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The Gripping, Mind-Blowing, Thrilling Evolution of the Movie Trailer
June 18, 2013 12:10 PM   Subscribe


 
What's the Best Trailer Ever?

Alien
posted by nathancaswell at 12:12 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh look, they got it right.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:13 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, can't quibble with their choice.
posted by brundlefly at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2013


HAH! As I was putting together my post below for the 20th anniversary of Last Action Hero, I noticed that trailers had evolved in ways I hadn't expected, and I thought that would be good grist for a post.
posted by gauche at 12:15 PM on June 18, 2013


IFC's list put Alien at #1 also
posted by churl at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2013


I'd have included the Magnolia trailer on the top 10 as well. One of the best ever.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the post!
posted by churl at 12:17 PM on June 18, 2013


It was a challenging experiment with form, Chaisson says. He had to choose shots that would work on Vine’s square aspect ratio and audio that would sound decent on crappy phone speakers. But it still tells a story. Which is? “Wolverine is a badass,” he says. “That’s pretty much it.”

So, basically the same story that the feature film tells.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2013


It's funny you should make this post because I just watched the Die Hard trailer and was about to derail the Last Action Hero thread with a comment on how awesome it was. It sorta spoils more of the movie than I would like, but I've seen Die Hard so many times, I couldn't tell if you if it could actually be "spoiled" anymore.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2013


Alien is clearly the best real trailer, yeah. The best fake trailer is just as obvious, it's Garrison Dean's 2012.
posted by troika at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trailers just haven't been the same since Don LaFontaine died.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"In a world where Don LaFontaine has died..."
posted by brundlefly at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


As much as I want to support evolving technology, I don't think I want to live in a world where "tweaser" is a word.

Google shows me that it is pretty much associated with its use in the article, and I really hope it stays that way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2013


Clearly the best trailer ever made (and the film even won a coveted Crying Monkey!).

I have a lot of love for the Miami Vice trailer: Michael Mann badassery streamlined into ninety seconds.
posted by hydatius at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


The amusing thing about watching modern trailers one after another before the feature movie is how exactly the same most of them are. The same music, the same basic structure, the same stunts. I saw the exact same shot of the hero crashing through a window in three trailers in a row a few months ago.
posted by octothorpe at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think I want to live in a world where "tweaser" is a word.

Twin tweens tweet tweaser twaddle!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Paul Thomas Anderson has the best collection of trailers of any director.
The above mentioned Magnolia is good as is Hard Eight and even Punch Drunk Love, but The Master and There Will be Blood are two of the best trailers I've seen in my life. Oddly enough the trailer for Boogie Nights is really bad capturing some of the humor but very little of the personality of the film with an over reliance on goofy narration and cliche record scratching.
posted by I Foody at 1:10 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The good news is, after four years of BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMMRMRMMMMM in every single goddamn movie trailer, we may have finally reached peak Inception.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:11 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is with that damn Inception noise in trailers these days? I overheard someone watching some trailers the other day and I was wondering why they kept watching the same trailer over and over. Turns out that every trailer uses BBBBBBRRRAAAAWWWWMMRMRMRMR now.
posted by GuyZero at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kubrick's own trailer for A Clockwork Orange should be on some list somewhere.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:19 PM on June 18, 2013


Alien is clearly the best real trailer, yeah. The best fake trailer is just as obvious, it's Garrison Dean's 2012

Please, everyone watch this, if only for the music.
posted by GuyZero at 1:19 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The same music, the same basic structure, the same stunts.

we may have finally reached peak Inception.

I think advertising and trailers are particularly susceptible to faddishness. Novelty is a great way to get attention, but going completely experimental will risk alienating customers, so they will all be grabbing from the same shallow pool of methods for edge-pushing that are well-demonstrated enough to be have little risk. Anything that proves successful will be over-saturated within a short amount of time.

The Mark Woollen fellow, going for the more "Oscar targeted" movies can probably be a little less beholden to the fads (compared to blockbusters) but even he says:
"... most old trailers are almost never, ever helpful. They have such a short life. You look at a trailer from even 10 years ago and it feels like things have evolved."
posted by RobotHero at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2013


Rangeboy: "The good news is, after four years of BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMMRMRMMMMM in every single goddamn movie trailer, we may have finally reached peak Inception."

At least it led to this.
posted by brundlefly at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'll agree with Alien at #1, but man, the trailer for The Shining is nearly as awesome. Who knew the old elevator had so much blood in him?
posted by rmd1023 at 1:31 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the Best Trailer Ever?

Gandhi II
posted by Tanizaki at 1:34 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Simple Jack?

