The posters that accompany the world of cinema are often stunning works of art, with some of the most talented and innovative illustrators of the times creating exquisite and iconic graphic works. This list presents 20 cool retro posters, laid out chronologically, with the majority of the selection from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, something of a golden age of the art. The list includes posters for Hollywood blockbusters and classics, along with a handful of more obscure titles, all united by the visual brilliance of their design.
1. Stage Fright by Marek Freudenreich (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1950)
Alfred Hitchcock made his crime thriller Stage Fright in 1950, but Poland had to wait 11 years for its release in 1966. Marek Freudenreich is a hugely influential polish artist, known particularly for his posters, and he made this inventive design to accompany the film’s theatrical run.
2. French Cancan by Rene Gruau (directed by Jean Renoir, 1954)
Source: Movie Goods
Rene Gruau’s beautiful poster for Jean Renoir’s musical French Cancan is incredibly evocative of the late-19th Century Paris in which the film is set. Gruau pioneered an exaggerated style of fashion illustration and his work has had a lasting influence on the wider fashion industry.
3. World in My Corner by Reynold Brown (directed by Jesse Hibbs, 1956)
Source: Franz Brown
World in My Corner is the gritty story of Jersey City Boxer Tommy Shea, his love for a wealthy businessman’s daughter, and the bad influence of a crooked fight-promoter. Reynold Brown was an American realist painter who worked on a multitude of Hollywood posters. Brown’s illustration for World in My Corner reflects the film’s noirish machismo.
4. Sunset Boulevard by Waldemar Swierzy (directed by Billy Wilder, 1950)
Billy Wilder’s 1950 noir tale Sunset Boulevard opened in Poland in 1957. Prolific Polish artist Waldemar Swierzy created this unusual poster for the film’s release.
5. Anatomy of a Murder by Saul Bass (directed by Otto Preminger, 1959)
Source: Inspiration Lab
Saul Bass spent 50 years producing movie posters in his distinctive graphic style, most notably in collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock and Otto Preminger. This is his poster design for Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder, a courtroom drama starring James Stewart.
6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Robert McGinnis (directed by Blake Edwards, 1961)
Source: Chad Film Blog
American artist Robert McGinnis has illustrated many movie posters and at least 1,200 paperback book covers. In 1961 he was commissioned to make a poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, his first film poster assignment, and in response he created this supremely stylish design.
7. West Side Story by Saul Bass (directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
Source: Imp Awards
The musical West Side Story is Shakespeare’s tale of Romeo and Juliet transported to 1950s New York. Saul Bass created another of his iconic posters for the film’s release.
8. The Dirty Dozen by Frank McCarthy (directed by Robert Aldrich, 1962)
Source: Christian Divine
Frank McCarthy was an American realist painter who worked on film posters, book covers, magazine illustrations and advertising, and was also famed for his depictions of adventures in the American West. This is his poster for The Dirty Dozen, the World War Two action movie with an ensemble cast of Hollywood actors, directed by Robert Aldrich.
9. The Face of Fu Manchu by Mitchell Hooks (directed by Don Sharp, 1965)
Christopher Lee starred in the title role of Fu Manchu, ‘the most evil man the world has ever known’, Don Sharp directed, and Mitchell Hooks created this stylish poster for the film. Hooks is an American artist known for his huge output of magazine illustrations and paperback cover designs.
10. Our Man Flint by Bob Peak (directed by Daniel Mann, 1966)
Source: Movie Goods
Bob Peak was another American illustrator who worked on movie posters and greatly influenced the genre. This is his design for Our Man Flint. The film stars James Coburn as Derek Flint, a parody of his contemporary secret agent James Bond.
11. The Wild Angels by Jack Davis directed by Roger Corman, 1966)
Source: Film Forno
The Wild Angels is the story of a Californian Hells Angel biker gang, starring Peter Fonda three years before he went on to make the classic Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper. This poster, with Fonda and his on-screen girlfriend Nancy Sinatra riding a Harley Davidson, was painted by American cartoonist and illustrator Jack Davies.
12. Luana by Frank Frazetta (directed by Roberto Infascelli, 1968)
Frank Frazetta specialised in dramatic fantasy and science fiction paintings, and his work is a huge influence on other artists working in similar fields. His paintings have appeared in comic books, on book and record covers, films, animations and movie posters, including this artwork for Luana, an Italian-made jungle girl action adventure.
13. Barbarella by The Brothers Hildebrandt (directed by Roger Vadim, 1968)
The Brothers Hildebrandt are famed for their stunning fantasy illustrations including interpretations of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the poster for the first Star Wars film. This poster includes their illustration for Barbarella, the science fiction adventure with Jane Fonda in the title role.
14. Funeral Parade of Roses by Setsu Asakura (directed by Toshio Matsumoto, 1969)
Setsu Asakura is a Japanese stage designer and art director who worked on the art and design for Funeral Parade of Roses, including this inventive poster. The film retells the Greek tragedy of Oedipus Rex, with the story set in the underground gay and transvestite scene of Tokyo in the 1960s.
15. A Clockwork Orange by Bill Gold (directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Source: As Little Design
Stanley Kubrick’s cinema adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange was one of the most controversial films of the 1970s, quickly withdrawn from UK cinemas by the director. American artists Bill Gold created the film’s iconic poster design, one of thousands of posters he made during his 63-year career.
16. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean by Richard Amsel (directed by John Hutson, 1972)
Source: Adam McDaniel
Richard Amsel produced posters for some of the most important American films of the 1970s and early-80s before his career was sadly cut short when he died in 1985 at the age of 37. These included Chinatown, The Last Picture Show, The Muppet Movie, Papillion, The Sting, Flash Gordon and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is Amsel’s poster is for The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, a film about a self-appointed judge on the frontier of America’s Wild West, starring Paul Newman at the height of his powers.
17. The Poseidon Adventure by Mort Künstler (directed by Ronald Neame and Irwin Allen, 1972)
Source: Imp Awards
Mort Künstler is most widely known for his illustrative paintings of the American Civil War, but also produces work for magazines and movie posters, including this dramatic design for The Poseidon Adventure.
18. Enter the Dragon by Bob Peak (directed by Robert Clouse, 1973)
Source: Movie Goods
Enter the Dragon is the classic martial arts movie, starring Bruce Lee in his final acting role before his death later in the same year. Movie poster pioneer Bob Peak produced this marvellous design for the film’s release,
19. Stalker by Jean-Michel Folon (directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
Source: To Bathe in Filmic Waters
Stalker is director Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece science fiction epic, following an expedition into the ‘Zone’, a mysterious place where visitor’s deepest wishes are fulfilled. Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon produced this colourful, semi-abstract watercolour piece for the film’s theatrical release in 1981.
20. Big Trouble in Little China by Drew Struzan (directed by John Carpenter, 1986)
Source: Imp Awards
Drew Struzan has worked on a huge range of graphic work including many movie posters for films by directors including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. This poster is for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, starring Kurt Russell as trucker Jack Burton who gets caught up in the dangerous underworld of San Francisco’s Chinatown.