The first and most critical function of a movie poster is, of course, to sell the movie. But selling the movie and subtly giving audiences clues as to what happens in it are two different things. A poster designer could, for example, make use of a blood-red background and have the stars' names over the word "in" over the name of the film, with all the traditional details in their traditional spot at the bottom. But unless a total lack of ideas were the game, why would you do that? It's better to dream up an image -- or a montage -- connecting audiences to the action of the film.

It turns out that 2009 was an above-average year for movie posters; choosing the top 10 seems like a crime. Still, here are 10 we think were the best of 2009 -- among the best, anyway. Offer us comments so we can know yours. The first and most critical function of a movie poster is, of course, to sell the movie. But selling the movie and subtly giving audiences clues as to what happens in it are two different things.

A poster designer could, for example, make use of a blood-red background and have the stars' names over the word "in" over the name of the film, with all the traditional details in their traditional spot at the bottom. But unless a total lack of ideas were the game, why would you do that? It's better to dream up an image -- or a montage -- connecting audiences to the action of the film.

It turns out that 2009 was an above-average year for movie posters; choosing the top 10 seems like a crime. Still, here are 10 we think were the best of 2009 -- among the best, anyway. Let us know your picks in the comments section below.

10. 'Julie & Julia'
Simple works! If you didn't know Meryl Streep was playing culinary icon Julia Child and didn't know Amy Adams was playing gastronomic blogger Julie Powell, you'd at least sense a seriously fun foodie thing going on. And you gotta love the dainty items out of focus behind Streep and Adams' adorably wicked finger tasting.



9. 'Precious: Based on a Novel by Sapphire'
Precious' Job-like journey is encapsulated two ways here. The smudgy off-grey glow underscores the idea that her story is very little in the way of black or white. Second, the lack of details of the character's face -- or that of lead actress Gabourey Sidibe -- tells the viewer this is a Everywoman's story, yet a specific one.




8. 'Food Inc.'
This year's winner of the Sledgehammer Award goes to this poster, which gets to the meat of the matter, so to speak. Still, it's a smart image for the film, which pretty much bitch-slaps the hyper-industrialized system of American food production. Not to understand that from the image seems, well, udderly impossible.



7. 'Up in the Air'
Truth be told, even without the hint-hint-hint tag line at the bottom, the image of faceless souls shlepping through an airport gives this poster a sucker-punch of sense, plus a touch of ironic humor. It's pretty clever when you realize how the airplane is so much larger than the pathetic man -- presumably star George Clooney -- staring at it.



6. 'Inglourious Basterds'
The composite-image poster for Quentin Tarantino's World War II riff, featuring Brad Pitt smack in the center, may be more familiar to audiences, but this high-concept piece completely nails it. How do you convey the film's fantastic elements with Tarantino's tribute to the spaghetti western? The surnames inscribed on the bat is one way, that's for sure.



5. 'Broken Embraces'
Fear, beauty and sex; sensuousness at a distance; the complexities of love -- these are all themes Pedro Almodovar toys with again and again. This time, in the poster for 'Broken Embraces,' Almodovar's follow-up to 2006's 'Volver,' the sizzle of Penelope Cruz's lips and windblown hair make her character seem as irresistible as the actress herself.



4. 'Up'
The poster for 'Up' is supremely wise not to communicate when or where the characters land. In fact, the whole point of the movie, one of the most emotionally arresting animation features in years, is that it's the ride up, up, up that matters, not just what happens at Paradise Falls.



3. 'Jennifer's Body'
Writer-director Diablo Cody may be keepin' on keepin' on in the name of girl power, but let's be totally blunt: this was Megan Fox's year, and this 'Jennifer's Body' teaser was a surefire way to pump up moviegoers' testosterone. The post-opening poster, picturing Fox looking like the devilish innocent she plays, was steamy -- but not nearly as mouth-droppingly good.



2. 'The Girlfriend Experience'
Like Steven Soderbergh's film itself, the poster for 'The Girlfriend Experience' is an obscured mystery. Yet while the dynamic between adult-film star Sasha Grey's character and the comic-booky pop-art of Roy Lichtenstein isn't too clear, the densely plotted, color-changing dots do dare you to peek behind them. This poster wins 2009's Stand Up and Take Notice honor.



1. 'An Education'
All right, all right -- so this image for 'An Education' isn't high-concept and it doesn't revolutionize the movie-poster genre. But look at how tiny details echo Lone Scherfig's directing and Nick Hornby's screenplay. A young girl in love with a dashing older gent. However much they're one, they'll always see the world very, very differently. Together, yet apart. Or are they?