Tropic Thunder never got the love it so richly deserves.
posted by GuyZero at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, Tugg Speedman, Action Hero
posted by GuyZero at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2013


GuyZero: "What is with that damn Inception noise in trailers these days? I overheard someone watching some trailers the other day and I was wondering why they kept watching the same trailer over and over. Turns out that every trailer uses BBBBBBRRRAAAAWWWWMMRMRMRMR now."

It's just a dream.

Or is it?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If for nothing else, you have to respect Inception for sincerely attempting to turn one of those 1950s
THE END
?
things into a conversation topic.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:49 PM on June 18, 2013


we may have finally reached peak Inception.

never

je refuse

If I had more (okay ANY) skill with vidding I would remake classic 70s/80s/90s film trailers with subtle Inception noise insertions all over the place.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on June 18, 2013


"I WILL NOT HURT OR HARM YOU, JUST GIVE ME BACK MY BOARD LANCE, IT WAS A GOOD BOARD AND I LIKE IT"

BRRRRRRRRRRRMMMMMM
posted by elizardbits at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2013


'subtle'
posted by shakespeherian at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2013


Elizardbits, you can always just keep this open in another window while you watch trailers on YouTube.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


my brain already makes the noise for me at all appropriate moments

so basically always
posted by elizardbits at 1:58 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the Tron Legacy trailer was just about perfect. Although, ha ha at rewatching it now, I do recall that single shot of the guy playing air guitar making me think "maybe I'm getting my hopes up too much". But, weakness of the movie aside, I felt like the rhythm of that trailer was just perfect. The dialogue, the arrival of the music cues, the edits.

tron uprising is great though
posted by neuromodulator at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]




Paul Thomas Anderson has the best collection of trailers of any director.
David Fincher would like a word.

I still haven't been able to find an online version of a teaser for The Game which had a puppet on a string violently being jerked around whilst dialog plays in the background. Like his Fight Club PSAs it was never actually "released" I think.
posted by fullerine at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2013


And, to send some love in the opposite direction, (and speaking of The Master above), I was completely sold on the basis of this teaser. It made me want to know everything about that character as soon as possible.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:20 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


neuromodulator, I came in to post that exact same link. I haven't seen The Master, I don't even know if I want to, but that trailer is mesmerizing. I've watched it a dozen times.
posted by straight at 2:58 PM on June 18, 2013


Due to the overwhelming amount of spoilers and dumbassery, I have been actively avoiding contact with trailiers for anything I think I might actually be interested in seeing.

If I'm in a theater and a preview starts for a film I know I'll want to see, I close my eyes for the duration. And because volumes are generally turned up to construction-site levels, I quite literally stick my fingers in my ears, rock back and forth, and hum subvocally as needed to drown out the audio spoilers ("Who would have thought that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father?!")

Yes, I look remarkably like a petulant three-year-old, but when the movie finally comes, I love going into it truly excited and utterly ignorant: I don't know what the creature looks like, I haven't seen the hero escape by rappelling down the side of the building, I haven't heard the catchphrases or punchlines.

(Of course, this rule is amended slightly for previews I've never seen--so if it starts to look interesting, eyes closed and fingers in. And if it looks boring, stupid or awful, I pay attention so that I can openly and a bit-too-loudly mock all that is terrible about it to my understanding and long-suffering wife.)
posted by rodeoclown at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pitch meeting for the Minority Report trailer.

"In the first twenty seconds I want a gun-cock and at least three broken windows. "
posted by straight at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2013


Really the first comment should give away the entire plot of the thread, which I guess would be about determining that the best trailer is in fact Alien (it is!).
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2013


***SPOILERS FOR STAR TREK 2***

I like how the trailer tells you one thing is going to happen, which you believe because trailers give the entire fucking plot away these days, then pretty much the opposite happens and it's actually vaguely suprising. Well played, JJ.
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]




I'd have included the Magnolia trailer on the top 10 as well. One of the best ever.

I have two reactions to this: One, that I can't even appreciate that trailer for whatever style it may possess because that movie is still so reflexively angry-making for me, having spent six hours of my life on it--yes, having watched it twice--to the point where the line "This will all make sense in the end" from the trailer reads as actionably straight-up false advertising to me.

Two, that having everyone address the camera straight-on as they're introduced reads as a Wes Anderson movie to me.

In the positive column: Aimee Mann.
posted by psoas at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2013


Tropic Thunder never got the love it so richly deserves.

That's because it was actually way over some peoples' heads, believe it or not. I have seen people on the internet bring up Robert Downey Jr's character as a case in point for blackface being OK.

