Top Movie Posters From Each Decade

Who doesn’t love walking up to a movie theater and seeing the intriguing posters of upcoming attractions? Movie posters have been used since the earliest public showings of films. Released in 1895, the French film L'Arroseur arrosé holds the distinction of having the first movie poster ever designed to promote an individual film. Originally labeled “film posters,” these prints were created for the exclusive use of the theaters showing the depicted film, and were returned to the distributor after the film left the theater.

Prior to the 1990s, movie posters were largely produced as illustrations rather than images. Today, these features are printed in a variety of sizes and applications, like the glowing effect of backlit posters mounted in a light-box. While movie posters have evolved over time, their promotional theme and intrigue have remained the same. Take a walk down memory lane with our list of the greatest movie posters by decade below!

1900s: A Trip to the Moon
Release Year: 1902

Who could forget the satirical image of the moon with a space capsule in its eye on the movie poster for A Trip to the Moon? This early film is an adventure story about a group of astronomers and their trip to the moon in a cannon-propelled capsule. When the group lands on the moon they ironically settle into its right eye. This iconic image of the Man in the Moon is one of the most well-known and referenced in film history.

1910s: One A.M
Release Year: 1916

One of Charlie Chaplin’s greatest performances, One A.M. was Chaplin’s first film in which he starred alone (aside from one brief scene). This 20-minute silent comedy showcases Chaplin arriving home drunk and staggering around his home in a stupor. The beautifully illustrated film poster depicts Chaplin in the midst of an inebriated journey complete with a tiger and monkey.

1920s: Robin Hood
Release Year: 1922

1922’s Robin Hood was the first film to have a Hollywood premier. Robin Hood was also one of the most expensive movies to produce of its time, with a budget estimated at approximately $1 million. The colorful movie poster pictured Douglas Fairbanks with a loaded bow and arrow as star Robin Hood. The poster also featured the movie’s full title, “Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood.”

1930s: Dracula
Release Year: 1931

Dracula debuted on the big screen on February 12, 1931 at the Roxy Theatre in New York City. After the showing newspapers reported that members of the audience actually fainted in the theater at the horror on screen – however, it was discovered that this claim was merely publicity from the film studio. Despite the sensationalizing of the press, Dracula was a box office hit. Dracula is now regarded as a classic of the era and of the horror genre. The film’s dramatic poster features the beloved Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula peering down on a man, ready for attack.

1940s: Fantasia
Release Year: 1940

Fantasia is an early Disney film with a soundtrack as classic as its movie poster. The popular poster features Mickey Mouse adorned in his wizard hat in a cutting-edge Technicolor. The film itself is comprised of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music. This timeless film is one of the most beloved in the Disney catalog, and still enjoyed today by families all over the world.

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1950s: Treasure Island
Release Year: 1950

For the second decade in a row, a Disney film made our list as a top movie poster. Treasure Island was Disney’s first all live-action film, and the first film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel to be produced in all color. Deemed as “The Greatest Adventure of All,” Treasure Island was a box office hit in both the U.S. and Great Britain.

1960s: Psycho
Release Year: 1960

Arguably Hitchcock’s best piece of work, 1960’s Psycho is praised as one of the greatest films of all time. To match its boundary pushing story, Psycho’s theatrical release poster was exciting and dramatic. Appealing to horror and thriller fans alike, this psychological-thriller is a must-see for any movie buff.

1970s: MASH
Release Year: 1970

One of 20th Century Fox’s biggest films of the 1970s, MASH was a satirical black comedy war film about three army doctors trying to stay sane in the face of hardship. In a decade of great political change, the movie poster for MASH was timely and salacious and really got people talking. The film went on to receive five Academy Award nominations and won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

1980s: The Blues Brothers
Release Year: 1980

An undeniable cult classic, The Blues Brothers film poster perfectly portrayed the cool exterior of “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues. This popular musical comedy was adapted from the Saturday Night Live musical sketch by the same name. The R&B, soul and blues soundtrack was an unforgettable compliment to the relentless adventure in The Blues Brothers.

1990s: Edward Scissorhands
Release Year: 1990

One of Tim Burton’s most imaginative and praised films, the story of Edward Scissorhands is both romantic and dark. Despite his shocking exterior, Edward was virtually harmless and full of love. Once brought from his abandoned castle to civilization, he won the hearts of everyone he met. The strong imagery on this film poster perfect represents the emotion captured in this iconic film.

2000s: Cast Away
Release Year: 2000

Who can forget Tom Hanks’ ground-breaking dramatic performance as a man stranded on an uninhabited island after a plane crash, surviving only by relying on the remnants of the destroyed plane? The film was a smash hit, grossing $429 million at the box office and earning Hanks an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. The movie poster shows a desperate and bearded Hanks stranded and fighting to stay alive.

2010s: Inception
Release Year: 2010

2010’s Inception is one of those sci-fi thrillers that had people discussing its plot twists for weeks after its box office release. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and many other well-known names, Inception was a visual delight featuring stunning effects from director Chris Nolan. The movie poster image itself is very effective and dramatic. The blue color effect makes the image seem surreal and reflects the dreaming theme of the film.

What are some of your favorite movie posters?
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The wide-format printing group of Seiko Instruments (SII) joined OKI on October 1, 2015.