10 Best Movie Posters of Summer 2016

Posters are one of the great forms of advertisement. It’s a medium that has allowed artists, designers, and marketers to quickly tell a story, excite and engage people, and ultimately make a visual impact. And perhaps nowhere is this impact more apparent than it is in the movie business.

Whether you’re talking about the traditionally printed posters that hang on the walls of your local movie theater, larger than life itself, or the digital form of the poster that people often see today on mobile devices when they’re looking for a movie to go see, there’s no denying that movie posters are a powerful force.

With just a few seconds of exposure, a good poster can sway people to add a movie to their must-see list.

For our recent summer movie marketing podcast, we scanned through hundreds of movie posters from the summer of 2016 (which audiences and critics alike seem to agree was one of the weaker cinematic summers on record). From our research, we emerged with a definitive list of the summer’s best movie posters.

But before we get to that, let’s first answer the question…

What Makes a Great Movie Poster?

What’s the method to our madness? How did we choose the movie posters on this list? Here’s some of the criteria we used to make our picks.

A great movie poster should:

  • Be visually interesting
  • Establish the tone or genre of the film
  • Tell the story of what the movie is about in an instant
  • Leave you with questions you want answered
  • Make an impact

Top 10 Movie Posters of Summer 2016

While this year’s crop of summer movies may not have delivered everything audiences were hoping for, they did deliver some awesome movie posters. Let’s dive into our top 10 movie posters of summer 2016…

10. Star Trek Beyond

This striking poster clearly establishes genre and catches the eye of any sci-fi fan. We see “Beyond” in the Star Trek font, but not actually the beloved brand name. The face and eyes here are also key. In marketing, people’s face—especially eyes—draw you in. It immediately makes us want to learn more.

Star Trek Beyond Movie Poster

9. Sausage Party

This poster is pornographic without being pornographic (should we say “food porn”?). You get a sense of what the movie’s about instantly and it’s visually interesting. The poster expertly (and hilariously) alludes to what the movie delivers: a refrigerator full of filthy, filthy fun in format typically reserved for family fare.

Sausage Party Movie Poster

8. X-Men Apocalypse

The image of the main villain (rather than any recognizable X-men characters), tagline, crushed skull, and title of the movie tease the high stakes at play here. It makes you asks those key questions: Who is this character? How is this going to play out? While we’ve seen X-Men movies before, this one looks like something different.

X-Men Apocalypse Movie Poster

7. The Neon Demon

Appropriately, this indie movie poster breaks some of the criteria established above. It hints at genre (is there an ode to Carrie going on here?), but does so in a surreal way. More than anything, the great design and use of color here (mixed with the film’s oddball title) aim to intrigue rather than inform. Consider us intrigued.

Neon Demon Movie Poster

6. Suicide Squad

Using skulls representing the key characters in the movie, this poster looks like it could be the cover of a comic book. With its eye-candy, controlled-chaos design, the poster displays the fun the movie promises while underlining the idea that this movie is going to subvert expectations. It says, get ready to hang out with the bad guys and have a good time.

Suicide Squad Skulls Movie Poster

5. Don’t Breath

For those who like scary movies, this one definitely makes a visual impact. From the terrified look on the woman’s face to the way she seems to be coming out of the darkness to the hands gripping her face (wait a sec, whose hands are those?!!), this poster creates a suffocating experience. For a movie titled Don’t Breathe, it does exactly what it should—make you feel very uneasy.

Don't Breath Movie Poster

4. Sausage Party

Another Sausage Party poster on the list? No need to adjust your computer, this is real and intentional. Why? With its winking visuals and pun-tastic tagline, this poster made us laugh out of loud (we didn’t just say LOL, we literally laughed out loud). What more could you want from the poster for a comedy?

Sausage Party Hero Will Rise Movie Poster

3. Finding Dory

This poster speaks directly to its audience. It offers a serene image of the ocean with Dory in the middle. It resembles an aquarium, which is how it pulls you in and gets you to scan the entire poster. It also displays the elements of humor, heart, and magic parents and kids remember so fondly from the first movie (including a direct nod with Nemo and his dad in the background). It feels at once exciting, nostalgic and safe.

Finding Dory Movie Poster

2. Lights Out

A simple and incredibly effective poster. From this image and the color (or lack of color) we immediately know this is a horror movie. It creates a strong sense of dread and desperation. This poster gets our brains firing off questions we must have answered: Why is that light switch taped? Where’s the front panel to the light switch? What happens in the dark? It also earns points for the creepy lower case font used for the title.

Lights Out Movie Poster

1. Suicide Squad

Yep, Suicide Squad pops up again to top this list. We just love the design of the Suicide Squad posters. This visually arresting poster hits all our great movie poster criteria. It represents the chaos of the movie’s premise—having villains be your heroes—with a wild, intentionally messy design. It tells a story by showing us the film’s colorful characters with the tagline “Worst. Heroes. Ever.”, and establishes tone and genre with its bright comic-book background. It inspires questions (how are these characters connected? how do they come together?) and, most importantly, it made us want to see the movie.

Suicide Squad Mushroom Cloud Movie Poster

Listen to our full movie poster podcast discussion now: