Everything-is-epic culture has transformed film trailers over the last few years. What used to be a commercial for a movie has now changed into a mini-event. Now, we get the teaser, the teaser for the teaser, the teaser trailer, the full trailer, the NSFW trailer, and the extended trailer. But here, we are paradoxically, hypocritically, contradictorily complaining about marketing, but also celebrating the art that’s sometimes part of it—at least the non-promotional aspect of it, if you can separate that from the product.
Just this past week, we were treated to trailers for some of 2020’s biggest would-be blockbusters, from “Mulan” to “Black Widow” to “Wonder Woman 1984” to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “No Time To Die.” Part of this downpour is because these previews will undoubtedly be attached to the big Christmas movies this year (“Jumanji: The Next Level,” “Little Women,” and, of course, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker“), but it also speaks to the fact that, with attention spans being as short as they are and the cycles of hype becoming even more intense (and condensed), the sooner you can get your trailer out and the louder it can hit, the better.
The best trailers of 2019 were able to get us excited without giving away the farm, able to squeeze some artistry out of the marketing, and able to walk the line of something promotional, yet well-crafted and preparing the audience for the journey the film would soon take them on. If you have to wait a few minutes to read, we understand… another big trailer probably just dropped.
20. “Avengers: Endgame”
It’s astounding to think about how little marketing there was around “Avengers: Endgame,” the culmination of more than 20 interconnected films and a movie that would go on to become the highest-grossing film of all time. There was a brief teaser trailer that introduced us to the subtitle “Endgame” and then this, a really ingenious solution to the spoiler-averse Marvel Studios’ need to sell the movie. Their workaround? Show footage from the other movies, primarily those centered around our three main heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. There’s actually a remarkable amount of new footage in the spot, although almost all of it is from the movie’s first act, along with some purposeful misdirects (a shot of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, a moment of Thor from “Avengers: Infinity War” as to not give away his new chubbiness), culminating in the now-iconic shot of the team walking in slow motion while wearing their matching time travel ensembles. And, since this is a Marvel movie, there’s even a sting at the end of the trailer, showing that Captain Marvel (her solo movie had just been released) is now a part of the gang. –Drew Taylor
19. “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood” (Teaser)
One of the chief pleasures of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is its vibe, the retro-cool energy that courses through the film and one that the teaser trailer, released even before its splashy Cannes debut, perfectly epitomizes. Built around a few key sequences (the black-and-white interview prologue and Bruce Lee fight get the most screen time) and soundtracked to “Bring a Little Lovin'” by Los Bravos (a song that actually appears in the film), it was the perfect primer for Tarantino‘s eventual Hollywood throwback magnum opus and, interestingly, features a couple of moments that didn’t make it into the finished film (notably Margot Robbie‘s Sharon Tate emerging from a swimming pool and one where she appears to be falling in slow motion, perhaps a misdirect for the history-changing finale). – DT
18.“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (Final)
This is it. The culmination of a nine-film saga that began in 1977 and has touched countless lives, redirecting the course of cinema on a few occasions. And this trailer is supposed to convince you that it’ll actually pull off this miraculous feat. Shots of Rey training in a wooded landscape, voice-over narration by a number of central cast members, TIE Fighters speeding towards an icy planet, the Death Star from “Return of the Jedi” rising out of the ocean, and, perhaps, most touchingly, C-3PO saying, “Taking one last look at my friends.” It’s a beautiful trailer, as emotional as it is action-packed, and even if this capstone to one of the most successful and impactful franchises of all time ultimately falls flat, at least we’ll look back on the run-up to it fondly. – DT
Red band trailers aren’t just for lad comedies anymore! In the last-minute red band trailer for “Booksmart,” we get an avalanche of filthy charm, full of loud pop music, an expert encapsulation of the film’s plot, and critical notices galore (including one from our fearless leader Rodrigo Perez), all framed with a joke about Kaitlyn Dever having sex with a stuffed panda. What more could you want? This trailer is also proof that no how matter how great the marketing for this movie was (and, as evidenced by this, it was pretty great) and no matter how many glowing reviews it got (all of them), nobody was going to go see it. – Ella Kemp
16. “Uncut Gems”
It’s hard to condense and encapsulate “Uncut Gems” in any format; the movie throttles you in the theater and goes for the jugular as a nonstop visceral force of nature. But the trailer does a pretty good job nonetheless of depicting this story about jeweler and adrenaline junkie who keeps pushing his luck to the brink. Everything about the clip is heightened and on edge, just like the movie (and Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner), with brief glimpses of the supporting cast (including the breakout Julia Fox) and snippets of its plot (Kevin Garnett‘s appearance speaks somewhat to its larger narrative). Like any great trailer, it gets you interested without giving anything away and leaves you with one feeling and one feeling only: I MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. – DT