Movie posters are a dying art. Today, when we walk past them in a theater, we look at the title, release date and cast to determine whether or not we'd pay to see it. But back in the day, before the internet, posters really had to sell movies, which meant hiring artists and photographers with enough creativity to (sometimes deviously) get butts planted in theater seats. In the tradition of P.T. Barnum, sometimes the best posters were used to entice moviegoers into seeing the worst movies.
THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION
Imagine everyone’s surprise when the metropolis depicted in this painting turned out to be a backwoods Wisconsin town full of cabins and trailer parks, and the attacking arachnid was a fur-covered Volkswagen.
There is nothing in any of the Airport films as cool as this picture.
STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
It’s ironic that the worst Star Wars film has the best teaser poster ever created, which maybe played a small part in raising everyone’s expectations to a level no film could live up to. How could any fan look at this and not get their hopes up?
This poster is the sexiest thing about the entire movie.
FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
The title and poster suggest the franchise might finally be developing a self-aware sense of humor. But alas, it’s the usual slasher business. Jason only stalks the Big Apple during the last 15 minutes or so, and most of those scenes were shot in Vancouver.
Another beautiful teaser poster with one of the greatest taglines ever created for a sequel. Jaws 2 isn’t exactly a bad movie (compared to others on this list), just completely unnecessary, since the original Jaws is a damn-near perfect film, its cultural impact unprecedented for the time. Still, Jaws 2 was one of the biggest films of 1978, largely due to an ad campaign far more creative than anything in the movie itself.
This beautiful poster has sexy, fantastical and detailed artwork, making this cult film look like the last word in artistic adult animation. Too bad the movie itself is a sophomoric, sleazy carnfest, with animation on par with Saturday morning cartoons of the 70s and 80s. If you’re of a certain age who fondly remembers this film, try watching it now…without bong hits.
As painted by legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, this poster makes The Gauntlet look like a dark, apocalyptic thriller…urban destruction, Clint Eastwood depicted as muscular & indestructible, with Sondra Locke clinging to him, tattered clothes revealing her curvaceous body. Too bad the movie itself is one of the most insultingly stupid action films of the 70s, loaded with lame humor, awful dialogue and a truly terrible performance by Locke (who looks about as sexy as a malnourished, white trash crack-whore).
Yeah, we all know frogs are only marginally more terrifying than rabbits, who are subjects of their own daffy drama, Night of the Lepus. Even those charged with promoting that film were aware of the stupidity of the premise, and wise enough to exclude any hint of bunnies in the ad campaign. The poster for Frogs is almost endearingly cute, presenting the title creatures like carnivorous Muppets.
I’m probably in the minority on this, but the original Phantasm is a boring, badly-acted and mostly amateurish attempt at surrealism. However, not only was the one scene involving a flying, skull-drilling killer sphere the best part of the film, it made the entire franchise a brand name. Commercially, the spheres were best exploited in Phantasm II, prominently featured on the poster, in trailers and in the film itself (which isn't any good, either).