Good movie trailers need to tread the line between giving just enough to entice the viewers to want to run out and see it versus spoiling the entire film. You also don’t want a trailer to be too vague. Also, having an epic soundtrack doesn’t hurt either. The way film trailers are made has evolved into an art form over the years. Only a select few stand out among the rest as the best movie trailers of all time.
“A contemporary sci-fi action film set within the architecture of the mind” was all Christopher Nolan fans were given throughout the production of The Dark Knight follow-up. The teaser trailer for Inception was a perfect example of movie marketing. Not much was given away and for the most part, fans were kept in the dark.
No mention of plot or even dialogue was spoken in the trailer. Viewers were left intrigued because nothing about the characters was revealed. The only thing we got a glimpse of was the world they inhabited. Two men fight in a hallway where gravity is in flux, a spinning top topples, water inside a glass tilts as the glass stays put – all set to the perfect score by no other than Hans Zimmer.
The main point was driven home. The trailer conveyed that the film is innovative and visually stunning. The tagline to the film was “your mind is the scene of the crime.” This trailer ranks as one of the best movie trailers of all time, and it just so happens that Inception went on to become a huge hit, as well.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
You’ve got a goofy guy from Parks and Recreation teaming up with weird out-of-this-world superheroes. This is a hard sell to potential viewers, yet it’s strange to look back at how successful the movie was. Guardians of the Galaxy became a huge hit and the trailer played a crucial role in setting the scene. Marvel only had one shot to sell the audience. On paper, it seemed like a strange movie, but it didn’t just deliver, it went above and beyond and set the tone for how superhero trailers are supposed to be.
Unknown characters were the focus of the trailer and their rap sheets are dictated in perfect sync with the song “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. All the mania started with “Ooga Chaka!” and Guardians were well received by the Marvel Universe.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2012)
The Social Network directed by David Fincher was his previous film before he shot The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The score from Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor was a highlight for the trailer. The trio came together for Dragon Tattoo and the first trailer pulled off an excellent example of how the film could be adapted to the bestselling novel. The plot wasn’t explained in the trailer either.
The best shots and moments from the film were pieced together to the breakneck rhythm of a cover to “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin and featured vocals from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The tone worked well given the murder mystery is set in Norway. Before Guardians of the Galaxy came out, this trailer set the bar high for using pop music in movie trailers.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Sometimes your movie is so spectacular that you don’t need music, footage, or dialogue. All you need is the premise of your movie that sells viewers. “A theme park filled with actual living dinosaurs.” Say no more.
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park trailer is a prologue to the film. Scientists discover dino DNA trapped in amber and use this to bring back and create living dinosaurs. When you’ve got this level of confidence in your film there’s no need for a sizzle reel, Sam Neil, or scenes of dinosaurs. The plot sells the film better than any footage. And as we all now know, the end product is just as great as the trailer portrays.
It’s pretty difficult to find old corny voiceovers to movie trailers these days, as the way trailers are made has evolved over the last few decades. While the structure may seem outdated today, Ridley Scott’s Alien did it the best.
First comes a shot of space and the title brings viewers in closer to see a hatching egg. The soundtrack builds to cliff-hanging, soundless moments without any meaning. The score quickens and the drama increases as we’re left seeing violence and screaming.
“In space, no one can hear you scream” is the perfect tagline to the film, and this is all the film required. The teaser conveyed the sci-fi horror genre perfectly without giving too much away. The trailer for Alien is a template for modern trailers to come.
The Social Network (2010)
Aaron Sorkin films are driven by the dialogue and script, so how do you create a trailer that doesn’t focus on the visuals?
The teaser to The Social Network has a slow zoom-out of a digitized Jesse Eisenberg who plays Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Words like “Billionaire,” and “Prophet” appear on the screen with excerpts from the film are played. By not having any visuals the focus is on the dialogue which is the true star of the film.
“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars” and “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook” are memorable lines from the trailer. A film like The Social Network doesn’t require a heavy action-packed sequence. The trailer portrays the film’s strength and it can be a bit tricky to make these sorts of movie trailers that aren’t traditional.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The opening words to Mad Max: Fury Road is, “my name is Max. My world is fire and blood.” The trailer then goes on to show you exactly what this means with scenes of flames, scrap metal flying across the desert, and sand. Details about the plot aren’t given and little to no dialogue is spoken. The action is highlighted and this is precisely what fans of Mad Max want to see. The soundtrack matches the rhythm and pace of the scenes which set the tone. The trailer is a perfect example of what to expect and the type of hype fans have to look forward to. Fury Road brought to the big screen exactly what the trailer promised.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Trying to describe Pulp Fiction to a new viewer can be a bit tricky. It’s hard to describe each plot strand that connects. The film’s trailer is excellent though, in that it doesn’t do any of that to get the film’s gist across.
When you’ve got two and a half minutes to sum up the movie, it can seem like a daunting task. The key moments are highlighted in this Quentin Tarantino film paired with snappy dialogue. Every minute is set to the movie’s superb soundtrack. The lead-in features classical music juxtaposed against the violence of the film’s main stars who are hitmen. And the trailer even states, “this movie about gangsters, hitmen, and violence just won one of the most prestigious awards in film, so you know it’s gonna be good.”
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Every teaser for The Force Awakens is amazing. But this one which was released only two months before the premiere is exceptional. The first two trailers capitalized on past films nostalgia for Star Wars. This new trailer had no nostalgia but showed sweeping action shots and introduced new characters. The characters spoke a line or two of dialogue set to the score of Star Wars every fan knows.
The trailer feels poetic and is beautifully composed. The final shot is the voice of Maz Kanata using Rey to feel the Force. As a fan, you feel like you’re being spoken to, as well. This trailer is a perfect example of what the future of Star War films anticipates to be like.
There were so many reasons why Spectre was a flop and failed to live up to its promise. The promise the teaser trailer offered was was riveting, stunning, and had all the right elements of a perfect movie trailer without spoiling the plot. The teaser featured the villain Bond would be facing, Spectre leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The enigmatic recurring villain Mr/ White and Bond have a conversation and we see White frightened for the first time. His at ease demeanor is broken and the anticipation of what’s on the horizon. In the end, Bond shows him a ring with the Spectre symbol which White replies, “You’re a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.”
The slow and methodical composition of the trailer with a final shot that has us wanting more makes for an excellent build-up. Although the film didn’t live up to its expectations, the trailer still makes the list.
You can’t afford to slip up when adapting one of the most popular graphic novels ever. Whether or not the film succeeded is a debate for another time, but when the time arrived for a glimpse at what the film would be like, fans weren’t disappointed.
The teaser doesn’t delve into the complexity of the plot, and it doesn’t introduce every character. It focused on memorable visuals from the graphic novel and lured fans by showing how dedicated the creators were to sticking to the original graphic novel. “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” by the Smashing Pumpkins was also a nice Easter egg in the trailer that foreshadowed what was to come. The first teaser trailer is absolutely spectacular!
Any movie trailers we forgot? Please let us know in the comments what you think is the best movie trailer of all time!
Also, if you are make sure to check out our 21 best teen romance movies and the top 15 actions movies like John Wick.