Arguably no other major franchise has inspired so many great artists over the years than Star Wars. From the saga’s original conceptual genius Ralph McQuarrie to art students, there are literally thousands upon thousands of artworks to filter through when compiling a list of the best Star Wars poster art ever. Inspired by Abrams Books’ publication Star Wars Art: A Poster Collection, which features twenty frame-worthy works you can pull out and stick on your wall, ComingSoon.Net done a great job along with the officially-licensed artists who have produced truly breathtaking, funny and above all COOL works of pop art. So, here are according to ComingSoon, the 25 greatest Star Wars posters of all-time.
Skywalker – Tsuneo Sanda
There it is, the whole sprawling Skywalker family saga summed up in one exquisite image by longtime Lucasfilm artist Sanda. It’s enough art nouveau beauty to make Alphonse Mucha jealous.
Trilogy – Olly Moss
Moss is a master of composition, utilizing elements of key scenery to create the facial features of Vader, Boba and C-3PO. This triptych of minimalist portraits has been oft imitated since their release.
Droids – Dave Perillo
These ARE the droids you’re looking for. Everything from the federation foot soldiers (“Roger Roger”) to EV-9D9, the hardest hardass in Jabba’s palace, all in one adorable print!
Star Wars Identities – X3 Productions/ Bleublancrouge
The traveling Star Wars Identities exhibit kicked off in the spring of 2012 in Montreal and offers a fascinating look at all (well, the first) six films in George Lucas’ saga, in which the attendee answers a range of questions at different kiosks pertaining to the trilogy to see how those decisions shape a personality, much like Anakin and Luke’s journeys. Okay, so the educational value is limited, but the mix of production art and props from the movies is the best tour through SW history of its kind. This poster, made up of hundreds of little ships, perfectly encapsulates the aim of the exhibit.
Celebration VI – Jeff Carlisle
This is a veritable “Where’s Waldo” of Star Wars fandom, drawn in micro detail. Look with a magnifying glass for all sorts of cameos, including George Lucas, Phil Tippett, Joe Johnston, Steve Sansweet, Ralph McQuarrie, Gary Kurtz, Seth Green, Dave Filoni, John Carter of Mars and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud’s Arzach. Also, a very out of place Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The in-jokes are endless. Make sure you click the image to see a bigger version, and check out Carlisle’s Facebook page for some information on who’s included in the print.
The Phantom Menace – Drew Struzan
Struzan is the undisputed king of Star Wars poster artists, having done one-sheets for all six movies including the Special Editions (and hopefully The Force Awakens as well). While The Phantom Menace may not be the king of Star Wars movies, this piece is an absolute masterpiece, and represented one of the final gasps of the hand-painted era. “My poster artwork was used for the film unchanged in every country in every language all around the world at the same time,” Struzan said. “So the whole world was seeing my artwork all at once. That is the first time that had ever happened and it’s likely becoming the most-seen piece of art ever.”
Attack of the Clones (IMAX) – David McMacken
One of the first major Hollywood movies to get an IMAX release, the large-format version of Attack of the Clones shown in November of 2002 was not only an immersive experience (that occasionally showed off some digital seams) but also may be the optimum version of the film, since its shortened runtime dispensed with the bulk of the sappy Anakin/Padme romance that you chapter skip on the DVD. Now even films like Focus get a token IMAX release, but this poster is a great throwback that harkens to the era of showmanship the IMAX screenings were emulating before it became commonplace.
Attack of the Clones – Tsuneo Sanda
Another gorgeous work by the masterful Tsuneo Sanda, this promo piece for the Dark Horse Comics adaptation of Episode II might have outdone Drew Struzan, which is a tall order to be sure. It may even be more vibrant and dynamic than the movie itself!
Revenge of the Sith – Drew Roberts
By the time Episode III came to pass, George Lucas was no longer as hands-on with the marketing, and Struzan’s theatrical poster got botched in Photoshop at the last minute. Thus, we look to the fan community to represent the film, and although there isn’t nearly as much great fan art for the PT as there is for the OT, this minimalist design by Drew Roberts is a powerful depiction of the final battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin on Mustafar.
A New Hope – Charlie White III and Drew Struzan
This piece, known affectionately as “One-Sheet Style D” or simply “Circus-Style,” has the distinction of being George Lucas’s favorite, and is actually hung in his house. The summer 1978 re-release art was a collaboration between Struzan and White (who was the inspiration for Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III), the layered design coming about when they realized there wasn’t any room for the credits.
A New Hope – John Berkey
There are potentially more posters – both official and unofficial – for the original Star Wars than any of the other movies, partly due to all the alternates, foreign and re-release art that was generated. How any of them can top the sheer bravura nature of this piece is a mystery, since Berkey captured everything about the intensity of a space battle in his vertical composition that a horizontal screen never could.
