The Movie Posters of the Coen Brothers (2001-2011)
The Man Who Wasn't There - 2001
Again, we have yet another movie poster for a Coen brother's movie that doesn't tell us anything about the movie or seemingly do anything to promote the film oustide of listing the names of the actors.
Stylistically though, this poster is at least doing something. Given that the title of the film is "The Man Who Wasn't There" it's fun that Billy Bob Thornton is mostly obscured behind the poster and is only revealed through the window formed by the letters "Man". So at least there was some attempt here. Otherwise, it's a pretty boring poster. Grade: C
Intolerable Cruelty - 2003
A terrible poster from a stylistic sense. Not a terrible poster from an advertising sense. After all, the two things that are going to drive people to see this film are right on the poster. You have two beautiful people, you might as well use them.
So usually when you have people this attractive, they're supposed to get along, but both the title "Intolerable Cruelty" and the catch phrase "Engage the enemy" suggest that these two people do not, in fact, like each other. So that, at least, raises a question.
Still, in the tradition of most other Coen brothers posters, this one says very little about the film and is a fairly boring poster. Grade: D
The Ladykillers - 2004
This isn't a great poster compared to most other posters, but compared to the posters used for Coen brothers films, it's actually half decent.
I like the fact that the little old lady's back is turned to us because it gives some mystery to the line under Tom Hanks' name: "The greatest criminal minds of all time have finally met their match." Also, the poster makes it look like she is standing in their way.
That all being said, it's not obvious that these men are not, in fact, the greatest criminal minds of their time. I suppose that the general make-up of the cast sort of indicates that, but the pictures beyond Tom Hanks aren't really big enough to derive that much detail.
So, design-wise, I think the poster is attractive, but I don't think it does much to convey what the film is actually about. Grade: C
No Country for Old Men - 2007
Okay, finally, a decent poster. This is probably one of the two best posters for a Coen brothers movie along with "Fargo".
With relatively little effort it conveys what the movie is about: a man running away from another man. By having Javier Bardem's ominous face overlooking the image of the poster, it conveys a very intense sense of dread and also implies that his character dominates the film, which he does. So, as a poster that reflects its film, this one does very well.
I've discussed journeys in poster art several other times, usually in reference to posters like "Taxi Driver" where it's clear a character is at the end of a journey or in others where the character is at the beginning. Here, the man is stuck in space, neither moving forward nor backward. That is exactly what happens to Josh Brolin's character - his actions get him stuck in an impossible situation. Yes, he's on the run, but he's got nowhere to go. He's being hunted and he can't escape the shadow of the man chasing him. Grade: A-
Burn After Reading - 2008
I guess if a poster got points for text, this one would win some awards.
Seriously, what happened in the art department on this one? I guess the best I can say about this one is that I like the font.
I must admit that as I've been going through these posters, I wonder if the Coen brothers have anything to do with designing them because everything is so consistently unrevealing. I guess that makes me think that they intentionally have their posters designed not to reveal very much. This one is generally kind of ridiculous. Grade: F
A Serious Man - 2009
As far as Coen brothers posters go, this one is absolutely riveting. At least there's an image and it's actually got some artistic value. As a photograph, the subject is in a place that draws the eye to it.
The main question it asks is "If this is a serious man, what in the world is he doing on his roof?" I guess we're supposed to assume he's fixing his television antenna. Since there's an antenna there, it's clear this story takes place in the past. This is also emphasized by the man's attire and glasses.
Also, a man on his roof is necessarily looking down on people, so that could have something to do with the film as well. He's also on a decline. Anyway, a reasonably interesting poster that tries to evoke some questions. Grade: B-
True Grit - 2010
Again, back to the boring Coen brothers poster theme of sticking faces and names on the poster and not revealing anything else.
The font does resemble an old-style poster and the fact that the actors are standing in front of a curtain seems to emphasize the fiction nature of the whole thing. I don't really think that makes for a compelling poster.
Certainly, at this point in their careers, there's not much they have to do anymore with their posters to get people to see their films and perhaps they don't feel that the poster is an important part of the marketing. That would certainly seem to be the case. They put the title, the actors, and sometimes a catch-phrase, but never much more. Grade: C
- The Movie Posters of the Coen Brothers (1984-2000): A Review
An analysis of the movie posters for Coen brothers films from 1984 to 2000.
More by this Author
What's the best movie poster: Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Jaws? Pulp Fiction? A former film critic analyzes ten great film posters and explains what makes the so good.
There have been many films about Vietnam and the war, but only a few are truly great films. Here's a list of the absolute best.
Understand the secret keys that indicate whether a guy likes you or not. This article will provide a short guide to understanding men and their ways.