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Ridley Scott's Alien, 1979.
Poland has a long history of poster making. As early as the 1890s, Polish artists would create colorful, vibrant posters to promote artistic events and performances in the country.Reddit
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It wasn't until the Cold War that Polish posters attracted the height of their international attention. During this time, critics paid especially close attention to the movie posters that were created in the country.Poster Art Movies
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The Blues Brothers, 1980.
Polish streets were usually quiet and somewhat "gray" during the Cold War era. The one notable exception was the eye-popping color that came from movie posters.benjilanyado.wordpress.com
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Blade Runner, 1982.
Rather than using typical headshots or a "literal translation of the plot," Polish movie posters often aimed to capture the overall mood of a movie.reddit
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Poster makers were often hired in-house by theaters, museums, and other cultural centers. This led to a wide variety of different advertisements. No two looked exactly alike.thetrad.blogspot.com
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Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, 1948.
Although all of the printed media in Poland needed to be approved by the state, many artists could get away with being creative when it came to posters.thetrad.blogspot.com
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Disney's Dumbo, 1961.
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Star Wars: A New Hope, 1978.
Whenever these posters included critical commentary, many bureaucratic patrons would collude so that these unique artworks could pass the country's strict censorship laws. Mean Sheets
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Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980.
Polish movie posters were one of the few mediums where artists could get away with depicting "controversial" themes like violence and sexuality.Redditian
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Of all the countries controlled by the Soviet bloc, Poland stood out for its barely-concealed resistance to the Communist state.Den of Geek
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King Kong Escapes, 1968.
King Kong Escapes, 1968.Botch the Crab
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Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.
Along with their brilliant social commentary, Polish posters also received critical acclaim for their mind-boggling designs.PolishPoster.com
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Oftentimes, Polish movie posters were so out of bounds of what you'd expect — especially if you've seen the film — that you'd probably need to stop for a moment to take the whole piece in.Gallery Hip
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Rosemary's Baby, 1968.
Rosemary's Baby was Polish director Roman Polanski's first American film, and its score was composed by the famous Polish jazz musician Krzysztof Komeda.daylesanders.blogspot.com
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An alternate poster for Rosemary's Baby.
Death By Films
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The Fly, 1986.
The Soviet bloc totally controlled Poland from 1952 to 1989. But despite the extreme circumstances, many artists cleverly outsmarted censors with subversive designs.CykaBlyatistan/Imgur
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The Shining, 1980.
The score for The Shining was also created by a Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music also appeared in The Exorcist.Death By Films
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Young Frankenstein, 1974.
The director of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks, has Polish roots.Polish Movie Poster
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Terms of Endearment, 1983.
Death By Films
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John Carpenter's Starman, 1984.
Even though Polish movie posters were popular all over the world during the Cold War era, the art form did not last forever.iPhoto Scrap
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During the 1970s, movie posters began to dwindle in production in Poland. And by the late 1980s, they had all but disappeared.Poster Wire
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The World War II film Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1970.
By 1989, film distribution had been privatized in Poland, meaning the beloved art form was now officially dead.foreignmovieposters/Tumblr
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Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, 1958.
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Working Girl, 1988.
But even though the art form is dead today, it's certainly not forgotten.Projector Magazine
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Apocalypse Now, 1979.
True to its history, Poland has its very own Poster Museum in Warsaw. There, visitors can admire over 50,000 posters from years past. Unsurprisingly, some of the most striking artworks were created during the Communist era.polishposter.com
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The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1981.
There's no question that Polish movie posters left an important mark on the country's history — especially during such a fraught time period.gameraboy/Flickr
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Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot, 1976.
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Nosferatu the Vampyre, 1979.
In modern times, Polish movie posters from the past are revered for their originality.reddit
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The Birds, 1963.
Since the poster was one of the only forms of creative expression allowed in Poland during the Cold War, it's clear that the artists made as much use of this as they could.DavePattern/Flickr
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Raging Bull, 1980.
One modern-day commentator said this of Cold War-era posters: "The Polish film poster is artist-driven, not studio-driven. It is more akin to fine art than commercial art. It is painterly rather than graphic. What sets the Polish poster apart from what we're used to [seeing] in the West is a general disregard for the demands of the big studios."Death By Films
Explore These Brilliant Vintage Polish Movie Posters From The Cold War
During the Cold War, Polish artists approached movie posters differently from the rest of the world. Instead of using stills or headshots, they often created imagery inspired by the movies themselves.
The result was a vibrant, eclectic collection of colorful posters that ended up looking more like pieces of art than advertisements stuck to the front of a movie theater. While the depictions of American cinema were often mind-boggling, they were also stunning — and thoughtful.
Some of them are so outside the bounds of what we'd expect a movie poster to be that they have to be seen to be believed. Discover some of the most eye-popping Polish movie posters in the gallery above.
The Early Days Of Poster Making In Poland
Wikimedia CommonsStanisław Wyspiański, depicted in this self portrait, was a Polish poster maker at the end of the 19th century.
Poland has a long history with posters. Starting in the 1890s, artists would produce colorful posters to promote art exhibitions, theater performances, and ballets. They mixed popular styles like Japanism, Jugendstil, Secessionist, and Cubism with traditional symbolism and Polish folklore. This often led to thought-provoking and unique designs.
The artists' work was so admired that the city of Krakow announced the first "International Exposition of the Poster" in 1898. Its organizer, Jan Wdowiszewski, believed that posters should combine artistic and utilitarian value, present a critical view of reality, and fit in at both art galleries and alleyways. There's no question that many Polish posters fit that description.
Between World War I and World War II, the purpose of posters changed slightly. Instead of promoting artistic events and performances, many posters were more geared toward advertising products. Other posters would promote Poland itself and encourage tourists to visit the country.
Poster techniques also became increasingly specific, as experts were eager to weigh in on what made a certain poster "good" or "bad." For this time period, the Department of Architecture at Warsaw Technical University once described the ideal poster as: "Based on sophisticated humor, a maximum of synthesis, and a masterly use of color."
How Polish Posters Changed During The Cold War
Wikimedia CommonsDuring the Cold War, it was common to see Polish people waiting in long lines outside of state-run grocery stores.
Polish posters really hit their stride during the age of Communism. From 1952 to 1989, the Soviet bloc controlled Poland, and posters were often the only spots of color along the gray, quiet streets in Polish cities.
Around this time, many artists sought to "outsmart censorship with subtle wit." Posters thus became the perfect way to accomplish this goal.
Often, poster makers were hired in-house by theaters, operas, and museums. This resulted in many unique perspectives on popular films. More often than not, Polish artists avoided a "literal translation of the plot" and instead sought to express the overall mood of the movie.
Doing so allowed for creative expression and commentary on life in Poland that otherwise may have gone unaddressed. So it's no surprise that movie posters of the era were a unique mix of art, politics, and film. Many of them offered powerful — yet subtle — political commentaries.
Polish movie posters dwindled in production throughout the 1970s, and all but disappeared by the late 1980s. In 1989, film distribution was privatized, meaning that the once vibrant art form was dead.
But even though it's dead, it's certainly not forgotten. The Poster Museum in Poland houses over 50,000 vintage posters that guests can still enjoy today. Visitors can take a colorful walk down memory lane and experience some of the wildest movie posters ever created in the country.
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several published book covers in her career as a graphic artist.