Star Wars has some of the most gorgeous posters in the history of cinema. Part of that is because of its beautiful iconography: lightsabers, spaceships, aliens, etc. Another reason is each film has been released and re-released so many times, there are way, way more poster versions to choose from.
Each time a Star Wars film is released in a different country, odds are, a new poster is created. There are literally entire books on the subject. So we wanted to pick the cream of the crop — the posters that aren’t just the best looking, but the ones that truly make you think “Star Wars.”
To keep the list manageable we gave ourselves a few guidelines. We only chose from theatrical one-sheets, meaning posters that were created for theatres, and we stuck only to the theatrical releases — the nine films in the Skywalker Saga as well as the spin-offs were considered. But, as you’ll see, we ended up largely picking from the original trilogy just because, well, they’re the best in every way. Before we begin, a shot out to Film on Paper for many of these images as well as the book Star Wars: Posters. Now, on to the posters you’re likely going to have strong opinions about!
15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi Teaser Poster
No one artist is responsible for this image, but its striking simplicity makes it the best poster released for the sequel trilogy.
14. Revenge of the Jedi Teaser Poster – Drew Struzan
The striking colours of Struzan’s image, the idea of Vader looming over Luke, as well as the tease of a final showdown, makes for an amazing poster. The fact it has the old, original title, makes it both cooler and also, well, inaccurate. Hence the lower ranking.
13. The Empire Strikes Back, Style B – Tom Jung
As you’ll see, The Empire Strikes Back has a lot of amazing posters. We love this one because of how it evokes the film’s title with the striking image of Vader, and also ties in so many other scenes of the movie beautifully and effortlessly.
12. Star Wars: Special Edition – Drew Struzan
Struzan’s posters for the special editions of not just Star Wars, but also The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, burrowed in the consciousness of fans maybe too young to remember the initial releases, but who were very excited for these re-releases. They’re simple but elegant, and we think this is the best of the three.
11. The Empire Strikes Back, Japanese Re-release – Noriyoshi Ohrai
As a huge Millennium Falcon fan, maybe I’m a little biased with this one, but the Falcon is a huge part of Empire and the way it’s used to divide the light and the dark sides while still telling its own story is a masterful piece of composition.
10. Star Wars, Style D – Drew Struzan and Charles White III
When this poster was first created, it was just the single main section. Fully painted, hugely influenced by pulp posters of the past. Basically perfect. But when the artists realised the ratio was off, they were forced to add the semi-awkward border with Obi-Wan. It makes for a great story but, also, a poster that’s close to perfect, but a little odd.
9. Star Wars, Poster 1 – Howard Chaykin
For some, this was the first poster they ever saw for Star Wars. And the way it evokes not just a sci-fi adventure, but also a comic book and Japanimation, all works together to almost expertly capture all the tones and genres Star Wars pays tribute too.
8. The Phantom Menace – Drew Struzan
New heroes. New villains. All centered around this young boy. After over 15 years away, Star Wars returned in 1999, and Struzan’s theatrical one-sheet held all the promise many people didn’t think the eventual movie had. Still, the poster is a straight-up masterpiece in every way, the best of the full prequel trilogy Struzan completed. It’s here in the middle simply because it’s a prequel.
7. Star Wars, Style C – Tom Jung
For some, this might be the key image they see in their mind when they think of “Star Wars” — it’s that recognisable and awesome. However, when you break it down, it’s kind of just the characters floating in space. Amazing composition, likeness, everything, but Jung’s work has an impossibly high bar and this is slightly lower than a few others.
6. Return of the Jedi, Style A – Tim Reamer
There’s something to be said for simplicity. When audiences last saw Luke Skywalker, he’d lost his lightsaber dueling with Darth Vader. Then they saw this poster. It’s got the title, Return of the Jedi, and Luke (we assumed) holding a new saber. It told the whole story with three basic elements. Absolutely incredible.
5. The Empire Strikes Back, Japanese Theatrical – Noriyoshi Ohrai
What makes this poster so incredible besides, well, all of it, is the construction. The bottom? Chaos. Tons of characters and images. In the middle? A dose of normalcy, a kiss, your main characters, etc. At the top, just one thing: Darth Vader. The Empire was about to strike back at our heroes and this pyramid-shaped image gave us that and more.
4. Return of the Jedi, Style B – Kazuhiko Sano
After two hugely successful movies, this one-sheet told fans everything and nothing about the conclusion. Luke has a new look. Darth Vader looms large. But what is Princess Leia wearing? Who is Han Solo shooting at? Is that a giant slug? Though there aren’t a lot of characters on the poster, each plays a role in piecing together what has become one of the most iconic Star Wars images ever.
3. The Phantom Menace, Teaser Poster – Ellen Lee
As excellent as Drew Struzan’s theatrical one-sheet for The Phantom Menace was, the teaser poster was even better. Talk about simple. Just a boy in the desert with his shadow. A shadow of the future we all knew was coming. After years of waiting, fans saw this and lost their minds. They still do, even though we now know how it all played out.
2. Star Wars, Style A – Tom Jung
This incredible image, which was also reimagined by the Hildebrandt brothers at George Lucas’s request, is Star Wars. Plain and simple. It has the swashbuckling adventure vibe of the serials the film was inspired by, it blends in the sci-fi elements, and has the kind of size and scope that promises something you’ve never seen before. To me, this is the most “Star Wars” image ever. But only the second-best “poster.”
1. The Empire Strikes Back, Style A – Roger Kastel
Take everything I’ve said about every poster before this, round them all up, shove them together, and you’ve got the Star Wars poster of Star Wars posters. What truly makes this one stand out is how it plays up the romance. It gives the franchise a whole other level of emotion none of the other posters have. They all have excitement. Scope. Epic battles. But here you have that plus the love that makes The Empire Strikes Back stand out from the rest of the franchise.