Star Wars at 40 | 40 Years of Star Wars Anniversary Posters

See celebratory Star Wars posters from yesterday to today, and learn the stories behind them.

This article is part of a special series in honor of Star Wars 40th anniversary on May 25.

Commemorating Star Wars anniversaries with a poster has become something of a tradition since 1978, when the iconic “One Year Old Today” birthday cake poster was sent to theaters still showing the movie a year after its release on May 25, 1977. In the decades since, posters have often marked the milestone years, summing up in a single image what the film has come to represent to both fans and culture alike. We’ve gathered a handful of these posters, as well as some poster concepts, in the following gallery, which includes a 2017 homage to that first exciting anniversary in 1978.

A one-year anniversary poster for the original Star Wars, featuring a birthday cake and several action figures.

The first anniversary poster features a blue-and-white cake baked by West Hollywood’s Cake & Art and photographed by Weldon Anderson. The surrounding figures included 11 of the 12 original characters offered by Kenner — can you spot which one is missing?

Sketched on legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s own Star Wars Corporation stationary, this early poster concept (at least we assume it’s for a poster) includes Artoo presenting a birthday cake, along with notes for staging the scene. With 365 candles, though, that would be one hot and heavy birthday cake…
A photo of C-3PO, holding a cake with a lit candle, standing beside R2-D2.

One idea that didn’t get used for a poster (but did end up on a birthday card) was this shot of the droids with a cake sporting a candle. For the 10-year anniversary in 1987, this photo would be doctored to include 10 candles atop the cake for use by the press.

Polaroid pictures of vintage Star Wars posters.

A recently-discovered batch of Polaroids tucked away in Lucasfilm’s marketing files revealed these 16 poster concepts for a proposed 5-year anniversary theatrical poster in 1982. While the anniversary wasn’t actually touted on the final poster, a snipe for the upcoming “Revenge of the Jedi,” which is apparent in some of these concepts, survived to be included on the 1982 re-release theatrical poster.

The first ten years of Star Wars anniversary poster features Luke holding a lightsaber on Tatooine.

Artist John Alvin composed this elegant horizontal artwork for the 10th anniversary of Star Wars in 1987, which was offered at the first official convention that year.

A shiny silver-and-black poster evoking the very first theatrical teaser poster printed on mylar was also offered as a limited edition commemorative in 1987.
The tenth anniversary poster for A New Hope, by artist Drew Struzan, shows Luke at center wielding a blaster pistol while Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2, C-3PO and other iconic features of the film are shown around him.

Artist Drew Struzan composed this striking composition for the 10th anniversary, officially his third Star Wars poster entry following the 1978 re-release poster and the 1982 “Revenge of the Jedi” teaser.

While not officially a 20th anniversary poster, the theatrical one-sheet heralding the return of the original trilogy to theaters in 1997 included the iconic “ingot” art graphic, which…
An embossed poster graphic of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2, based on the original poster for Star Wars: A New Hope.

…was actually hand-sculpted to give it a three-dimensional look. This photo was only recently discovered in Lucasfilm’s marketing files with a note attached indicating that George Lucas approved the artwork on July 1, 1996.

A poster for Star Wars Celebration IV depicts Luke Skywalker looking up at the galaxy from Tatooine.

Like the 1997 poster, the 2007 Star Wars Celebration IV key art was not designed specifically as a 30th anniversary poster, but most will agree that John Alvin’s transcendent artwork, which includes an echo of the iconic Luke and Leia pose in the swirling galaxy above, commemorated the film’s third decade with an exquisite style and grace.

A Star Wars 40th Anniversary poster features a birthday surrounded by action figures.

For the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, sends a nod toward its poster heritage with a modern version of the original 1978 birthday cake poster, updated in red, with a contingent of 40th anniversary Hasbro Black Series action figures mimicking their original positions. Incidentally, the team fully devoured the custom-made cake immediately after the poster was completed. It had raspberry filling. All Star Wars, all the time.

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