10 Great Movie Trailers

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a real lover of movie trailers.  There’s something about getting a 1-3 minute glimpse ata film you’ve only heard of previously. Sometimes, the trailers have you over the moon about the flick, ready to plunk
down your hard earned cash and get in line immediately (or hound the studio for a press screening).  Sometimes they can show you too much, however, and almost ruin the movie for you.  There’s also the trailers that make a movie seem great but in reality are just setting you up for disappointment.  I’m not going to be talking about those, however.  I’m more concerned with the trailers that were most beneficial to their films.  To that end, I have a list of 10 recent (or recent-ish) instances where a trailer did a real solid mitzvah for its full length counterpart. This is just my own personal thoughts, and I’ll even include list my 25 favorite trailers of all time at the bottom, but I’m counting on you guys telling me what trailers you’ve dug (or hated) in the past and taking the discussion even further. That’s for later though…for now, let’s get started and take a look at my 10 selections!

Where the Wild Things Are
Going in, there was lots of concern as to whether or not Spike Jonze could do justice to the beloved children’s book. Would the Wild Things look like second rate Muppets, or bad CGI, or an obvious guy in a suit?  Re-shoots and delays brought worry to the stomachs of many a fan of the source material, and then…the trailer debuted.  Almost dialogue free, it not only perfectly captured what people “hoped” the movie would be like, it was a perfect primer for what the flick was actually like.  A high quality and complex film with a high quality trailer that assuaged many a fear.

The Shawshank Redemption
Yes, it’s my favorite film of all time, but if you just go look at the trailer, it showcases what looks like a very different type of movie.  It has a supernatural vibe (feeding off of the fact that it’s an adaptation of a Stephen King work), and you’d be forgiven for not exactly being sure what exactly the flick was going to be about.  It’s definitely a trailer that makes you want to see the movie, and it’s a good thing too, since many a person has cited the work as an all time favorite (obviously myself included).  This is an example of a bait and switch type trailer that’s of real benefit to the work.
The Dark Knight
Never before had a teaser based solely on dialogue out of context been so effective in getting you ready for a movie.  When you heard Bruce Wayne/Batman talking with Alfred about some sort of mob escalation, you had a feeling this was building to something.  When you finally heard Heath Ledger first cackle as The Joker, you knew that all of your worries about the casting was for naught.  Not only was the teaser great, but the second trailer was even better, showing just how much of a force the clown prince of crime was going to be in this flick.  I don’t think anyone was worried about Christopher Nolan’s vision for the Caped Crusader, but these were the first moments where we realizedjust how talented he really was.

Cloverfield
Who wasn’t blown away by this surprise teaser for a movie that at that point didn’t even have a title yet?  Sitting down to watch ‘Transformers’ (and don’t get me started on the pain that seeing that caused), audiences were suddenly treated a party being documented by handheld camera…and then something else.  When the Statue of Liberty’s head came flying by, I think we were all sold.  The movie ended up being a thrill ride of its own, but I consider this to actually be my favorite trailer of all time, so it was obvious that it had to be included in this list.

The Social Network
Despite my claims in my early Script Review of the Aaron Sorkin script that David Fincher had something special on his hands, many were skeptical.  Then the trailer hit and we saw just how a perfectionist like Fincher can take a seemingly minor type of story and make something major out of it.  It was a great bit of validation for me, but a strong preview of what was to come for audiences.  Fincher is going to show up again on this list, but this is perhaps my favorite trailer for any movie of his.
Red State
Even hardcore followers of Kevin Smith were unsure what to expect with his first forage into the indie horror realm.  Well, the teaser trailer that hit showcased not just an intensity many doubted that Smith had, but a unique visual style that suggested that he had done quite the interesting directorial job as well.  Now, I’ve seen the film and can vouch for its strengths, but this teaser does a great job of selling the flick on its own.  The movie is one of my favorites of the year so far, and the teaser is a personal favorite as well.

The American
Another bait and switch type trailer, this look at the George Clooney film got audiences to go see what they thought was a kinetic action flick and instead was a quiet and meditative European type drama that just happened to star Clooney.  The trailer includes 90% of the film’s action, but very little of its beauty.  I liked the movie a lot, and wasn’t expecting it to be what it was at all, so I look at this trickster of a trailer and consider it an effective job well done.

District 9
Suggesting an odd sci-fi mockumentary of sorts, the first look we got at this flick immediately caught the attention of much of the film-going community.  Subsequent trailers showed more of the story and visual flourishes, but that first
teaser got everyone to realize that a truly unique little movie was on the horizon.  I find this to be a rather underrated teaser in the pantheon of movie teasers/trailers.

The Strangers
Maybe the most effective horror trailer I’ve ever seen, I don’t remember audiences not screaming when the terrifying masked individual appears in the frame of the shot focusing on Liv Tyler.  The movie itself is pretty good, but the film would never have caught on like it did if not for this trailer.  Whomever designed it certainly earned their paycheck.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
My colleague Robert’s issues aside, I think this recent look at Fincher’s remake of the Swedish film/adaptation of the popular novel is rather terrific.  It’s high energy and shooting for a different audience than fans of the book.  Buoyed by an addictive cover of  Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” by Karen O. and Trent Reznor, the quick cuts suggest something both similar to what the previous film version was like while also being clearly a “David Fincher Film”.  I’m not a huge fan of the original film like a lot of people are, and I was less than enthused by Fincher doing this (I kind of thought he was wasting his time potentially getting involved with a possible trilogy), but this trailer turned me around.
Count me in now…

There you have it, the 10 trailers that I think have been the biggest boons to their full length feature counterparts.  As a bonus, which I mentioned above, I humbly present to you my list of my 25 favorite trailers of all time.  Keep in mind, it’s a list of personal preference, not a definitive “best trailers of all time” list.  Feel free to submit yours in the comments section, but here goes nothing:

-Cloverfield
-Alien
-The Dark Knight
-Independence Day
-Where the Wild Things Are
-Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
-Pulp Fiction
-The Strangers
-Psycho
-Little Children
-Garden State
-The Blair Witch Project
-Eyes Wide Shut
-Schindler’s List
-The Social Network
-Red State
-Watchmen
-Black Swan
-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
-Blue Valentine
-The Hurt Locker
-(500) Days of Summer
-Magnolia
-The Last House on the Left (2009)
-The Rules of Attraction

Now, it’s your turn.  Definitely let me know what the most effective teasers and trailers of late have been, as well as just your favorites of all time.  Is there a consensus “best” trailer out there?

Sound off!

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When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of Indiewire's Criticwire Network as well as the Internet Film Critics Association.