101 Best Movie Posters

Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 8:31 am

Movie posters, like trailers, are a key element when it comes to catching the interest of the customer and luring them into buying a ticket. And if that’s the case, these 101 best movie posters are the ultimate salesmen (think the poster equivalent of Ricky Roma from Glengarry GlenRoss). Not only do most of the movie posters on this list give the viewer an idea of what the film is about, but they also present the information using bold colors and designs. Whether you’re an artist or just a movie fan, these 101 top movie posters should serve as a visual treat.

Unlike most of my lists, these are actually ranked from 101 down to the #1 movie poster.  Each entry also has a link to a site which somehow ties into the specific subject matter.

If you agree or disagree with the choices, be sure to voice your opinion on the “Comments” section. Since almost every film has an accompanying poster, I can’t wait to hear about all the options that readers felt I overlooked. Then again, maybe I’ll get nothing but praise (yeah, right).

The Son of the Sheik

101. The Son of the Sheik – Rudolph Valentino shows why he was one of cinema’s first great sex symbols in this classic poster. As he bares his chest, Vilma Banky assumes a position of both submission and gratitude. A highly erotic poster, especially considering that it was made in the 1920s.

100. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) – There’s nothing complicated about this design. Take two superstars in Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and then pose them against a white background in chic formal wear and weapons. The resulting poster is not only sexy and sophisticated, but it appeals to viewers of either gender.

99. Scream – Combine a close-up of a frightened girl’s face with the title “Scream.” It should be pretty obvious what kind of movie you’re going to be seeing. The muted colors make you pause to get an even closer look, and that’s when this excellent poster really pulls you in.


