I wonder how much Drew Struzan would charge for doing some Branded in the 80s artwork…


By Shawn Robare

Over the past two days I’ve had a couple of nudges towards thinking about movie poster and DVD cover art.  First, Paxton Holley did a really funny write up of horrible DVD cover art over at his blog, Cavalcade of Awesome, and then yesterday Ben Spencer posted one hell of a wish list item over at Nerd City, the original painting for the Masters of the Universe movie poster (only $100,000 for anyone interested in becoming Ben’s sugar daddy…)  On the one hand you’ve got some horrendous examples of Photoshop "skillz" gone awry, and on the other a breath taking example of gorgeous poster art for a movie that, love it or hate it probably doesn’t deserve this sort of treatment.


Something that kind of flabbergasts me is the uncanny way studios utilize their marketing and advertising budgets these days.  Untold millions are spent on god-awful billboards, websites, and trailers that tend to look like the cumulative work of a 1,000 monkeys sitting at macbooks with way too much time to play with Photoshop or Illustrator.   Most movies end up with posters that look like either a horrible cut & paste/floating head job, or an overly rendered nightmare that looks like a cut scene from a video game.  None of them are memorable (at least not in a good way), and most betray the tone and look of the flick in question.


I’m going too have to play that doddering old fool who is always pointing to the past and proclaiming how much better it was to pay a half penny for a candy bar and $3 for a down-payment on a house for a second.  Growing up during the 80s video boom I can honestly attest to the power of well done cover artwork.  Walking up and down the rows in my local mom & pop shop, I’d be in a trance scanning over the luscious VHS boxes, lulled into renting utter pieces of crap based on these amazing pieces of art.  To this day I still think about some of these movies and I can’t believe that studios don’t tap into this process anymore. 

Anyway, enough grampa ranting, what I really wanted to get to was one of my favorite 80s era movie poster artists, Drew Struzan.  Mr. Struzan is probably the most famous of his ilk, and undoubtedly he’s recognized for his poster work on films such as the Back to the Future Trilogy, the Indiana Jones flicks, and more recently the first couple of Harry Potter movies, Hellboy, and the Star Wars prequels.   But that’s just a taste of his huge body of work.  Stumbling on his website via the Masters of the Universe poster from above, I was reacquainted with just how much I love this guy’s work.   I was surprised that there were a few flicks I didn’t even realize he did work for, like Better Off Dead





I missed out on this great Savage Steve Holland flick in the theater and I ended up watching it a million times on cable growing up, so I never really needed to rent it.  Was this piece used on the original VHS or posters, because I never knew it existed?  On the other hand, there are plenty of flicks that I have always loved the poster artwork for, I just didn’t realize it was Mr. Struzan’s work like Big Trouble in Little China





…the insane comedy racing classic the Cannonball Run





…or a film that I didn’t see for the first time until the last couple of years, Adventures in Babysitting





These are the kinds of movie posters that I would buy, frame and hang on the wall.  I couldn’t imagine doing that with any of the films I’ve seen in the past 15 years, and it’s not for a lesser love of the movies or because I’m just infatuated with flicks from my childhood, they just have terrible posters.  

One of my favorite pieces that Struzan has worked on is the poster for the Goonies.  Though I haven’t seen this on a VHS copy, I have seen the artwork used on the original soundtrack album release and immediately fell in love with it…





Struzan’s ability to capture actor’s likenesses without leaving them feeling stiff and too photorealistic, while also not dipping to far into the well of caricature, is just mind blowing to me.  He’s also really adept at knowing how to make a floating head work, not to mention creating conceptual pieces that completely get across the tone and feel of a film while having a lot of fun.

Anyway, I highly suggest taking a few minutes to browse through his super awesome commercial portfolio where you’ll find work for such flicks as Batteries Not Included*, An American Tail, Ducktales: Secret of the Lost Lamp, the Muppet Movie, the Great Muppet Caper, Harry and the Hendersons, Johnny Dangerously, Ladyhawk, Police Academy (Part 1, 3, and my favorite Part 4: Citizens on Patrol), Return to Oz (as well as some alternate poster art), Three O’Clock High, and even the short lived 90s cartoon and toy line the Skeleton Warriors, and that’s just naming a few!


He even has a section up featuring unused, alternative and conceptual pieces for flicks like Back to the Future (Parts 1 & 2), Big Trouble in Little China, Howard the Duck (alternate stuff as well), and the Money Pit.  Now if I only had a sugar daddy of my own I could get some of this fine work for my own walls…



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  • Paxton Holley

    Thanks for the shoutout. Man, you hit it on the head. I forgot how much Struzan contributed to some of my favorite movies growing up. The Back to The Future posters are my favorites. I’ve seen a few of those unused BTTF images, but some of the others were new to me. I forgot about Money Pit. I f’n LOVE that movie. So unbelievably awesome.

  • Jephso

    Drew Struzan is amazing. He’s drawn the movie posters for basically all of my fave movies. I agree that there’s something much more interesting and enticing about hand-drawn movie artwork. It’s the same for old video games too, a lot of the box artwork was hand-drawn in the 80s and looks way more rad than any modern stuff.

  • Moviezzz

    That is a pretty amazing artist. During the 80′s, it seemed I had at least one if not more of his movie posters hanging in my room. THE GOONIES, BACK TO THE FUTURE, I had the NY Times ad for ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING. Thanks for letting me know who he is.

  • Todd

    Oh yeah, he’s done some great ones! Adventures in Babysitting has always been one of my favs! Great Stuff!

  • Rebecca

    awesome post. never knew he was such an icon, really enjoyed being pointed to his website.