A New Hope – Hideki Ohwada
Leave it to the Japanese to invent Karate-style C-3PO. This is the lighter side of Star Wars at its malleable best. The lettering roughly translates: “Of course I am fluent in over six million forms of communication. But that implies physical communication as well, master Luke.”
A New Hope – Bruce Yan
The fan art community has truly embraced the galaxy far far away, sometimes creating popular limited-run screen prints or, in the case of Yan, simply whipping something up for fun to celebrate May the 4th this past year and inadvertently creating one of the most memorable posters A New Hope has ever earned.
A New Hope – Arthur Parreira
Brazilian artist Parreira created this popular wallpaper piece for a contest, perfectly emulating the aesthetics of Edo-era Japanese prints (Hokusai, etc.) The Kanjis appropriately read (right to left): “Finally we have met. The circle is now complete. When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master!” “Only a master of evil, Darth.”
A New Hope – PJ McQuade
Another rising star in the pop art illustration world is McQuade, whose work has appeared in Variety, MAD Magazine and other important news outlets. Here he gives us a detailed look at the stop-motion holomonsters that inhabit the tabletop game of Dejarik, as played by spoiled sport Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon.
A New Hope – Mark Brooks
Done in 2007 for Celebration IV, Brooks’ officially-licensed lithograph perfectly captures the sepia-toned look of the original ’77 cast if they had happened upon an old timey photo booth at a fair (complete with coffee stain).
Star Wars Holiday Special – Matt Busch
This is perhaps the closest we’ll ever get to a photo-realistic version of the first appearance of Boba Fett, as seen in 1978’s infamous “Holiday Special.” Nelvana’s animated segment, known as “The Faithful Wookie,” featured the entire original cast voicing the heroes as they encounter the bounty hunter on a gooey galactic raindrop known as Panna. This awesome recreation was made exclusively for this April’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim.
The Empire Strikes Back – Noriyoshi Ohrai
This gorgeous Japanese B1 poster for the fifth chapter in the saga is not as well known as the Gone With the Wind-inspired US theatrical, but deserves to be. Original 8×10-inch high-resolution transparencies of Ohrai’s artwork were discovered in 2010 within the Lucasfilm archives, and a rich re-mastered edition was issued in a limited run of 500.
The Empire Strikes Back – Boris Vallejo
Iconic fantasy artist Boris has earned his place alongside Frank Frazetta, Julie Bell and the Hildebrandt Brothers as one of the premiere fantasy painters of our time. In 1980 he was commissioned by Coca-Cola/Burger King to create four posters in his own bold style, the best of which shows Luke and Han having some Taunton adventures on Hoth, probably right before the start of the film.
The Empire Strikes Back (Radio Play) – Ralph McQuarrie
This image was chosen for the cover of “Star Wars Art: A Poster Collection,” and it’s an inspiring image executed by the design visionary behind the look for Episode IV and V, Ralph McQuarrie, AKA Star Wars artist numero uno. The piece itself was done for the Empire Strikes Back radio play on NPR, and showcases some of the Dagobah beasties that were a little too fantastical to afford for the film itself.
The Empire Strikes Back – Cat Staggs
Staggs has amassed a most impressive portfolio of official Lucasfilm illustrated work for comics, trading cards and, yes, prints. This one for Celebration V is part of the new wave of retro WWII style propaganda posters that a lot of artists have been creating, but for our money this one is definitely the best.
Return of the Jedi – Tim Reamer
A truly unforgettable image, used for the A sheet in the US, but we prefer the British quad version since all that bothersome text is pushed to the side so we can see Reamer’s rendering with perfect clarity.
Return of the Jedi – Tibor Helény
Of all the bonkers foreign posters for the OT that are out there, this one is super cool because the artist had definitely seen the movie (or at least a few publicity photos), yet still felt compelled to add in that weird green dragon creature holding a (the first?) double-sided lightsaber. If J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards or Rian Johnson are reading this, please find a way to include this monster in some capacity for future movies.
Return of the Jedi – Tim Anderson
Here we go, simple, elegant, and oddly serene. This is a poster made by a fan for fans, the kind of thing that couldn’t really exist as a selling tool for a new movie but perfect for a classic. We know precisely the connection between that shield generator and Death Star 2, and its critical function in the battle between the Empire and Rebellion.
Return of the Jedi – Vincent Rhafael Aseo
Finally, we end on a fan piece that is not in any way simple, but manages to deliver all the key elements of Episode VI’s story in a fresh, sophisticated way. Miraculously, Aseo’s design avoids being too busy/maximalist for its own good despite so many disparate elements. This is how a master artist using modern tools could create truly eye-catching one-sheets for modern audiences if Hollywood would only take a cue and bring artistry back to the poster world.