The best 80s sci-fi film posters

The colossal successes of Star Wars and E.T. led to a golden age of blockbuster sci-fi in the 1980s – and the films had iconic posters to match.

Samuel Wigley

John Alvin’s poster design for E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982), inspired by the ‘touch’ in Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam

John Alvin’s poster design for E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982), inspired by the ‘touch’ in Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam

The 1980s were bonanza years for big-screen sci-fi. At the end of the previous decade, George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977) had become the most successful film ever made, only to be overtaken five years later with the release of Steven Spielberg’s alien-on-Earth fantasy E.T. the Extra-terrestrial (1982). The ringing cash registers sent Hollywood studios off on a land rush to find the next big sci-fi blockbuster.

Star Wars sequels and Star Trek movies competed for audience attention with the release of future classics such as The Terminator (1984) and Back to the Future (1985), dystopian masterpieces like Blade Runner (1982) and Brazil (1985), and family-oriented fare like Short Circuit (1986) and Flight of the Navigator (1986), for which children of a certain age still hold a special place in their heart.

Essential to making these films appealing to prospective audiences were their posters, and the period was boom time for designers such as John Alvin, who became known for his ‘Alvinesque’ touch on the posters for E.T. (inspired by Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam), Blade Runner and Short Circuit, among many others.

Two Alvin greats and a host of other memorable designs from the era are included in this gallery of 20 of the best.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) poster

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) poster

Flash Gordon (1980)

Flash Gordon (1980)

Escape from New York (1981) poster

Escape from New York (1981) poster

Blade Runner (1982) poster

Blade Runner (1982) poster

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) poster

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) poster

Return of the Jedi (1983) poster

Return of the Jedi (1983) poster

Repo Man (1984)

Repo Man (1984)

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator (1984)

2010 (1984) poster

2010 (1984) poster

Back to the Future (1985) poster

Back to the Future (1985) poster

Brazil (1985) poster

Brazil (1985) poster

Aliens (1986) poster

Aliens (1986) poster

Altered States (1986)

Altered States (1986)

Flight of the Navigator (1986) poster

Flight of the Navigator (1986) poster

Short Circuit (1986) poster

Short Circuit (1986) poster

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) poster

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) poster

Back to the Future Part II (1989) poster

Back to the Future Part II (1989) poster

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) poster

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) poster

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