Terminator 2 Movie Poster

98. Terminator 2 – The large red letters at the top of this poster say it all….Schwarzenegger. Sitting astride a motorcycle and brandishing a sawed-off shotgun, Arnold looks like the badass we’ve all come to know and love. Another simple and iconic image for a highly anticipated sequel.
97. King Kong (1933) – This Italian poster does a masterful job of directing the gaze of the viewer. We’re first drawn to the large red and black letters which make up the title, then to Kong’s hand crushing a plane, and finally we’re led down the ape’s massive arm and body until our eyes come to rest on the delicate form of Fay Wray. An excellent poster which conveys action, danger, and tragedy in a single design.
96. Papillon – Another simple poster design which highlights the stars of the film. In this one, the haggard images of Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen are looking out from behind a massive iron prison door. The tagline even uses the words “greatest” and “escape” in an attempt to capitalize on one of McQueen’s other famous roles. After looking at this poster, you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out the basic premise of the movie.
95. Taxi Driver – This poster, which shows Travis Bickle standing in front of his yellow cab, projects an immediate image of despair and paranoia. Maybe it’s the odd look on his face, or maybe it’s the fact that he’s standing in the middle of the street – whatever the case, Bickle looks like a man on the edge. You can almost hear the sounds of the city around him.
94. The Rocky Horror Picture Show – One look at those giant red lips and you’ll know exactly which movie is playing. Like the film itself, the poster is big, bold and campy. It’s amazing how an image so simple has achieved such staying power in the realm of pop culture.
93. Tootsie – What do you get when you combine a large image of the American flag with Dustin Hoffman in drag? Answer: you get a poster which is still instantly recognized by millions of fans. Between the red on the flag and the prominent red sequined dress, this entire poster jumps out at the viewer. Take that, Mrs. Doubtfire.
92. The Blair Witch Project – The dark and ominous woods dominate the top of the poster. The bottom is dominated by the frightened face of Heather Donahue (the movie’s most well known image). The exact details are sketchy, but the poster’s copy tells you just enough to make you want to know more. That’s the hallmark of an effective poster.
91. Escape from Alcatraz – The granite-like face of Clint Eastwood emerges from behind the stone walls of Alcatraz prison. As he slowly digs his way out, we know we’re in for quite an adventure. “No one has ever escaped from Alcatraz…and no one ever will.” Yeah, right.
90. Pretty Woman – This eye-catching poster features a stunning Julia Roberts, not to mention a dapper-looking Richard Gere. With the letters of the title running vertically, the poster keeps the viewer’s attention centered in the middle of this now-classic poster. It’s hard not to smile when looking at this one.
89. Swingers – With its images of martinis and matchbooks, this poster gives off a cool vibe. Having a smiling Vince Vaughn front and center doesn’t hurt, either. Widely imitated.
88. Punisher – Since the Punisher began as a comic book, it’s only appropriate that one of the film’s posters should pay tribute to that origin. Done all in black and white, the figure of Thomas Jane looks armed and ready for action. The Punisher’s famous skull logo is positioned near the center of the poster and really catches the viewer’s attention.
87. The Man Who Fell to Earth – Only a few years removed from his Ziggy Stardust persona, David Bowie makes the perfect poster child for a sophisticated alien race. Throw in a red background which looks like something you’d find on Mars, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly striking image.
86. Evil Dead 2 – The grinning skull face really gets your attention. While it quickly indicates that this is a horror film, the grin on the skull’s face also suggests that it may be somewhat tongue in cheek. It’s rare to find a movie poster that terrifies and amuses at the same time.
85. The Mummy (1932) – With a large tagline which reads, “It comes to life,” this poster immediately grabs your attention. Karloff’s mummy is also present, dominating the upper left of the poster. Below and opposite him is an image of Zita Johann, looking frightened and perhaps slightly aroused. Combine this with the serene look on the mummy’s face, and the poster rapidly veers from the frightening to the erotic.
84. Clockwork Orange – A simplistic poster whose power lies in the cartoonish depiction of central character Alex DeLarge. With his black bowler hat and heavily made-up right eye contrasted against a blood red background, DeLarge appears to be staring right through the viewer. Stylish and disturbing with a bit of 60’s pop art thrown in for good measure.
