The LIFE magazine archive counts millions of excellent pictures. Oldpics attempted to select the best 50 of them.
LIFE magazine always managed to onboard the best photographers. Starting from the first issue that hit the shelves on November 23, 1936, the continuously surprised the public with their sharp and unforgettable photographs. No surprise, the LIFE magazine was the top illustrated US publication for decades.
LIFE magazine was published weekly from 1936 to 1972. Nonetheless, competitors (TV, mostly) took their readers’ share and forced the glorious publication to switch to a monthly basis. The magazine stood tall from 1978 to 2000.
But we still remember the LIFE magazine! We continue to dig through its archives and find new and new amazing photographs that deserve the fresh publication. This publication covers the LIFE magazine photographs that became an integral part of the photo history. Many of these pictures starred the 100 most important pictures in history.
Here you can check our selection of the Best LIFE magazine’s covers.
Photo by Leonard McCombe, 1949.
39-year-old Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey. This image became the best-known cigarette advertisement.
Photo by John Loengard, 1964.
The Beatles on their famous American Tour. The pool water was quite cold that day, as Ringo’s grimace tells.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1930.
A crowd wearing hats on the streets of New York. Interestingly, Margaret Bourke-White captured this image before the LIFE publication started. It looks like magazine editors took this picture and published it later just for its artistic value.
Photo by Ed Clark, 1958.
John F. Kennedy plays hide-n-seek with his daughter Caroline.
Photo by: John Bryson, 1959.
Hemingway near his home in Ketchum, Idaho. This picture was featured in our Hemingway and Alcohol selection.
In 20 months, Ernest Hemingway will pass away.
Photo by Peter Stackpole, 1950.
Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift take a break during filming “A Place in the Sun” at Paramount Studios.
Photo by: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1950.
A drummer from the University of Michigan marches with children. See more beautiful photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Photo by J.R. Eyerman, 1958.
The auto movie theater in the capital of Utah, Salt Lake City. Moses, in front of the parting Red Sea in the film “The Ten Commandments.”
Photo by: W. Eugene Smith, 1945.
American Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the spring of 1945. See more amazing WW2 photography by Eugene Smith.
Author of the photo: Gjon Mili, 1949.
Ephemeral drawing in the air.
Photo by Larry Burrows, 1966.
Marines during the Vietnam War. The black soldier reaches out to his wounded, white comrade.
Photo by: Charles Moore, 1963.
Fire hoses were used to disperse a peaceful anti-segregation rally in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo by: Milton Greene, 1952.
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1943.
Another WW2 masterpiece of Eugene Smith. During World War II, hundreds of Japanese were besieged on Saipan’s island and committed mass suicide to avoid Americans’ surrender. When American Marines examined the island, they found a barely alive child in one of the caves. Here’s a story behind this stunning photograph.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1945.
Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1959.
Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Photo by Ralph Morse, 1954.
Measurement of the pilot’s anthropological data with special lighting from alternating bands of light and shadow of various thicknesses. That was the key ingredient for the new flight helmet design by the US Air Force.
Photo by Hank Walker, 1960.
John F. Kennedy (still a Senator) with his brother Robert at a hotel during the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.
Photo by: William Eugene Smith, 1946.
Photo by: Mark Shaw, 1954.
25-year-old star Audrey Hepburn while filming Roman Holiday.
Photo by George Silk, 1956.
Swedish high jumper Gunhild Larking at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
Officer Graham Jackson plays the song “Goin ‘Home” at President Roosevelt’s April 12, 1945 funeral.
Photo by Paul Schutzer, 1961.
“Riders of Freedom” called the joint bus trips of black and white activists who protested against the violation of black people’s rights in the southern states of the United States. In 1961, activists rented buses and traveled around the southern states. No surprise, they were repeatedly attacked and arrested by southern whites. During a trip from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi, National Guard soldiers were assigned to protect the riders.
Photo by: Ralph Morse, 1943.
The head of a Japanese soldier on a tank.
Photo by: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1933.
The moment when Goebbels (sitting) found that his photographer was a Jew and he stopped smiling. The full story behind Eyes of hate pictures.
Photo by Andreas Feininger, 1951.
Portrait of the photographer Dennis Stock.
Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1948.
Six hours and 28 throws (water, chair, and three cats). According to the photographer, he and his assistants were wet, dirty, and completely exhausted when the shot was successful. The Dali Atomicus is among the 100 most important pictures in history.
Read more: All Pulitzer Prize photos (1942-1967)
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1948.
Rural doctor Ernest Ceriani, the only doctor in the 1200 square miles area. In this photo, Eugene Smith captured a moment after a botched cesarean section that killed a mother and child due to complications. See more pictures and a full story behind the Country Doctor photo.
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1952.
Charlie Chaplin, 63.
Photo by: Leonard McCombe, 1956.
Photo by: John Shearer, 1971.
Muhammad Ali before his fight with Joe Fraser in March 1971. Ali loved to tease opponents. Before the fight with Fraser, he questioned the latter’s masculinity, intellectual abilities, and even his “black skin”.
Photo by: Michael Rougier, 1962.
Photo by Hank Walker, 1960.
John F. Kennedy speaks during the election campaign in an American town.
Photo by Harry Benson.
Free-breathing. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Vermont.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1939.
Photo by: Ralph Morse, 1944.
Army medic George Lott, badly wounded in both arms.
Photo by Jim Brandenburg, 1986.
The polar wolf fights for survival in northern Canada.
Photo by: John Dominis, 1966.
Leopard with a victim.
Photo by: Lennart Nilsson, 1965.
The first-ever picture of a baby in the womb.
Photo by: Ralph Crane, 1947.
This staged photo depicts a boy escaping from an orphanage.
Photo by: J.R. Eyerman, 1952.
The first full-length stereo film Bwana Devil.
Author photo: Yousuf Karsh, 1941.
Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. Politician, military man, journalist, writer, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Photo by: George Strock, 1943.
American soldiers were killed in battle with the Japanese on a beach in New Guinea. The first shot of dead American soldiers on the battlefield during World War II.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1963.
At a puppet show in a Parisian park. The moment of the killing of the serpent by Saint George.
Photo by Robert Capa, 1944.
The landing of the American army on Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. It was also depicted in the film “Saving Private Ryan” by Steven Spielberg.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945.
One of the most famous photographs. Kiss of a sailor and a nurse after the end of the war.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1946.
Mahatma Gandhi, next to his spinning wheel, symbolizes the non-violent movement for Indian independence from Britain.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1937.
Food queue during the Great Depression with a poster reading, “There is way like the American way.”
Photo by: John Dominis, 1963.
Actor Steve McQueen, who starred in The Magnificent Seven.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1966.
Sophia Loren, in the movie “Italian Marriage.” When this candid snapshot took the cover of LIFE, many criticized the magazine for “going into pornography.” One reader wrote, “Thank God the postman comes at noon when my kids are at school.”