With every year, thousands of movie trailers go online to promote films of all shapes and sizes – from massive four-quadrant tentpole releases, to quiet little indies that are only popping up on VOD.
More than ever, trailers are becoming very much their own thing – short works of art in themselves and less so a guaranteed indicator of a quality film in the process because trailer editors have done their jobs of selling you on the film. On occasion you have some great films with bad trailers, and bad films with trailers far better than the film itself.
Today, I take a look at what I thought were the best film trailers for this year. The rule here, as usual, is that the trailer (not the film) had to come out this calendar year. As a result some trailers don’t qualify, such as many of the major films from the first third of the year because their previews came out late 2014.
1. “Mad Max: Fury Road” – Main Trailer
Was there any doubt. Both the 2014 Comic Con trailer and the official theatrical teaser trailer set to classical music were pretty much the best trailers of last year. In fact by the time that this launched in March, I thought we’d seen all that the film could offer – how wrong I was as this easily proved the best of the lot.
A pretty much perfect trailer from start to finish, this preview is every bit as brilliantly scored, insanely shot, energetically edited and wonderful as the film itself and sets a gold standard as to how to craft a trailer. Hopefully like the film itself, this will influence those in the industry for many years to come.
2. Hail Caesar – First Trailer
The best trailer for a Coen brothers film to date, the only concern is the film will not be able to live up to the suddenly huge expectations thrust upon it by this delightful work that perfectly conveys tone and premise whilst leaving plenty of lingering questions.
From Josh Brolin’s impeccable delivery and facial expressions, Scarlett Johansson’s acrobatic ability, Tilda Swinton’s wild hats, Channing Tatum participating in a spread eagle, this has it all – even cameos by two “Highlander” stars. A joy from start to finish with all sorts of little elements that don’t pop out until subsequent viewings, it also boasts the best ‘cast listing’ sequence I think I’ve ever seen on a trailer. Can’t wait for the film.
3. Suicide Squad – Comic Con First Look
Context means a lot when it comes to trailers, none more so than this example. Essentially assembled from dailies at not even the halfway point of filming, and originally to be screened only for Comic Con attendees, the clip ended up online after a pirated copy became so widespread the studio had no other choice but to release it.
It’s a testament that even with so much of the film yet to be shot, this trailer stole the thunder from not just its more highly anticipated “Batman v Superman” cousin which also had its strongest trailer launch there, but FOX’s rival “X-Men: Apocalypse” and even the very well received “Deadpool” red-band trailer. Set to a creepy version of The Bee Gee’s “I Started a Joke,” the trailer sells its difficult premise well and promises a film that appears to be taking risks in a genre that rarely seems to do so.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Trailer 3
Before the TV spots flooded the market, all three main trailers for J.J. Abrams were big events and all launched with differing impact. The last, and the best, was this number which popped up earlier this Fall and was filled with emotion, scale and excitement in a way that the more nostalgia-heavy previous trailers had only hinted at.
Here we finally got an idea of the story, how these new characters came together, the scale of action, and a majorly emotional line from Harrison Ford – one that actually has less impact in the final film in its correct (and different) context. In fact quite a bit of this trailer, notably the voiceovers, aren’t in the final film. That doesn’t matter though – as a trailer in itself it strikes the perfect balance of focusing mostly on the new faces, showing off a bit of the old, and teasing just enough story to get us hooked but never overdoing it.
5. Creed – Teaser
A brilliant piece of marketing, the first “Creed” trailer doesn’t let slip its connection to the “Rocky” franchise at all until a full 90 seconds into its run. By that point though we’re already sold on its story of Michael B. Jordan’s underdog who has to fight to overcome the challenges of his upbringing and his father’s legacy.
We’re already well into him finding romance and dolling out punches that hit to the musical beats when the big reveal happens, and from then on it gets even better – from the slow run up the hill, to the flashes of the boxing matches. Stallone delivers a line with heavy pathos in a way that’s actually lost within the film itself but is thankfully featured perfectly here. The film is brilliant, but none of its subsequent marketing came close to matching this gem.
6. The Nice Guys – Red-Band Trailer
Playing like a sequel to his 2005 darkly comic noir “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” Shane Black returns with this hilarious trailer which seems like a dark and broadly comic take on “Inherent Vice”. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, two actors rarely associated with comedy, make for an arresting on screen buddy team investigating the mob’s interest in a young girl.
From tarantulas living within high heels at hooker parties to Crowe aggressively pumping a shotgun with the kind of enthusiasm that comes with a great handjob, there’s some good-looking filmmaking on offer here to go along with these actors sprouting Black’s always killer dialogue. It’s a trailer that just aims to flat out entertain and be funny without dumbing things down either – it certainly succeeds on that front.