83. Alcatraz Island – This poster is a great example of how a simple concept can be really powerful and effective. The word Alcatraz and the image of the thick iron bars tells you everything that you need to know. The orange background really brings out the title. Nice design.
82. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – “Who will survive, and what will be left of them?” That’s the question asked in this film’s classic tagline. And the filmmakers must have realized how cool it sounded, since the tagline takes up a huge portion of the poster. Oh, and there’s also Leatherface firing up his chainsaw and preparing to cut a woman into bite-sized pieces. The poster has a cheap, lurid appeal…just like the film.
81. Bringing Out the Dead – Martin Scorsese’s tale about New York City ambulance drivers gets a nice boost from this excellent poster. The red color scheme evokes thoughts of blood and violence, two things which crop up frequently in this film. The large cross which dominates the poster is obviously a nod to the medical profession, but it also makes Cage look like a knight who’s looking out from beneath his helmet. This poster works on a number of levels.
80. Spider-Man – From the high-angle perspective to the brightly-colored costume, this poster is designed to bring out the comic book geek in all of us. To say that it succeeds is an understatement. Who doesn’t like Spidey?
79. City Lights – Chaplin’s Little Tramp is featured prominently in silhouette, while a shining metropolis rises up from the background. The clouds rise up to form an elegant representation of a woman’s face. A poster which represents the hope and potential held by the big city. There were numerous posters created for this film, but this one is easily the best.
78. The Untouchables – A poster loaded with star power. We get Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, and Andy Garcia, each armed with prohibition-era weapons and ready for action. But they are all overshadowed by the large image of DeNiro as Al Capone. You can almost feel the tension in this poster, as both sides look to wage war on the other. And check out the cool triangular design which draws your eye to the center of the poster.
77. Matrix – An ultra cool poster designed to make movie geeks drool. Now only do we get Carrie-Anne Moss in tight clothing, but we also get plenty of guns and leather. The code streaming down sections of the poster creates a computerized atmosphere. And don’t forget the fact that everyone in the poster is wearing sunglasses. Too cool.
76. Freddy vs. Jason – Two horror icons square off in this one. The poster doesn’t try to do much, opting instead to keep things simple. We get the faces of both Freddy and Jason, plus their weapons of choice. Otherwise, the rest of the poster is shrouded in black. This movie was a smash hit, and this excellent promotional item deserves some of the credit for that.
75. La Dolce Vita – Fellini’s masterpiece is immortalized in this artsy poster. The character of Marcello, who has trouble committing to anything, is muted with blue hues which allude to his lack of true passion. This is contrasted by the colorful figure of Sylvia, with her vibrant hair and large bosom. Sexy women and guys smoking cigarettes – this poster is the epitome of French coolness.
74. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – Now this is a very effective poster. By taking the iconic image of the Statue of Liberty and combining it with Macaulay Culkin’s face, the viewer is clued in to exactly what the film is about. Visually striking and informative – what else can you ask for from a movie poster?
73. I was a Teenage Frankenstein – This poster deserves a spot on the list if for no other reason that its awesome tagline. “Body of a boy! Mind of a monster! Soul of an unearthly thing!” Of course, the campy monster’s face doesn’t hurt the success of the poster and neither does the leggy bombshell who’s being terrorized.
72. Andy Warhol’s Bad – With red hues dominating the action, this movie poster has an almost pornographic feel to it. The ecstasy on the woman’s face and the man’s hand just out of sight suggests something highly sexual is taking place. Pieces of tape also look to be placed on the poster, further heightening it’s X-rated look. Very colorful and very erotic.
71. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! – The movie poster is broken up into four squares, and each one has a different color scheme (pink, blue, red and yellow). Visually exciting with intriguing imagery in each square. Notice the way that the title letters are bound together, further emphasizing the theme of the picture. Even the tagline backs up the film’s subject matter. It somewhat reminds me of a design by Warhol.
