A perfect trailer is many things. Essentially, it’s a short film. It needs to do a few things. It obviously has to sell the movie to you. It should NOT ruin the plot by telling you everything that will happen in the movie. It has to give you a taste of visual effects, powerful moments, enduring lines, etc. It should NOT include every one of those things that the movie has (however if your movie has about 2.5 minutes of memmorable moments, your movie is in trouble already). A truly amazing trailer will live on after the movie as something you revisit to remind you of the film. The five trailers I’ve selected as the best of all-time are all recent, but that’s because making a great trailer is a recent art. If you’ve seen trailers from the 80’s and before you’ll wonder how people ever got to the movies. Embedding video into the page is rough from my laptop, so I’ll provide links to http://www.movies-list.com/ (fantastic site that offers free trailer downloads and is responsible for my ipod being full of them).
1. The Dark Knight Trailer #2 (2008)
I was worried this gave too much away when I saw it the first time, but after the movie, you see what a masterpiece of misdirection this is. It gives you jaw dropping moments, pressages a performance in Heath Ledger’s Joker that will live on as long as there will be movies, and is set to Hans Zimmer’s adrenaline pumping score. The second trailer for Inception followed much the same formula to almost the same effect, but this is the best and most played video clip on my ipod.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Trailer #2 (2002)
Returning us to the world of Middle-Earth after a year off, the trailer brilliantly reminds us of the status of the quest and highlights the increasing peril by showcasing the Battle of Helm’s Deep set to a remix of Clint Mansell’s theme to Requeim for a Dream that is the best use of music in a trailer I’ve ever experienced.
3. Road to Perdition Trailer (2002) http://www.roadtoperdition.com/trailer/RoadtoPerdition_qt_h.html
This trailer does a perfect job of letting the audience know the story and showcasing the two stars of Sam Mendes’ brilliant film: the actors and the cinematography. One of the most beautiful films ever shot, the trailer shows you a glimpse of what awaits you while some of the best actors of any generation deliver some of the most memorable lines of the film.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Trailer (2004)
From the very instant it begins with Professor Snape slapping windows shut as he urges us to turn to page 394, we get sucked back into the world of Hogwarts. The trailer was our first glimpse of Michael Gambon as Dumbledore after the death of Richard Harris and showcased the dark tone and beautiful imagery that Alfonso Cuaron would bring to what is still the best of the Potter movies. Add in John Williams’ last score on the series (perhaps his last masterpiece) and you have magic (pardon the pun).
5. 300 Trailer #2 (2007)
Pure visual candy from open to close. Whether you knew about the graphic novel or not, by the time the trailer ended the trailer had left an indelible impression on you (for good or ill, I’m not unaware Zack Snyder has his haters). 300 looks like no movie ever made and the trailer whacked you between the eyes with a visual feast.
Very very hard to narrow this to only five. If I had to include a few more, we’d have had Saving Private Ryan, Casino Royale, Star Wars Episode I (seriously, do you remember how you felt when you saw Darth Maul’s double lightsaber ignite?), Inception, and Tropic Thunder.