We do not, alas, live in the golden age of American movie poster design. Some United States independent films (and especially their Criterion Collection DVD releases, if they get them) still fly under the banner of striking imagery designed by daring artists and graphic designers, but for mainstream Hollywood pictures, the thrill has definitely gone. Even when their most iconic posters of decades past showcase admirable craftsmanship, they often lack a certain artistic zing. Every Indiana Jones fan, for instance, has a special place in their heart for Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s classic poster, but even the sternest Indy purist would have to admit that one of the film’s Polish posters, shown above, immediately communicates something the original, near-photorealistic image doesn’t. You can see another Polish rendition of Raiders, one that conveys even more fully the unexpected intensity of Harrison Ford’s all-American hero archaeologist, in this collection fifty Polish film posters from wellmedicated.
Followers of many varieties of visual art, especially animation, know that Poland has a rich visual tradition indeed. Executed by the hand of a Polish artist, ideas that would seem nonsensical or ridiculous anywhere else in the world suddenly make sense. Just above we have the Polish poster advertising Stroszek by Werner Herzog, whose movies, based on his own inexplicable but somehow satisfying ideas of “ecstatic truth,” perhaps merit Polish posters more than anyone else’s. Just below, we see what Polish viewers saw when they lined up to buy tickets for Star Wars’ sequel The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe it strikes you as heresy to accept anything but Drew Struzan’s hardy, Darth Vader-centric, explosion-laden original, but this one urges me to think about the entirety of Star Wars’ project in a whole new — or at least newly askew — way. The other country which has long led the way with interesting homegrown posters for American movies? Ghana.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.