We’ve all seen the floating heads that seem to have saturated every corner of cinema—with many believing it’s the end of the art of movie posters. And honestly, as a film nerd, it is worrying. However, I have trailed through my watch list to find you movies from the past few years that prove not all hope is lost. Here are 20 movies with great posters to freshen up your timeline.
The 2021 biopic Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart and directed by Pablo Larraín, displays a tragically-beautiful signature poster. The movie, which follows the life of Princess Diana of Wales, perfectly captures the heartbreaking nature of her story while maintaining a simple yet intricate symbolic image. The character’s bent over and crying pose, with her back to the viewer, in an ornate gown tells us all we need to know about the impending tale.
Even though it’s a documentary, Athlete A, in my opinion, showcased one of the best posters of 2020. Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, the Netflix original follows the case of ‘Athlete A’, the USA gymnast that first exposed the sexual crimes of Larry Nassar (the gymnastics’ former resident doctor). The mat on which the character stands is portrayed as a cracking American flag on the movie poster. It beautifully demonstrates the documentary’s investigations into the crumbling and corrupt nature of the US sports institutions that failed to protect more than 140 victims from Nassar.
Mank, a black-and-white biographical movie directed by David Fincher, surrounding the infamous screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz does debut what some may call ‘the floating head syndrome’ but hear me out. It’s different. The illustrated, almost comic book quality of the figures is able to showcase all its talents while giving it a classic cinema feel.
It may be a surprise that there is a superhero/villain movie on the list but Birds of Prey, directed by Cathy Yan, separates itself from the curse of the Marvel/DC floating head posters and finds a creative alternative. It is, by far, one of the best posters to have come from both universes. The ‘birds’ around Harley Quinn’s head nod to the comical portrayal of being knocked on the head—very Tom and Jerry–style. This tells the audience enough about her psychological standing while cleverly showcasing all the other actors in the movie.
Though horror movies terrify me and it’s not a genre I explore often, the Malignant poster is enough to draw me in. The simplicity of the poster in pitch black, the visceral red and Peaky Blinders star Annabelle Wallis’—who plays the lead in the film—expressive face makes for a brilliant poster. It utilises elements from older horror movie art of the 80s and 90s while maintaining a crisp and modern aesthetic.
Directed by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel did unfortunately take part in the floating heads crime for some of its posters—with the aim of showing off their star-studded cast, of course—but this poster is by far the best. The simple visuals of the two swords which help form the figure of a woman, perfectly embodies the narrative of the film. No spoilers here, but this poster will make a lot of sense when you watch the movie.. And that’s what a great poster is all about in the end: telling you just enough, but not too much.
Tigertail, directed by Alan Yang, tells the story of a Taiwanese man and his venture to America in the quest for opportunities. The film is powerful and worth the watch. All the posters released for the film are absolutely breathtaking, but for me, the one above spoke the loudest. I always enjoy seeing illustrations or a more obscure, artistic take to a poster as opposed to a still from the movie.
Possessor, a horror/sci-fi movie also makes the cut with this poster. Though I have to admit I haven’t seen the film just yet, the poster makes me want to—and again, this is surprising since I hate horrors. The vibrant yellow and the warping face is incredibly captivating.
The Green Knight, starring Dev Patel, presented two posters for its promotional material. This one is my pick as the best. Despite knowing the character is played by Patel, like with Spencer, the back turned against the viewer gives off an air of mystery. It makes you want to look deeper and discover who this man is. The gripping red and gold—with the dark shadow of the character displays an opulent yet gritty essence.
Directed by Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby tells the story of the awkward encounter between a girl and her sugar daddy at a Jewish funeral service: a shiva. The poster portrays a fantastic, quirky image—reminiscent of the 90s and early 00s—and accurately shows you what you’re in store for in this comedy.
Oscar-winning Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao, also makes the cut with this poster. It might not be to everyone’s taste because of what appears to be its ‘mundanity’, but I believe this factor is its greatest strength. Sometimes those floating heads posters make me feel a little claustrophobic, there is no breathing room—it’s just cramming everything in. This, however, does the opposite. It’s open and you can almost sense the breeze blowing her laundry line.
Another horror, starring our horror queen Sarah Paulson, Run has a great poster. Though the movie promotes a different one as its main star, this initial poster is far better. I’m just a sucker for movie posters that draw influence from cinema’s past, it seems.