70. The Italian Job (1969) – What more could you want from a movie poster? Michael Caine sipping tea and wielding a Tommy-gun? Check. A beautiful woman in a bikini with a heist map drawn on her lovely back? Yep, it’s got that, too. Besides suggesting that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, the poster also promises action and a healthy dose of sex appeal. The ’60s never looked so cool.
69. The Flower of My Secret – A lovely movie poster which perfectly reflects the film’s theme of romance. Nice colors. The woman’s silhouette is a real eye-catcher. The large heart filled with flowers is also nicely done. It looks like something that would be on the cover of a woman’s magazine, and that’s a good thing in this case.
68. Pink Floyd The Wall – The poster’s massive screaming face perfectly captures the rage and confusion experienced by the film’s central character. Due to the movie’s dual success as a musical album, this image has become famous the world over. Just one look at the poster and there’s little doubt as to why.
67. The Howling – With a tagline which reads, “Imagine your worst fear a reality,” this poster goes right for the jugular…and scores a direct hit. You don’t see a lot of brown tones in movie posters, but this one certainly makes it work. Is the woman being attacked by a werewolf or is she turning into one herself? Well, see the movie and find out. It’s hard to capture the savage nature of violence, but this poster does a masterful job of it.
66. Airplane – One glance at this poster and it’s obvious that you’re in for some laughs. Nice clean design with an airplane twisted up like a pretzel. Sometimes simple is better, and this poster proves it.
65. For Your Eyes Only – James Bond posters are always cool, but this one is at the head of the class. Sure, we’ve got Roger Moore in his tuxedo, but the star of this poster is the set of long legs which dominate the foreground. It’s Bond at its sexy best, and they’ve even thrown in a crossbow to emphasize the danger our favorite spy will be facing. A real attention grabber…especially for the male viewer.
64. Rocketeer – This is just a cool-looking poster. The artistic style looks straight out of the 40s, and you quickly get a sense of action and adventure. The muted color scheme works well and really helps focus the viewer’s eye on the bright red uniform of the Rocketeer, which is displayed prominently in the center.
63. Ghostbusters – Who ya gonna call? That’s the question posed by the tagline of this film, and it’s on display right at the top of this promotional piece. I’ve always liked posters which keep things simple, and this one does a nice job of only including the essentials. There’s the tagline, the “no ghosts” symbol, and the films title. That’s all.
62. High Plains Drifter – Eastwood looms large with a pistol and whip in this classic Western poster. The brown and orange colors are beautiful and give the impression that the sun is just beginning to dip below the horizon. As always, Clint is the epitome of cool. I also love the way they’ve positioned the movie title. Very creative.
61. Oceans 11 (1960) – The French poster for this American classic is very beautifully done. Each of the main stars have their own panel and color scheme. Very slick and very cool…just like the Rat Pack.
60. World Trade Center – Two small figures are dwarfed by the famous towers of the World Trade Center. In a post-9/11 world, this is one of the most powerful images in the world and immediately lets potential viewers know what the movie is about. Even if the poster has no text, the image would more than speak for itself.
59. Marlene – A great black and white poster featuring Marlene Dietrich in a tux and top hat. But what really makes this poster come alive is the colored face of Dietrich which is being held aloft. Stylish and sexy, this poster shows a beautiful young actress confronting her older self. Clever.
58. Halloween – “The night he came home!” What a killer tagline. Also notice how the downward motion of the knife is slowly morphed into the evil face of the pumpkin. An easily recognizable movie poster and one which accomplishes exactly what it needs to.
57. The Shawshank Redemption – A powerful movie poster which captures the emotional release of Andy following his escape from Shawshank Prison. Notice the bright light coming from the upper right corner. This tends to suggest heaven or paradise. Almost as moving as the movie itself.
56. M.A.S.H. – This bizarre image is one that you’ll not soon forget. Yes, it’s a hand making a peace sign, but it’s also the sexy legs of a woman. Top it off with an Army helmet, and you’ve got yourself a poster which has been duplicated many times since its original release. It also perfectly captures the irreverent nature of the film.
55. Mississippi Burning – Two eyes staring out from behind the hood of a Klansman. If that doesn’t get your attention, then nothing will. An excellent choice to allow the white of the hood to dominate the poster. As expected, the image and title tell you exactly what to expect.
