The best movie posters excite us and peak our interest without telling us more than we should know going into a movie. This is an art form. Do you have a favorite movie poster that you'll never forget? Well, we've rounded up the most effective, tantalizing and iconic movie posters ever.
Though there are films from a wide variety of genres on this list, you'll notice it's heavy on action, sci-fi and horror genre titles. These pictures are often sold entirely on their concepts rather than star power, and some genre posters are just as—if not more—memorable than the films they advertise. These are the posters that are forever engrained in our memory.
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Here are the 50 best, most iconic movie posters of all time.
50. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
Before Steve Carell was a household name, this laugh-out-loud funny one-sheet teased a high-concept raunchy romp. The humane, finely acted romantic comedy delivered even more than that, though. The picture was a smash, and spawned an era of R-rated comedy prosperity.
49. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The 1970s was a golden age for brutal horror, thanks to the nixing of Hollywood's standard censorship code in the late 1960s. One of the most memorable posters from this era read "Who will survive...and what will be left of them?" With minimal gore and lots of twisted imagination, the original Texas Chain Saw holds up as a blisteringly freaky watch.
48. Parasite (2017)
The history-making South Korean thriller that swept the Oscars had a brilliant poster that teased one of the film's many themes—identity, and the loss of it. The image tells us nothing about the twisted plot while sucking us into its gravitational pull.
47. Batman (1989)
A shimmering gold logo and the last names of stars Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton was all that was needed to hook audiences; Batman ruled the summer 1989 box office. Nearly two decades later, the "Why so serious?" marketing behind The Dark Knight became just as iconic.
46. Lord of War (2005)
What red-blooded film fan could resist Nicolas Cage made out of gun parts and bullet shells? The Oscar winner plays an ethically challenged arms dealer in Andrew Niccol's war drama.
A twisted cartoon perfectly sums up this circus of a big-screen farce, one of the funniest comedies of all time.
44. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1995)
Hunter S. Thompson's infamous novel about drug use and living on the fringes is brought to life in this Salvador Dali-esque trippy image.
43. The Rocketeer (1991)
Joe Johnston's overlooked family action pic was teased in theaters with this attractive lobby card taking artistic cues from the film's 1930s time period.
42. Moonlight (2016)
The dreamy, neon-hued one-sheet teases the film's visual beauty, and the film's central theme of identity.
41. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Vietnam War appears to take on an almost supernatural quality in this work of art by Bob Peak.
40. The Social Network (2010)
Prophetic, Oscar-winning The Social Network is a key Hollywood film of the last decade. Jesse Eisenberg as controversial Mark Zuckerberg is superimposed upon the film's clever tagline.
39. Halloween (1978)
The night he came home. Who the heck is he? This scary composition is so scary and enticing, audiences couldn't wait to find out. Halloween was the most successful independent film ever for two full decades, eventually dethroned by The Blair Witch Project (another horror pic with a killer poster).
38. Forbidden Planet (1956)
What could have been a dime-a-dozen B-movie remains essential, transcendent sci-fi. The historic poster centers on Robby the Robot, with Anne Francis dramatically draped over his arms.
37. American Beauty (1999)
Look closer. Few things grab your attention on a film poster quite like a naked body. American Beauty's iconic midriff is tasteful and intriguing without telling us anything about the plot.
36. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Films about the Vietnam War conjured many powerful images, hence their presence on this list. Stanley Kubrick's drama was advertised with punchy minimalism, a helmet reading "Born to Kill," and the tagline: "In Vietnam the wind doesn't blow it sucks."
35. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The scariest baby carriage of all time is front-and-center in the one-sheet for Roman Polanski's iconic thriller, based on the book by Ira Levin.
34. Mean Streets (1973)
The poster for Martin Scorsese's breakthrough is an elegant composition presenting the criminal underworld of Little Italy, New York.
33. Amadeus (1984)
"The man, the music, the madness, the motion picture!" Adapted by Peter Shaffer from his own play, Miloš Forman's biopic won eight Oscars including Best Picture.
32. Platoon (1986)
The most famous scene from Oliver Stone's Vietnam War film features an agonized Willem Dafoe, arms reaching to the sky. This scene and image have been parodied ad nauseum.
31. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
How many images are as iconic as Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) in pearls? The instantly recognizable opening scene was reportedly difficult to film due to crowd control and Hepburn's disliking pastries, among other reasons.
30. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Of all the hand-drawn Disney classics that could have made this list, we're going with the simple artwork of Ariel perched on a rock, looking longingly into the distance. Along with plenty of mystery, the poetic image promises a return to the magic of Disney's golden age, following a decades-long drought in the wake of Walt Disney's death. It's a promise the picture, the inaugural film of the Disney Renaissance, keeps.
29. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)
Talk about high-concept! The endlessly referenced and spoofed poster for this '50s B-movie is far more memorable than the silly film. This was super racy for 1958. The film is in black-and-white, but the one-sheet is painted with warm reds and yellows.
28. The Evil Dead (1981)
The famous teaser for Sam Raimi's symphonic splatter-fest promises to take horror to the next level. Special shoutout to the deliciously over-the-top one-sheet for sequel Army of Darkness (1992).