French Exit, directed by Azazel Jacobs, also falls into this category. Similar to Run, it exudes old cinematic vibes—it seems I’m biased to this style. Its composition places us at the front of the car, almost like we are the driver peeping into the back. The term ‘French Exit’ is used to describe the act of leaving a place or engagement without warning—basically it’s when you ‘dip’ the party you’re at without saying goodbye. The image of the mother and son in the car, along with this term, is a great nod to the plot.
Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman, directed by Emerald Fennell, also presented audiences with a great poster. Evocative of the fantastic ‘chick-flicks’ posters of the early 00s—perhaps deliberately delivered in an ironic fashion—Promising Young Woman showcases a bright yet dark aura.
Despite having a huge star-studded cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Trial of the Chicago 7 chooses not to litter them across the poster in the infamous floating head triangle; instead, we got this. Though it looks like a simple shot, it actually tells us a lot. The looming courthouse towers over the viewer and emphasises the importance of the impending trial.
Da 5 Bloods, a Spike Lee joint, also deserves a shoutout for its incredible poster. Perhaps my favourite of the bunch, it truly brings back dazzling artistry to the movie poster craft. In fact, it’s one of many great depictions released to promote the movie with each poster even more artistic than the last. It tells the tale of five black-American veterans who return to Vietnam years later to recover their squad leader’s remains as well as a secret stash of gold. Most ‘war’ movie posters are usually overtly ‘heroic’ and propagandistic in nature—this one, on the other hand, is not. It emulates tragic pain, loss and darkness.
Another Netflix documentary, the social dilemma, makes the cut but what can I say? It’s a good poster. A bit simple or on-the-nose perhaps, but I still think it deserves some praise. Sometimes, the simpler and more obvious, the better.
The Mauritanian was a gripping, sensational and truly gut-wrenching film and the poster does it justice. Directed by Kevin Macdonald, the true story follows a Mauritanian man (Mohamedou Ould Slahi) who was held without evidence for the crimes of 9/11. It uncovers the horrors and torture he faced at the hands of the US government and hosts some of the biggest stars like Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch. However, although rare for Hollywood, the poster chooses to highlight Tahar Rahim (a french actor of Algerian descent) and him alone. Rather than capitalising on the images of uber-famous actors, the poster reminds you of what’s important—Slahi’s story.
Wow, you must have thought there was no way a Marvel movie was going to make the cut. I mean, they’re largely to blame for the horrifying floating heads, but Eternals made up a refreshing break for the franchise. Although the movie does have its terrible floating head blockbuster renditions of its posters, this one was a surprising shift away from Marvel’s usual marketing antics.
Lin Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom! also made the list. It follows the autobiographical musical of playwright and composer Jonathan Larson. With three additional posters released after its initial launch, this edition towered above the original for me. No, it’s not an image of the poster on a wall—that is the actual poster, and that is why I like it. It gives you the essence of the posters of Broadway along with theatre magazine Playbill’s iconic black and yellow.
Encanto has taken over the internet with hundreds of theories about the Madrigal family and their powers. One that sparked a lot of interest on TikTok was the theory that Mirabel would become the family’s next leader, taking over from Abuela. While the theory is not new and has been cited many times on the app, here are some clues we’ve spotted that support this view.
While Abuela Madrigal has a magical door like the rest of the family, it’s not an expansive ‘bigger on the inside’ utopia like some of her grandchildren—take Antonio’s expansive jungle, Isabella’s floral garden and Bruno’s mystical desert. In the introductory song ‘The Family Madrigal’, where Mirabel lists off her family members and their respective magic powers, we get the tiniest glimpse into Abuela’s living quarters. As Mirabel chants ‘Whoa, let’s be clear Abuela runs this show’, the grandmother is seen exiting her room. In these incredibly short frames, peeping through the closing door, we see what appears to be a regularly sized room, what looks like a chest of drawers and a standing lamp. A normal room so to speak, a room much like Mirabel’s—well, minus the glowing door.
Mirabel’s own glowing door eventually becomes the front door of the home.
While they are both definitely magical, this seemingly ‘normal’ room is perhaps an indication of Abuela’s lack of overt magical gifts like her misunderstood granddaughter. In fact, the matriarch fails to realise the uncanny likeness between them, they both share the same abilities, ones that seem murky to fans of course, but nonetheless appear rooted in family.
While the family believe Mirabel to have no powers, she actually displays many similarities to the role Abuela plays. One of which involves this idea of keeping the family together—of nurturing them and their powers. Abuela, widowed with three newly-born babies, faced a challenging battle to raise her children alone but did so with such strength and determination. Though simplistically seen as a villain in the story, making some admittedly pretty bad parenting decisions, she was the successful courier that led her children to their powers. Mirabel does the same throughout the movie.
