Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

These communist-era takes on classic Hollywood films are strange... and strangely beautiful

They’re bizarre and beautiful takes on films you know and love – and in many cases, you’ll wonder if the artists knew anything about the movies they were illustrating apart from the title. These promotional posters for classic US films are unique and wonderful – and they can also be yours. 

Some writers attribute the bizarre nature of Czech (and Polish) movie posters from the 1960s through the 1980s to “an artistic alternative to banned U.S. publicity material” (what, the posters were banned, but the movies weren’t?), but the actual story is much more interesting.

While artists behind promotional material elsewhere needed to be able to sell their product in the most effective (read: least imaginative) way possible, the communist regime inadvertently created a unique environment for this particular form. Free from most commercial interests, the artists behind these posters were given an incredible amount of free reign over their design – an artistic freedom even the filmmakers behind the movies didn’t enjoy. 

The results were frequently bizarre – just take a look at that Ghostbusters poster below – but just as frequently beautiful, with popular artifacts of the time creatively re-imagined in the form of a movie poster that could legitimately be called a work of art. 

Of course, the art of the movie poster is now all but gone. Next time you see giant floating heads and choppy PhotoShop work while walking down the street or in a metro, you can shed a tear for a dead art form. 

But all is not lost: love the posters below, or looking for a unique gift for a film lover this Christmas? Most of these original posters (and many, many more) can be purchased from the online shop Terryho ponožky (www.terryhoponozky.cz). Some can be had for as little as 100 CZK, though you’ll have to pony up 5000+ CZK for rare prints. You can also browse through selected posters from the shop in person at the Kino Světozor box office. 

Also read:  Prague’s Baroque Vrtba Garden to light up the Halloween night in Malá Strana

All images courtesy of www.terryhoponozky.cz.

The Apartment (1960)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Josef Flejšar, 1962

This low-key but expressive sketch for Billy Wilder’s classic comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine screams 1960s minimalism – just like much of the design in the film itself. 

Barbarella (1968)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Karel Saudek, 1971

A perfect mash-up of the original French comic and the Jane Fonda live action feature by famed Czech comic book illustrator Karel Saudek.

Big (1988)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Bartošová, 1988

In the US, Tom Hanks’ giant mug encompassed nearly the entire poster. This one’s a little different.

The Birds (1963)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Josef Vyleťal, 1970

The lakefront background and setting sun here evokes images of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, but the weirdness up front is more H.P. Lovecraft.

Cabaret (1972)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Bartošová, 1989

I love the artistic representation of Liza Minnelli in this poster for the classic musical. 

Dumbo (1941)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Anonymous, 1971

Many of the Walt Disney features got unusual posters that didn’t retain the classic look of their famous characters. This one for Dumbo is a standout.

Five Easy Pieces (1971)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Karel Machálek, 1973

Striking artwork for the Bob Rafelson drama starring Jack Nicholson. I’ve seen this concept – angelic wings emerging from the eyes – elsewhere, but I’m not sure if it has a specific connotation.

Flashdance (1983)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Petr Poš, 1988

This poster for the supernatural comedy is one of the most bizarre creations on this list. Squint and you can make out some elements from the film, including the proton pack.

The Gumball Rally (1976)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Miloslav Disman, 1980

Beautifully minimalistic, and probably classier than the cross-country car chase movie it represents.

High Noon (1952)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Břetislav Šebek, 1962

A gritty and beautiful take on the Fred Zinneman Western starring Jimmy Stewart. But it might be more evocative of another psychological Western from the same era – Henry King’s The Gunfighter, with Gregory Peck.

The Hospital (1971)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Karel Machálek, 1973

Like Machálek’s Five Easy Pieces poster, this one is striking and evocative, though I’m not sure of its precise relevance to the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted satire.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Zdeněk Kaplan, 1970

This one wins the award for most strained relationship to the actual film, with the Sidney Poitier-Rod Steiger racial drama turned into some kind of neon hot rod porno fantasy.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Eva Brýdlová, 1966

This simple design manages to effectively convey the concept of this all-star comedy, something that US advertising struggled to do.

Jaws (1975)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Olga Fischerová, 1976

This (seemingly) arcade game-inspired take on the Steven Spielberg blockbuster reminds me of Killer Shark, the light gun game briefly featured in the film.  

Mary Poppins (1964)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Zdeněk Kaplan, 1967

There’s… a lot going on in this classy artwork for the Audrey Hepburn-Rex Harrison musical.

The Omen (1976)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Karel Saudek, 1976

Another by comics illustrator Saudek, with an… interesting depiction of Satan & Gregory Peck. 

Papillon (1973)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Zdeněk Ziegler, 1974

A simple concept for the Steve McQueen-Dustin Hoffman film about famed fugitive Henri Charrière, beautifully pulled off. I love the detail of the fingerprints on the scissors. 

The Party (1968)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Jaroslav Fišer, 1970

There’s the elephant, the suds, and much more: see if you can identify all the elements of the Blake Edwards-Peter Sellers comedy included in this groovy poster design. 

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Vratislav Hlavatý, 1970

The sci-fi classic meets Hair in this strange but strangely appealing piece of late-60s psychedelia.

Raging Bull (1980)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Zdeněk Ziegler, 1987

How many Robert De Niro faces can you count in this surreal poster for the Martin Scorsese classic?

Rio Bravo (1959)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Karel Vaca, 1967

Simple-but-striking, this poster for the Howard Hawks Western starring John Wayne is a perfect fit.

Short Circuit (1987)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Zdeněk Vlach, 1989

You can vaguely get a feel for Number 5 in this poster for the 80s sci-fi film, but the artwork is much more ominous than the comedic film it portrays. 

Zulu Dawn (1979)

Top 25 Czechoslovak Movie Posters (*for US Films)

Artist: Petr Poš, 1982

Whenever I think of the Zulu (1964) or its sequel, this artwork immediately comes to mind. Terrific.


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