The evolution of the Sci Fi movie poster

Science Fiction deserves to be taken seriously. Whether a campy space invader flick or a serious exploration of artificial intelligence, the Sci Fi movie reflects our deepest hopes and fears about where technology might take us, and what it might make of us.

Plus, being a supremely imaginative genre by nature, Sci Fi is a graphic designer’s dream. Countless Sci Fi book cover and movie poster designers have jumped at the chance to depict a strange new vision of the world, set in the future, an alternate reality or perhaps just a galaxy far, far away. Read on for a glimpse of the Sci Fi movie poster’s stunning evolution, from Tobor the Great through Inception.

TOBOR the Great

Beginning with the Science Fiction films that emerged just after World War II, the standard in poster design was crowded, action-packed and not so subtly sexy. The above posters for Tobor the Great (1954) and Barbarella (1968) place the main characters on a vibrantly colored, unearthly terrain. Barbarella is surrounded by a collage-like arrangement of characters and scenes that convey all the grand adventure promised by the story.

The below designs for Star Wars (1977) and Blade Runner (1982) take a similar approach. The Blade Runner poster, however, leaves the foreground/background composition altogether, going for a more abstracted arrangement of images in striking shadows, lights and darks.

Star Wars

Obviously, these indulgent, finely detailed illustrations are not the norm in today’s graphic design scene, which tends to prize clean and minimal but concept-packed designs. Nor would the Star Wars poster be very easy to produce, with only Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop at your disposal.

With these style shifts in mind, a number of contemporary designers have set out to modernize the old Sci-Fi poster. Some of the results have been incredible.

Blade Runner

Rather than packing the poster to the brim, the above two redesigns of the Blade Runner poster focus on a single iconic image that speaks for the movie as a whole — one, a dove (a dying character releases one just before the movie ends), the other includes tears and rain (in a famous scene, it is raining hard as a supposedly artificial intelligence character begins to cry, raising the question of when computer programming ends and humanity begins).

Terminator

In a similar way, the above redesign of The Terminator (1985) replaces a photograph with an iconic image from the movie, rendered entirely in vector, and the below redesign of Back to the Future (1985) takes the image of the famed DeLorean car and its fiery tracks and applies a brilliant new visualization of time travel: a clock that seems to spiral downward with the movement of the car.

Back to the Future

Finally, check out this simple but intriguing re-imagining of the Inception (2010) poster, which plays off the motifs of mazes and nested layers.

Inception

Do you have a favorite Sci Fi design? Share it in the comments!

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