Since the early days of films when moviegoers flocked to movie palace-like theaters they were shown a number of newsreels that were like mini documentaries, cartoons and something at the time known as “coming attractions.” This truly has not changed much with today’s audience. Instead of newsreels we are bombarded with commercials and a number of previews or movie trailers.
Coming attractions, previews, movie trailers whatever you call them they certainly pique your interest and can sometimes be the best part of your film experience. You certainly learn a lot about a film you may or may not have heard of. Sometimes it will make you want to see the film no matter what.
As luck would have it here is a list of the 10 very best movie trailers of all time that have grabbed movie audiences attention for decades or for years to come. They all have the right kind of marketing and editing skills to whet your appetite, but not show too much. Some of the music used will truly have an affect on you. Even if you had no interest in seeing these films before their movie trailers will do the trick.
10.) The Social Network – 2010
Here is a current film with a brilliant trailer, bar none. It has an excellent choral soundtrack that brings you in. At first you get to know what the Facebook social network is and then we see important scenes on its beginning at Harvard University. You certainly want to know more about the main character’s $600 million lawsuit he faces. Evidently the movie is just as good as this trailer, since it has gotten critical acclaim including nominations from the Golden Globes and SAG Awards in 2011.
9.) Taking Woodstock – 2009
This is a prime example where the movie trailer is actually better than the film. The music used is not in the film. One of my biggest pet peeves is when they show trailers with great music it oftentimes isn’t in the movie. You get the impression it is very funny, when in reality the laughs come extremely far and few in between. There is a lot of action in this short clip that makes you want to see it. Even though it’s about the famed music festival from 1969 very little is shown of the 3-day concert. At least in the trailer you’re under the impression you will see the festival as if you were there. Nevertheless, it is a well made movie trailer.
8.) Spider-Man – 2002
Even if you’re not familiar with the comic book about Spider Man you certainly learn a lot about him in this minute and a half trailer. It opens with the main character’s human exterior and then changes into Spider Man with unbelievable agility, speed and dexterity. The music is heart-pounding and pulsating with many quick shots of Spider Man’s relationship with the female lead character. One of my favorite scenes is when she is falling from a tall building and Spider Man is right there to catch her in the last seconds. It makes your heart stop and you want to see more of this film as soon as possible.
7.) The Matrix – 1999
Wow, this is one entertaining and fascinating movie trailer that doesn’t come along so often. The special effects with the slow motion action are incredible to the eyes. One thing that is constantly mentioned in the preview is ‘What is the Matrix?” It draws you in that you too want to know the answer to that question. Like one of the characters says “the answer is outside it’s the question that drives us crazy.” The movie does not disappoint you either.
6.) American Graffiti – 1973
Talk about going back in time. With this trailer you get narration which was standard up until the 1980s. At least you’re introduced to the main characters in the film. One thing I love about the music, it’s actually in the film. It is strange to see many of the actors in their very younger days, especially Richard Dreyfus and Ron Howard. There is a lot of crazy action and upbeat music throughout.
5.) Manchurian Candidate – 1962
You’ll notice at the end of the trailer it says “Back in Cinemas.” When it was released in 1962 this was about a full year before the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. After that tragedy they pulled the film “Manchurian Candidate” from its theater release where it remained unseen in movie theaters for approximately 20 years.
It wasn’t until the advent of the VHS video the film would be seen again. Basically the movie trailer builds up tension with the outstanding music score with the brainwashed agent killing anyone in his path leading up to a political convention and assassination. What you see in this trailer is very relevant today. Without question an effective movie trailer that has you on the edge if your seat.
4.) The Elephant Man – 1980
If you aren’t aware of the premise of this film it could be quite disturbing to watch. It is based on a true story. A very young Anthony Hopkins plays a compassionate doctor. In the beginning you do not see the Elephant man’s face until later, so it builds up the curiosity and suspense very effectively. This is a superb trailer that is not cruel regarding the main character’s afflictions. The film is equally as powerful and unforgettable as the trailer.
3.) Romeo + Juliet – 1996
You either love this film version of the Shakespeare classic or you hate it. I had seen contemporary adaptations of “Romeo and Juliet” such as “West Side Story” and others. This one did not interest me until I saw this movie trailer. It held my interest from beginning to end. In a way it reminds of a massive- scaled opera. The dialogue you hear in it is Shakespearean English.
By far this is my favorite movie trailer of all time. It has it all: intrigue, love, violence, and all other emotions along with some great music. Some of the music is in the full-length film. Another point of trivia is this film made Leonardo di Caprio an international star. In my opinion a movie trailer that will get you interested in Shakespeare.
2.) Psycho – 1960
That opening sequence with the screechy music certainly gets your attention, but then you are lead down a path of suspense, intrigue, terror and the unknown. Leave it to Alfred Hitchcock to put out a trailer that is worthy of his masterful films. When the lady is taking a shower you see someone coming. That part really creeps me out. The ending is very powerful with those man’s eyes. “Psycho” is definitely an all-around scary movie trailer.
1.) Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings – 2001
Even if you’re not a fan of the book or care for fantasy films you will be hooked by the time you finish watching this movie trailer. Ian McKellen’s initial narration definitely peaks your interest. You feel for the main character that’s in possession of the ring. He is then on the journey of his life to get rid of it. The special effects, scenery and costumes are magnificent. This is by far the most spellbinding movie trailer of all. Naturally when I saw the trailer in the movie theater I eventually went to see the film. It has all the right elements such as story, music and actors for being the best movie trailer.
One of my favorite things about going to a movie theater is seeing the previews or movie trailers on the big screen. They’re almost like a micro-mini movie. It’s actually an exciting experience when these trailers are quite good. That is their purpose. Each of these 10 best movie trailers of all time did create an unforgettable experience for many filmgoers. Too bad there isn’t an award ceremony for movie trailers.
Evan MacKenzie, “Film Trailers: Then and Now”, Media Analysis Paper
IFC’s 50 Greatest Movie Trailers, Extra
Broadcast Yourself, YouTube
Romeo and Juliet (1996), MattTrailer