12 Most Controversial Magazine Covers

Gossip singer Beth Ditto was widely praised for the controversial NME cover in June 2007. Feminist icon Germaine Greer said of the image: “NME had enough courage to put the coolest woman on the planet on the cover, and Beth Ditto has given them the kind of picture that they can use: attention-getting but certainly not obscene."

The hugely memorable cover for Rolling Stone's September 1993 Edition of Janet posing with her breasts cupped by a pair of anonymous hands is arguably one of the greatest music images of the nineties.

This controversial cover of The Economist from 1994 portrays “The Trouble with Mergers” by showing an illustration of two camels mating. The London-based magazine published the cover in the North American edition, but not in the European edition. Reaction to this cover was mixed, with some readers disgusted and others highly amused.

This (in)famous June 1978 Hustler cover pictured a woman's legs sticking out of a meat grinder.

The New York magazine is no stranger to controversial covers. But when the story of New York's governor Eliot Spitzer's shocking involvement in a prostitution ring appeared in the magazine cover, it sure raised some eyebrows.

Annie Leibovitz took this shot for Rolling Stone, January 22, 1981 issue just hours before John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, the Dakota, in New York City on December 8, 1980. Leibovitz originally wanted to take the shot of Lennon alone but he insisted that his wife be in the pictures. This cover was named the most popular magazine cover of the past 40 years by the American Society of Magazine Publishers.

The August 1991 Vanity Fair cover was a controversial handbra nude photograph of the then seven-months pregnant Demi Moore taken by Annie Leibovitz for the August 1991 cover of Vanity Fair. The cover has had a lasting societal impact. Since the cover was released, several celebrities have posed for photographs in advanced stages of pregnancy, although not necessarily as naked as Moore. This trend has made pregnancy photos fashionable and created a booming business.

In November 1965 Life Magazine used this photo of Paul Schutzers. He captured the arresting image of a VietCong prisoner being taken prisoner by American forces during the Vietnam War. Photography and news coverage like this helped to turn the American public against the Vietnam war. While Schutzers was one of LIFE's best photographers, he was killed on assignment during the Six-Day War of 1967 between Israel and its neighbouring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

This magazine cover of The Nation features artwork by Brian Stauffer that depicts George Bush as Alfred E. Neuman. The Nation compared Bush to Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional mascot of the magazine Mad, complete with a button that reads, What, me worry? The U.S. presidential election was held on November 7, 2000, and when this issue of the magazine was released (November 13), the winner of the election was still unclear. The issue discusses what would happen to the country and the world if Bush became president, and in fact Bush was declared the winner of the election the next month.

The magazine cover of the September 14, 2001 special edition of TIME features a photograph of the two hijacked airliners ripping through the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, taken by photographer Lyle Owerkoof. The issue included testimonies from survivors, more photographs of the Twin Towers after the bombings, and a salute to all those who perished in the tragedy.

Release a magazine cover with a presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in Muslim garb, and adorn his wife in militant underground attire and armed with an AK-47, and there's sure to be a seismic reaction. And did we mention the burning U.S. flag? When the then-presidential hopeful happens to be Barack Obama, drawn here on the cover of The New Yorker in the midst of a so-called "terrorist fist jab" with his wife Michelle, attempts at fun-natured satire are sure to be lost on the involved parties. (July 2008)

Back in her heyday Britney Spears was the innocent school girl. She raised eyebrows when she did this cover for Rolling Stone magazine in April 1999 posing in her underwear on a bed, clutching a teletubby... if only we knew what was to come!