40 Unforgettable Movie Posters

Floating heads! Photoshop nightmares! Extreme camera mugging! We all know a lousy movie poster when we see one, right? But let’s not focus on the negative. Instead, here’s a collection of some of the most memorable, iconic, audacious, eye-catching, and flat-out gorgeous movie posters ever unleashed.

And so, in a rather stream-of-consciousness order…

(Note: many of the posters here were pulled from the amazing IMPAwards site. Check it out!)

jaws

Still one of the most horrifying images ever created. It’s so BIG!!

So iconic, that a few short months later it was sent up, to humorous and soon-to-be-legendary effect:

rocky_horror_picture_show

The subtle biting of the lip says all there is to say about the dirty, delicious cult phenomenon.

gilda

Va-va-va-voom! There were several versions of this poster for Gilda, but this one is my fave because it doesn’t feature  Glenn Ford about to slap Rita Hayworth.

west_side_story

The beat-up stencil, the fire escapes, and the exuberant lovers combine to make this an all-time graphic fave.

Taking an altogether different stab at capturing the Big Apple…

 

JasonTakesManhattanTeaser

The producers of Jason Takes Manhattan allegedly received cease-and-desist orders from the City of New York for this inspired teaser (the I Heart NY logo is trademarked), making it an even more unforgettable poster image.

metropolis

Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking dystopian vision Metropolis had an equally unsettling poster. Can you imagine how people must have reacted to this in 1927? I bet smelling salts were called for.

Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-Poster

I personally loathe both this movie and every recent college grad who moves to NYC thinking that Holly is some kind of role model instead of the pathetic sociopath that she was. HAVING SAID THAT… this poster is gorgeous, smartly plucking one of the film’s iconic fashions out of the drunken fray and showcasing it for the world to see.

Showgirls movie poster

Doubly so in regards to the above. I actually think this is a terrible design, but it gets the job done.

brokeback_mountain

Seriously. Get me a hankie.

sunset_boulevard

Can you IMAGINE seeing this as a child? The noose made of film? The cowering lovers? The looming threat that Gloria Swanson’s eyebrows will take the roof off the joint? HAWWWWWT.

trainspotting_ver3

With its screaming safety orange and portrait-style presentation of the various characters (each of whom had their own individual poster), Trainspotting announced its arrival as a new kind of movie for a new generation of sickos.

poltergeist

Wait, who? The television repairmen? Awesome.

happybirthdaytomeposter2

This one still gives me nightmares, even though I have it hanging in my living room!

hunger

A poster fitting of a lesbian vampire fantasia featuring David Bowie.

boys_in_the_band

I love how matter-of-fact this poster is. They could have gone in an entirely different direction with this, and I’m glad they didn’t – I bet they shocked plenty of biddies with this one.

fightclubpenis

Okay, this technically was a billboard ad for Fight Club (mocking the of-the-moment campaign for Godzilla), but it’s so awesome that I had to include it here. More giant penis jokes, please!

star_wars_ver2

I love this one (from artist Tom Jung) because it looks like an old watercolor book cover. Plus, how sexy is Leia?! Allegedly Carrie Fisher was loathe to pose for it…

Querelle

Um… I’ll let that one speak for itself.

forty_year_old_virgin

Posing the adorably awkward Steve Carell as though he were at a Sears portrait studio was a genius way to communicate his character’s sweet nature. Plus, great colors!

raiders_of_the_lost_ark

Richard Amsel’s art for this classic Raiders poster is amazing. Everything about Indiana Jones screams pure sex – the smirk, the half-open shirt, the whip, the gun holster in the crotch, the fact that he’s clearly pushing Karen Allen aside to get to me, everything.

Amsel also did this stunning number:

flash_gordon

The arms that saved the universe! “Music by Queen.” You bet your sweet ass.

The glut of hero-worship posters like the above are what led to this wonderfully clever riff:

national_lampoons_vacation

We all know Ryan Reynolds wants to be Chevy Chase, but who knew Chevy Chase wanted to be Ryan Reynolds?!

myra_breckinridge

This poster is, strictly aesthetically speaking, hideous. But a closer look reveals that under Raquel Welch’s prancing pony-legs stand Mae West, Rex Reed, and Hollywood titan John Huston. That’s enough for me.

Rebelwithutacause

Classic, handsome, and dangerous, this is the pose that launched a thousand Abercrombies. (And who the hell is he pointing at?)

