25. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Ominous in the extreme, this excellent photographic collage pairs black and white images of the film’s stars (including a strikingly bald Bruce Willis, back when he was still desperately trying to have hair) with bold red type and that spooky 12 Monkeys logo.


24. Silent Running (1972)

The 1970s were a golden age for illustrated posters, and a classic example is this one from the outer-space thriller Silent Running. For some reason, I particularly like when movie posters put titles in quotation marks too.


23. Akira (1988)

Not quite as bombastic as the film itself, but as iconic as posters get, and the angle and placement of the motorcycle lends it an ominous glow.


22. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars has a long tradition of gorgeous posters (as we’ll see later), but the teaser image for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIIIis one of the franchise’s very best. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, the side-by-side portraits, split down the middle by Daisy Ridley’s Rey and her lightsaber, tell you everything you need to know about the relationships between the characters.


21. Phase IV (1974)

Of course the only film directed by graphic designer Saul Bass has an amazing poster. Ants shoving their way through the palm of a man’s hand? The day the Earth was turned into a cemetery? Keep talking, we’re listening.


20. Prometheus (2012)

There’s an epic, even majestic feel to this Prometheus poster. Something about the giant statue dwarfing that lone figure reflects the film’s story of mankind trying to find its origin in the stars, and encountering beings and power beyond its comprehension.

Legend Films

19. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Plan 9 may be rightly regarded as one of the worst films ever made, but no one has ever said the same of its beautiful and dynamic poster. And it’s actually pretty faithful to the content of the movie too! (Just, y’know, not hilariously awful.)


18. Crack in the World (1965)

It would be almost impossible for a movie today to live up to the gonzo imagery of this poster, much less one made in 1965. But look at that! Don’t you want to see that movie? The tagline (“THANK GOD IT’S ONLY A MOTION PICTURE”) is a classic too.


17. Back to the Future (1985)

Though it looks like a photograph, this image is actually a painting by the great Drew Struzan. It sums up the whole film; the notion of time travel, the DeLorean, and that great logo. It’s no wonder the two sequels repeated the same poster concept.


16. Tron: Legacy (2010)

An even better version of a great poster for the original Tron nails the vibe of Joseph Kosinski’s futuristic digital universe.

15. The Killer Shrews (1959)

Another un-good movie (this one became fodder for a memorable episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000) with a killer poster. It’s simple but carefully detailed; note the imperfect, inhuman whiskers on the slinking tentacle, which really makes it feel alive.

Warner Bros.

14. Blade Runner (1982)

The only thing keeping the Blade Runner poster this low on the list is that dodgy likeness of Sean Young. Otherwise? Bold, eye-catching, and nearly as atmospheric as Ridley Scott’s film. (The wafting cigarette smoke is my favorite part.)

Allied Artists

13. Not of This Earth (1957)

I’ll admit I’ve never seen this movie. Watching it seems pointless. After that poster, how could it be anything but a disappointment?


12. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

1982 was a very good year for artist John Alvin (he also did the Blade Runner poster). Those two fingers touching (with the starlight twinkling between them) matches the film’s sense of childlike awe.


11. Independence Day (1996)

How do you suggest the overwhelming threat represented by the aliens in this movie? Stick just one of their ships next to one of the world’s tallest buildings and bask in the size difference.

10. The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

Astounding just about covers it.


9. Cloverfield (2008)

This compelling poster gets bonus points for the perfect way it rhymes with Cloverfield’s famous trailer, which ends with the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty landing in the middle of Lower Manhattan. It’s a great reminder of that shocking visual, without spoiling exactly how it happened.


8. Metropolis (1927)

I think I can say with absolute confidence that this is the only movie poster from 1927 I have ever seen hanging in the wall of a college dorm room.

Sony Classics

7. Moon (2009)

The planet-like circle behind Sam Rockwell is an arresting design element. The concentric circles also make it look like a maze, one without any solution, a nice tip of the hat to the film’s puzzle-like mysteries.


6. They Live (1988)

The sunglasses (crucial to the film) reflecting the face of the alien is great, but the thing that elevates this poster is Roddy Piper’s face, and the fact that he is looking right at you as you’re looking back at him. Which makes you the alien he’s looking at. Brilliant.


5. Star Wars (1977)

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Wouldn’t you love to go back in time to early 1977, before you had any idea what Star Wars was, to randomly see this thing on a movie theater wall? Can you imagine how mind-blowing it must have been? And then the film somehow lived up to this!


4. Alien (1979)

Poster art is about the tease. Here it’s all about that inhuman egg and that jagged, oozing crack. What could possibly come out of there? You’ve got to buy a ticket to take the ride.


3. The Thing (1982)

Another John Carpenter movie, and another 1982 movie. Drew Struzan’s artwork here doesn’t quite reflect the monster ultimately featured in Carpenter’s movie. But the ominous glow emanating from the face of that parka-clad figure beckons viewers to come a little closer, to experience the ultimate in alien terror. It’s telling that through the years, just about every version of the movie on every home video format has maintained this artwork. It is timeless.


2. Forbidden Planet (1956)

Speaking of timeless, this image is now 60 years old, and still going strong. Painted at a low angle, Robby the Robot looks about 1,000 feet high. Amazing.


1. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

The best science-fiction movie poster includes a vibrant painting by Bob Peak, who also created the ad art for RollerballApocalypse Now, and the next four Star Trek sequels. In opinion, this piece is his best. It captures the sense of wonder and visual splendor director Robert Wise was going for with this film (possibly even better than Wise did in the movie). The gleaming beams of light are both futuristic and classic.


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