In the year 2020, everything gets ranked.
Tom Hanks’ best movies (I’m a sucker for Forrest Gump), David Bowie’s best songs (‘Starman’ came 11th, which angers me), the best tracks by Oasis (anything other than ‘Wonderwall’) – apparently, order is necessary.
I didn’t think I would ever see the day that trailers, rather than movies, were ranked, but there is a skill to making the sort of teaser that leads to people flocking to the cinema.
Or the illegal torrent download sites.
Consequence of Sound recently took on the sizeable task of doing just that, explaining why somebody had to as follows:
Hype begins with the trailer…Yeah, that’s when the magic sets in.
Today, we take the trailer for granted. We not only know there’s one coming, but we know when and where, and that sense of anticipation has now become an extension of the experience for better or worse. Even so, there’s still an art to the medium, and that magic has yet to diminish. Why do else do you think the best of ’em trend online?
That’s why if we’re talking summer blockbusters, we have to talk about their trailers. They’re the conductors of hype, the invitation to can’t-miss events, and the reason so many moviegoers lose sleep counting down the days leading up to the big premiere. And, as you’ll see ahead, some of them turn out to be better than the films themselves.
Not every trailer qualifies as a ‘summer blockbuster’ trailer, which must be released between mid-April and America’s Labor Day (the first Monday of September).
In addition, those judging only picked one film per franchise and intellectual property.
Rather than cover all 20, we’re going straight to the top five.
05. Men In Black (1997)
The teaser trailer for Men In Black is essentially a brand deck: You get the stars, the chemistry, the tone, a one-liner, the aesthetic, the score, and even the logo. You knew exactly what you were getting, and yet you also wanted more, which is exactly what every trailer should set out to do. If only more trailers were this self-contained.
04. The Dark Knight (2008)
Dialing back to 2008, the anticipation for The Dark Knight was at a ludicrous high, no doubt exacerbated by the untimely and tragic death of star Heath Ledger. So, when Warner Bros. finally unleashed the full trailer, even passersby were curious to see what this return to Gotham City had in store — and Christopher Nolan hooked them, too.
I wish I could go back and watch this for the first time again:
Those were big shoes to fill, so credit to Joaquin Phoenix.
03. The Shining (1980)
By 1980, Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick were enough to sell a picture by name recognition alone. But Warner Bros. did one better — they slapped those names on an iconic image. Today, there’s no way anyone can discuss The Shining without mentioning either the Grady twins, “Here’s Johnny!”, or, yes, the elevator of blood.
So, you could imagine how audiences felt in the late ’70s and early ’80s when they were given this slice of terror.
It’s not often a movie manages to have so many iconic scenes.
Into the top two, and another Will Smith appearance…
02. Independence Day (1996)
Before anyone had any fucking clue that Will Smith would punch aliens, deliver one-liners, and save the world with Ian Malcolm and the dad from Casper, there was this minute-long nightmare for the mind. It’s so simple, too: A creeping shadow over America’s most iconic monuments, a few dreadful stares, and then … boom … the explosion. But not just any explosion; no, the complete destruction of our nation’s White House.
The teaser to Independence Day was an arrival in the truest sense of the word, and being privy to those kinds of stakes so early on guaranteed a blockbuster hit right out of the gate.
I guess this was back in a time when most of the world thought of the destruction of the White House as a bad thing.
So, what’s the greatest summer blockbuster movie trailer of all time?
Must be one of the more recent, huge-budget ones, right? Nah, we’re going old school.
01. Alien (1979)
Atmosphere? Check. Glimpses? Check. Tagline? Affirmative. The beauty about the trailer for Alien is the execution. It’s a symmetrical marriage of sound and style, made all the more effective by its haunting tagline: “In space no one can hear you scream.” There is no narrator. There is no score. It’s simply the vacuum of space, an instrumental heartbeat, and eventually the Nostromo’s disorienting alarm.
Ridley Scott teases just enough iconography to insist upon the notion that this is a dark and disturbing world with as much terror as there is fantasy. No wonder Apple hired him half a decade later.
Less is more:
If you’re a fan of watching the old classics once more, this might be the weekend to revisit some favourites.
There really is no reason to go outside, unless you absolutely have to.
You can see the full list of the top 20 summer blockbuster trailers here.
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