2015 may have been a weak year for movies, but that means nothing when it comes to a trailer. After all, even the worst movies usually have least 150 seconds of good parts to them, and awful movies can sometimes produce brilliant trailers. (See: Man of Steel.)
These 15 trailers, more than any others last year, were strong enough short films to tell their own stories, while still managing to be effective advertisements for the movies themselves.
(“Official Trailer 1”)
A wonderful cocktail of menacing one-liners and impressive stunts, the Spectre trailer reassured us it would maintains the same look, feel, and tone of Skyfall. It all climaxed in the reveal that not only would Spectre tie together all of Daniel Craig’s previous forays into the tux, it would likely be bringing back the greatest Bond villain of all.
14. INDEPENDENCE DAY:
Revisiting a near-classic movie with a sequel twenty years later is a risk for any sci-fi film — just ask Tron: Legacy — and Independence Day: Resurgence’s trailer smartly tries to buck its odds by appealing both to fans of the original (“Look, it’s Jeff Goldblum!”) and kids too young to know what “ID4” means (“Look, it’s Liam Hemsworth!”). It may not hold up as a feature come July, but it sure makes for an impressive trailer.
13. THE FORCE AWAKENS
The final trailer for the biggest movie of all time was another case of perfectly pleasing both old fans and new recruits to the saga, as well as balancing new footage and previously shown stuff. It may not have had the true power of the first teaser for The Force Awakens (which was ineligible for this list since it came out in 2014), but it was the perfect package of old and new.
12. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
(“Official Trailer 1”)
As perhaps the most pivotal Marvel movie without Avengers in the title, Captain America: Civil War needed to show it was a must-see picture for every moviegoer, whether or not they know their Winter Soldier from their Tesseract. The bombastic action, mutinous plot, and climax featuring two superheroes breaking down another — the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s flagship character, at that — serves that goal wonderfully.
11. HURRICANE OF FUN:
THE MAKING OF WET HOT
Making a documentary about a 15-year-old cult film is tricky for a lot of reasons, but when you’ve got over 25 hours of behind-the-scenes footage to work with and a cast that includes way-before-they-were-famous appearances from Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, and Joe Lo Truglio, it makes for an amazing time capsule that its trailer perfectly makes you want to see more of.
10. THE WITCH
Because of their bite-size running times, trailers are ideal vehicles for quickly ratcheting suspense. The Witch’s trailer proved this impeccably, starting off with slow unease, inserting several disquieting moments made all the scarier without context, and building to an unnerving climax of chanting, screaming, and a foreboding line of dialogue — all without giving away much of the plot.
9. PAWN SACRIFICE
(“Official Trailer 1”)
Similar to “ratcheting suspense” trailers are “time bomb” trailers. The only difference is the sensation is arises in the viewer; whereas The Witch’s trailer was an master class in creating intense dread, Pawn Sacrifice’s first trailer was one of the best of the year when it came to building narrative excitement, thanks largely to its use of music. The movie may not have been as exciting, but the trailer is cinematic adrenaline.
8. BLACK MASS
(“Official Trailer 1”)
Others have done before what Black Mass’ first trailer did, but such trailers are rarer and rarer these days. Various snippets of the film are sliced into rapid inserts at a few later points, but the bulk of the entire trailer is just one scene — a very risky gamble, but one that pays off chillingly here, due to the palpable discomfort and fright elicited by Depp’s intense and unblinking performance.
7. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
While great trailers can be made from bad material, it stands to reason that a great movie lends itself much easier to a great trailer — and there’s little trailer fodder ever better than a Quentin Tarantino movie. Succinctly summing up every titular character, as well as clearly laying out the plot, the tone, and a few of the more quotable lines of this last winter, The Hateful Eight’s full trailer almost feels like it edited itself.
6. HAIL, CAESAR!
For madcap insanity, few are as capable or skilled as the brothers who brought us Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and Burn After Reading. With the Coens turning their pens and lens to the golden age of Hollywood, Hail, Caesar! has an energy unseen in a comedy since The Grand Budapest Hotel. If the movie itself nails even half of the chaotic hilarity of its trailer, it’ll be a comedy worth hailing indeed.
5. THE NICE GUYS
(“Official Red Band Trailer 1”)
Writer-director Shane Black invented the cop buddy-comedy as we know it in the ‘80s with Lethal Weapon, and then stole it back from all the imitators a decade ago with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. The red band trailer for his spiritual sequel to the latter takes every step perfectly, turning two actors more know for their serious roles into action clowns and eliciting more belly laughs in three minutes than Lethal Weapon 4 did in two hours.
4. THE MARTIAN
Boiling the grandest and most epic movie of 2015 down to a mere three minutes is a near-futile task, but The Martian handles it with otherworldly aplomb. Not only does it establish the elaborate setup quickly, it introduces a sprawling cast of recognizable faces in quick order and immediately gets you invested in this enrapturing story of a man struggling against insurmountable odds.
3. SUICIDE SQUAD
(“Comic-Con First Look”)
The worst trend in trailers these days is the use of slowed-down pop/rock songs to compliment the dark action on-screen. Much like the prevalence of handheld-POV movies in the last 15 years, though, the reason the technique persists is that when it does work, it makes for a practically perfect trailer, which the world’s first look at Suicide Squad very much was. And bonus points for the extra-clever song choice of “I Started a Joke” and the fact Jared Leto’s Joker is withheld until the final 30 seconds.
2. THE REVENANT
(“Official Teaser Trailer”)
Much like the movie, the teaser trailer for The Revenant has barely any dialogue. In fact, short of three early, brief lines from Leonardo DiCaprio, no words are spoken throughout it. Instead, the insane visuals, pulsing score, and a loop of DiCaprio’s strained breathing do all the talking, grabbing your senses from the first frame and leaving you short of breath and fast of pulse by the trailer’s climactic title card.
1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
(“Official Main Trailer”)
Looking back now that at the movie the second trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road had to describe to audiences, it’s brilliant how effectively and efficiently it does its job. A cacophonous crash of insanity, artistry, genius, and explosions, the unrelenting pace of the action — combined with the overflowing craziness permeating every shot — leave you tantalized to find out how all the dissonant images you’ve just witnessed will come together, while telling you all you need to know and not a shred more.