Great Movie Trailers

*Updated on March 20 2012*

The film industry is a huge money making machine. Every year, movie studios do their best to rake in large amounts of money by bringing in as many viewers into the theatre to watch their movies. One of the tools these studios rely heavily on to generate interest and hype for their films are movie trailers. A good movie trailer should get you excited about the release of the film. Whether it’s the opening scene, the quick glimpses of characters, the music or the excitement of the story being told. A good trailer has all the right elements to get you watching it all over again by the time it finishes.

I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of some of my favourite movie trailers from the past few years. For each film, I’ll touch on the specifics on why the trailer “worked” for me and made me excited about the film. This list comprises of films that turned out great, and others that didn’t live up to the “hype”.

**UPDATE** Prometheus (2012)

How could I not include this trailer on this list? Take a look at this ladies and gentlemen. This is how you create a trailer. This trailer does a good job at everything. Introduce the majority major plot points without any spoilers, reveal all the major characters, demonstrate climatic scenes and “money-shots”. And finally, use a thrilling musical score that’s memorable and invokes emotion! Bam, what do you get? A wonderful glimpse into the extraterrestrial world Ridley Scott has created. For long time fans of the Alien franchise, this trailer should sure as hell invoke some nostalgia from 1979.

Fantastic 4 Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

I remember watching this trailer for the first time, I was a little shocked at how good it was considering how bad the first movie was. They still managed to put together a great trailer showcasing just one scene from the film. The scene does enough to show all the major characters and introduce the story-line. It also builds suspense and fascination around the film’s main villain with some great money shots. I haven’t seen too many trailers that have used this technique of showcasing just one scene. When done properly it can be quite effective.

Terminator Salvation (2009)

I’ll have to be honest here, the reason why I love this trailer so much is because there’s a Nine Inch Nails song attached to it. The choice of music here really adds to the overall feel of the trailer. The pacing of the scenes with Christian Bale as John Connor and the robots match perfectly against Trent Reznor’s “The Day the World Went Away”. And of course, for all the Terminator fans out there, the trailer ends on a high-note by bringing back the main Terminator theme.

The Watchmen (2009)

This trailer for the Watchmen is another great example of how the right selection of music can really push a trailer forward in capturing the right tone and mood for the film. The use of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” sets an eery pacing as each Watchmen hero is revealed. One by one, Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the famed characters are introduced and we are given a glimpse of the graphic novel come to life on film. At the time, I was not familiar with the graphic novel but after watching the trailer I was immediately drawn into the film and the source material.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Here’s another trailer that drew me into the source material I was unfamiliar with. This trailer is a mash up of different scenes from the movie all shown out of order and out of context leaving the viewer dazed and confused. Why does this work? Simple, nothing about the movie is spoiled. While we’re introduced to most of the major characters, it’s impossible to make anything out of the scenes without knowing the source material. That combined with the beauty of David Fincher’s directorial style and the oh-so great cover of a Zeppelin classic (by Trent Reznor and Karen O) gives us one kick-ass trailer. People on the internet have even mimicked the style of this trailer with other films. 

Tron: Legacy (Comic Con Teaser – 2008)

The technique used in this trailer is similar to that of Fantastic 4 in that it showcases just one extended scene. However, what’s interesting about this trailer is that 95% of the footage shown isn’t actually in the final version of the film. Almost 30 years after the first Tron film, this trailer for the sequel demonstrates how far technology has come in special effects and film-making. In this trailer, we catch a glimpse of the modern visualization of the Tron universe. What better way to do that than to show off a great light-cycle sequence. This trailer was a pure tease. It was shown in July 2008 at Comic-Con, and the film wasn’t released until December 2010. Kudos to Disney for generating hype around the movie well in advance of its release.

Inception (2010)

How many spin-offs of the Inception trailer have you seen on YouTube? I’ve seen a handful. That should tell you something about how good the original is. This trailer truly has it all. A popular lead protagonist, an introduction to a thrilling story, an array of large “money-shots” and an extremely heart-pounding score to bring it all together into one ground-breaking trailer. The way this trailer is cut, isn’t so different from many of the trailers we see so commonly for mainstream movies. What sets it apart, is the unique premise of the story combined with an exhilarating audio track.

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

The trailer for Battle: Los Angeles is a great example of how a story can be told in just a few minutes. The alien invasion story isn’t new to the Hollywood film industry, but this trailer does a very nice job of demonstrating escalation. The planet Earth we see at the beginning of the trailer is very different from the one we see at the end. As with all the trailers I’ve mentioned in this post, the icing on the cake is the creepy soundtrack chosen to play on top of everything. This trailer really pulls you in. Too bad the final product wasn’t as good as the trailer.

The Dark Knight (2008)

I obviously have a bit of bias here, being a big Batman fan and all. But seriously, this is a great trailer. Before this preview came out, nobody knew what Heath Ledger’s interpretation of the Joker was going to look like. Well, this trailer gave everyone a first look at what would eventually become an Oscar winning performance. It provided a peak into a wild and almost disturbing interpretation of one of Batman’s classic villains. I still remember seeing this for the first few times, and feeling genuinely creeped out and asking myself, “Was that really Heath”?


The list above is a reflection of my own personal tastes and is by no means a complete list of the industry’s best. I’d like to hear what trailers YOU’VE enjoyed and whether you feel I’m missing any trailers from my list. Leave your thoughts below!


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