20 Best Movie Posters of All Time

A great movie poster grabs your eyes. It slows you as you walk out of the theater. It calls your cornea to dance across it, consider it, and remember it. It’s designed to work your brain and make it spit out a single, simple message: more please.

Despite advances in technology, the movie poster has endured. Why? Mostly because it has thousands of galleries (AKA movie theaters) across the country whose walls would look bare without it. But also because movie posters can still work their magic pretty damn well.

The medium has inspired some truly awesome creativity. It’s a challenging art form that involves boiling down hours of images and narrative into a single frame. The best movie posters do this astoundingly well—capturing the concept and tone of the movie in a simple, powerful, and intriguing way.

Make no mistake about it, there are a lot of great movie posters out there. In fact, there are probably more great movie posters than great movies. Choosing the top 20 wasn’t easy. While we wouldn’t call this a “definitive” list, it’s tough to deny the greatness of any of these posters…

20. The Usual Suspects

All the main characters are presented. The lineup image alludes to the crime genre. The shadows behind them suggest something mysterious.

The Usual Suspects Movie Poster

19. Major League

This poster makes it crystal clear this is a baseball comedy. While it may hammer it over the head a little hard, it’s undeniably memorable.

Major League Movie Poster

18. Walk the Line

This simple, four-color design resembles an old concert poster. It’s a stand-out.

Walk the Line Movie Poster

17. Animal House

This poster perfectly captures the comic fun and chaos of the movie.

Animal House Movie Poster

16. The Terminator

Posters don’t get more Schwarzenegger than this (his name even dwarfs the title).

The Terminator Movie Poster

15. Adaptation

Nicolas Cage is a broken flower pot. Repeat: Nicolas Cage is a broken flower pot.

Adaptation Movie Poster

 14. Halloween

The title, a scary pumpkin, and a large knife tell us everything we need to know. That shine on the knife tip is also a great touch.

Halloween Movie Poster

13. Back to the Future

Captures the fun, light sci-fi tone of the movie. The logo, main image, and flames convey the time travel concept and create a sense of urgency.

Back to the Future Movie Poster

12. Cool Hand Luke

Loose. Artistic. And, most of all, cool.

Cool Hand Luke Movie Poster

11. Alien

The stark image of a glowing green egg (which may or may not be smiling at us) against a black background. And that amazing tagline.

Alien 1979 Movie Poster

10. Airplane

The image perfectly captures the madcap tone of this comedy classic.

Airplane Movie Poster

 9. The Thing

The angle, refracted light, stiff hands. Everything about this screams something bad is going to happen.

The Thing Movie Poster

8. Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman

The look on her face says it all. Not just a great movie poster but a great piece of art.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman Movie Poster

 7. The Graduate

The now-iconic image from the movie paired with a great tagline creates a spectacular series of dots for the viewer to connect.

The Graduate Movie Poster

6. Evil Dead 2

Like the movie itself, this poster shows you something weird, scary and kind-of funny—and dares you to look away.

Evil Dead 2 Movie Poster

5. Vertigo

The red background immediately grabs your eyeballs. The abstract image gets your brain churning.

Vertigo Movie Poster

4. Star Wars

Taking a cue from comic books and movie posters past, this poster creates an entirely new and intriguing sci-fi world that you want to launch into.

Star Wars Movie Poster

3. Showgirls

This poster has curves (literally). It hints at titillation. And, like the movie itself, it’s also inadvertently funny when viewed in a certain way.

Showgirls Movie Poster

2. King Kong (1933)

Danger, spectacle, and a damsel in real distress. The promise made by the poster is that you will see a film unlike anything you have seen before.

King Kong Poster

1. Jaws

Pound for pound, no other movie poster delivers more with less. It taps into our collective fear of the water, echoes the suspense and tension of the film, and hooks the viewer with just a glance.

Jaws Movie Poster

Hear more on our picks for best movie posters of all time…