There’s nothing quite like a great movie trailer (or a bad one for that matter). It can get you amped up for a film you’re excited to see or pique your interest in something you’d normally never give the time of day to.
Despite what Hollywood is trying to do, it’s going to be a while before we sit down in a cool movie theatre and watch history made before our eyes once again, so we’re looking back at some of the trailers that got us amped up in years past. Many of them are for movies that were just as good as advertised, although there’s at least one where the trailer promised more than the film could deliver. Here’s a few of our favourites.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Jill Pantozzi: I was a sophomore in college. I was certainly online a lot (mostly chatting on AIM) but I wasn’t “online” like I am now and wasn’t hanging around on forums or movie sites to hear the latest news. But! I had heard there was a trailer set to be revealed for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings follow-up, The Two Towers, on a specific day and I could not have been more pumped. Thanks to finally being away from high school I started relaxing my “Nerd? What nerd? No, nerd here” stance and made some equally nerd friends who were just as excited by the prospect of watching not just the film, but the trailer, with me.
And then we sat there. And sat there. And waited not-so-patiently at all while our (actually really good at the time!) college internet worked to load (yes, load) the enormous file before we could hit play. I vividly remember watching Apple trailers’ (not YouTube!) imagery for what felt like hours as my friend and I discussed in hyper yet hushed tones what we might see. She’d read the books, I’d only read The Hobbit. She was an Aragorn, I was a Legolas. We both came away extremely satisfied.
It’s strange rewatching it now considering how differently (though not entirely) trailers are approached these days but the first Two Towers trailer was in one word: epic. No fancy music tracks. No fakeouts. Just pure movie. The actual Howard Shore score was used, as was dialogue and sound effects. Looking back, I am actually a little shocked at how much is given away by the trailer. Though like many films these days, it was an adaptation so I suppose we shouldn’t have been shocked that Gandalf was back (I never thought he was dead, for the record). But the best part was Aragorn opening those doors. We scrubbed back at least 15 times to watch him do that over and over again.
I’m an Aragorn now, for the record.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
James Whitbrook: At the best of times, 2015 feels like such a long, long time ago, but watching the first full trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens months before the film would drop takes me right back to that time. Before so much Star Wars happened. The innocence of it all. It’s still a breathtaking trailer to watch, but it’s the music that has seared it in my mind as my favourite.
The stark, echoing staccato piano notes of the opening, as we meet Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. The swelling of Han and Leia’s suite as the Falcon races into view. And then, oh god, then: as quickly as one iconic John Williams theme came, another takes it place. A triumphant, bold rendition of the “Force Theme” blares into the soundscape, as Resistance X-wings sail across the lake on Takodana, crescendoing over the puh-puh-puh-pew-pew! of the best ship in science fiction history tearing one of the other best ships in science fiction history to pieces. It’s still one of the most gorgeous shots in modern Star Wars. It’s everything I love about this deeply silly thing, condensed into two and a half minutes.
It’s like Maz says as the trailer ends: it’s calling to you. Just…let it in.
The New Mutants (2020)
Charles Pulliam-Moore: For all of the delays that Josh Boone’s The New Mutants have been set back by, the official trailer that dropped seven months ago was truly rather astonishing in the way that it made the movie out to be — stick with me now — something that people might actually want to see. While the movie itself has the potential to be another Dark Phoenix-style dud of a story, the early marketing for it effectively established that The New Mutants very much wants to be more of a horror movie as opposed to a straight-up cape narrative, which is a refreshing change of pace that promises to make it stand out.
Overdue as the movie is, there’s something sort of charming about the reality that The New Mutants is going to be the proper end of 20th Century — née 20th Century Fox’s — sprawling universe of X-Men films that was, at different times, both fantastic and terrible. One hopes that it brings things to a close with an incredibly satisfying celebration, but it could just as easily end up being yet another affront to X-fans who just wanna see their favourite characters done some justice.
Cheryl Eddy: This vintage trailer offers a great example of how movie advertising has changed in the past 60 years. Instead of presenting scenes cut together from Alfred Hitchcock’s startling new thriller, Psycho, this six-minute clip brings out the fantastically droll director himself for a “tour” of the set, hinting at (but never fully revealing) what’ll happen in that roadside motel and the ramshackle mansion perched behind it. You get snippets of Bernard Herrmann’s eerie, soon-to-be-iconic score, mixed in with deceptively cheerful background music as Hitchcock ambles between locations.
The last stop is the hotel room where Marion Crane meets her end, specifically the shower portion of that room, with her scream and those stabbing violins heralding Psycho’s eager intentions to scare the pants off you. It ends with Hitchcock’s famous warning-slash-marketing ploy that “no one will be seated after the start,” ensuring that audiences viewed Psycho as an event movie before event movies had even been invented.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Beth Elderkin: This is a trailer that was so good, it remade an entire movie. The first look at David Ayer’s Suicide Squad teased a grim story of anti-heroes battling goo monsters and Jared Leto’s ego. But the negative response to Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman seemingly caused some anxiety, and Warner Bros. hired marketing firm Trailer Park to produce a new trailer that took Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and gave it an edge.
The result was one of the most entertaining comic book movie trailers we’ve ever seen, promising a world of sinful fun with Will Smith and Margot Robbie at the helm. What we saw was wild and wacky, with giant explosions and one-liners being tossed around on top of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was such a welcome hit with audiences that Warner Bros. ended up hiring Trailer Park to produce its own cut of the whole film. However, just because a marketing firm can edit a great three-minute trailer doesn’t mean they know how to make a movie, and that version was reportedly a mess. It ended up being combined with Ayer’s original cut, and the final result was the disaster we all got stuck with.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Germain Lussier: What’s the biggest complaint about movie trailers? That they give away the whole movie, right? Well, the teaser trailer for Terminator 2: Judgment Day does the opposite. It doesn’t include footage from the movie at all. It simply conveys the shocking information (if you’ve only seen the first Terminator) that there are many, many more Terminators and they are, somehow, coming back. Beyond that, we don’t know who’s in the movie (outside of Arnold Schwarzenegger), where or when it takes place, nothing. And yet, the trailer is beautiful, enticing, revealing, and exciting all in one. What more could you want?
PS: Jill wouldn’t let me write about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Again.
PPS: Second place? Fast 9. That Han reveal though.