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Top 50 Best Trailers Of All Time

45. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Aiming to force its viewers into the same paranoid state of mind as Frank Sinatra’s addled lead, the trailer for John Frankenheimer’s original “The Manchurian Candidate” urgently warns that if you arrive late to the cinema, YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT! As an audience stand-in, Sinatra then screams in terror. Missing the opening then, MIGHT JUST DRIVE YOU INSANE!

As a marketing tool, it fits quite squarely inside the film’s manipulative universe. Pausing on the guilt trip for a second, and not wanting to give the film’s ingenious game away, it opts for tantalizing glimpses: a political rally, repeated shots of the queen of hearts and a pensive, canted angled Laurence Harvey. These oblique images, scored to some swirling strings, elicit a kind of hypnotic disorientation, exactly what Harvey’s character battles throughout the film itself. It’s showing, not telling, instilling an anxiety in the viewer about the nature of this mysterious object. –R. Emmet Sweeney

44. The Big Sleep (1946)

At the Hollywood Public Library, Humphrey Bogart, decked out in gumshoe fedora and trench coat, looks for a good read, maybe a mystery along the lines of “The Maltese Falcon.” Luckily, a librarian who looks and sounds an awful lot like Lauren Bacall is there to help with a handy suggestion ” how about Raymond Chandler’s latest bestseller, “The Big Sleep”? Intrigued, he cracks open the novel and begins reading aloud, his narration segueing into a deftly edited series of clips from the Howard Hawks-directed classic that convey not the plot (which would be next to impossible, given the film’s notoriously convoluted narrative) but an alluring, prototypical noir mood. Bogey breaking into a room via a window and finding a murdered body, Bacall crouched secretively, the two enjoying steamy kisses (“I like that. I’d like more”), and then gunfights, gambling and punch-outs — all of it set to an escalating orchestral score that seems to promise a near-orgasmic climax of violence, suspense and passion. –Nick Schager

43. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick (who looms large in this list) hadn’t released a film in 12 years when “Eyes Wide Shut” premiered in 1999. He also died four days after completing it (although argument remains about how complete it is, since he wasn’t alive to approve the final CGI edits of the mask-clad orgy scenes to gain a more desirable R rating). Given this, Kubrick’s legendary status, and the film’s final on-screen uniting of power still-couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the trailer for “Eyes Wide Shut” could have been nothing but a minute-long black title screen announcing its arrival and still had people spilling their popcorn.

Instead, they were given an ingeniously jazzy concoction set to Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing,” promising a world of high-end Manhattan misbehavior. The glimpses of a couple making out, the woman distracted, a young girl’s nymphish grin, a morgue, the flash of a surreal gothic underworld, all cut with the occasional sudden blinding frame of black horizontal bars, barely hint at the disquieting meditation on sex and love that was Kubrick’s last masterwork. –Brandon Kim

42. Little Children (2006)

The trailer for “Little Children,” the adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, is misleading not only in its horror film intensity but its total, badass excellence. Other than stars Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson, this tense, tightly crafted not-quite-two-minutes doesn’t have much in common with the sloggish, portentous film it’s advertising.

A study in sound design, the trailer begins with a distant train’s horn cooing through the sound of rustling leaves: the very soundtrack of idyllic, suburban tranquility. The sound is laid over a series of images of different configurations of the main characters; both the editing and the sound begin to accelerate as the configurations grow more fraught, beginning with Patrick Wilson’s pained, stolen look down Winslet’s body in a red one-piece. The image of a toy train collision aligns with a crescendo on the soundtrack — that train is headed right for us! — and then the trailer goes slightly bananas, pulling every dramatic image in the film, from sob shots to dangerous exhilaration, and arranging them in an ominous collage of the perils of suburban loneliness. –Michelle Orange

41. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

With apologies to Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Yeardley Smith, the true star of the truckapocalypse known as “Maximum Overdrive” was Stephen King. The film was King’s first (and, to date, last) time in the director’s chair, and the author featured prominently in its print advertising (where he appeared ripping apart the side of a truck with his bare hands) and in its trailer, where he speaks directly to the camera and invites people to come see his directorial debut.

