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.

29 October 2014

By Sam Wigley

John Alvin’s poster design for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (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
Flash Gordon (1980) poster
Altered States (1980) poster
Escape from New York (1981) poster
Blade Runner (1982) poster
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) poster
Return of the Jedi (1983) poster
Repo Man (1984) poster
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) poster
The Terminator (1984) poster
2010 (1984) poster
Back to the Future (1985) poster
Brazil (1985) poster
Aliens (1986) poster
Flight of the Navigator (1986) poster
Short Circuit (1986) poster
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) poster
Back to the Future Part II (1989) poster
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) poster
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