300

I don’t know this “Glory” of whom you speak, but if he looks anything like that, I’ll take two.

Demon_Seed

This poster is the only to make the list because it is so, so, so wrong – uh, rapey much? Yes, in this film Julie Christie is raped and impregnated by her home security system. Good of them to make such a disgusting premise look so damned sexy, eh? BARF.

stepford_wives

Do you think people went to see The Stepford Wives expecting that all of the ladies would be made of fine porcelain? Such a brilliant image, made all the more powerful by the hopeless look on Katharine Ross’s face…

And speaking of Ira Levin

rosemarysbaby

So haunting, so ominous, so gorgeous.

And speaking of MORE Ira Levin…

deathtrap

Love the old-timey illustration and the playful turn on “whodunit”. If you’ve seen Deathtrap (and if you haven’t, you absolutely should, for many reasons I won’t get into), you know that this poster – from movie poster master Bill Gold – captures the spirit of the film perfectly.

Speaking of whodunnits…

clueposter

That’s a lot of information to fit onto one poster, but it tells us exactly what we need to know. Perfection.

And speaking of Bill Gold

clockworkorange

Deliciously graphic, and hugely cutting-edge poster for the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange (notice how he incorporates the “A” into the image?). Although I can’t imagine that today any studio would let the word “rape” onto a movie poster!

Kind of hard to believe that the same guy who did the above also delivered this classic:

casablanca

Love the sketches, the color, the swooping, romantic text – everything.

howling

That is a seriously badass poster. The nails (claws?), tearing paper (flesh?) and lip-glossed scream are like a high-fashion editorial gone totally cuckoobananas wrong. Iconic and awesome.

chinatown

The Asian-inspired artwork makes this one a standout. Love how Done Fadeaway’s Faye Dunaway’s eyes seem to just manifest out of that smoke.

Speaking of Faye Dunaway’s eyes…

eyes-of-laura-mars-original

GORGEOUS. There’s a reason we have it hanging in our living room.

thefan

First off, if you have not seen The Fan, PLEASE do yourself a favor and track it down. It is UTTERLY INSANE. And the poster art – in which Michael Biehn’s tuxedo lapel transforms into a dagger stabbing into Lauren Bacall (at least I think that’s supposed to be her…) – is pretty awesome.

936full-gremlins-posterWhy do they not paint posters like this anymore?! It’s amazing. When I was a kid, EVERYONE wanted to see Gremlins because of this poster, which gives away just enough and left everyone wanting more.

vertigo

A bona fide classic from Saul Bass – and, oddly, one of the things often credited for Vertigo’s utter failure at the box office. Too “arty”? Hell no. This nightmarish image perfectly captures several of the film’s central themes and motifs (obsession, following, spirals, madness) and looks gorgeous, to boot. It’s too bad it, like the film, was ahead of its time. Bonus: It features three of the awesomest words in the English language: “Barbara Bel Geddes.”

anatomy_of_a_murder_ver2

Another from maestro Bass, and probably his most celebrated poster design.

And finally, because I can’t resist those heart-shaped glasses…

lolita

They certainly didn’t pull any punches in the poster for the film adaptation of one of the most controversial novels of the twentieth century. The poster is actually far more lascivious than the film (which is black-and-white, for starters), which a young Stanley Kubrick delivered as a savvy satire of contemporary American morals. The poster is a fizzy flirtation that hints at the film’s sense of humor while captivating the passerby with those eyes.

 

So! Those are just a few DOZEN of my favorite posters – a collection of images that I haven’t been able to forget. What are some of your favorites? Share ’em in the comments!

 

In 2003, Brian launched the world's first website devoted to horror film from a gay perspective (CampBlood.org), mining an untapped (and occasionally unintentional) source of entertainment and bringing together a huge and colorful population of gay horror fans and filmmakers. When he's not pulling skeletons out of closets, Brian writes reviews for horror megasite Bloody-Disgusting.com, general film site Freezedriedmovies.com, and can be found on the ever-informative RottenTomatoes.com. Brian is also a filmmaker, having produced, written, and directed two shorts (the dark romantic comedy An Apple a Day and the eerie suspense piece Two Story House) that have played at film festivals worldwide and left audiences generally uneasy. A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Brian studied Mass Media and Film at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (I know – crazy, right?) before fleeing the district for the warm and occasionally stinky shores of NYC. Brian is a proud member of the Online Film Critics Society, loving husband to illustrator Andy Swist, and benevolent overlord of their two cats.