In light of Doug Walker counting down his favorite trailers, I decided to do my own list. Hey, I never got to do my list of favorite characters after everyone hopped on that bandwagon so now I get to copy one of his other videos. I did also view Watchmojo’s list – and if anything, their list left me wanting as I think their list was a little too slanted to modern films. Also, this isn’t going to be a complete list since Doug Walker did include a lot of trailers I otherwise would have. So here’s the ones he beat me to:

  • A Serious Man
  • Psycho
  • Alien
  • Spider-man

I really don’t know how to rank these since I feel like a lot of these are apples to oranges comparisons, I’m going to list these alphabetically. Either way, here’s the list proper:

  • Back to the Future Part II

I’m sure none of you are surprised I picked a trailer from the Back to the Future franchise. This is probably the most typical trailer on the list, but I still find it very effective. I like the way it calls back to the first film. I like the way Doc’s advice to Marty is spliced together with clips of Marty defying said advice. The tagline at the end has some pretty clever wordplay and they have a little fun with the fact that Michael J. Fox plays multiple roles.

  • Batman (1989)

In a day and age where every trailer goes out of their way to make the film look as epic as possible, I love this trailer’s bare bones approach. I read that this trailer was pieced together quickly. And it shows. At the same time, that’s pretty awesome. There’s little music – even in scenes that had music, there’s no voiceover, and there’s only a little bit of editing. (I do like that bit of Batman turning to face the Joker’s laughter at the end.) I also love the buildup at the beginning: Showing the Batwing fly through the night sky in relative silence then cuing that classic Danny Elfman score as soon as we see the Caped Crusader. The scene selection seems a little random, but there is some method to the madness.

  • Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Whether you like it or not, I think most people would concede that Bogus Journey is a pretty bizarre film – one that’s kind of hard to explain. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out how to summarize this film in a single breath. So how do you advertise a film like that to people? Well, show them what happens. A lot happens in this film, so whoever made this trailer just decided to run with that while explaining enough about the plot to whet our appetites and wonder – just what the hell leads these characters to this situation? Combine that with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and the narration builds this film up to be pretty epic.

I’m operating on a one trailer per franchise rule, so I’d like to thrown in the trailer for Excellent Adventure since it was most triumphant as well.

  • Citizen Kane

God, trailers were long back in the day! Despite being about twice as long as the modern trailer, this works in a lot of ways. Many of the actors were radio stars who were making their feature film debuts so Orson Welles talks them up – which really creates the idea that these are important people. We never see the eponymous Kane. Instead, we only get original footage of characters describing him – for good and bad. This helps build a lot of suspense – especially since Orson Welles never appears on camera. He just voices the trailer as himself and awaits in the shadow – again cleverly acknowledging his transition from radio to film.

  • A Clockwork Orange

Speaking of films that are hard to explain (and use Beethoven), this one doesn’t even bother to explain the movie. I can’t even explain the trailer! It just gives you an idea of the very unique film experience it’s offering. It’s fast-paced, well-edited, and no doubt made an impression on those who saw it in theaters.

  • Comedian

Both WatchMojo and Doug Walker admitted to including trailers for movies they disliked (which was frustrating because a lot of the movies they slammed are movies I like). I’m one upping them by including a movie I’ve yet to see. You know, the voiceover guy seems to be a lost art. I guess people caught on to the cliché of the guy with a deep booming voice rattling out the same lines. Though I wonder how soon it will be before people are lambasting our current clichés – the constant dipping to black, music stops at the punchlines, expository dialogue that seems like it was written for the trailer, etc. Even if you don’t know these cliches, I think this trailer is still funny on its own terms.

