The trailer: as important to the movie industry as money, poor taste and low expectations
Originally played at the end of films (hence the name), we've endured and enjoyed 99 years worth of trailers. Increasingly, they are as anticipated as many of the films themselves yet surprisingly, few truly great films have exceptional trailers. Conversely, some terrible films have brilliant ones.
But which trailers can be said to be the greatest ever made? After an exhaustive study...of the whole of the Sky Movies office, here finally, is the definitive list of the 10 best trailers in the history of the moving picture. As voted for by...us.
10. PULP FICTION
It's easy to forget the remarkable impact of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino's influential multi-stranded masterpiece of 1994. The film revived John Travolta's career and received 7 Oscar nominations. Character's lines entered popular parlance. The soundtrack sold 2.5 million copies and reinvigorated surf music. It remains a highpoint in post modern cinema. The trailer brilliantly captures all of the film's vibrant energy, giving you a taste of the tunes that would soundtrack a generation of student parties and desperate TV commercials. It DEMANDS you watch the movie. Enjoy the trailer again. By the end, you'll be itching to revisit one of the best films of the 90s.
The brilliance of the Cloverfield trailer possibly even surpasses the impact of the film itself. It's 90 odd seconds of found footage that thrills, confuses, and intrigues. It includes that wonderful, iconic shot of the head of the Statue Of Liberty bouncing down the street. Fantastically, it explains nothing, leaving you unsettled and disturbed, asking, 'what THE HELL is going on?'
8. STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE
Yes, we know. For most of us, The Phantom Menace represents our most disappointing cinematic experience. But try to forget the film. We understand you've tried, but attempt to cast your mind back to a time before you had heard the word midichlorians. Try to recall seeing this trailer for the first time- the fanfare, the music, the motifs that you had loved since childhood- but newer and better! Wisely, Jake Lloyd only gets one line, disguising the horror of what lies ahead. Undoubtedly the biggest ever gulf between the quality of the trailer, and the quality of the film itself.
Boasting a great track by The Smashing Pumpkins, the Watchmen trailer is a visually stunning treat that features all the iconic moments from the graphic novel. The film may not have been the masterpiece we had hoped for, but seeing the trailer for the first time gave us the hope that it was certainly going to be.
6. THE MATRIX
The genius of The Matrix trailer is that it revealed so many of the moments that were going to reinvent action cinema forever, yet brilliantly succeeded in giving nothing away. By the end, we have seen so much but when asked 'What Is The Matrix?', we still have no idea...but MUST find out.
Sleeper is Woody Allen's most underrated film, a masterclass in smart slapstick silliness. Now the mistake of many comedy trailers it that to sustain 2 minutes of interest, they pack them with all the best lines of the film, thus ruining the experience for the future audience. Allen avoids this by shooting a spoof introduction, producing a trailer that ends up funnier than 95% of actual comedy films.
4. THE SHINING
Kubrick was as meticulous about his trailers as he was about his films. The Shining is a deceptively simple affair. A static shot of a hotel lobby- bold and patient. There is no hint of story or character, just a reflection of the eerie tenor of the film. He builds a sinister tension, which confuses, and then shocks when we realise the river flooding through the frame towards us is blood.
In 1980, the US censors still decreed that you couldn't show any blood in trailers. Kubrick simply claimed that the red liquid was rusty water. Thankfully for us, they believed him.
3. SUPERMAN RETURNS TEASER
Although the film may have underwhelmed, the teaser trailer for the long delayed reboot Superman Returns is still our favourite of the last 10 years. It's a remarkable piece of trailer production. With so few shots from the film to use, they construct an emotional masterpiece by brilliantly evoking childhood memories of the 1978 original, using John Williams' 'The Planet Krypton' and in a stroke of genius, Marlon Brando's Jor-El as narrator. The first time we saw it, a ripple of excitement and anticipation swept through the auditorium. “They could be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be…” Let the goosebumps rise and the tears flow.
Perhaps the brilliance of the 1979 Alien trailer can only be truly appreciated when you consider how it would be approached today. Flashy montages, egg openings, chest bursts, a final lingering shot of the Alien towering over Harry Dean Stanton- none of these are included in a trailer that beautifully captures the claustrophobic confusion of Ridley Scott's seminal horror masterpiece, via some stunning sound design in lieu of music, and absolutely no dialogue. Plus it just happens to end with the greatest tagline in movie history.
1. DR. STRANGELOVE
Kubrick's genius as a filmmaker is well documented, but few people appreciate that with Dr. Strangelove, he also changed trailer making forever. Fascinated with the burgeoning avant garde movement, Kubrick collaborated with commercials director Pablo Ferro to create this masterpiece- a chunk of art in itself. Using up to 125 shots a minute, it's a surreal, immediate and vibrant piece that was years ahead of its time, and still feels impossibly fresh. It captures all of the darkness, humour and manic tension of Kubrick's brilliant, peerless satire. If only modern trailers were allowed to be this inventive.