54. Office Space – This poster manages to be both visually inventive and humorous at the same time. It depicts an office drone covered head to toe in post-it notes and standing beneath a tagline which has become a mantra for employees everywhere – “Work sucks.” Catches the eye and quickly conveys the attitude of this irreverent film from Mike Judge.
53. Frankenstein (1931) – “Warning! The Monster is loose!” Other than the tagline and title, all we see is the all-red face of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster. Surrounded by blackness, the terrifying face seems to loom out from the dark right towards the viewer. Also notice how the white letters of the title are tinged with red drops of blood. Scary stuff. This poster would look great on your door around Halloween.
52. Metropolis – Visually, a very interesting poster which invokes images of the legendary Atlas holding the world on his back. The yellow and orange hues give it a very warm feel and help center the viewer’s attention. Even the font for the film’s title is interesting to look at.
51. Dirty Harry – An in-your-face poster with Dirty Harry and his trusty gun. The poster has a gritty feel to it, from the snarl on his face to the shattered glass in the foreground. Hard-hitting…just like Harry Callahan.
50. Dinosaur – Wow! It’s hard not to just sit and stare at this excellent movie poster from the folks at Disney. Looking into the eye of a dinosaur would be fascinating enough, but we also get the added treat of being able to examine all the prehistoric life reflected within. There’s no way someone could pass by this one and not do a double-take.
49. Vertigo – The white designs spiraling down on a red background really helps create a sense of vertigo in the viewer. The simplified designs of the man and woman at the center of the spiral give us added information about the plot of the film, especially since the top of the poster boasts James Stewart and Kim Novak. Even the lettering creates a sense of unease. The kind of high quality that we’ve come to expect from Alfred Hitchcock.
48. Showgirls – The movie may have been terrible, but that doesn’t mean that the poster has to be. Showing far more subtlety than its big screen counterpart, this poster hints at the lewdness and raw sexuality explored within. And notice how the sliver of the woman’s body forms into an “S” shape. Clever and provocative.
47. Psycho (1998) – In this movie poster for the 1998 remake, the famous shower scene is featured front and center. While the movie may have been a flop, the promotional material has nothing to be ashamed of. Bold, shocking, and very memorable.
46. Hard Candy – Little Red Riding Hood using herself as bait for the Big Bad Wolf – that’s what this poster is all about, and that’s also the theme of the film it’s advertising. It’s difficult not to be drawn to the central image of the hooded girl dressed all in red, and her flip-flops let us know that this is very much a contemporary tale. Of course, the giant steel trap also dominates the landscape and hints at the danger to come. Nicely done.
45. The Thing – A really cool poster for John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece. The blue and white color scheme is highly appropriate given the film’s arctic setting, and the illustration is done in such a way as to suggest ice and snow without actually showing any. And then there’s the face of the lone figure. We can’t make it out, which reflects the film’s paranoia and suspense. The Thing could be anybody, and this poster does an excellent job of getting that point across. A personal favorite of mine.
44. Creepshow – Looking just like the cover of an old E.C. comic, this poster does an excellent job of catching the viewer’s eye. From the 10 cent logo in the corner, to the promise of “5 jolting tales of terror,” you know you’re going to be in for a terror-filled ride. The boy even has posters of Carrie and Dawn of the Dead on his wall, which is a nice way to indicate the involvement of horror masters Stephen King and George Romero.
43. Titanic – Winslet, DiCaprio, and the bow of the doomed ship. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Even the looks on the actors’ faces hints at a sweeping romance mixed with tragedy. The number one film of all time deserves an appropriately epic poster. It gets it.
42. King Kong (1976) – This poster just screams action. With one foot on each tower of the World Trade Center, Kong clutches a terrified woman in one hand and a burning train car in the other. Meanwhile, helicopters and jet fighters look to take him down. Kong’s form looks massive (much larger than he actually is in the film), and this is only heightened by the vast New York skyline in the background.
