Even if you don’t recognize Drew Struzan’s name, I guarantee you would recognize his work. The legendary artist has provided some of the most iconic poster art in science fiction film history. All six Star Wars films? You bet. All three Back to the Future movies? Absolutely. Blade Runner, The Thing, Goonies, Indiana Jones, and Big Trouble in Little China? You better believe it. But it stands to reason that sometimes the perfect poster goes through a bit of revision before it achieves its final brilliance. Case in point, check out all the unused designs Struzan experimented with for the Back to the Future films before deciding on the three mirrored images used for the final posters, which you can see up top.
The unused poster designs come via the folks over at the amusingly named Blurppy. Even when he was getting close to the finished idea used in the posters, he still hadn’t added the iconic flames, and this image for Back to the Future III also shows off more of the Western setting, rather than the bluish void used in the final images. He also hadn’t added Clara (Mary Steenbergen) to the image yet, an idea that nicely linked the three posters in a numeric procession — just Marty on the first, then Marty and the Doc for Part II, then all three of them for the third installment. It’s a little touch that works brilliantly even if your brain doesn’t consciously register it. It’s also worth noting that the image below has Marty in his frilly “Clint Eastwood” garb rather than his more convincing Western getup.
His alternate posters for the first film are where things get really interesting. The DeLorean time machine is obviously the most instantly recognizable element of the entire trilogy, but it wasn’t even shown in these early posters.
In this next one they mention the DeLorean…but still don’t show it. Marty does have a thing for lifting up his sunglasses in dramatic fashion though, doesn’t he?
And then there’s this one, which plays up one really awkward threesome — Marty and his would-be parents. It’s gotta be the shoes…
Here’s another variation on the clock theme, plus a bunch of little snippets from the first film’s storyline — but still no damn DeLorean.
And here are a few others. It’s fascinating to see some of the other directions Struzan explored along the way, and those early attempts just make you appreciate the final designs even more. After all that work, I can’t think of a more perfect poster design than the one they eventually settled on.
And just for fun, here are all six of Struzan’s posters for the Star Wars films. Maybe J.J. will coax him out of retirement for Episode VII.