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Top 50 Best Trailers Of All Time

20. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

When pitching his low-budget black-and-white directorial debut, Spike Lee knew his biggest selling point was himself. So with a camera in tow, the then-unknown writer/director took to the streets — the sidewalk of East 7th Street off of 2nd Avenue in New York, in fact — and played off of his days of selling tube socks by taking a break from hustling Hanes to introduce scenes from his new comedy. Besides getting some much-needed production value from a bright Keith Haring mural in the background, Lee distanced himself and his film from any trailers that played alongside “She’s Gotta Have It” by talking directly to the audience, as passerbys — including African-American author (and “She’s Gotta Have It” financier) Nelson George and veteran indie producer Laurie Parker — fend off Lee’s advances. However, as Lee explains how his supplementary income affords him to put “food on my table and butter on my whole wheat bread,” the 29-year-old New Yorker proved to be a smooth salesman and subsequently, a natural choice to be paired with Michael Jordan in those ubiquitous Nike commercials of the ’90s. –Stephen Saito

19. Unbreakable (2000)

Compared to the breakneck pace of most modern trailers, the teaser for M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” feels deliberately deliberate; heavy on atmosphere, light on edits. Instead of providing little bits from many scenes, it gives us a lot of just one, in which Bruce Willis learns that he’s the only survivor of a horrific train crash. It’s like a nightmare in miniature: disturbingly high pitched noises echoing through the soundtrack, repeated fade outs to black, characters speaking in hushed tones, the frequent image of a spinning fragment of broken glass. The cutting rhythm is unsettling and unusual. We spend uncomfortably lengthy stretches on some shots and near-subliminal ones on others. In a very short amount of time, this trailer convinces us this is one creepy friggin’ movie.

The incredible success of “The Sixth Sense” made Shyamalan the unlikeliest of household names, and with this follow-up it was imperative that he prove he wasn’t simply a flash in the pan. Because of “The Sixth Sense”‘s popularity, there was already huge interest in his next project, so the “Unbreakable” teaser didn’t have to excite the audience so much as reassure them. Ironically, the spot’s unorthodox and intensely moody aesthetic did just that. –Matt Singer

18. Sleeper (1973)

Woody Allen goes the unreliable narrator route in his trailer for “Sleeper.” Showing off the control he had over his work at this early point in his career, he crafts an ironic short film where he lies his head off about what he’s ostensibly promoting. Starting by parodying the “director at work” shot, he hunches over a flatbed as an off-screen narrator asks if he’s working on his latest film. Allen deadpans, “No”, and the dissembling takes off from there. He goes on to describe the film’s cerebral, didactic nature as his bumbling pratfalls whiz by on-screen. There hasn’t been such a disjunct in voice-over and image since Buñuel’s “Land Without Bread.”

Riffing with evident glee, Allen describes Diane Keaton’s grace as she Tarzan swings into a tree. Sound and image join briefly when he mentions her “animal intelligence,” but it’s short lived. He winds up with an apt non sequitur: incoherent people will be let in to the movie for half-price. In the face of such anarchy, the fake narrator vainly tries to pack in the plot description in the last five seconds. Few are allowed such playfulness in today’s marketing dictatorship, so enjoy it. –R. Emmet Sweeney

17. Charade (1963)

If a half-dozen close ups of Audrey Hepburn’s gorgeous eyes aren’t enough, there’s Paris, a Givenchy wardrobe and Cary Grant to swoon over. “But her life wasn’t always that gay,” we’re told. Lo and behold, there’s also James Coburn, a hook-armed George Kennedy and Walter Matthau sporting a droll mustache. Most charmingly, the trailer for Stanley Donen’s offers up the film’s elements as a cocktail — equal parts suspense, comedy and romance are shown filling a blender, which swirls the whole thing into what you’d presume is a delicious cinematic daiquiri.

Imagine how gruesome the bloody dead man thrown from the train was for the time. Less so was the vast age difference between Grant and Hepburn, although it’s said that Grant did initially turn down the part until the script was revised. The romance remained, of course, but the more aggressive lines were given to Hepburn’s character to make her more the flirty pursuer. Henry Mancini’s score is the jam, and the main title theme “Charade” expertly blends everything together, even if the lyrics are a bit dreary. –Brandon Kim

16. GoldenEye (1995)

By the time “GoldenEye” rolled around in 1995, the James Bond franchise was so sickly one could practically hear the rhythmic chug of its respirator. Which, in turn, is why the film’s trailer was such a blast. As the opening strains of the classic theme music become audible, on-screen text highlights the word “new” before Pierce Brosnan waltzes out in typical black-on-white profile, shoots up the letters to reveal “007” (for added value, count the number of shots this takes) and then walks forward to reveal his face. “You were expecting someone else?” he playfully taunts.

It’s a virtual come-hither line that thrusts the trailer into a blistering montage of machine-gun fire, explosions, ugly villain profiles (Gottfried John’s face was made for such espionage endeavors) and Famke Janssen tossing her head back with devilish eroticism, all of it only interrupted so Brosnan can dish out a trademark bon-mot (shirtless and gun-outstretched: “No more foreplay”) and his obligatory intro, which like the trailer — and the film itself — hits a perfect suave-and-cheeky Bond note. –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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