  • The Godfather

This is an interesting trailer. It manages to show pretty much everything while giving away nothing. But it’s done completely in slideshow format with that iconic score (okay, it does briefly show one clip from the movie). This is an interesting case because it pretty much summarizes the first two-thirds of the movie. For crying out loud, this trailer even gives away important scenes! But the slideshow format still manages to not give too much away. After all, we don’t hear a word of dialogue, so even if this trailer shows the what, we learn nothing about the why.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I saw one trailer for this movie when I was theaters. It just showed the Earth being destroyed to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” Basically, it was a funny version of the Titan AE trailer. The one I like better is this one which shows clips from the movie while Stephen Frye drolly lampoons movie trailer clichés. I didn’t see Hitchhikers until well after the DVD release. Though maybe I would have been more enticed to see this movie if I know it had a certain blue-eyed dream girl in it… Okay, maybe not because I didn’t fall head over heels for her until after I saw this movie…

  • Hook

Like a lot a lot of good trailers, Hook favors teasing the audience with just enough info to entice us while barely showing… anything. We don’t see Neverland. We don’t see Peter Pan. And we don’t see any part of Captain Hook except for his hook. This trailer doesn’t even feature any scenes outside of the first act. Rather than relying on narration, this trailer lets the scenes for the movie speak for themselves. These scenes all hover around the part where Peter Pan learns his children have been kidnapped. As a bonus, the tagline pretty aptly summarizes the premise of the movie. I like when taglines do that. I’ve adored this movie since I was a kid, and I’m glad time is changing people’s opinion of this movie favorably. But this actually was a hit at the box office. I’m sure its marketing which teased audiences more than it showed them helped that.

  • Lilo & Stitch

Okay, this is a series of trailers rather than one, but I love the idea. As I’ve said before, this film and The Emperor’s New Groove are the films that ended my “too cool for Disney” phase. It’s interesting comparing the two films as Emperor’s New Groove was marketed terribly, creating the impression Disney was trying too hard to be hip. Lilo & Stitch on the other hand was marketed brilliantly (and under the circumstances, guess which one I saw in theaters). The whole marketing for this film was built around the idea that Stitch was really an oddball among the Disney family. So the trailers cleverly featured him intruding on iconic Disney scenes and creating trouble. The payoff was funny, and it is nice to see Disney have a sense of humor about their own films. Also, since Disney was playing around with their own movies, it meant they could actually feature the honest-to-gosh clips and not just copycats.

  • Maximum Overdrive

A big drawing advertising point for this movie was that Stephen King was finally directing one of his own adaptions. King pulls a Hitchock and appears in the trailer giving his own synopsis of the movie. Like him or not, King has a lot of camera presence and demonstrates some genuine creepiness… for a movie that isn’t particularly creepy. Maximum Overdrive is the kind of movie where people either hate it or consider it a guilty pleasure. I doubt there’s much middle ground. But King’s eerie delivery creates the impression there was something more. (I guess it helps that King was also deep in his cocaine addiction at the time he made this.)

  • Miracle on 34th Street

This is definitely a standout trailer. First of all, it’s FIVE GD MINUTES! Also, rather than actually being a conventional trailer, they basically made a short film on HOW they’re going to advertise the film. That was a pretty clever marketing move. Unfortunately, they counteracted that brilliant move with the boneheaded move of releasing a Christmas movie in May. Then again, this movie was still a box office hit, so what do I know?

  • Real Life

I’ve liked some of Albert Brooks’s other movies – including the oft-maligned The Scout, but I found this movie somewhat underwhelming – not terrible, I liked parts of it. I just didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. But this trailer is pretty funny. It’s another original footage trailer and one that pretty cleverly spoofs the 3D gimmick. With the resurgence of 3D’s popularity, this one rings more true than ever.

  • Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List is a masterpiece, but it could not have been an easy film to market. Clearly having Don LaFontaine saying “In a World…” may have been a bit disrespectful. Liam Neeson was a popular actor by this point, and this was the movie that would propel him to the A-list. Still, this wasn’t the kind of movie that was sold on stars (though it was still advertised as a Steven Spielberg film). Instead, this movie lets the actions of the film speak for itself with only little bits of key dialogue. I’m noticing more and more trailers are taking a similar approach so this movie doesn’t stick out as much. But I find this one of the most effective.


Anyway, that’s my list. If I left off any of your favorites, feel free to share them.

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