A movie's poster can help a movie stand the test of time. If you want your movie to become a classic, there better be something kids can hang on their walls that won't embarrass them ten years later. A classic movie can be a classic without an indelible poster, but it sure helps to have one, and we have the examples to prove it. Here's our top ten picks. These are the images the human race will be known for when we're gone -- they're not going anywhere -- so pay attention.
Photo by Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Don't try and pretend that this image doesn't affect your soul: you may have even had bedsheets inspired by the poster. The poster covers everything -- all the characters are present, with each person's significance denoted by size or placement. Lightsabers and Princess Leia's hair are in full force. So it makes the top ten for overall cultural ubiquity but loses ground for being a tad too literal.
Photo by <i>Star Wars</i>, 1977. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
During the late sixties and early seventies, posters with literal representations of movies were all the rage. From 2001's poster we know there will be an adventure, and we know said adventure will happen in space. But we know nothing of HAL or the movie's rebirth motif. Still, points for being hand painted.
Photo by <i>2001: A Space Odyssey</i>, 1968. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Here's where things start to get interesting. The movie's main character, Alex, peeks through a small opening here -- an apt representation of a personality you can never quite grasp. His creepy eyelashes -- not to mention the eyeball, the spike, and the suggestive statue -- are enough to raise eyebrows without the help of the description at top. This art falls to a solid eighth place for being as unnerving as the movie itself.
Photo by <i>A Clockwork Orange</i>, 1971. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
If this image doesn't immediately bring tears to your eyes, then you have a heart of stone. During the movie's climactic cops-versus-kids chase, the moment E.T. makes the bike take flight is as uplifting as any Spielberg trick. You have to love the E.T. poster for what it represents -- childhood, the burbs, and a sense of wonder -- without giving away too much.
Photo by <i>E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial</i>, 1982. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Without knowing it, you're looking at a "before" shot. Behold De Niro as Travis Bickle, the Vietnam vet who has yet to find a way to channel his inner rage. The taxi in the background is a harbinger -- it will transport him around the city as he finds objectionable behavior to fight against. This poster comes in at a respectable No. 6 for being quiet yet suggestive of things to come, just like De Niro's performance.
Photo by <i>Taxi Driver</i>, 1976. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is pictured here in a quiet moment -- enjoying a book (or perhaps a pulp mag?) and a smoke -- and it's the quietest moment you're ever to see her in. The poster itself is meant to look like a pulp mag, and, just like a pulp mag, inside the movie you'll find horrors and humor alike. It's all enough to land this stunner in the top five.
Photo by <i>Pulp Fiction</i>, 1994. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Giant or not, her mission has always been the same: punish her cheating husband. Of course, there's also so much charm in the fact that she's chosen a bikini for the occasion. Who wouldn't want to watch as she straddles that highway overpass -- the pulse of America? That's nearly enough to land the poster in the top three, but fourth place will have to do.
Photo by <i>Attack of the 50 Foot Woman</i>, 1958. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Look at Brando, with his trademark grimace and mumble-producing jaw. He's a figurehead in the movie, so it makes sense he'd figure prominently here. The puppet strings are a nice touch -- we all know who's in control in this crowd. Take a second look: don't the strings remind you of blood streaming down a wall? The meaning of this seemingly simple poster is enough for the bronze.
Photo by <i>The Godfather</i>, 1972. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Appropriately, this poster packs enough surprises to match the suspenseful movie it advertises. The moth covering Jodie Foster's mouth won't silence her, but her mission is to silence the childhood memory of cries from slaughtered lambs -- at least that's how Hannibal Lecter sees it. Best fun fact of all: the skull you see on the moth's back is actually the image of seven naked women taken from Philippe Halsman's portrait of Salvador Dalí. For all this intrigue, the poster gets a silver medal.
Photo by <i>The Silence of the Lambs</i>, 1991. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
The black-and-white motif in this, perhaps the most famous movie poster of all time, by no means signifies good versus evil -- there's very little good in eighties Miami drug culture. But it might stand for the purity of the American Dream as it's imagined, while the black signifies the violent, dark life Tony Montana makes in his own version of the dream. Either way, this iconic image is still today taped to countless dorm-room walls, making young guys feel a little bit dangerous without having to act that way. For enduring the test of time, it deserves the grand prize.
Photo by <i>Scarface</i>, 1983. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.