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Top 50 Best Trailers Of All Time

30. Femme Fatale (2002)

If you hadn’t seen this inventive trailer until now, you might think Brian De Palma’s Euro-trashy 2002 neo-noir had been leaked in full on YouTube. The actual opening credits begin over a TV playing “Double Indemnity,” the screen reflecting a topless Rebecca Romijn (then with an extra -Stamos) as she watches from a hotel bed. Then someone hits the fast-forward button, and “Femme Fatale” zooms forward, only stopping fleetingly for tantalizing moments out of context: Romijn’s lesbian encounter-turned-heist with a model wearing a barely-there bikini made of gold (in a Cannes Film Festival bathroom, no less!); a woman in camouflage shorts, boots and bag, seen only from the waist down, running from two more pairs of legs in slo-mo; the introduction of paparazzo Antonio Banderas, who has apparently gotten twisted up with Romijn’s titular temptress. A striptease, an interrogation, a shooting — what’s going on here? The closing credits race up the screen, and one final title teases: “You’ve just watched Brian De Palma’s new film. You didn’t get it? Try again…” A clever gimmick, but you had us at lesbian encounter-turned-heist! –Aaron Hillis

29. Point Blank (1967)

“Walker is an emotional and primitive man.” Breaking into a woman’s house, tossing her to the floor, and pumping lead into her bed is what leads gravelly voiced narrators to such drastic conclusions. John Boorman’s masterful revenge thriller “Point Blank” is the benefactor of this suitably terse and violent trailer. The title is literally blasted onto the frame by Walker’s gunshots, a canny reflection of the movie’s brutal rhythms. Lee Marvin’s footfalls echo through malevolent modernist buildings, his Walker a single-minded perpetual motion machine out to get what he’s due.

Stripped of his sense of self by a faceless corporatized mob (later embodied in the eternally oily John Vernon), Walker’s vengeance is an expression of character, his ugly individuality better than acquiescence. Pistol-whipping his way through the nightclubs, bungalows, and banal offices of L.A., his footsteps tap all the way, haunting the mob’s yes men. Carroll O’Connor’s middle-manager calls Walker “a very bad man”, but at least he’s an active one. –R. Emmet Sweeney

28. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

In 1947, it was perfectly believable that Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young would just happen to be strolling through the Samuel Goldwyn lot when they suddenly remembered they had yet to make a trailer for their latest film, though as this teaser immediately announces, “It Couldn’t Happen Anywhere… But in Hollywood!” Yet the trio of stars apparently aren’t famous enough for one Goldwyn security guard, who holds them up at the gate and prompts them to introduce themselves, and wonders aloud what a trailer is and what their film is about. Eager to please, Niven and Young introduce their characters, though Grant is hushed when he starts to describe his character, leading Niven to realize that they shouldn’t make a trailer if it’s going to spoil the film. As Grant concurs, “Why take all the wonderful surprises out of it before people see it?” If only the people who made the majority of trailers since would’ve taken note. –Stephen Saito

27. A Night at the Opera (1935)

From the immediate mockery of the MGM lion — the beast’s head replaced with the roaring faces of Groucho, Chico and Harpo, and the surrounding seal re-written to say “Marx Gratia Marxes” (an opening shot for but never used in the film) — to its choice Groucho one-liners, this re-release trailer for “A Night at the Opera” captures the rollicking spirit and warm, witty charm of this superlative Marx Brothers effort. More amusing, however, are the lengths to which MGM extols the comedic classic, presenting imagery of howling-with-hilarity faces (“The world is rocking, swaying, and shaking with laughter”) before describing it as “not only the funniest but the most important comedy ever made.” It’s the type of tongue-in-cheek exaggeration that one would expect out of a Marx Brothers film, though such salesmanship doesn’t seem quite so over-the-top once Groucho’s wise-ass quips begin to fly, highlighted by a snippet of a magnificent dinner sequence in which, in a matter of seconds, he doles out two rapid-fire put-downs as well as a trademark eye-roll. –Nick Schager

26. Speed (1994)

Pop quiz, hot shot. How do you establish your action-hero LAPD officer (Keanu Reeves), the partner who admires his maverick insanity (Jeff Daniels), the villainous bomber they face (Dennis Hopper) and the pretty hostage who will obviously be a source of romantic tension (Sandra Bullock) in two-and-a-half minutes, yet still focus on the stunts that plant asses in seats? A skillfully thrilling lesson in economical editing, the “Speed” trailer depicts Reeves’ devil-may-care heroism in a one-liner (“Shoot the hostage”), and sets up a Pavlovian visual association between Hopper’s barking persona and the endangerment of innocents. (Though it doesn’t hurt when Don “The Voice of God” LaFontaine introduces you in voiceover: Hopper “can strike anywhere… at any time,” and Reeves “is the only solution.”)

Unlike too many action-packed trailers of today, the order and significance of events (the bomb-strapped bus that will blow up if the speed dips below 50 mph, the precariously rigged elevator of death, etc.) is remixed with purposeful ambiguity, offering a little mystery to how this game of good-versus-evil will play out. What do you do? WHAT do you do? –Aaron Hillis

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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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