27. Scream (1996)
The poster for Hitchcock's Psycho just barely didn't make this list (it's not as iconic as the shower scene). The attention-grabbing poster for Wes Craven's smash, influential slasher (and the movie itself) wink to Psycho. The film's big star, Drew Barrymore, is front-and-center. She gets killed horribly in the opening minutes.
26. Back to the Future (1985)
Robert Zemeckis' time-traveling comedy blockbuster is full of iconic imagery, much of it featured here. The DeLorean time machine had to reach 88 miles an hour to time-hop, and leave those fiery tire tracks.
25. Superman: The Movie (1978)
"You'll believe a man can fly" is one of the most famous taglines in motion-picture history, promoting the film's state-of-the-art visual effects . Richard Donner's Superman was a groundbreaking smash.
24. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Philip Castle and Bill Gold are responsible for the pyramid design promoting one of the most controversial films ever (outright banned in many countries). The tagline: "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven."
23. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Saul Bass was one of the most prolific titles and poster designers ever. His bold orange and yellow design for this courtroom drama is one of his signature works.
22. The Graduate (1967)
Is this shapely gam the most famous leg in film history? "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."
21. Gone With the Wind (1939)
(1967 re-release poster) Still the highest-grossing movie of all time when taking inflation into account, Victor Fleming's epic romance was re-released in theaters by this fiery, sexy one-sheet.
20.E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The is the first of three science fiction masterworks from the summer of 1982 we've placed consecutively. Steven Spielberg's family-friendly heartwarmer was the most commercially appealing, and by far the most successful. In fact, it dethroned Star Wars as the highest-grossing movie ever, a record it held for several years.
19. The Thing (1982)
A commercial and even critical dud upon release, John Carpenter's sci-fi/body horror masterwork is teased with a supernatural image promising unthinkable terror from beyond.
18. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott's deliberately paced neo-noir received a chilly reception when it was released in 1982, originally presented in a weird, off-putting cut the studio meddled with. Once the streamlined director's cut arrived a decade later, observers couldn't deny the film's greatness. Blade Runner is easily one of the 2oth century's most visual influential pictures.
17. Goldfinger (1964)
The pop art iconography of the James Bond franchise's posters are so rooted in our culture they merit a list of their own. No doubt the most iconic of all is Goldfinger, teases the image of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton)'s shimmering dead body. It's somehow morbid and glamorous at the same time, kind of like the historic franchise.
16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The throwback original one-sheet for Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)'s first outing advertised "The Return of the Great Adventure." Bingo.
15. Titanic (1997)
Nothing on Earth could come between them. Originally intended to be a summer tentpole (and plagued with bad press for going over budget etc and other production woes), James Cameron's romantic drama opened just before Christmas, breaking myriad records before ultimately becoming the biggest movie ever.
14. The Godfather (1972)
The puppeteering logo is just as effective and memorable on a film poster as it was on the cover of Mario Puzo's novel.
13. Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg's summer event film, and the groundbreaking special effects therein, were teased judiciously before the film's record-breaking box-office run. Without revealing anything, the poster is chilling and tantalizing as all hell.
12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
In 1991, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the peak of his stardom, the kind of fame that only comes around every so often. The poster for T2 is understated badass, and the pictureremains one of the best of all blockbusters, an event that fully lives up to every bit of its hype.
11. Chinatown (1974)
Smoky, erotic and dangerous, the artwork for Roman Polanski's detective story teases a modern, darker take on the classic noir. Chinatown is considered one of the finest mystery films to this day, and Robert Towne's Oscar-winning script is timeless.
10. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The face of Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is underneath a death's head hawkmoth, accented with the nude bodies of embracing women in despair. It's incredibly haunting. The Silence of the Lambs remains the only horror film in history to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
9. Metropolis (1927)
The futuristic imagery of Fritz Lang's Metropolis has influenced everything from Blade Runner to Star Wars to Madonna's "Express Yourself" video.
8. The Exorcist (1973)
The most terrifying of all motion pictures is teased with this iconic image of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) arriving outside the bedroom of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). Cue "Tubular Bells."
7. Vertigo (1958)
Oscar-winning graphic designer and opening titles wizard Saul Bass utilizes Vertigo's central plot device and the theme of cyclical obsession to unforgettable effect.
6. Scarface (1983)
Say hello to our little friend: one of the bestselling movie posters ever. The release of Brian de Palma's gangster picture, a remake, coincided with the rise of hip-hop music; its influence is tangible to this day.
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
The poster for Quentin Tarantino's enormously influential landmark tells us nothing about the movie. It frames Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) in a replication of a cheap pulp novel. Undeniably alluring.
4. Ghostbusters (1984)
Who you gonna call? Michael C. Gross's logo is a pop-culture staple, merchandising wildfire.
3. Star Wars (1977)
Echoing the style of John Carter adventure novels' covers and more, the dramatic, exaggerated styling of StarWars' unique imagery promised to take audiences on the adventure of a lifetime.
2. Alien (1979)
"In space, no one can hear you scream." The one-sheet's design is as impressive as H.R. Giger's disturbingly sexualized Xenomorph itself. Alien was an Oscar-winning runaway box-office hit. David Kroll of Newsweek warned audiences the picture could "scare the peanuts out of your M&Ms."
Really, what else could possibly be number one? The film advert for the first-ever summer blockbuster gives the artwork of Peter Benchley's bestseller teeth in more ways than one. It's so intimidating. This is the stuff of Hollywood legend.
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