Between the plug for concessions, car commercials, and “Silence your cell phone” announcements, it’s nearly impossible to miss the trailers at the movie theater these days. Watching the previews before your feature offers the promise that if you don’t like what you’re about to see there’s something better coming out a couple months later — and in recent years they’ve gotten better and better. (See the chilling preview for this week’s Battle: Los Angeles for proof.) Clever and concise, these are the trailers that avoided spoiling too much of the plot and take us back to a time when we counted down the days to a movie’s release.
Steeped in atmosphere, the Alien
trailer crescendos to a deafening scream before unleashing an explosion of horror — a structure that mirrors the success of the two-hour feature. It’s frantic, frightening, and features one of the best movie taglines in the history of trailers. We’ll forgive the quick shot of Sigourney Weaver in weird tiny underwear; maybe that was hot back in the seventies. Either way, it’s still frightening. Watch the trailer.
In a world where trailers are sometimes the best part of going to the movies, Hal Douglas is king. Even if you don’t know his name, you know his voice — and that’s the genius of the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s documentary, Comedian
. Poking fun at voice-over clichés, Douglas parodies himself, and the results are funnier than the documentary it’s teasing. Watch the trailer.
8. Independence Day
This blockbuster capitalized on a holiday-weekend opening in a genius way. The alien attack that lasted only two hours in theaters paled in comparison to the marketing war ID4
raged through TV commercials the week leading up to its Jul. 2 release date. Throw in Will Smith’s star power and state-of-the-art special effects, and audiences planned their barbecues around Independence Day
‘s fireworks. Watch the trailer.
7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Infamy has helped fuel some of the most classic horror-movie campaigns — perhaps none more than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
. Maybe it’s the combination of the flashbulb, the roar of the chain saw, and the “inspired by true events” feel that makes the trailer just as chilling as the feature. It captures the slasher’s untamed filmmaking at its fiercest and warns us — twice — that it’s the most horrifying motion picture Rex Reid had ever seen (whoever that is). Watch the trailer.
6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
While director James Cameron’s hopes of launching a new cinematic subgenre called Tech Noir with The Terminator
never caught on, it did launch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s superstar career. We knew he’d be back, and all it took was some shots of a futuristic manufacturing plant, a techno-driven orchestra soundtrack, and Arnie’s glowing red eyes to get us excited for a sequel. Watch the trailer.
This was a warning broadcast from a giant Superscope screen to innocent viewers. Packed with melodrama, unbridled horror, and the brightest stars of the screen, trailers for fifties horror and sci-fi movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers
smacked of campy appeal. The only differences between this trailer and one for a modern-day alien-attack flick are the foreboding text as faceless masses run to safety and the comforting narrator who reminds you it’s only a movie. Watch the trailer.
It was only a matter of time before quirky indie director Wes Anderson gave deadpan comic Bill Murray top billing in one of his comedies. If you didn’t get it after Murray’s wet-suit dance, then the trailer’s greatness is lost on you. It gave plenty for Anderson fans to be excited about — stop-motion animation, a Devo-infused soundtrack, pans, pulls, zooms, and Jeff Goldblum. And you can never go wrong with cast-video credits. Watch the trailer.
In two minutes, we’re taken through the birth of the universe; the turbulent childhood of a small-town American kid; the quiet, retrospective moments of adulthood; and the end of time. It’s a recipe for art-house pretension, but director Terrence Malick’s beautifully composed images are thoughtfully contrasted, balancing youth with questions that don’t have answers. It’s the type of trailer art that has film geeks dissecting every shot. Watch the trailer.
2. Back to the Future Part III<
Marty McFly went to the future, returned to an alternate present, and then went back to 1955 to set things right. While Back to the Future Part II
was a strange trip, the most bizarre moment was when theater audiences were shown a trailer for Part III
just before the credits. Great scott! The only explanation for such a weird entry in the trilogy is that it was actually a trailer for the Part III
trailer. Let’s face it: after Part II
‘s Biff-controlled Hill Valley, it couldn’t get any weirder. Watch the trailer.
All will be carved. The Thanksgiving
trailer is the only one on the list whose feature will likely never be made. While director Eli Roth made a name for himself with the questionable Hostel
series, he had some fun with this grind-house trailer that reminds us of his funny and gross Cabin Fever
. If Robert Rodriguez can get funding for Machete
, why can’t Roth capitalize on this holiday classic-to-be? It has to be better than April Fool’s Day
. Watch the trailer.