WOOSH!
posted by Hoopo at 3:06 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah, you need the Trailer For Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever
Catchphrase!...that douchbags will quote in their Mefi comments.
posted by Dr Ew at 3:16 PM on June 18, 2013


I think some movies actually work better as trailers then films. I think part of that is because, of course they're designed to be mysterious, to ask questions that you have to see the film to find the answer to. If you have a cool setting, cool visuals and ideas you can explore the possibilities in trailer, without nailing anything down.

I liked the 5 minute trailer for Cloud Atlas that I just ended up grabbing the book and reading it. So when the film came out I knew most of what was going on, and the film definitely had it's flaws. I don't think it was as good as the book.

(Although interestingly I thought the 'build up' in the first half of the book was a lot more interesting then the 'wind down' in the second half, for the same reason: rather then increasing the mystery and possibilities you're closing things off and making things less mysterious. Maybe they should have done Cloud Atlas as two films. )
I thought the Tron Legacy trailer was just about perfect. Although, ha ha at rewatching it now, I do recall that single shot of the guy playing air guitar making me think "maybe I'm getting my hopes up too much". But, weakness of the movie aside, I felt like the rhythm of that trailer was just perfect. The dialogue, the arrival of the music cues, the edits.
First of all, the Air Guitar guy was kind of cool. But Tron legacy is a perfect example of this. The visuals, the music, the core idea was pretty awesome. But the actual film itself is a pretty standard and kind of boring plot, and the main character isn't even that interesting.
posted by delmoi at 3:19 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tron 2 is an awesome Daft Punk album wrapped around some awesome visuals wrapped around a whole lot of nothing whatsoever.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on June 18, 2013


Oh I was going to add, prometheus is probably one of the best examples - The trailer still looks awesome, but there was a lot of ridiculous nonsense in the film.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The good news is, after four years of BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMMRMRMMMMM in every single goddamn movie trailer, we may have finally reached peak Inception.

Oh man, I was just talking with my husband about that the other day. Just like how SO MANY TV SHOWS use a LOST noise as they cut to commercial, the Inception noise is everywhere--but both of those effects had a point in the original (in Inception it's that song slowed down). They don't really make any sense out of context.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:19 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah good old Ominous Goose.
posted by panboi at 4:24 PM on June 18, 2013


They don't really make any sense out of context.

They make sense in the context of gratuitous low-frequency noise.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2013


They make sense in the context of gratuitous low-frequency noise.

But the weird thing was that they wouldn't have before those uses, and now everyone accepts them as generic trailer sound effect #8. I find the evolution super bizarre.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the weird thing was that they wouldn't have before those uses, and now everyone accepts them as generic trailer sound effect #8. I find the evolution super bizarre.
It annoys me as much as anyone, but let's keep it real: It was pretty awesome in the Inception trailer.

The problem with starting a cliche is that in retrospect. I remember hearing someone talk about how Neuromancer was ridiculous because they kept talking about Cyberspace - even though basically no one had ever even used that word prior.

It's like the TVTrope: Seinfeld is Unfunny
posted by delmoi at 5:57 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or my favorite example of this: Someone decrying Bullitt because of all the cliches in the car chase scenes. Dude. The movie practically invented the modern, psychologically involving car chase.

And because this belongs here: In a World
posted by dhartung at 6:29 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


1) who in gods name thinks or claims Seinfeld is unfunny? You are no friend of mine

2) the Inception trailer horns are a thing cause the Inception trailer horns were unbelievable badass and effective when they came out (the movie not so much).
posted by nathancaswell at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2013


The trailer that had the most impact on me was for Reservoir Dogs. I went to extra movies just so I could see that trailer extra times.
posted by jonp72 at 7:31 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought of Reservoir Dogs, too. Also, T2.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:47 PM on June 18, 2013


Wow. That T2 trailer does everything in its power to undermine any sense of surprise when you actually see the movie. That's unbelievable.
posted by mazola at 8:16 PM on June 18, 2013


My faves:

Airport. Because every movie should try to persuade you to watch it with a dry recitation of facts and arguments.

Airport '75. When facts and arguments don't work.
posted by mazola at 8:47 PM on June 18, 2013


No Buffalo '66?
posted by St. Sorryass at 12:15 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


good old Ominous Goose.

I have found my Sock-puppet
posted by good old Ominous Goose. at 12:24 AM on June 19, 2013


Funny, for me the Inception thing was always the District 9 thing (from 1:25).
The locking to a particular rythm bit has been used in trailers for a long time though, check the Alien trailer for the sirens, it's exactly the same editing trick.
the trailer for A Serious Man is a great alternative use of it.
posted by SageLeVoid at 2:55 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


In 1980, at the Nuart art house movie theatre in L.A., a crowd of people settled in to watch a movie. Back then The Nuart rarely showed first-run films. The coming attractions were usually familiar and unremarkable, but on that day, a trailer for a new, unknown film was introduced.

