A good iconic movie post should stop you in the street, you should stop you worrying about your daily stress, and all that should be on your mind is, “I want to see this movie immediately.”
There are millions of great movie posters out there, but these are the 10 most iconic that almost every serious movie poster collector should have in their collection. If you can get your hands on the originals and not a bootleg, you will be sitting pretty.
The following are what I think are the top 10 most desirably iconic movie posters from 1939 and onward. By the way, we are focusing on “one sheets.” There are other poster types, like teasers and Quads, but this top 10 list will be referencing One Sheets for simplicity.
If you are curious about the other types of movie posters you will want to check out this informative article:
10. Gone with the Wind (1967 Poster)
I love the arrogance of the tag line… “The most magnificent picture ever.” And who can argue, as it is still the biggest box office smash when taking inflation into account. Although there are some problems when reviewing the film with a contemporary eye, I think that is a little harsh. It is still an iconic film and an iconic poster.
The posters perfectly illustrated the movie’s plot, at how passionate love totally consumes you even when the world around you is burning.
Howard Terpning, a famous fine artist, illustrator and movie poster designer, did this re-release version in 1967
However, Gone with the Wind was released in 1939, and that poster is very different from the 1960s version. The 1960’s version has been the more iconic and most representative of the film.
9. The Exorcist
A terrifying movie and a terrifying movie poster, which isn’t surprising as the poster is taken from a scene in the film, and it works perfectly. This poster gives me the chills.
The first take is that the Priest is looking up at the window, he knows what is up there, and he knows he has to go up there.
It can also be seen as whatever is in the window is ready and is shining the light to lead him to the room. The text’s pastel purple seems an odd choice to me, but I couldn’t imagine it as any other color now.
A classic depiction if there was ever one of the despairs of war, especially the Vietnam War. William Dafoe looks totally broken as his enemy surrounds him. This coupled with the dog tags replacing lettering in the title. You know you are in for a gritty and uncomfortable depiction of war.
This film is no… aren’t Americans great and isn’t war heroic, and this poster nails that sentiment.
7. Blade Runner
John Alvin made his career from making some of the greatest movie poster illustrations like ET, Willow, and numerous anniversary posters for Star Wars, but Blade Runner is one of his finest.
The cityscape lets the audience know that it is set in the future. Harrison Ford looks every bit the leading man. And the femme fatal smoking the cigarette is the perfect nod to its Film Noir inspiration.
I love the twist of the tag line, “where we haven’t met our own match, we have actually made our own match”… brilliant stuff.
6. Scarface (1983)
One of the most used and mimicked posters of all time is the simple and iconic design of Brian De Palma’s film Scarface starring Al Pacino.
The simple black and white graphic solve of Al Pacino standing with his gun and closed fist sum up the gangster mentality of the film. This imagery’s popularity has been bootlegged, used as satire, and replicated since its birth.
It is definitely one of the most iconic posters of all time.
5. Jurassic Park
I have such respect for the artist of this poster, it would have been so easy to go really over the top with a blockbuster like this, but they really reined it in.
The skeleton T-Rex perfectly sums up the plot of the film… Dinosaur is no longer just a rack of bones in a museum, it is alive and well, and it is ready to cause havoc.
It is almost like something a child could have designed this, but it is a very elegant movie poster and has brilliant tag line.
“An adventure 65 million years in the making” is almost perfection.
4. The Godfather
Sometimes you have to admire what works, the puppeteer logo is taken straight from the cover of the book, written by Mario Puzo.
Then it adds the star power into the mix with the image of Marlon Brando in a striking red highlight. Simple, effective, and iconic.
Mad props go to the 1958 Vertigo poster. Whilst the two actors get top billing, there is no doubt that this film is all about Alfred Hitchcock… as it’s his “masterpiece” after all.
Everything about this poster is just slightly off—the crazy font to the man and women spiraling out of control. You just know these people are in trouble, and you want to know what got them into the mess they are clearly in.
Saul Bass, the legendary illustrator, really nailed the execution and made one of the most iconic posters of all time.
2. Star Wars
Most of us know about the hero’s journey theme running through all the Star Wars films by now, but it was first highlighted in the movie poster. The classic good guys in white and the bad guy in black.
But what is also hinted at is the moral struggle we would come to know and love, with the lightsabre and Luke forming a Christian Cross through Vader’s helmet.
The opening of the scrawl is also repeated on the poster to great effect. Imagine never having seen or heard about Star Wars. The tag line “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” would definitely be intriguing.
Thanks to illustrator and art director, Tom Jung, we have one of the most coveted movie posters of all time. He was a true master.
The word iconic often gets banded about without merit, but if you asked most movie buffs what the most iconic movie poster is…. I bet most people say Jaws.
Like the music score, the poster is simple but terrifying, with the big, bold font of the title in blood red and the oversized shark stalking the vulnerable women.
It taps perfectly into people’s fears of the deep and dark ocean. We have no real power, and we are at the mercy of the monsters from the sea.
Give thanks to illustrator and artist Roger Kastel and put this poster in your collection.
Honorable mention – Parasite (2019)
Let’s be real I think the modern-day movie poster is a dying art. There are very few modern-day posters that stand out, but I do love this one.
It is just so weird, and I didn’t know why their eyes were crossed out, but I wanted to find out why.
A great modern-day poster for sure and future icon? Perhaps.
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