story in a way few studio movie marketing campaigns ever do.
From the stark black-and-white image to the old-fashioned credits, there is zero chance this poster could be for any other film than Alexander Payne’s comic paean to the bleak Midwest.
7. The Fault in Our Stars
The tagline upset enough fans of John Green’s bestselling novel that Green himself felt compelled to address it the day BuzzFeed debuted this poster. I think it winks at the darkly comic elements in the story, but more importantly, that image of nuzzling stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort: SO MANY FEELS.
8. Blue Is the Warmest Color
The movie itself is far more than just those extended sex scenes you’ve heard all about — at three hours, it would have to be. But there is no denying that this story of a teenage French girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and her azure-haired girlfriend (Léa Seydoux) is at its core about the emotional power of erotic longing, and this provocative poster makes that abundantly clear.
What was that again about erotic power? The teaser poster at the left conveys the subject of director Lars Von Trier’s latest cinematic provocation with subtle wit. The main poster at the right is about as subtle as a sledgehammer — and just about as effective. Either way, these are images one is unlikely to forget.
10. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Such mustaches! What bow ties! Much Wes Anderson!
11. 12 Years a Slave
In one single, almost abstract image, the shape of Solomon Northup’s story as a free man kidnapped into slavery is immediately clear. And all without a shot of Brad Pitt.
Just glancing at this poster, you could be forgiven for thinking for a moment that it was in motion. Then you look again, and you realize, oh crap, this astronaut just let go. Now what?!
13. Star Trek Into Darkness
Holy crap, the Enterprise is going down! Spoiler-y? Yup. But in hindsight, it’s all I needed to be keen to see this movie, instead of the annoyingly coy is-he-or-is-he-not-Khan marketing surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch. (Spoiler! He’s Khan!)
14. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Their eyes, lips, and jawlines may not perfectly match, but who cares when you’ve got, respectively, Patrick Stewart together with James McAvoy, and Ian McKellan together with Michael Fassbender, on the same posters?
15. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
This almost feels like it’s a more appropriate poster for the Mockingjay movies, but no matter. Gorgeous.
16. Man of Steel
Simple, elegant, superb, and all without laying complete waste to the buildings and people of Metropolis.
17. This Is the End
My favorite part about this poster is that Jonah Hill has somehow managed to stay out of the brawl between Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and Seth Rogen — and he seems kind of upset about it.
18. Bad Grandpa
Again, in one photo, the whole movie, and guaranteed to make you stop and stare as you pass it at the multiplex.
20. You’re Next (and, in a way, The Big Wedding)
You think you’re looking at the hathos-inducing poster for The Big Wedding, but, wait, WHO IS THAT STANDING BEHIND YOU?!?!??!?!?!?!?! It’s almost as if Lionsgate is tacitly admitting that the killers of You’re Next are eager to lay into to this insipid waste of talent!
21. The Conjuring
Spooky, old school, and I’m hiding under my desk already. (Nice touch with the flame replacing the “i” in “Conjuring,” by the way.)
22. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Whereas the previous posters are memorable for their relative simplicity, this triptych manages to make the bigger-and-louder-and-messier-is-better aesthetic endemic to so many forgettable studio posters somehow work in its favor. And look! Is that the Green Goblin?!
From here on is where things flip from being memorably good to being memorably bad.
On the left, we have one of the moody teaser posters for this long-anticipated adaptation of Veronica Roth’s YA best-seller, featuring Shailene Woodley’s Tris and her signature tattoo of three ravens. So far, so good.
But then Summit Entertainment debuted the final main poster, with Woodley striking the stereotypical gratuitous-butt-and-side-boob pose that so many women on so many posters have done so many times. Oy.
24. Now You See Me
Uh, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but I can see all of you, and it isn’t pretty.
25. Grown Ups 2
It’s almost as if Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Chris Rock are leaping into their lowered standards. Oddly, only David Spade seems to be having second thoughts.
26. After Earth
Both Jaden and Will Smith look sad, and I don’t blame them.
27. Grudge Match
There are four taglines on this overstuffed poster, each of them uniquely terrible. But the worst offender is by far “tickets on sale at box office or on the World Wide Web,” an insulting pander to the over-60 moviegoers this poster is apparently aiming to win over. Also, in the name of Photoshop and good taste, what happened to Robert De Niro’s face?!?
The relative merits of this paranormal action comedy may be in some dispute, but this poster is so oddly nondescript about the film’s gonzo premise that it almost approaches a kind of Zen marketing. The tagline could be: “See this movie, don’t see this movie, it’s all good.”