From the start, Mirabel is set as an integral part of her family as she aides a terrified Antonio up the stairs to his waiting glowing door on his ‘gift day’. When her cousin’s young, shaking voice begs ‘I need you’, she puts aside her fear to hold his hand in the walk through the crowd. She does the same work for her two sisters where Abuela fails.
She listens to older sister Luisa’s never-ending burdens that are forced onto her shoulders in the infamous, and perhaps Disney’s most relatable, song ‘Surface Pressure’. Mirabel sees first-hand that her sister—whose power is super strength—is unsupported, stressed and vulnerable. She gives her a hug saying, ‘I think you’re carrying way too much’. For her other sister, Mirabel puts to bed a feud that rang between them and helps Isabella—who can conjure up flowers—to free herself from the constraint of being ‘perfect’. In doing so, Isabella’s powers actually grow stronger.
Casita—the name of the family’s seemingly alive home—is as much a part of the family as the human members. Its Beauty and the Beast-like magical movement creates the perfect backdrop for the Madrigals, with many fans theorising that it’s the spirit of their deceased Abuelo Pedro. Casita interacts with requests, responds to questions and helps the family where needed. However, there are only two people that we see who have visible, verbal communication with Casita. Can you guess who? Yes. It’s Mirabel and Abuela Alma.
This could be another little hint of their shared gifts, perhaps indicating that Mirabel is the next in the family line to step into Abuela’s shoes to take care of the family as the keeper of their gifts and their home.
Speaking of home, they both lose theirs. While the fate of the home resting on Mirabel (in Bruno’s vision) is another obvious indication of her being the root of the family’s stability, I want to focus on another overlooked element that binds the grandmother to her grandchild—they both lose their home. Though Abuela’s backstory is obviously infinitely more tragic, traumatising and painful, Mirabel shares a taste of what it means to have your home destroyed.
When Casita crumbles, the impact of what they have lost appears to initially hit Mirabel the hardest and she flees the scene. For both Abuela and Mirabel, they are found at the moment their home was destroyed as well as at the moment it was reborn.
The most overt displays of their gifts parallel each other in the movie. For Abuela Alma, in her more accurate and vulnerable retelling of her trauma towards the end of the film, her husband Pedro is slain before her eyes by the colonialists that pushed them out of their home. The painful, tear-stricken scream that she releases is what sparks the magic that ignites her candle, creating Casita and the rural safe-haven it exists in—their Encanto. The inverse happens with Mirabel; her intense argument with Alma in the main lobby of their home exacerbates the cracks breaking Casita—Mirabel’s anger and pain in that moment becomes the catalyst that brings the home down.
Not only could this show that their powers are rooted in their emotions but this imagery perhaps also symbolises how they mirror each other—or better yet, how they balance each other. They are capable of both creation and destruction.
Following Casita’s downfall, Mirabel unknowingly flees to the exact place Abuela once stood watching her husband die. It is the same spot she receives the ‘gift’ that is the family’s magic and their home was born. This provides another clue that Mirabel becomes the next keeper of the family’s magic, their reconciliation and Abuela’s realisation of her mistakes ushers in the family’s new beginning. The pair become surrounded by yellow butterflies much like the butterfly that appeared on Alma’s candle years ago.
The theory surrounding Mirabel’s relationship to the butterfly is by no means new. The theme of the butterfly is littered throughout the film: in structural elements of Casita, on Mirabel’s clothes, in Bruno’s and Mirabel’s journey through his vision and of course, Abuela’s candle. It ties Mirabel so intrinsically to her grandmother as she appears a living embodiment of the miracle that is the candle.
As mentioned, following the death of her husband Abuela’s scream ignites the miracle of the magic that possesses her candle—in this process forming the image of a butterfly on the wax. While this retelling of Pedro and Alma’s story is happening, Sebastián Yatra’s voice can be heard singing the theme song ‘Dos Oruguitas’, which translates to ‘two caterpillars’. The two caterpillars transform in the song to ‘two butterflies’ half way through. It is here that I believe the song is referencing not Alma and Pedro but Alma and her granddaughter.
The sections of the caterpillars and the butterflies in the song are separated by the line, ‘Nuestra milagro, nuestra milagro’ (Our miracle, our miracle), entering a world where the miracle already exists. Pedro dies before the lyrics change to butterflies, it is perhaps not about him anymore but rather the two butterflies who keep the magic—Abuela and Mirabel.