7. The Revenant – Full Trailer
Boasting two great trailers, it’s very hard to pick which is better of the two. The original teaser is a beautifully tense and essentially dialogue free preview showing off this wilderness survival drama’s stunning visuals and feel through a clip that is set to a rapidly increasing sound of breathlessness.
This full trailer though plays both better and worse, finally showcasing some of the storyline and incredibly tense sequences along with a rapid pulse soundtrack that immediately engages. It also ends on arguably the most spectacular money shot of the year. Full props to the entire team behind this for their very effective work marketing this film – all of it was superb.
8. Carol – U.S. Trailer
Another film where it was near impossible to pick between several previews. Thought the old fashioned 1950s-style teaser was just wonderful in its own way, it’s this longer and more elaborate full trailer that shined the brightest. An alternate and even longer UK version of this trailer was also out, but demonstrated you can have too much of a good thing and needed trimming.
What’s here though is perfect, a wonderously romantic trailer about the passion that can fire between two people of different backgrounds and experiences. It smartly keeps things minimal, explaining the main story beats but focusing mostly on the emotional elements of the scene – the longing glances, the small physical gestures, the controlled emotion, the wistful regret, the sumptuous look and feel of the entire thing – it’s all so gorgeous and bittersweet.
9. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – ‘Fate’ Teaser
Though a full-length teaser trailer was released a few days later and contained more footage, it was this 60-second very first look at Christopher McQuarrie’s action masterpiece that truly sold it. Super slickly edited and brimming with energy – it easily conveyed the basic plot of the outing whilst showcasing some of the incredible stunt work and the promise of the new talent of Rebecca Ferguson. Subsequent trailers were just a tad too revealing which was a shame as this was more than enough for me to fall hard for this film.
10. Steve Jobs – First Trailer
A finished work in its own right complete with callbacks (“fix it”), reversals, even a redemptive storyline – the main issue with the trailer for “Steve Jobs” is that it so effectively communicates its story in just over two minutes that it kind of negates the need for the film. Certainly it doesn’t spoil the film in as little as there is to spoil, but in terms of efficient conveyance of the film itself it is one of the most complete there is.
It’s still a great work on its own – not afraid to show off Jobs himself as an abusive prick with no consideration of others of even awareness of his lack of empathy – and the audience reaction noise & stomping in the second half add an effective amount of tension and even stakes to a story that doesn’t really have any. A surprisingly rewatchable little trailer.
11. Captain America: Civil War – Teaser
One of Marvel Studios’ strongest teaser trailers to date (their best being that ‘Ooga Chukka’ heavy first “Guardians of the Galaxy” trailer), here is a trailer that clearly explains its higher minded than usual political premise for this outing and then suggests how it causes the rift between heroes we’ve always seen fighting on the same side against some larger and more fantastical threat.
The more grounded nature of the story certainly helps the trailer, most of the visual effects work relegated to showcasing a few super powers than anything else. Instead it’s all about spelling out the stakes and then watching friendships being torn apart by differing beliefs, on that front it works beautifully. Chuck in suggestions of character death and affectionate gestures that will launch a thousand pieces of fiction from the shippers and you have a preview that’s already taken on a life of its own.
12. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Comic-Con Trailer
Whilst Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” was a dud as a film, there’s no denying that the three-minute trailer for the movie remains a brilliant trailer in its own right and far better than the film that resulted. I suspect we may have the same situation here with this full-length Comic Con trailer “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
Far superior to the earlier teaser, the recent trailer and the cut down version of the Comic Con trailer that aired in cinemas, the full-length three-minute trailer is a great piece of marketing on its own – finally showing us Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, giving us a good look at Ben Affleck’s Batman, dealing with the consequences of “Man of Steel,” and ending on a brilliant montage (everything between the Batsignal and ‘Red Capes Are Coming’ scenes).
13. Queen of Earth – Trailer
A fascinating throwback to more down-and-dirty genre films of the 1970s, the trailer for Alex Ross Perry’s “Queen of Earth” plays out in a quite different way to the film itself – a strange psychological character study about two mentally insecure female friends who’ve no issue cutting deeply into each other’s insecurities.
While the film itself has more contemporary leanings, this retro and B-movie approach to the marketing is strange to say the least – but it does help make the film stand out from the pack. The voiceover and its sinister promises certainly evoke classic psychological horror thrillers which may confuse an audience who’ll find something decidedly more arthouse than this suggests.
14. Spectre – Full Trailer
Better than the film itself, the main trailer for Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond hits all the marks for Bond fans whilst pitching the film solidly enough an audience not as familiar with the franchise’s tropes. Such great imagery it offered too – from Lea Seydoux in that silver dress and Craig in his white tux, to that mid-section set to a remix of the “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” theme, the first glimpse of the astonishing helicopter stunt, our first proper look at Christoph Waltz’ villain back when he seemed to hold a lot of promise, and so on. It’s exciting stuff and one of the best trailers for a film in the franchise since Craig took over.
