Greatest American Movie Poster Classics
the top 100 movie posters ever
The American Film Institute 100 Years Collection
There is no doubt that among AFI's 100 Years series, the 'Top 100 American Movie Poster Classics Collection' represents a unique way to relive the magic of some of the best movies depicted by the best 100 ever produced movie posters during more than 100 years of American movie history.
Originals from AFI's top 100 Movie Poster Classics collection released over eight years ago are disappearing fast but it is still possible to find some of the best movie posters in the list. Read here to discover more...
Gilda - 1946
More AFI Best American Movie Poster Classics available from MovieGoods
As part of AFI Top 100 series, the American Film Institute (AFI) released in 2003 a list of the hundred most memorable and striking movie posters of the 20th century. Celebrating elite craftsman-ship, AFI's 100 American Movie Poster Classics collection represents the best artwork ever produced by the movie poster industry.
The selected 100 movie posters were re-mastered as hand-produced, limited edition lithographs by the S2 Art Group and Entertainment Galleries. They were produced using the same production methods as the original classic movie posters. The edition size chosen for the collection is 9,500 individually numbered copies per poster. Labeled as Art of the Movies, this unique movie poster collection is more commonly referred to as
'100 Years... 100 American Movie Poster Classics'.
These poster reproductions provide the highest quality, fine art recreations of favorite movie poster classics; they come fully licensed and authorized by major film studios.
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It was in November 2000 when AFI originally launched its historic 100 Greatest American Movie Poster Classic collection. It was during a premier public exhibit of its 'AFI's 100 Years... 100 American Movie Poster Classics' at the CineVegas International Film Festival.
We said historic because the whole project saw a collaborative effort by the AFI, major Hollywood film studios and Art of the Movies (an S2 Art company). The aim was to recreate a spectacular collection of limited edition fine art lithographs of the 100 most memorable and striking movie posters of the 20th century.
Using old-time, hands-on lithographic techniques, the AFI program wanted to recreate early film posters in exactly the same way they were created during the first half of the century. The whole production process involved using hand-drawn plates to pull one color at a time on the extremely rare antique lithography presses of the S2 Atelier in New York City.
This same process was also used to recreate aesthetically superior lithographic artworks of some of the later 20th century movie posters selected for the collection; often, these posters were originally produced using cheaper, lower-quality photo reproduction methods.
All posters were recreated in exactly the same size as the originals, from the standard one-sheet (27x41 inches) to huge three-sheet (41x83 inches) movie posters. The only difference is that these recreations were printed on durable archival-grade paper using finest-quality fade-resistant inks.
During the 2000 premier exhibition, the public had the opportunity to see photographs of the selected 100 images for the collection. It was also possible to see the first 15 completed lithographic editions in the collection. Eventually, the whole collection took till 2003 to be completed due to the exacting demands of the lithographic process. In addition, the selection phase of the process took a further full year. It was an impressive process through which researchers and experts flipped through more than 31,000 candidates at the Herschenson-Allen Archives, considered as the largest collection of American movie poster classics in the world, to choose the 100 finest examples of this popular and important art form.
Though originally movie posters were nothing more than a temporary form of advertising media—just use and throw away—yet many of these posters were designed by some of the most famous and talented artists and illustrators of the time. These include artists like Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, John Held Jr., Thomas Hart Benton, Al Hirschfeld and Bob Peak.
Eventually, what was just a use and throw away printed paper for film promotion, began to be recognized as poster art. Soon, original movie posters became among the most sought-after items of film memorabilia, with rare vintage posters often garnering tens of thousands of dollars at art auctions.
'AFI's 100 Years... 100 American Movie Poster Classics' collection was established to preserve this poster art, a vital aspect of America's movie heritage. But there is more. Through its best 100 movie poster classics collection, AFI also wanted to make the joy of collecting classic works of American movie poster art accessible to millions of art lovers and movie fans throughout the world—thanks to the reproduction of affordable fine-art recreations of the 100 greatest American movie poster classics of the 20th century.
Individually numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, these handmade lithographs represent recreations of superb quality that manage to reproduce in every detail, the original movie art work.
While significantly more affordable than the cost-prohibitive originals, these fine-quality recreations from AFI's 100 greatest American classic movie posters collection do not come cheap.
Prices range from $325 for a one-sheet size poster such as the 27x41 inch poster from the 1946 film Gilda (pictured above), to well over $1,000 for some three-sheet sought-after posters such as the poster from the great 1933 King Kong movie which is selling at $1,350 unmounted and unframed.
Top in the AFI best movie poster classics collection is the movie poster from the 1946 film Gilda already referred to in this article; this has been rated by AFI as the best American movie poster classic ever produced. The 1933 King Kong movie poster shown here also forms part of the top-five American movie poster classics, occupying the fifth position in the list.
The other movie posters within the top-five list are SIN of Nora Moran—also from 1933 and rated as the 2nd-best ever American movie poster classic, Thief of Bagdad 1924—rated in third position, and The Mummy 1932—rated as the fourth best movie poster classic ever. These three movie posters are being pictured below:
SIN of Nora Moran - 1933
The Thief of Bagdad - 1924
The Mummy - 1932
The list however includes many other great American movie posters from classic films such as Gone with the Wind 1939 (3-Sheet), A Dog's Life 1918 (1-Sheet) and The Kid 1921 (3-Sheet) both by Charlie Chaplin, Alien 1979 (Half-Sheet), Cleopatra 1917 (1-Sheet), Lawrence of Arabia 1962 (1-Sheet), Phantom of the Opera 1925 (1-Sheet), She Married her Boss 1935 (1-Sheet), and Lolita 1962 (1-Sheet), just to mention a few.
As we have stated in our introduction, originals from AFI's top 100 American Movie Poster Classics collection are disappearing fast but it is still possible to find some of the best movie posters in the list from renowned online movie poster stores like MovieGoods, MoviePosters, and Stargate Cinema. But in our opinion it is MovieGoods the most stocked online supplier in this respect. These limited edition handcrafted re-creations are a treasure to be cherished for years to come and will surely provide a visual feast for movie poster collectors and film aficionados alike.
AFI Best American Movie Poster Classics
available from MovieGoods
Note: The results page on the MovieGoods website lists all available versions of the respective movie posters; the ones belonging to the AFI collection are labeled as Movie Poster Re-Creation and come in 1-Sheet size.