Top 10 Movie Posters of the 1980s

Some of my favourite movie posters of all time were created to promote Hollywood films of the 1980s. In this top 10 list I take a look at a selection of the very best…

Ever since my eyes saw the airbrushed acrylic work of Drew Struzan (the man behind such wonderful movie posters as Back To The Future and Indiana Jones) I knew I was hooked on the allure of film artwork. His most notable work appeared in the 1980s when he produced unforgettable posters for films such as Blade Runner, Coming to America and The Goonies. This was a time when, before the internet and video-on-demand, people took notice of the poster – whether it was outside the cinema or staring back at them from a shelf in the video shop. The 1980s had some terrific examples – not just from Struzan – such as Saul Bass’ emblematic work for Kubrick’s The Shining and John Alvin’s iconic poster for Spielberg’s E.T. Here’s my top 10 favourites.

10. Mystery Train

9. The Purple Rose of Cairo

8. Withnail and I

7. 48 Hrs

6. Poltergeist

5. An American Werewolf In London

4. Brazil

3. E.T.

2. The Shining

1. Back To The Future

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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    Pete Turner (@ilovethatfilm) Reply

    Great choices! Particularly BTTF, Poltergeist and American Werewolf. I’d never seen your 9 and 10 posters before and haven’t seen the films either. Interesting choices!

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    Evan Crean Reply

    The BTTF poster is awesome! I have a small copy hanging in my office and I also have one that came out when AMC Theaters re-released it a couple of years ago for its 25th anniversary. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is also high up there. Pretty iconic. After seeing 48 Hrs. in your list though, that just became my new favorite if for nothing else, then Eddie Murphy’s giant middle finger. Nothing funnier than Eddie Murphy telling you to screw off haha!

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    Mark Reply

    Good to see an Australian poster (48 Hours) in there as sometimes they differ from other countries. Case in point – number five … the theatrical poster Down Under for the Landis film was completely different (with a more literal representation of the werewolf), probably because we have baby stealing dingos, not wolves (meaning some of us Aussies could have mistaken the above graphic for a cat).

    I quite liked the the original poster for The Mosquito Coast for some reason.

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    Lights Camera Reaction Reply

    The Shining for sure!

    The Empire Strikes Back and The Breakfast club are good choices too.

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    Dan Reply

    @Mark: Interesting point about the differences in poster themes and styles depending on their international location. This particularly American Werewolf poster is one of the lesser seen – usually it is the werewolf’s gaping jaw (that’s the one that I remember giving me a fright in the video shop when I picked it up as a youngster). But this one is my favourite – I like the subtly of it.

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    Maurice Mitchell Reply

    These posters are some of my favorites Dan. I saw a Latin version of the 48 hours poster with the finger changed to a fist. The Gremlins poster is my favorite.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Fantastic list, I particularly like The American Werewolf in London one. I have never seen this version, only the one where they’re walking in the dark with the moon shining up above. I always liked the Adventures in Babysitting poster.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Of course The Breakfast Club poster and the film will always hold dear to my heart. I absolutely love that film it changed my life and sparked my love of film, watching it as a kid.

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    ruth Reply

    LOVE these! I like your #2 and 1 picks, though I think the Poltergeist one is so simple yet evocative and terrifying!

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    Alex Withrow Reply

    Great picks. I had never seen that Purple Rose of Cairo poster. But what a fantastic one-sheet.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Predator is one bad ass poster as well. And every poster for Empire strikes Back and Return of the Jedi was cool. But my fave from the 80’s are Temple of Doom, Last Crusade and Rambo First Blood Part II.

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    Rodney Reply

    Some nice selections here, Dan. I have to say, though, I’d have definitely had Poltergeist a lot, lot heigher. That postr alone is enough to scare the crap out of people. So evocative!

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    Andy Reply

    That made me reminisce to when I use to head down to Blockbusters to pick up a handful of videos for the weekend and then pick up a few old posters that they were selling off. I miss those days and those posters which I long ago parted company with, all but a treasured “Back to the Future” poster which every time I look at reminds me why I love watching movies so much.

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