It’s Oscars time again – and amid all the cheering and hooting and booing (#OscarsSoWhite, anyone?) – here we are, ranking the Best Picture nominees by their posters.
Compared to last year, the posters from this line-up feel largely lackluster and uninspired. Nevertheless, here are the nine nominees, ranked in order of preference, from worst to best:
9. THE IRISHMAN (Design by Concept Arts)
The easiest and most obvious picks in this list were the best and worst posters. Unfortunately, the dubious latter honor goes to Netflix’s appallingly lazy poster for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which carries neither conceptual heft, emotional appeal or visual beauty. All we get is the three acting legends awkwardly placed next to each other on a bland backdrop. It’s embarrassing – to say the least – that this is the key art they came up with for their biggest film event this year. Scorsese deserves better, and so do we.
8. LITTLE WOMEN (Design by Works Adv)
The first poster for Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed new Little Women adaptation was a shoddy collage that seemed to only exist because the studio wanted to make sure we know that Timothee Chalamet features in it (“it’s not just women, this film has a man too!”). Thankfully, they saved face by following it up with this poster, pictured above – an elegant portrait of the four March siblings as they look out of a window- and, seemingly into their future. Apart from the interesting title design, the key art has none of the unconventional spark or spunk that one associates with the filmmaker, but it still makes for a pretty picture of sisterhood — letting the young women own their story.
7. 1917 (Design by Concept Arts)
While not quite matching the film in terms of innovation or epicness, the typographical main poster for Sam Mendes’ 1917 is still effective in creating a sense of danger and urgency with the image of two soldiers racing against time (and into enemy territory) to complete their mission as the sun disappears into the horizon and dark clouds loom large in the sky. The title dominates the image and the tagline reinforces the message.
6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (Design by BLT Communications, Illustration by Steven Chorney)
The crassly photoshopped debut poster for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, released during its Cannes premiere was heavily criticized by fans. In what almost felt like an attempt to appease cinephiles, the studio later released this vintage-style one-sheet illustrated by popular American ’80s movie poster artist Steven Chorney. Still, at a time when such retro posters abound, this one didn’t strike me as exceptional — the composition feels oddly rote, cold and passionless, despite the hand-drawn artwork. Where the OUATIH campaign really scored were the ‘fake’ posters created for the imaginary films that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton stars in. These posters were used both in the film and in the campaign, and they’re not just period-authentic but also great fun — don’t miss checking them out here.
5. MARRIAGE STORY (Design by BLT Communications)
It’s a really simple idea and a pretty common visual conceit — a profile in silhouette, with a landscape thrown in — and yet, there is a certain emotional gravitas to these teaser posters for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story — which are great companions to the two wonderful teaser trailers for the film. I also liked the fact that the images of Los Angeles and New York set inside Nicole and Charlie’s silhouettes make more sense after you’ve seen the film — given that the cities are a huge factor in the divorce the characters go through. I also like how the title font (at least to me) tonally feels like a sans-serif cousin of Windsor — the trademark title font in all of Woody Allen’s films. Given that there is a distinct Allen-esque tone to the film, this felt like a nice (even if unintended) touch.
These teasers were followed up later with a more conventional one-sheet (and trailer) but I’m choosing to overlook that simply because these posters feel like the defining key art of the film.
4. JOJO RABBIT (Designer/s unknown)
Instantly striking and iconographic, the teaser poster for JoJo Rabbit (designed by Mark W. Carroll) has a wonderfully child-like appeal — which serves this story of innocence in the face of fascism well. The image of a hand in a victory-sign doubling up as the face of a rabbit is quirky and memorable — and the cheeky tagline – ‘An anti-hate satire’ adds to its charm.
Even better and more irreverent is the announcement poster below, released during the film’s TIFF premiere. Again, these were later replaced by an unimaginatively composed poster crowded with images of the cast, but these are the posters that have endured in memory.
3. FORD v FERRARI (Design by LA)
The Ford v Ferrari poster is a masterclass in tone and composition. The color of the title is perfectly matched with the image, the red and blue beautifully popping against the clean light grey background. The top half of the poster is kept empty and both the image and the text are set to perfection below. The grainy texture gives it just the right vintage tone and the focus is as much on the car as the actors.
2. JOKER (Design by BOND)
The film may have proven divisive and controversial (to say the least) but I think we can all agree on the fact that the posters for Todd Phillip’s Joker were pretty great. This debut teaser poster is by far the stand-out image from BOND’s terrific campaign — bold in its unabashed use of negative space and close-ups as well as the decision to choose mood and minimalism over excess. The protagonist’s face is at such an off-kilter angle that we can barely see his expression, but the madness and gloom both come through powerfully.
The film also inspired a flood of fan art from talented artists online, and for a month or two, my Instagram feed was full of unofficial Joker art.
1. PARASITE (Original design by Kim Sang-Man)
And finally, there’s this terrific and enigmatic poster for Parasite. The eerily cold imagery with all the characters’ eyes redacted, the odd objects and details (including a corpse in the foreground!) and the title design (an unsettling combination of serif and san serif type) a add up to an atmosphere of intrigue and darkly comic dread that’s hard to shake off. Launched during Cannes, the poster was so good that even the US distributors (who usually create their own version) decided to stick with the original design, merely altering the text and adding that great tagline — Act Like You Own the Place. Only fitting that the most loved and acclaimed film of all the Oscar contenders also has the best poster. Come Oscar night, we’ll definitely be cheering from the #Bonghive.