Illustration: Universal Pictures
Movie posters: They don’t do them like they used to. Sure, smaller independent films can get away with something interesting (usually with a yellow background), but posters for big blockbusters tend to be quite formulaic. The first decades of cinema, however, were a different story.
With hand-drawn illustrations and lettering, collages of black and white stills or geometric mid-century graphics, these are works of art in themselves. And while some movie posters have long had a place in dining rooms or hung on the wall of a dorm room with blue notebooks, there are so many out there for us to enjoy. Here’s what you should know about a website with a great collection of classic movie posters that are also free to download.
What you can find in the collection
That Collection of movie posters at the University of Texas in the Harry Ransom Center in Austin contains around 10,000 digitized movie posters from the silent movie era. We first found out about the online archive from a post by Kevin Kelly in the Recomendo newsletter.
Most of the collection (and some of the funniest posters to rummage through) come from the Interstate Theater Circuit– a chain that once included almost every movie theater in Texas. The posters, film stills, lobby cards, and press books cover the 1940s through 1970s with a particularly robust collection of films from the 1950s and 1960s, including musicals, epics, westerns, swords and sandals, horror and counterculture films.
How to find, browse, and download old movie posters
There are several ways to access the posters in the collection. Whether you’re searching or surfing, you’ll want to start on this page of the collection website.
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The search function works like any other library, including the option to perform an advanced search– but browsing is fun. Not only can you go through each image page by page, but you can narrow down and search through specific genres, such as crime, sci-fi, adult, action / adventure, and horror.
Click on a poster to view a larger version, print it out or download it for free. There are three size / resolution options for each poster. Note that The Harry Ransom Center does not own the rights to these posters and they are for personal and educational use only. If you have specific questions about usage, contact the Harry Ransom Center directly.