The classic ‘Star Wars’ poster and The Force of history

June 19, 2010 | 2:00 a.m.

Star Wars poster

The Brothers Hildebrandt created one of the signature images of the 1970s with this striking, cosmic tableau showing the Skywalker family, a craggy terrain and a space battle unfolding in the starry sky. I had a poster of this painting on the wall of my room as a child and, as with many moviegoers, this was the entry-point image for a new mythology — the first glimpse of the George Lucas universe before any of us actually sat down in the dark with the 1977 film.

Greg Hildebrandt (who lost his twin, Tim, in 2006 in a diabetes-related death) will be in Santa Monica this Saturday at Every Picture Tells a Story, the gallery and shop that has become a true landmark in Southern California for sci-fi, fantasy and comics art. The gallery is hosting an exhibit of Hildebrandt’s original art as well as his posters and prints. He and his brother gained fame with their “The Lord of the Rings” work, but no single image they made cut through quite like the one shown above.

“My brother Tim and I created the first ‘Lord of the Rings‘ calendar in 1976 and that brought us international fame — but when the ‘Star Wars‘ poster hit in 1977, it really blew us up,” the 71-year-old said. “The attention to that piece has never let up.”

An interesting tidbit: The image shown above is the one that the Hildebrandts sent to Lucas but it underwent a major change before it hit the lobbies of theaters. What did Lucas tell the artists to add to the scene? Click to the jump to the see the original poster and the answer…

Star Wars poster final

Yes, it was the droids you were looking for.

Hildebrandt explains: “Incredibly, the first version of it — without the droids — was created in a feverish, nonstop effort over just 36 hours! George Lucas asked for the droids to be added and for our signatures to be larger. We made those changes at the ad agency, and off it went!”

— Geoff Boucher


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ART: Lucasfilm


16 Responses to The classic ‘Star Wars’ poster and The Force of history

  1. Ron Artest says:


  2. ed says:

    Um… didn't the Los Bros Hildebrandt just "reverse-engineered" the earlier Tom Jung poster (which appeared in the Press Kit and pre-release advertising for the fim)?

  3. ed says:

    Geoff— here's some info:
    Scroll down to the "Jung vs. Hildebrandt" section 2/3rds the way down…

  4. HMM2 says:

    A historical note:
    Howard Chaykin created the first "Star Wars" poster, which was handed out at comic conventions and comic stores in 1976, but was not given to or used by theaters:

  5. geoff boucher says:

    Good information, thanks guys. Despite all of that, this image is the one that most people have in their minds and memory. No matter how it arrived in the public eye, or how it was shaped, it endures and remains evocative.
    BUT I did not know that heritage of the image, I would have included it for sure. Glad you guys commented….

  6. Wheat Scottley says:

    Tom Jung did the poster I remember. The one in this LATimes article has the wrong faces. And if the Hildebrandts (though I love their Tolkien calendars) were simply copying Jung's poster, then Jung is the real genius behind the image and this article should be corrected.
    "The version of this artwork seen on the U.S. theatrical posters was executed by Tom Jung, while a "fairy tale"-inspired version of Tom Jung's design was done by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt to be used on posters sold to the public. The Hildebrandt version is noticeably bluer than the Jung version, and the likenesses of Luke and Leia do not resemble those of the actors."

  7. John Reece says:

    This isn't THE original poster. There was an earlier poster, well before the movie came out, that featured thumbnail pictures and names of the characters. I remember mulling over it with another teenage moviegoing-friend in a Century San Jose lobby and snarking at some of the character names (Luke Skywalker??? Oh come on…) and then noticing one of the actors was Alec Guiness. Hmmm, we went… A while later Time magazine did a cover story the week before the release and there I was waiting in line on opening day at the Coronet in SF.

  8. My brother and I had bunk beds. I had the top one. I put this poster on the ceiling above me and found a new religion. For a year I stared at it in the red dim of my Spider-Man nightlight. Most nights I couldn't sleep though. Funny light caught sags in the paper, and I saw Chewbacca staring back at me from within the crinkles. I got glasses shortly thereafter and switched it to a poster of Charlie's Angels. Needless to say, I converted.

  9. n1kkoa says:

    I have this posted hanging in my living room.
    May the force be with you

  10. George Khoury says:

    In the original Star Wars movie poster by Thomas Jung, the droids were added by comic book artist Nick Cardy. I covered that here:

  11. Tig Moo says:

    Wow, Star Wars jsut totally rocked dude. The best ever, hands down. <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  12. eobet says:

    This is not the poster I remember.
    Looking at the comments, I now know that the poster I remember was made by Tom Jung.
    This one just looks wrong.

  13. Fran Chiseco says:

    I love this poster… :-)

  14. fireb0x says:

    Where can I buy a print of this poster or the original artwork? I'd like to put this on my wall…

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