Sunday , May 19 2024

Greatest Magazine Covers Announced

The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) announced its 40 greatest magazine covers of the last 40 years yesterday, with Rolling Stone’s January 22, 1981 cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono given top honors. In the Annie Liebovitz photo, a naked Lennon is wrapped around a clothed Ono in an indelible image captured the day of Lennon’s death.

A naked, outstandingly pregnant Demi Moore posing for Vanity Fair (August 1991) ranked as the #2 cover, and the cover from Esquire’s April 1968 issue depicting Muhammad Ali with six arrows in his body was third. Three Esquire covers were ranked among the top 10 covers of the past four decades, while The New Yorker had two covers among the top 10.

A judging panel of 52 magazine editors, design directors, art directors and photography editors was charged with picking the 40 top covers since 1965 from a nominated pool of 444 images representing 136 magazines. The contest was open to all consumer magazines published in the United States.

In total, of the 41 winning covers, 32 were photographs, seven were illustrations, and two displayed typeface, only. The decade-by-decade tally includes 11 winning covers from the 1960s, eight from the 1970s, three from the 1980s, ten from the 1990s, and nine from the 2000s – you have to feel sorry for the ’80s.

Saul Steinberg’s iconic March 29, 1976 The New Yorker cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” which has come to represent Manhattan’s telescoped perception of the country beyond the Hudson River, was ranked fourth. Esquire’s other top covers included Andy Warhol in a Campbell’s tomato soup can (May 1969; #5), the Vietnam-era “Oh my God – we hit a little girl” cover (October 1966; #8), and a splayed Bill Clinton (December 2000; #19).

The New Yorker’s stark black-on-black depiction of the World Trade Center (September 24, 2001; #6) received the most votes of the nine 9/11 covers that were submitted for judging. Two other magazines were cited for their 9/11 covers: TIME (September 14, 2001; #25) and Fortune (October 1, 2001; #29).

Also in the top-ten were National Lampoon’s infamous “If you don’t buy this magazine we’ll shoot this dog” cover from its January 1973 issue (#7), the September 1992 cover of the redesigned Harper’s Bazaar featuring Linda Evangelista in the “Era of Elegance” (September 1992; #9), and the National Geographic cover with the haunting image of a 12-year-old refugee Afghan girl (June 1985; #10).

“The breadth and quality of the 444 submissions we received was striking, and showed the creativity and innovation of our industry,” said ASME Executive Director, Marlene Kahan. “Clearly, the top-ranked covers were resonant and iconic, striking a deep chord with our judges. In total, these covers provide an evocative snapshot of our nation and its preoccupations throughout the past four decades.”


1. Rolling Stone – Jan. 22, 1981 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono laying in bed

2. Vanity Fair – Aug. 1991 – Nude pregnant Demi Moore

3. Esquire – April 1968 – “The Passion of Muhammad Ali”: Ali with arrows in his body

4. The New Yorker – March 29, 1976 – Drawing of New York from Hudson River and rest of the country to Pacific Ocean

5. Esquire – May 1969 – Andy Warhol drowning in Campbell’s soup can – “The decline and collapse of American avant-garde”

6. The New Yorker – Sept. 24, 2001 – 9/11 – Twin towers drawing in all black against a gray skyline

7. National Lampoon – January 1973 – “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog” – Man pointing gun at terrified dog

8. Esquire – October 1966 – “Oh my God – we hit a little girl.”

9. Harper’s Bazaar – Sept. 1992 – Linda Evangelista holding up the letter ‘A’ in magazine’s title: “Enter the Era of Elegance”

10. National Geographic – June 1985 – Afghan girl – “Haunted eyes of an Afghan refugee’s fears”

11. Life – April 30, 1965 – “Drama of life before birth” – fetus in womb drawing

12. Time – April 8, 1966 – “Is God Dead?”

13. Life – 1969 – Man on the moon: “To the moon & back”

14. The New Yorker – December 10, 2001 – “New Yorkistan” map: New York divided into Middle Eastern names

15. Harper’s Bazaar – April 1965 – Model’s face peering through pink cutout

16. The Economist – Sept. 10-16, 1994 – Two camels portraying: “The Trouble with Mergers”

17. Time – June 21, 1968 – Lichtenstein drawing: “The gun in America”

18. ESPN – June 29, 1998 – Michael Jordan jumping against all-white background

19. Esquire – December 2000 – smiling Bill Clinton photo

20. Blue – October 1997 – Man diving

21. Life – November 26, 1965 – Vietcong prisoner with eyes and mouth taped shut: “The blunt reality of war in Vietnam”

22. George – Oct/Nov 1995 – Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington

23. The Nation – November 13, 2000 – George Bush: What me, worry?

24. Interview – December 1972 – Andy Warhol photographing model for the Christmas issue

25. Time – September 14, 2001 – 9/11: Photo of twin towers terrorist bombing

26. People – March 4, 1974 – Young Mia Farrow biting a strand of pearls, set to star in Gatsby

27. Entertainment Weekly – May 2, 2003 – Nude Dixie Chicks – “Country’s controversial superstars take on their critics”

28. Life – April 16, 1965 – Black and white photo: “Vietcong zero in on vulnerable U.S. copters”

29. (tie) Playboy – October 1971 – African American woman posing on Playboy bunny chair

29. (tie) Fortune – Oct. 1, 2001 – “Up from the ashes”: Man covered in ashes after 9/11 terrorist attacks

31. Newsweek – November 20, 2000 – Half Bush, half Gore photo: “And the winner is…”

32. Vogue – May 2004 – Nicole Kidman’s back profile – dress in an elegant gown

33. (tie) Newsweek – July 30, 1973 – “The Nixon Tapes”: Aerial view of the White House turned into a tape recorder

33. (tie) Wired – June 1997 – Apple symbol covered in barbed wire: “Pray”

35. New York – June 8, 1970 – “Free Leonard Bernstein”

36. People – September 15, 1997 – Black and white Princess Diana photo

37. Details – February 1989 – Cyndi Lauper photo

37. (tie) Fast Company – Aug/Sept 1997 – “The brand called You” – against a Tide background

37. (tie) Glamour – August 1968 – “Best Dressed College Girls” with a black woman as the cover model (first time a black woman appeared on the cover of a national women’s magazine)

37. (tie) National Geographic – October 1978 – Gorilla taking photograph: “Conversations with a gorilla”

37. (tie) Time – April 14, 1997 – Ellen DeGeneres: “Yep, I’m Gay”

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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