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Top 50 Best Trailers Of All Time

40. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

The late, great Don “Thunder Throat” LaFontaine, king of the voiceover, commands as this teaser begins (and as the camera slowly zooms into the screen of a fancy home computer, circa 1999): “As we near the millennium, the tools for visual effects and animation are evolving at an exponential rate…” A laser-guided, 3-D animatic is being rendered in close-up before our eyes, and we’re told that Paramount has enlisted the help of the world’s top animators, with a budget of over $630 million, to bring us “the most advanced animation ever seen by the human eye.”

Cue the punchline: the computer matrix system has formed the eye of a defiantly lo-fi Eric Cartman — by that time as iconic an animated character as Bart Simpson — goose-stepping on an empty black background. “I will do the German dance for you,” he sings in his nasally whine, “it’s fun and gay and tra-la-la.” Irreverent as ever, the “South Park” boys pull another fast one on their audience, making us laugh by holding a mirror up to our own lemming mentality for bigger, faster, sleeker blockbuster bombast. –Aaron Hillis

39. Zabriskie Point (1970)

Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni’s first and only American film clearly presented a problem for MGM, who valiantly chose to market 1970’s “Zabriskie Point” in the most weirdly obfuscating (and an un-Antonioni obfuscation, at that!) way possible. “Where a boy… and a girl… meet… and touch… and blow their minds” goes the doleful voiceover, as a couple of drifters get naked and roll around in the desert. A psychedelic guitar grinds and a bunch of rapid-fire shots of some sort of Cops Vs. Hippies battle royale replace the wild desert bonking. “Zabriskie Point: How you get there depends on where you’re at.” What! Hoping to sell the movie on the strength of salacious images and a tone that hopefully cashes in on the success of films like “Easy Rider,” they seemed confident these were sufficient indicators of what the film was actually about. Given that it foreran one of the biggest disappointments of Antonioni’s career, the confusion of the trailer seems to have been matched by that of the audience it managed to attract. –Michelle Orange

38. Face/Off (1997)

The notion that anyone might confuse the broad John Travolta for the slender Nicolas Cage is totally laughable. Or rather, it was totally laughable before the utterly simple but ingeniously clever trailer for John Woo’s “Face/Off.” In it, John Travolta sits alone in a shadowy room. The camera begins in tight close-up on his face, then slowly tracks clockwise around him in one long take as he describes Cage’s character, a man with “no conscience, no remorse.” It passes behind his back as Travolta smooths his hair and explains that he’s studied the man he’s talking about so closely that he “knows every mannerism, facial tic, gesture.”

Just as Travolta says he’s finally figured out a way to trap his prey, the camera stops on the left side of his face. But when he turns to look at us, he’s been magically replaced by Cage. It’s one of those all-time “How did they do that?” movie moments, a bit of cinematic sleight of hand so perfectly executed it seems a shame to throw it away in a trailer. The switcheroo is bigger than its wow factor, though; with one seamless and invisible edit, the trailer proves the believability of the conceit, not to mention the viability of the entire production. John Travolta mistaken for Nicolas Cage? Yeah, I can see that. –Matt Singer

37. The Strangers (2008)

The deviously clever teaser for “The Strangers” poses an important question about real estate: how do psychopaths choose which homes to invade? The search is framed from the invaders’ POV, as a creaky slide-show clicks through various banal McMansion-sized targets, while a caption slowly reveals their evil intentions. Scored to an artificially scratchy crooner (and with their use of outmoded technology) it’s clear our killers have a taste for antiques. Perhaps they’d prefer to abuse a quaint country house? The song fades out into an ominous buzz, and a red “X” marks the spot over the unfortunate ranch-style abode. This creepy framing device fades into the set-up, as a young yuppie couple obliviously prepares for a lazy evening. Candles are lit and bras are unsnapped before their innocence is impinged upon by our rude house-hunters. Ax blows and smash cuts follow, and a barrage of ghoulish slides clack by, punctuated by an extended howl of anguish. –R. Emmet Sweeney

36. Spider-Man (2001)

In the wake of 9/11, cinematic images involving the World Trade Center were considered more or less verboten, which is why despite the excitement generated by the first teaser trailer for Sam Raimi’s blockbuster-in-waiting “Spider-Man,” it was pulled from theaters shortly after the terrorist attack. Nonetheless, this first look at the web-slinger’s maiden big-screen outing is — despite some footage that seems to have been helmed by a second-unit director rather than Raimi himself — efficient and effective, concealing (in true superhero style) its identity until the climactic moments.

A group of armed bandits bursts into a bank, menaces customers while cleaning out the safe and then departs via helicopter, cackling with cocky glee along the way. Until, that is, the helicopter is suddenly halted mid-flight and then mysteriously pulled backwards until it once again stops, high above the city, and the camera zooms back to reveal that the vehicle is now snagged in a web spun between the Twin Towers. Cut to Spidey swinging with CG-ified acrobatics, and cue fanboy giddiness. –Nick Schager

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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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