41. Schindler’s List – A poster which expresses both hope and despair. Notice how the names and numbers of the titular list overlap the arms and invoke imagery of the tattoos that each Jew was given upon entering a concentration camp. The red fabric of the girl’s sleeve stands out against the muted colors just the way it did in the film. A haunting poster.
40. Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman – It’s hard to beat a poster of a 50 foot babe on a rampage. Sure, it’s campy, but that’s the point. It grabs your eye and brings about a smile as you scan the form of the long-legged terror. For a somewhat forgotten film, this poster is still going strong in the minds of many movie lovers.
39. The Outlaw Josey Wales – Josey Wales exhibits a look of anger and opens up with his two pistols in this classic poster which seems to scream revenge. His red scarf leads us right to the pursuing riders at the bottom of the scene, and the illustration masterfully captures Eastwood in all his glory. If you don’t like this one, then chances are that you don’t like westerns.
38. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein – Taking the minimalist approach, this poster features the movie’s title but does so in a very inventive fashion. The entire background is composed of human skin, with only the stitches and title to break it up. A great example of achieving maximum results with minimal effort.
37. Chinatown – With some great noir imagery, this poster transports us to another time and place. The shadowed face of Jack Nicholson looks grim and determined, while the smoke from his cigarette rises up to help frame the lovely features of Faye Dunaway. The warm color scheme also works surprisingly well, acting as a natural contrast to the darker figure on the left.
36. About Schmidt – Nicholson looking haggard with a literal small storm cloud hanging over his head. If it was any other actor, this might not tell you much about the movie. But since it’s Jack, you immediately know whether or not you’ll be interested from this one image.
35. The Silence of the Lambs – Jodi Foster’s face and a Death’s Head moth. An excellent combination. It’s also nice how the moth’s position hints at where the killer places them, as well as helping to play up the notion of silence. It was also a cool touch to have Foster’s eyes be tinged with red. Immediately recognizable.
34. Rosemary’s Baby – The sad face of Mia Farrow looks to the heavens in this disturbing movie poster. Her sense of desperation and grief is heightened by the sickly green colors used throughout the background. In the foreground sits the ominous baby carriage bathed in black. An excellent piece of artwork, one gets a hopeless feeling just from looking at it.
33. Wolf – Nicholson has glowing eyes, and Pfeiffer is only slightly visible. Not showing her eyes leaves the viewer to wonder if she’s in danger or ecstasy. The light reflecting on his eye doubles as an image for the moon, and the way he looms out from the dark is very reminiscent of the old Frankenstein poster. Moody and atmospheric.
32. Khovanshchina – This poster is for a 1959 Russian musical based on an opera by the famed composer Modest Mussorgsky. The large figure completely dominates the poster and the interesting angle grabs the eye of the viewer and refuses to let go. The use of red throughout the poster really creates a striking look. I don’t know much about Russian musicals, but I know that I like this poster.
31. Casablanca – The gang’s all here in this classic black and white poster. The image of Humphrey Bogart is front and center, while Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, and others round out the background. From Rick Blaine and his gun, to the sinister face of Peter Lorre, it’s obvious that this one’s going to be filled with adventure and intrigue. Exactly the kind of quality poster that you’d expect from the 1940s.
30. The Graduate – Capturing one of the most famous images in movie history, this poster prominently displays the leg of Mrs. Robinson as she tries to seduce young Benjamin Braddock. It’s sexy and comical at the same time. Taking the best moment from a film and transferring it to the movie poster is always a smart idea.
29. The Godfather – Featuring only the film’s title and the all-red face of Marlon Brando, it’s hard not to notice this poster. I don’t know exactly what they were going for with this one, but it works. It’s also interesting to note that most elderly faces are done in grays or other muted colors. Interesting to see Don Corleone’s face in a color usually reserved for much younger characters.
28. Anatomy of a Murder - This poster uses a two-color scheme with great effect. The top half, which contains a cartoonish corpse cut into segments, is highlighted by a yellow background. The bottom half, containing the names of the stars, is done all in red. A real eye-grabber.
