Magazines The Most Controversial Magazine Covers Of All Time  

Ann Casano
3.3k votes 603 voters 26.7k views 12 items

List Rules Vote up the issues that really got you talking.

Print magazines may not be around much longer, but that doesn’t mean that they still can’t cause a major fuss. These scandalous magazine covers provoked outrage, sparked debate, and even landed one innocent vendor in jail. From Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone, here are 12 of the most controversial magazine covers of all time.

Hundreds of magazines line the shelves of stores everywhere. What’s one way to compete in a flooded market? Cause controversy. Don’t think Rolling Stone knew that putting a seventeen year old, scantily-clothed, Britney Spears on the cover in 1999 would cause an uproar? Of course, they did, those editors have been in the game long enough to know that nothing sells more than sex and controversy.

But not every one of these magazine covers that caused controversy was simply about the bottom line. Some took major risks in order to ignite debate. By the time Ellen Degeneres hit the cover of TIME in 1997, we were already long overdue for a talk about trying to make it easier for gay people to come out of the closet.

Check out all these magazine covers that sparked conversation or just simply tried to break internet. Then make your voice heard. Vote up the cover that you think made the biggest impact.

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The Bomber - Rolling Stone, July 2013

The Bomber - Rolling Stone, Ju... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Magazine Covers Of All Time
Photo: Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone's decision to put Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of the rock mag was meant with extreme criticism. The magazine was slammed from all sides for depicting a murder suspect in the same vein as they would a rock star. Many threatened to boycott the magazine for giving Tsarnaev a glamorized look that even compared to a Jim Morrison cover from the 1960s.

Boston mayor Thomas Menino and some of the bombing victims called the cover insensitive. Many retailers opted not to sell the issue. Menino wrote to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner. In the letter, he accused the magazine of sending a "terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their causes."


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The Passion Of Kayne West - Rolling Stone, February 2006

The Passion Of Kayne West - Ro... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Magazine Covers Of All Time
Photo: Rolling Stone

Kayne West depicting himself as Jesus Christ? Do you think the self-proclaimed "Yeezus" was looking to cause a controversy? For the cover, the attention-loving Kayne wore thorns on his head and had blood dripping down his face. Of course, many Christians found the image sacrilegious. Some felt that it even mocked Jesus Christ.




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Are You Mom Enough? - Time, May 21, 2012

Are You Mom Enough? - Time, Ma... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Magazine Covers Of All Time
Photo: Time

The 2012 Time cover accompanied a feature article about Dr. Sears and his ideas about attachment parenting. The image was controversial for all the obvious reasons. Many found the picture of 25 year old mother Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her three year old son offensive.

In a mere 24 hours, the cover caused such online debate and controversy that 18,000 comments flooded one internet site alone. After LA Weekly called Grumet a MILF, there was so much internet traffic on her site that it caused it to crash.

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The Passion Of Muhammad Ali - Esquire, April 1968

The Passion Of Muhammad Ali - ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Magazine Covers Of All Time
Photo: Esquire

In the late 1960s, Muhammad Ali was perhaps the most controversial figure in the entire world. His 1968 Esquire cover featured the boxer in the likeness of St. Sebastian, a third-century Christian martyr. Ali was a hot topic at the time because of his public conversion to Islam in 1964 and his refusal to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War era. His defiance cost the champion boxer his heavyweight title and got him banned from the sport for four years during the prime of his career.

Dudley Brooks, assistant photo editor for The Washington Post, spoke about Ali's persona during that turbulent era of the late 1960s. "At the time, Ali was hated by the establishment and was thoroughly controversial within the mainstream."

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