Film trailers, those tantalising little snippets of a movie you’ll ultimately either never watch or will bust a gut to see the minute it comes out. A marketing tool they may be but they can often be works of art in and of themselves.
I’m of the home video era where video rental stores would intice you with free posters of forthcoming releases. They were your gateway to the next favourite film and a Radio 1 DJ (usually Simon Bates) would advise you of what content was forthcoming. But those trailers, those little glimmers, were way more accessible and detailed mini-insights into forthcoming attractions. So it got me thinking, what are the best movie trailers and why were they so effective?
These days, when asking fellow film fans “Have you seen the trailer for….?” it’s normally after a teaser trailer has been released, which is basically a trailer for a trailer. The oddities of the modern world, eh?
So what makes a great movie trailer?
Money shots – Some trailers are guilty of showing too much and sometimes they show shots that aren’t in the final film at all, but teasing a big, jaw-dropping special effect or a possible reveal can send an audience into a frenzy.
Pedigree – No doubt the words “From The Producer Of Fast and Furious 12” will get some people’s juices going whilst the words “A Martin Scorsese Film” are manna from heaven to others. The names that precede the titles can be more than enough, association can be a strong selling point, if sometimes a little misleading.
Music – now this is something I’ll come onto in my own personal choices of favourite trailers but using a piece of music – let’s use ‘Immigrant Song’ by Led Zeppelin as an example – that dictates the pace of the trailer and sometimes the expectation it creates can differ widely from the finished article. But sometimes the accompanying musical choices can be inspired.
Editing – an art in the truest sense. Every film fan can name many a sequence where you’ll go “How did they do that?” but to piece together the little few reels handed over to the person(s) whose job it is to edit the trailer together and make something of it is a remarkable feat.
So, in no particular order, here are some of my favourite movie trailers;
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Final trailer
I could have gone for either of the first trailers (especially the ‘Chewie, we’re home’ one) but this last one with a totally original John Williams score is just spectacular. The edit from Poe screaming to the forest burning to the Millenuim Falcon thundering over the crashed Star Destroyer being chased by Tie Fighters is just jaw dropping. Giving you everything you want but not EVERYTHING is perfect marketing. It still gives me goose bumps.
Watchmen (2009) – Trailer #2
The first Smashing Pumpkins scored trailer was very moody (down to an alternative version of the song that was written for Batman & Robin, weirdly) but the second, afforded some original music but scored later by Muse’s bombastic ‘Take A Bow’, really kicks on and utilises the brilliant imagery from Zack Snyder’s very faithful adaption of “The Book That Couldn’t Be Adapted”.
Man of Steel (2013) – Final trailer
Hear me out on this one. Over three minutes long, shows lots of stuff, wisely uses Hans Zimmer’s score to expertly show what was ultimately, I believe, being aimed for. The final film, I will maintain, is flawed, mostly down to the 30 odd minutes of unnecessary CGI-fuelled destruction at the end. It’s very good up until then but it’s finale just spoils all the good work done before it. But the trailer gives you a sense of wonder and belief in the man who no longer wears his pants outside of his costume. And that version of Krypton is amazing.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – 1990 Teaser trailer
Who would have anticipated what we’d get with T2 when the final film eventually exploded onto screens across the world in the summer of 1991? All this (incredibly expensive) teaser trailer shows is a production line of Terminator endoskeletons being built and a few lines about the first Terminator film. It was a teaser consisting of nothing that would appear in the final film but which fitted perfectly within the Terminator mythos. Created by the late, great special effects maestro Stan Winston, this mini-film cost around $150 – $200,000, virtually unheard of for what is nothing more than a promotional tool to whet fan’s anticipation for the forthcoming film. The reveal of Arnie at the end which gave away nothing of his switched out bad-guy-turned-good role in the sequel was genius and it did all of this almost a full year before the film was released.
Stark. Foreboding. Fleeting. Terrifying. Now that’s what I call a trailer.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
David Fincher’s adaptation of the Stig Larson novel was met with something of a muted reaction when it was first released. Personally I thought it was very good. This trailer powered by, you guessed it, ‘Immigrant Song’ covered by Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with some help from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, was an excellent glimpse into what is a very adult nightmare.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
James Gunn’s fantastic first foray into Marvel’s strangest set-up was sold brilliantly by this salvo that showed you exactly what you were going to get. Weird characters, spaceships, a raccoon with a massive gun and a walking talking tree.
These are just some of the trailers that came to mind but there are countless other great examples, some even better than the final films they’re teasing. Weigh in with your choices and hit me up on Twitter, I’m always happy to discuss films with the fine folk that follow Film ‘89.