25 Bizarre But Beautiful Communist-Era Posters For Oscar-Worthy Hollywood Movies

Published February 27, 2016
Updated June 4, 2021

The stark, often surreal portrayals of Hollywood’s most beloved films revealed a startling — and intentional — divide between the East and West.

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25 Bizarre But Beautiful Communist-Era Posters For Oscar-Worthy Hollywood Movies
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Big names, big slogans, and even bigger heads. That's typically been the make-up of a Hollywood movie poster since the 1920s. In the Soviet states, however, things were a little different.

As the Cold War dragged on throughout the 20th century, some of the most important ideological battles took place in the artistic sphere. Eastern Bloc artists — mostly from Czechoslovakia and Poland — were not merely stamping actors' grinning faces on a given film's promotional material. Rather, they used the poster medium to show off their artistic talent and technical precision.

Many poster artists hadn't even seen the film they were tasked with depicting. Instead, they created the posters based on an idea or some abstract association. Their stark portrayals of Hollywood's most beloved films revealed a startling, and intentional, divide between the East and West.

See for yourself in the gallery of Oscar-nominated or winning American film posters above.

Posters Symbolized Free Thought In A Stringent Society

From 1948 until the late 1980s, Czechoslovakia's isolation under the Soviet Union made for abstract interpretations of even the most popular Hollywood films.

There were no competing movie studios; just one distribution company. Rather than spend money to ship and receive the original posters, and to not bother with reviewing materials that may be banned, Czechoslokvakian executives commissioned their own artwork.

At least one plus to this system was that the state didn't place many restrictions on the artists, other than the rule that work couldn't be blatantly political in nature.

During the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Communist-era movie posters were definitely dynamic — and fairly surreal — as most artists never even saw the films. They often went off a synopsis or sometimes just a title in order to craft their posters.

Meanwhile, in Poland, most Communist-era movie posters were painted, though there are lovely examples of photo-collage during the late 1950s. From then until the 1980s, the communist state closely monitored the country's film industry.

However, throughout the Eastern Bloc, it was Poland that seemed to maintain the most autonomy — especially when it came to art and culture. Through this time of repression and limited freedoms, they used poster-making as a space to exert their creative freedom.

Poland rightly made poster design a true art form using vibrant colors and clever metaphors.

The Legacy Of Communist-Era Movie Posters

Polish Movie Poster Display

mwichary/FlickrA collection of Polish movie posters on display.

Hollywood couldn't do anything about the treatments their movies received in the Eastern Bloc during this time, but the artists certainly enjoyed their time of celebrated creativity.

That is, until the late '80s, when the Eastern Bloc crumbled, and Western companies could exercise more control over their movie releases there. Now, much of the same promotional materials are used internationally, with the only change being translated text.

While it is a shame to see this period of poster-making end, it has nonetheless left a mark on art history.

Historians refer to this graphic renaissance in Poland as the "Polish School of Posters." While it's not a school in the physical sense, it's definitely a phenomenon that has inspired makers across the world.

The head curator of Poland's poster museum, Marisuz Knorowski, described the breadth of the legacy of the Polish school of Posters: "We are talking about thousands of works' several prominent artists and at least three generations."

Next, enjoy more surreal examples of highly bizarre Polish movie posters. Then, check out these disturbing Nazi propaganda posters that the Reich used to control the masses.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.