Top 10 Movie Trailers (That Show Almost Nothing)
If there’s one criticism levelled at movie trailers in the modern day, it would be that they all look the same. Another would be that they give away far to much information about the movie. Wasn’t that a great twist about her speaking English in Birthday Girl? Not if you saw the trailer, it was front and centre. Did you watch Castaway on the edge of your seat because you didn’t know if he’d ever get off the island? If not, you must’ve seen the trailers that showed him being rescued.
Those are some older examples, but there are plenty of recent ones we wouldn’t want to spoil for you. Instead we’re going to celebrate those trailers that are awesome and memorable and give away as little as possible.
I saw The Matrix without even having seen the trailer, and NOTHING matched that journey of discovery even though I spent the first act thinking I’d been suckered into an angsty retread of Hackers. Having seen the trailer may not have changed much anyway, as it deliberately dangles the big question in front of us without a clue as to the answer: what is the ‘Matrix’?
A Serious Man
You don’t really need to advertise a movie by the Coen Brothers. It doesn’t matter what it’s about or who is in it…we’re going to see it. Even when they’re not at their best they are worth talking about. This trailer is…odd. It’s the trailer equivalent of the ‘Around the World’ music video where new rhythm layers are added over the top of the previous creating a cacophony of madness.
How do you even promote a movie like Fight Club? These fake PSAs capture the spirit of the movie better than any trailer. The anti-establishment tone and theme of passive-aggressive anarchy are perfectly captured in these teasers. It being the early days of the internet, these clips encouraged the viewer to seek out information online themselves, something that many viewers were just learning about.
Oh Jesus, that makes me unsettled. The music, the scrolling, simple font, the tension. We learn nothing about the movie at all. It’s just credits and blood. Simple in concept, complex in execution and timeless in its effectiveness.
The Dark Knight
This one is a bit more conventional that most of the trailers on this list but it was such a significant turning point for the audiences it’s worth acknowledging.
It’s worth remembering that Batman Begins had generated interest in a new Batman franchise after we’d given up on it. Then they announced Heath Ledger as the Joker and we didn’t know what the hell they were thinking. He’s a pretty boy, he plays surfers and skaters. He’s one of the biggest celebrities to come from this city, so we love him, but really? The Joker? This kid is going to follow on from Jack Nicholson? There were petitions against it, people pushing for Mark Hamill to step up to the plate. Ok, fine, we’ll watch the trailer…
See also: all of Christopher Nolan’s trailers. If this was a top 12 then Interstellar and Inception would have made the list.
Is this a trailer or a cheap ad for Heineken? Back before the found footage genre drove itself into the ground I don’t think anyone knew what they were looking at with this one. It’s just some party footage. Then everything goes south and there are explosions, but it’s that final image that nailed it. Sure, it turned out to be a big monster movie but it was damn fine marketing.
One thing we don’t see much of any more is trailers comprised of completely unique footage. We might get the B-Roll takes from the film, but it’s more common that films have ‘trailer’ moments written into them (I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad). The the above clip did not appear in the film, instead it’s a very literally interpretation of the films central themes.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher returns to the list, and honestly he could’ve had more spots with Gone Girl and The Social Network. This one gets the pick for being so insanely striking. The book was becoming a pop-culture phenomenon at the time the movie was released and this mishmash of short clips, down and dirty Led Zeppelin cover soundtrack and bold font look it up a level. We learn nothing about the characters or the story but plenty about the tone and darkness the film was going to bring.
How much impact did this trailer have upon release? Well, this happened a few days later:
Whoa! I wonder what’s hatching out of that egg? Man, we’re going to see the movie just to see the alien, that looks intense! Ah, let’s face it. It’ll be a let down.
In hindsight it’s strange seeing the most marketable aspect of the movie – the design of the creature – playing such a little role in the marketing. We don’t even learn much about the characters, just focused on their looks of fear.
This cracks me up every time I see it. I haven’t even seen the movie, because I’ll be disappointed if it’s not as funny as this minute and a half skit. It’s a brilliant send-up of trailer conventions that only tells us what isn’t in the film. Brilliant.