27. Lawrence of Arabia – There are a few characters scattered about the poster, but the centerpiece is the shadowy face of the title character. The blackness of his face is perfectly contrasted by the white of his desert attire, and you’ll find yourself staring hard in an attempt to get a closer look.
26. Road to Perdition – The tagline, “Pray for Michael Sullivan.” is just great. And so is the image of a man and boy walking through the pouring rain. Between the clothing and the old Tommy-gun, the movie poster also does a nice job of letting the viewer know that the film takes place in another era. A very moody poster.
25. Saw – A saw blade is barely visible at the top of the poster. Creepy. But not half as creepy as the severed leg lying in the foreground. The colors are muted, but the leg still looks rotten, bruised, and greenish. Utterly disgusting but utterly fascinating at the same time. It’s kind of like looking at a car wreck.
24. Tristana – An elegant poster featuring the unforgettable profile of Catherine Deneuve. Vines and branches look to cover the poster and overlap her face. The colors are vibrant, the details sharp, and everything about this poster will pique your interest. Truly one of the all-time great movie posters.
23. Raiders of the Lost Ark – This throwback captures the adventuresome spirit of posters from the late 30s and early 40s. Indy is armed with his trademark whip and looks ready for action. Behind him, we get a peek at the supporting cast. It’s hard not to smile when looking at this one.
22. Reservoir Dogs – Five men in black suits, sunglasses, and skinny ties. Amazing how this simple image helped redefine cool. The paper-bag-brown color scheme is also a nice touch and helps give the poster a dated and unique look. A poster worthy of Tarantino.
21. Rocky II – The creators of this poster cleverly decided to turn it into a boxing poster. Rocky is billed as the “slugging sensation,” and the poster goes on to call it the “rematch of the century.” They certainly got that
one right. It really plays up the spectacle of the event and makes the viewer feel as though he or she is going to be part of something special.
20. The Exorcist – A creepy poster for a creepy film. It’s especially cool the way that the light from Reagan’s room shines out onto the darkened street and the figure of the approaching priest. You can almost hear the film’s theme music as you look at the poster.
19. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978) – Many posters opt to use photos from the actual movie, but not this one. Instead, it provides the viewer with a beautiful illustration depicting a vampire and his victim. With the majority of the colors being shades of black and white, the limited use of red provides a nice contrast. This would look great on the wall of any horror fan.
18. Magnum Force – There’s no escaping the in-your-face design of this poster. Dirty Harry brandishes his .357 Magnum and takes a backseat to his powerful weapon (which dominates the poster thanks to its all-black coloring). It may not be artsy, but it’s still awfully cool.
17. Platoon – Exploding napalm, enemy soldiers, and a bloodied Willem Dafoe reaching towards the heavens. Talk about your powerful images. It’s also cool how dog tags were used to replace the two Os in the movie title.
16. E.T. – A simple concept representing the contact between a boy and an alien. The poster for this Spielberg movie doesn’t try to do too much, instead preferring to let the simple touching of fingers do all the talking. The innocence of the film just seems to radiate from the poster.
15. Alien – “In space no one can hear you scream.” What a great tagline. As the giant pod slowly cracks open, we can see hundreds of pods waiting below. This image is instantly recognizable and creates a cool sense of dread.
14. American Beauty – It’s not too often that you get to see a movie poster with a belly button as its centerpiece. Beautiful and seductive, this poster says a lot about innocence gained and innocence lost. The rose is a nice touch and no doubt has more than one meaning.
13. The Shining – How can you not love a poster featuring Jack Nicholson as the grinning madman, Jack Torrance? In addition, we get a terrified Shelly Duvall looking on as an axe splits apart the door of her hiding spot. It’s hard to imagine a poster which better captures madness and rage. Heeeere’s Johnny!
12. Scarface – Simple, yet powerful. The color scheme is a basic black and white, and the only figure shown is the unmistakable form of Al Pacino as Tony Montana. Easily recognized by movie fans around the world, this poster has been copied time and time again in other areas of pop culture.
11. Danton – Unless you recognize the name Danton, you’re more than likely not going to be able to look at this bizarre French poster and figure out what the film is about. So why have I included it so high on my list? Well, just look at it. It’s one of the most original and visually stunning movie posters ever produced. Just stunning.