It felt familiar at first, but then the jokes started coming. Jokes for a movie the crowd hadn't heard of yet. Jokes unlike anything that came before them. Jokes so funny you couldn't hear the next one over the laughter. Jokes so perfectly-crafted they needed a whole new comedy sub-category to describe them. These jokes became such a part of the cultural fabric that's it's almost impossible to remember a time when they were all new, but indeed they were, and we had just seen the greatest movie trailer of all time. That trailer was for a movie called Airplane!
posted by Room 641-A at 5:56 AM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow. That T2 trailer does everything in its power to undermine any sense of surprise when you actually see the movie. That's unbelievable.

But sort of exemplary of the blockbuster trailers for most of the movies of my adolescence. And I'd note it had its own version of a signature low frequency sound (although a bit more obstrusive):

'dum-dum-DUH-d-duh'

'dum-dum-DUH-d-duh'

On the memorably improbable side, the Tombstone trailer (similarly over-revealing) switched to some kind of Enigma worldbeat music about 1/4 of the way in, which has always seemed totally weird.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:35 AM on June 19, 2013


I suspect far more people know Clint Mansell's Requiem for a Dream soundtrack from its reuse in trailers than from the movie itself.
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2013


What's been a problem for me, now, is how they don't tell you the movie's name until the end of the trailer.

I've encountered this on rented DVDs, where I catch the start of a trailer, and I don't know what it's a trailer for but it looks interesting. So my choice is skip the trailer entirely and have no idea what movie it was for, or half-watch two minutes of spoilers so I can catch the second-long glimpse of the movie's title at the very end.

On the plus side, all these tweasers and teasers and trailers for trailers will maybe make it easier to avoid the trailers that I don't want to spoil the movie. Even the interviewed trailer editor says he tries to avoid trailers for movies he's already excited about. It's maybe a tragedy of the commons, because if all the studios reigned it in a little, people would still see movies. But if your movie is the only one that doesn't do it, will people think your movie doesn't have as many jokes or explosions as the others?

I just saw a trailer the other day. I don't remember the title, but it looks like Men in Black, only with ghosts instead of aliens. What I do remember is a half-dozen things that would have been a funny shock if it happened in the course of the actual scene.

There's also the Adventures of Tintin trailer which did a thing that interested me. It actually reduced a couple of scenes to a short sequence, which tells the same basic story as the whole scene, only at much faster pacing. The bit with the key is the most obvious.
posted by RobotHero at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2013


Maybe the idea there is that the name of the movie should be the last thing you see so you're waiting for it, and it sticks with you? A kind of reveal.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2013


Oh BTW, I saw the Gravity teaser in 3D in front of Man of Steel and it was one of the most riviting things I've ever seen. Something about the extreme separation between the characters and their vessel and the flat infinity of space made it so much more terrifying than the teaser in 2D.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2013


The Gravity trailer was pretty terrifying in 2D. Good trailer but unfortunately most movies don't get the same conceit to work with.
posted by GuyZero at 11:03 AM on June 19, 2013


Event Horizon managed some neat spacey camera tricks like that in 2D. I recall the opening credits and space scenes making the theater seem to rotate around the screen (and the ship, starting at a great distance when it's first shown).

The trailer has some of that.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:13 AM on June 19, 2013


Maybe the idea there is that the name of the movie should be the last thing you see so you're waiting for it, and it sticks with you? A kind of reveal.

I get the reasoning behind it, but in the scenario that I want to get to the actual movie on the DVD and the fast-forward button is right there on the remote, the beginning of the trailer is the part I'm most likely to watch, right? Like a lot of people have said, sometimes it's very nice to see a movie without knowing much about it, and if I see the first 20 seconds of a trailer and I'm interested in it, I'm faced with the dilemma of letting the trailer play and crushing that precious state of not knowing, or skipping the trailer and never learning the title of the movie.

I'm thinking now, and it's almost like the opposite of pyramid writing, where someone goes, "So the main point is 'go see Coupon: The Movie' right? So let's put that at the VERY END of the trailer, so nobody will accidentally find out what movie it is too soon."

Check it out, the trailer for Casablanca:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLU41jUnWM4

Title "Casablanca" appears twice. Once right near the beginning, and again at the end. They would never do that now, they want to imagine we're sitting on the edge of our seats, vibrating in anticipation of being allowed to know the name of the movie.

Maybe I'm the only one bothered by this. Maybe DVD trailers don't have high enough conversion rates to make it worth a new edit just for DVDs.
posted by RobotHero at 2:32 PM on July 4, 2013


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