The movie has since accrued a reputation as a laughably bad camp classic. So “Maximum Overdrive” may not be very frightening, but holy sh*t, Stephen King sure is. His speech begins pleasantly enough. He introduces himself, explains that he’s directed his first movie. But as the trailer progresses, King grows more and more agitated. With his coy, bucktoothed smile and unblinking eyes, he looks like the psychotic love child of Norman Bates and the Domino’s Pizza Noid. By cutting effectively between “Overdrive” and King’s own demonic rant, the trailer builds to a crescendo of creepiness where the writer, lit on one side by an ominous green light, points wide-eyed into the lens and announces “I’m gonna scare the hell out of you!” Mission accomplished, Steve. –Matt Singer

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15 Comments »

  • Jase said

    Where the heck is Hitchhiker’s Guide’s trailer?

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  • Thom said

    I enjoy trailers a lot & regularly am glued to the internet watching the latest releases.

    I was trying to remember a trailer that I was impressed by and couldn’t really think of any (probably at the fault of my memory more than anything else). However the one that is popping into my head now is “Pineapple Express”. It introduced a lot of people to the wicked MIA track “Paper Planes” and I actually spit out my coffee laughing when James Franco “helps” to clear the car windscreen. It really made me want to see it (unfortunately, the movie itself was a bit of a let down). Take a look at it http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/pineappleexpress/high.html

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  • Sheridan Passell said
    Sheridan Passell

    Yeah, Pineapple Express is a great trailer.

    The best recent trailer for me was The Prestige. It wasn’t groundbreaking in any way, it just took a concept I had no interest in and made it compulsory. Not often that happens.

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  • dnwilliams said
    dnwilliams

    saw this over on ifc, nicely done. loved how high cloverfield was.

    the prestige did have a cool trailer, mi3 too (the explosion threw tom cruise onto a car!)

    i like the two towers requiem for a tower trailer, even if that music is played out now…

    the most recent trailers that i absolutely love are the 500 hundred days of summer trailer and the benjamin button trailer

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  • Mimi said

    I am also a trailer obsessed moviegoer. We should all unite sometime.

    Personally, i enjoyed the Illusionist trailer as well. The prestige was nicely put together, yet the plot was iffy for me.

    I think this was a great list of trailers. I would prefer less old trailers, but still they were excellent.

    Maybe soon, there will be a 50 worst trailers of all time. I would like to put The Perfect Getaway on there already.

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  • Trodaboy said

    It surprised me that KILL BILL wasn’t on this list, when I first saw the trailer I was like..”I gotta see this movie” plus the music was so damn addictive!

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  • jack said

    Are you kidding me! The revenge of the sith is the best trailer ever!! no because of the movie itslef, but because of the way the use footage from Star wars to connect between the two trilogies. Listen to the old Obi-Wan (sir Alec Guiness) telling the tale of the time when the Jedi where the pace keepers of the galaxy while you see footage from Revenge of the Sith, that is the best way to close the loop between the two stories.
    Is a shame that you didn’t even include is in your list!!

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  • Nicolas said

    I’m not really convinced with number 1… the best trailer ever in my opinion is PEARL HARBOR Official Trailer… I will never forget how impressed I was at young age watch this trailer for the first time in the cinema. Epic.. best ever trailer so far. And the movie was one of the best too

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  • Lisa said

    The best trailer in my humble opinion is a little-known gem called ‘The Genius Club’. It’s one of the most profound movies ever made.

    You can rent it at Netflix, I think.

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  • lisa loller said

    this is 1 funniest thing i’ve ever heard lisa….the genius club is best muv…cant even spit at that

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  • Joey said

    Where is Jurassic Park it was classic just the ripples in the water you had no idea what was coming.

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  • Liam said

    WTF where is TF3

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  • siddharth said

    now look everyone the best movie trailer is :

    INCEPTION

    i mean when the trailer first came everyone was astouned. A lot of
    people were searching the google for its background music. And i’m just upset that u don’t have inception anywhere on the list
    too bad, really

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