A bad movie trailer is little more than the flick’s highlights slapped together into what amounts to a 2 minute clip reel. A good movie trailer is a coherent piece that tells just enough of the film’s story to let the viewer decide whether to see it. It should pique the audience’s interest, but not be too obvious or too obtuse. It should not only depict, but also evoke emotion.
With that in mind, here’s my list of the best movie trailers:
127 Hours: Directed by Danny Boyle, starring James Franco. Based on the true story of a climber faced with unthinkable choices after being pinned by a giant boulder. I probably can’t stomach major chunks of this film, but whenever I see the trailer I want to rush to the nearest theater and see it. The blend of music, stunning scenery and camcorder confessionals gets me every time. Adventure, good times and imminent tragedy act alongside each other to make this one of the best movie trailers I’ve seen.
Alien: Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Tom Skerritt and Sigourney Weaver. A spaceship crew stumbles upon strange life on a distant planet. The trailer is terrifying, thanks to its ominous, jarring music, people running, the cat screaming and the absence of dialogue. Every time I watch it, I’m afraid I’ll have nightmares. Which, of course, is the effect a horror movie trailer should have.
Black Swan: Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel. A ballet dancer forms a twisted friendship with her rival, who threatens to take away her dream of being prima ballerina. I haven’t seen this movie, but I will, because the trailer hooked me the moment it began. I can’t tell if the protagonist’s rival is out to get her or if the lead is just going crazy. But, I’m captivated by the beauty, the horror and the way the two are juxtaposed, and can’t wait to watch the whole thing play out.
Inception (Trailer 2): Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe. Sophisticated criminals build dream worlds for people, then enter them to steal ideas. Plot-wise, that’s just the beginning of Inception and the great thing about its trailer is that it leaves it there. The hammering music, stunning visuals, intriguing concept and well-chosen dialogue plant the seeds of suspense. There was just enough to whet my appetite and convince me I needed to see the film.
Little Children: Directed by Todd Field, starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly. Suburban ennui and faded glory lead two people into an affair. This is one striking, sexy movie trailer, which also packs a ton of feverish suspense. I was gripped, thinking how taut the movie would be, how penetrating and powerful, how I wasn’t sure I could handle the intensity.
Mulholland Drive: Directed by David Lynch, starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. A wide-eyed woman seeking stardom helps her new Hollywood friend regain her memory after a car accident and becomes entangled in something shadowy. I love this trailer because it conveys the film’s elements of mystery, innocence, glamor and confusion, without spoiling the ultimate effect. I was unsettled enough to want to watch the movie, but still clueless enough to be surprised by it when I did.
Red Eye: Directed by Wes Craven, starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. A woman on an overnight flight is terrorized by her handsome seatmate, who wants her help to carry out a murder plot. The trailer starts off like one for a routine romance, then gets sinister in the last 30 seconds, without revealing too much about the plot. I wasn’t sure, after seeing it, whether the creepy guy was supernatural or whether the whole movie took place on the plane. I came away with questions, which is the best way to go into a thriller.
There Will Be Blood: Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. A oil man makes friends and enemies in the small California town he’s tapping at the turn of 20th century. This movie trailer is dark, captivating and perfectly paced. It embodies the intensity of the film, and the complexity of the main character. It’s foreboding, rich and transported me into the world of the film in just a couple of minutes, inviting me back for the full ride.
Volver: Directed by Pedro Almodovar, starring Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas. A tale of the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters that includes a little magic realism, murder and plenty of humor. The trailer pinpoints all those things, but still manages to leave the viewer wondering and wanting more, with its lush, human blend of comedy and melodrama. It also makes no promises the movie doesn’t keep.
Where the Wild Things Are: Directed by Spike Jonze, starring Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo and James Gandolfini, as the voice one of the monsters. A film adaption of Maurice Sendak’s children’s book about a boy sent to bed without dinner, who ends up king in a world full of monsters. It drew me in from the first shot of Max waking on the shoulder of one of the creatures, as the big guy lumbers through the woods. It is a beautiful work of art in its own right, full of warmth and excitement. It runs the emotional gamut of what it means to be a kid – from fear to joy to wonder to sadness – and leaves you yearning to see the whole story unfold.
So, what’s the best movie trailer you’ve seen?