We're not the only ones who think it's weird that we all just woke up one day and stopped plastering our walls with movie posters, right? Before social media turned film advertising into a mostly digital thing, movie posters were a vital way for audiences to get a taste of what the movie was all about. We'd color our walls with these vintage horror movie posters in a heartbeat, if only we had few a spare thousand dollars lying around.
Old Horror Movie Posters We Can't Stop Thinking About
The extensive press junkets, multiple trailers, and social media teasers that are rampant in Hollywood today have ruined the horror movie mystique. Back in the day, you only had a single poster (or series of posters) to grip people's wandering eyes and give them a taste for the scares to come. That sort of creative necessity gave birth to a collection of old horror movie posters that truly stand the test of time, and here are some we can't stop thinking about.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931)
An early horror talkie made in 1931 starring Fredric March as the titular character, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde probably doesn't make your list of the top 5 '30s horror films based on theatrical prowess alone. It's hard to stand up to the likes of Dracula and Frankenstein. But this shadowy poster certainly stands out.
Hyde stays pressed into the background, a green shadowy figure, hinting not only at his role in the film but also the creative way they were able to combine the two independent March shots together. Dr. Jekyll takes the foreground, but half his face is covered in this acid green wash. The poster says it all: Dr. Jekyll wants to move to the light, but he won't be able to escape his shadow.
If you're looking for an original lithograph poster from this silver screen classic, you might want to start a few side-hustles because they'll run you a couple thousand dollars. They're so rare, in fact, that none have come to a public sale in years.
Saul Bass completely changed the game for movie poster designs in the 1950s and 1960s. He pioneered a style that shifted us out of character driven features or snapshot scenes from the movie into an art form. His most famous work is Hitchcock's 1958 film, Vertigo.
The red background with a white spirograph spiral demands to be front and center. The two main characters are relegated to the bottom of the poster, making us turn our focus on the spiral itself. It's a conundrum for anyone who's never seen the movie, but once you have, it's a genius way to replicate the sense of falling and vertigo that follows throughout the film.
Because of how iconic the Vertigo image still is, original poster prints can sell for thousands of dollars. For example, this original Vertigo poster was estimated to be worth about $7,000-$10,000 in a Sotheby's auction.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
We wouldn't be surprised if the House on Haunted Hill poster wasn't the inspiration for Lowe's famous 12' skeleton. The poster for this 1959 horror flick shows a stereotypical haunted mansion at a conflicting angle to the other characters surrounding the bottom title.
But the reason why this poster keeps circling in our brains when our eyes are closed is because of the limp woman in a bright gold dress hanging from a noose being held up by a skeleton. With everything surrounding her in cool tones of green, blue, and brown, her bright figure grabs our attention and forces us to look.
Despite being less remembered than other horror movies on this list, an original poster will still do well at auction. For instance, this original House on Haunted Hill poster is currently listed for $2,300 online.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
When it comes to 1960's Eyes Without a Face movie posters, any of the variations could make this list for their creep factor alone. What each of these posters have to varying degrees is a figure that screams uncanny valley. The shocking contrast of pure white over the face with only the eyes coming through creates a mask-like effect. You can't help but see the horror filled eyes beneath the expressionless white face and want to rip the character out of the poster to save them from their fate.
Being a French film, Eyes Without a Face doesn't have the same name recongition that slasher flicks have in the United States. This makes the original posters a little less valuable than some from around the same time, at about $250-$600. For instance, one of the original French prints is currently listed for $675 online.
The Exorcist (1973)
For The Exorcist, less really is more. The chaos, violence, and disgusting green goo that's going to ensue from Regan's possession isn't anywhere to be found on the original movie poster. Instead, you can only see the shadow of a man lit up by a streetlight, presumably in front of a house.
Now this is some ingenious storytelling. A small beam of light - The Exorcist - is nearly overtaken by the dark black poster just as he and Regan's family are increasingly endangered by the demon that possesses her. This horror movie poster sticks with us because it's such a startling foil to what lies within the film.
What about head spinning and green vomit doesn't have lasting appeal? Collectors still love snatching up original prints of the movie's posters, and they'll run anywhere from $200-$500, on average. One high quality print with slight creases is currently listed for $450 online.
Jaws. That iconic red lettering, the glacier-like proportion of sky to sea, and the massive shark lying in the deep. Do we even need to say more?
Undoubtedly, Jaws has one of the most expensive recent film posters to date. These suckers can run you up to $5,000 or more in some cases, like this one print that's listed on 1st Dibs for $5,134.12.
Halloween's another great example of a less-is-more approach to movie posters. The ridges of the pumpkin face mirror Michael Meyer's knife-wielding hand in such a way to create both illusion and motion. If you were walking after dark and saw this poster out of the corner of your eye, you'd probably start booking it in the other direction, and that's what makes it such a special one.
If you want to get into the Halloween spirit a little early, consider bringing home an original movie poster like this one. It'll only cost you about $500-$3,000 depending on the quality.
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
There might not be any fava beans on this poster, but it still lingers in our memory. The first horror movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, Silence of the Lambs has so many iconic moments that don't make their way onto the poster. Instead, Jodi Foster's mostly blurred face stares directly as you with deep crimson eyes. The notable part? There's a moth covering her mouth.
Of course, you can't put together the pieces until you've seen the movie, but Foster's indomitable stare despite being 'silenced' lingers with us long after we've looked away.
In comparison with the others on this list, Silence of the Lambs is the only poster that shouldn't break the bank. Being a newer film works in your favor as original prints only go for about $200-$500, like this print that's going for $450 online.
Are Vintage Horror Movie Posters Worth Anything?
Original movie posters are highly collectible, but that doesn't mean they're all worth a lot of money. There's so much nuance behind assessing quality, determining if it's a reprint or an original, and finding a buyer who wants to take it on. All these factors can make it hard to tell how much a vintage film poster's going to sell for.
Undoubtedly, old film posters from the 1920s-1940s usually sell, on average, for more than later ones because they're much harder to find and so demand is greater for them. However, posters from blockbuster smashes and cult classics will do well no matter their age.
Condition is also a huge factor in how much horror movie posters sell for. Creases, smudges, stains, and tears will all detract from their value. So, the more pretty and pristine a poster is, the more you can sell it for.
Horror films also have a huge cult following that means there's always someone around the corner who's interested in taking a look at the posters you've scrounged up. While demand can fluctuate for other mediums, horror fans aren't going anywhere.
These Posters Give Us a Good Scare
You shouldn't ever overlook a movie poster. It's another piece of storytelling that'll give you a peek into the horrors that are to come. From abstract mid-century pioneers to iconic Art Deco creations from the early days of talkies, these are just some of the collectible vintage horror movie posters kicking up a fuss. The best part? There's so much more out there to give you chills.