15. Magic Mike XXL – Teaser
Making a trailer out of Ginuwine’s now fairly old “Pony,” the first clip for the “Magic Mike” sequel was all about answering the criticisms lobbed at the first film. That movie was promised to be a naughty fun story about male strippers getting their gear off, instead we got a fairly dull rumination on the modern American male with the odd flash of bum cheek.
“Magic Mike XXL” subverted expectations in a different way, but followed through on its promise better and managed to pull the doubters back in. Mostly focusing on the film’s best sequences, the trailer shows a film entirely devoted to pleasing female and gay audiences be it with Channing Tatum’s fluid moves to Joe Manganiello’s water bottle ejaculation scene. It’s all great sexy fun and it works.
16. The Lobster – UK Trailer
Explaining the utterly absurd premise at the heart of Yorgos Lanthimos’ unconventional dystopian comedy/romance feature is a tall order and the U.K. trailer for the incredibly cast high-concept picture manages to get most of the way there in just ninety-five seconds. Admittedly the film itself is a decidedly darker affair than this almost giddily silly trailer lets on, and the cast list rushes by far too fast to be of any use, even so it’s a charming little piece in its own right.
17. The Martian – Teaser Trailer
Running the longest of the several trailers for the film, the teaser for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi action thriller is by far the best. It conveys the film’s hopeful spirit in the opening thirty seconds, explains its premise over the next minute, adds some humour, and keeps building up to a brilliant last minute as the stakes are spelled out and the seriousness of the situation is made clear.
It can’t compare to the great marketing for some of the other space movies of late, such as the great tryptych trailer set for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” and like the film itself this is fairly formulaic. Yet it’s also a joy to watch, involving, makes its story accessible, and does exactly what a good trailer should do – sell the movie.
18. The Witch – Trailer
I’m normally not a fan of trailers that boast review quotes, but here you have an exception with arguably the best horror film promo of the year. Robert Eggers’ 17th-century New England drama, set against the backdrop of religious hysteria in a remote community, scored raves at Sundance for the way that it pulls no punches and goes to dark places many other films are afraid to approach.
That shines through in the trailer with its suggestions of abuse, infant murder, extremist beliefs, dark magic, animal slaughter and possession. Added to that is some wonderfully creepy and atmospheric imagery all set to a recital of some prayer and you have something that looks like a challenge to horror film fans with stern stomachs.
19. Legend – UK Teaser
The original teaser for Brian Helgeland’s drama about the infamous British gangster twins The Krays contains atmosphere, mood, consistent tone and a quality feel – something the film itself proved lacking in. Set entirely to Roy Orbison’s “Running Scared” and smartly focusing on the film’s biggest strengths, namely Tom Hardy’s dual performance, it’s an exciting, style-fueled ride into a very specific underworld.
This clip also avoided the pitfall that became immediately apparent in the subsequent trailers – the overly broad caricature of Hardy’s portrayal of Ronnie which makes him feel like he’s part of another movie. Whilst the full trailers also had some fun moments and good song choices (eg. The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine [Anymore]”), this is what got me excited for the film.
20. Goodnight Mommy – Trailer
The film itself proved a surprising disappointment, but RADiUS’ trailer was not – two young twins in a remote home first lay eyes on their mother who is bandaged after cosmetic surgery and they begin to doubt she is actually who she says she is. From bug eating to “Jacob’s Ladder” style head shaking, it’s an effective mood builder that makes excellent use of the film’s often strong imagery. It sets up the premise but doesn’t reveal too much, like a good trailer should do, and it makes what was obviously a small budgeted film look far richer than it is.
Tom at the Farm – U.S. Trailer
Excellent clip even though it downplays the homoeroticism.
The BFG – Teaser
A quite effective kids film teaser that fits in line with Roald Dahl’s subject matter.
Macbeth – UK Teaser
Lots of wonderful imagery, but something just seems off.
Eddie the Eagle – UK Teaser
The usual underdog story tropes but it’s endearing and very rewatchable.
Independence Day: Resurgence – Teaser
Great use of the original Pullman speech shows you don’t need Will Smith.
The Legend of Tarzan – Teaser
All sorts of silly, but in all the right ways and a grand sense of adventure
Knight of Cups – Teaser
Usual Malick beautiful imagery and insufferable pretentiousness.
Midnight Special – Teaser
A tired premise is actually made interesting by this clever clip.
Deadpool – Red Band Trailer
Fun self awareness, but mining old territory and dumb levels of crude.
Triple 9 – U.S. Trailer
One for the violence junkies, but energetic nonetheless.
Hardcore – TIFF Trailer
The film itself should be a blast, the trailer is rather messy.