Cabaret

10. Cabaret – This Polish poster for the Liza Minelli film immediately gets your attention with the image of the swastika. The female legs in stocking also help to keep your attention, and Liza’s face is ever-present. Very inventive, and it reminds me of some kind of World War II propaganda. With a poster like this, the movie’s going to have to be pretty darn good to live up to the hype.

9. Straw Dogs – A powerful poster for director Sam Peckinpah’s equally powerful film. The broken glasses on Dustin Hoffman’s face tell you everything – this is a picture with extreme violence. And you can’t help but wonder what Hoffman’s looking at. It also helps that the title is so mysterious and cool sounding (just like Reservoir Dogs a few decades later). This poster displays all the subtlety of a brick to the back of the head.

8. Pickpocket – Fascinating image of a pickpocket’s hand moving in for the kill. Between this and the title, it’s hard not to know what the movie’s about. In addition, the image is just one of those that you really want to study. Even if you’re not into 50s French cinema, the poster may persuade you to see this one.

7. Star Wars – Luke holding his lightsaber in the air. Leia striking a sexy pose. The black helmet of Darth Vader looming in the background. It all adds up to one of the most iconic posters of all time. Everything about this one is memorable, including the tagline of “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away.” The kind of promotional item that makes geeks around the world swoon.

6. Pulp Fiction – Looking like the well-worn cover of a pulp novel, this poster is one of the more inventive to come along in years. From the 10 cent price tag, to Uma Thurman’s femme fatale pose, this one is often imitated but never duplicated. Very cool.

5. Gone With the Wind – As scenes of the Civil War play out along the bottom of the poster, the figures of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh dominate the bulk of the picture. Both show just enough skin to entice viewers of both genders, and their lust-filled faces immediately clue us in to the passionate nature of the film. The bright orange color scheme alludes to the burning of Atlanta. In one word….smoldering.

4. Island of Dr. Moreau (1997) – A powerful poster that jumps right out and bites you in the butt. The animalistic arm wearing the clothes of a man. The frightened victim looking away from the face of his attacker. The sickly green color scheme which suggests disease, decay, and mutation. The poster’s copy which mentions opening the “gates of hell.” It all adds up to one really frightening image. This was a case where the poster was much better than the actual film.

3. Jaws – Can you hear the distinct theme music playing in your head as you look at the poster? The shark looks appropriately immense, and the poor swimmer doesn’t have a chance. The movie itself has been out for many years, but the poster is just as timely as ever. An all-time classic.

2. Raging Bull – A close-up of the beaten and bruised face of Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta. The ring ropes are just barely visible in the background, but the poster is so famous that anyone looking at it immediately knows it’s a boxing movie. The weathered face of the professional prizefighter speaks volumes, and a more powerful poster has never been created.

1. Love in the Afternoon – Here it is. The best movie poster of all-time in my humble opinion. Why? Well, just take a moment to look at it. It accomplishes everything that a poster should. With the delicate female hand pulling down the blind, we get a good idea of what the film is about. And the way the blind looks to be raised from the surface of the poster really grabs the viewer’s eye. That’s something you never really see in a movie poster, as most of them have a flat surface. The funky colors and lettering of the actors’ names really jump out at you, and the entire presentation is crisp and clean without being too busy. A masterpiece of design.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 at 8:31 am and is filed under Badass Movie Posters, Movie Megalists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “101 Best Movie Posters”

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August 11, 2009

Jane Gaston

Hi there, just visiting for the first time as it seems you have linked your Lawrence of Arabia segment to my latest blog post… thanks! I’ll be sure and give you a shoutout on my next posting which will probably be next Monday. Hope your readers will enjoy my meeting of Omar Sharif!

August 13, 2009

Tony

if this was a Poll i’d vote for Jaws, classics. and the poster looks scary even now.

August 20, 2009

Britnee

Hey, way cool list! Movie posters are a lot of fun to look at.

Thanks for posting your list.

December 21, 2009

No.

F**k your masterpiece of design. There is nothing iconic about that #1 poster, nothing that embodies the characters in a meaningful or powerful way. The movie itself probably doesn’t even have any significance to it. The Star Wars poster tops this. F**k probably fifty or more of those posters top that simplistic #1 piece of sh*t that you picked.

December 21, 2009

Shane

So you didn’t like it?

January 31, 2010

Katie

Thanks for posting the list. I agree that the number one really stands out, simplistic but not boring, the colours really stand out, good choice!

February 1, 2010

Shane

Glad you enjoyed the post, and glad you liked the #1 choice. Lots of really great movie posters out there, but that one just caught my eye.

February 1, 2010

Shane

Glad you liked it. Thanks for the kind words.

February 17, 2010

Dave

The Crow’s one should be there. :)

March 27, 2010

Josephina Siemers

Thanks for the great info, I will definitely be back!

March 2, 2011

else3573

I’m really surprised Full Metal Jacket was left off.

November 21, 2011

Zombie Movies Fanatic

My nomination would be the Dawn of the Dead movie poster. Every time I see that thing it gives me the shivers. Now that’s a poster. I’m talking about the Romero film not the remake.

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