Top 10 Movie Poster Artists

Movie poster artists are without a doubt some of the most overlooked contributors to cinematic history. Ever since short form films began to be shown publicly in the late 19th century, there were posters (or then simple 8 x 10 inch lobby cards) enticing audiences to fork over their hard earned cash. Initially these lobby cards simply included a sensational description of the moving pictures that were being projected, much like a newspaper headline. However, beginning in the early 1900’s, studios began hiring artists to add equally sensational illustrations to their tag lines. Hence the movie poster was born. Through the 1930’s studios would attach posters and lobby cards to the reels of film sent to theaters (back then most theaters were owned by the studios themselves). Once the film had its run, most posters were just thrown out by the theaters. Starting in 1940, a organization was set up call the NSS (National Screen Service) whose job it was to circulate posters and make sure they were returned to the studios. Most of the time posters would be returned, only to be sent out again to another theater. By the time the reached the end of their journey, most posters were thrown away. This organization was in place up until the 1980’s. It wasn’t until then that many collectors and film historians had fully realized the value (both historically and monetarily) of this art form that had been around for nearly a century. There had been some enthusiasts as early as post WWII that were beginning to hoard these treasures. But by and large movie posters were seen as disposable and thus they are such a huge commodity today (particularly pre 1940 film posters). Without these enormously talented illustrators and designers, it would have been nearly impossible to draw in the crowds of people awaiting to see the fantastically imagery that had seen in poster form come to life on screen. Below I have listed not only ten of my favorite artists, but also ten of the most influential. For each artist I have provided four of the best examples of their work. One thing you’ll quickly notice is that none of the films are after 1990. Beginning in the 1980’s, studios began to rely on photos of their stars for their posters. By the 1990’s, illustrated posters were quickly becoming a dying art. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, most movie posters are horrendously sloppy photoshopped messes. But occasionally you’ll find a studio or filmmaker that still cares enough to commission a proper designer to put together a decent representation of their film.

10. Tom Jung


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9. Frank MacCarthy (1924 – November 17, 2002)

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8. John Solie

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7. Bob Peak (May 30, 1927 – August 1, 1992)

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6. John Alvin (November 24, 1948 – February 6, 2008)

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5. Jack Davis


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4. Al Hirschfeld (June 21, 1903 – January 20, 2003)

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3. Drew Struzan


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2. Reynold Brown (1917 – 1991)

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1. Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996)

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Special Feature:

Top 5 Movie Posters of the past 10 years!

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5 Responses to “Top 10 Movie Poster Artists”

  1. Honorable mention: John Bryant for the cover art of the soundtrack to “The Harder They Come” (and Toots & the Maytals’ “Funky Kingston.”

  2. nice post – love the bob peak rollerball – shame the movie wasn’t up to the poster.

    mostly a lost art it seems

  3. Ketan Yadav Says:

    True artists of modern time, Reynold Brown should have been no.1 !

  4. muy cool!

  5. donald cooper Says:

    Charles Friedlander was a movie poster who drew the posters for “High Noon” and the early “James Bond -007″ films.

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