It’s easy to bemoan the majority of trailers for giving away too much or, upon seeing the film, ending up with something far different than what was marketed. However, a few times a year, a trailer works on its own terms; as an impressive piece of editing in its own right and/or as the ideal tease for an highly-anticipated film. We’ve selected our 20 favorites from the last year, ranging from some of 2017’s major films to the best in arthouse and foreign films to a handful of surprises.
Check them out below and let us know which trailers you were most impressed with in 2017.
The most jaw-dropping trailer of the year, this Terrence Malick- and Godfrey Reggio-produced documentary takes such a stunning trip around the globe that it looks otherworldly. Hopefully getting a release this year, in the meantime, this makes for the ideal 4K demo.
19. Loving Vincent
After years of painstakingly detailed hand-painted animation in the style of Vincent van Gogh, the official trailer for Loving Vincent revealed a lovingly gorgeous tribute to the artist’s life and work. Backed by a Clint Mansell score, it’s easy to see how this preview and the buzz it generated resulted in its relatively impressive box office.
18. Rat Film
For a shape-shifting documentary such as Rat Film, how does one sell the essence of the experience? For Cinema Guild, it was the more peculiar, the better. Utilizing Dan Deacon’s score, the preview for Theo Anthony’s expose of institutional racism in Baltimore as seen through the metaphor of the city’s rodent problem was a rush of the strange, the ideal encapsulation of the film.
17. All These Sleepless Nights
While it could be construed for a ennui-filled travel ad for a spring break trip to Warsaw, All These Sleepless Nights is in fact a feature film and its documentary vs. narrative-blurring lines came across to full effect in its trailer. A celebration of music, dance, and the innocence of youth, it showed off one of 2017’s best discoveries.
16. It Comes at Night
A carefully-crafted escalation of horror is rare in Hollywood today and the same can be said for the marketing of the genre. Leave it to A24 to deliver a trailer that intrigues as much as it frightens with It Comes at Night. While Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha follow-up ultimately disappointed, this preview is a hypnotic blend of house-based horror.
15. The Commuter
Jaume Collet-Serra’s slick B-movie spectacles have been a genuine treat the last few consecutive years. While 2017 unfortunately didn’t produce one, his next is right around the corner and the trailer for The Commuter is a consummate example of how to build suspense with a hook that would make Hitchcock proud.
14. Phantom Thread
One of the few directors where we don’t need to see a second of footage to be there opening day, I avoided Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread trailer until after seeing it unfold fresh before my eyes. Watching it after, it’s a shame Focus Features decided to include so much imagery from the film’s back half, but it’s nonetheless a romantic, perhaps disturbing look at the best relationship dramedy of the year.
13. Logan Lucky
At least in our eyes, the return of Steven Soderbergh to feature filmmaking was one of the biggest events of the summer, and while it didn’t exactly translate to the entire country, the trailer for Logan Lucky was a treat in itself. With its cheeky title cards (introducing James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, as Joe Bang) and overall comedic tone, it was the rare piece of marketing this year where you could feel its director having a strong hand in the presentation.
12. World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts
We promise we aren’t just including this because we’re the first quote. One of the most-anticipated sci-fi films of the year arrived right before 2017 expired and the teaser was the perfect example of how little needs to be shown to build anticipation.
11. Baby Driver
Considering how calibrated his actual films are to trailer-esque editing, it’s no surprise that the marketing for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver successfully sold its mix of high-octane thrills, comedy, and romance. Sporting its impressive soundtrack and consistent one-two punch of visual rhythm, it’s clear to see what pulled in the Hot Fuzz director’s biggest audience yet.
10. The Florida Project
Going from his iPhone-shot Tangerine to the 35mm-shot The Florida Project, Sean Baker’s 2.35:1 scope stayed the same, as his perspective got younger and his color range expanded. In the first trailer, the sun beats down on our young protagonists as they roam through the candy-colored landscape, and the bright palette of The Florida Project was in harmony with the dangers of an unsupervised adolescence lying under the surface.
9. The Beguiled
When it was announced The Grandmaster cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd would be teaming with Sofia Coppola–on a celluloid-shot drama set in the Gothic south–one could only dream of the fruitful collaboration that would follow. The first trailer for The Beguiled not only fulfilled those dreams on a visual level, it also seemed to re-focus Focus Features’s marketing campaign as the “vengeful bitches”-angle caught fire.
On a shot-by-shot basis, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama is the best-directed film of 2017, which made it a more simplified task for trailer editors to at least pull quality footage. Expertly selling the multiple-thread build-up of the climax and the throat-tightening tension to follow–not to mention its great soundtrack–this trailer shows why Bonello’s terrorist thriller is the most relevant film of the year.
7. Song to Song
Like a few others on this list, there’s some directors where the first reveal of footage is an event unto itself and that certainly goes for Terrence Malick. While his perpetually under-appreciated recent period will get its due when the time comes, most can at least enjoy the rush of beautiful cinematography and symphonic sound that comes with any one of his trailers. Rolling and tumbling through the Austin-set music industry as meet the film’s ensemble, Song to Song was no different.
This isn’t the first or last A24 trailer on this list, but it’s perhaps the best example of how the indie dominator knows, time and time again, the ideal way to sell their library. In this case, they dropped this enigmatic teaser for an untitled sci-fi film with no other information. While we did our own digging to found out exactly what it was, for a brief period of time, they had everyone intrigued and guessing–a rarity in today’s culture of marketing overload.
5. Stalker and The Sacrifice restorations
How do you tease a pair of films most cinephiles already know inside out? Well, it helps when you are showing off brand new restorations of towering works, boasting a new level of detail that promises an experience like seeing each film anew. Seeing each of this Andrei Tarkovsky landmarks in theaters this year made my jaw drop, and these trailers–from Janus Films and Kino Lorber–were the ideal nostalgic embrace for either those that know the films well or those that had a welcome introduction.
4. Isle of Dogs
This should be self-explanatory, but it’s a new Wes Anderson film–a return to stop motion no less–and as each one of his past trailers, this is a gorgeous work of art in itself.
3. A Ghost Story
As someone who went into A Ghost Story at Sundance knowing nothing but the basic logline and a glimpse at a few stills, I was astounded in a way no other film from the year measured up to. When it came to A24’s marketing, I was worried that they may spoil a bit too much, and while this trailer indeed gives away more than a few money shots, it’s tied together beautifully by Dark Rooms’ I Get Overwhelmed. It’s the trailer I’ve most showed to those unaware of the film throughout the year and no matter what their tastes are, they are deeply intrigued.
The return of Lucrecia Martel won’t be seen by most until over a full year after the teaser of Zama debuted, but this brief preview hinted that something truly special was in store for her highly-anticipated follow-up to The Headless Woman. That the film in fact delivered far beyond this intriguing tease is a testament to why she’s one of the most surprising directors working today.
1. Twin Peaks: The Return
As the debate continues on the cinematic veracity of David Lynch’s 18-hour magnum opus, one thing is clear: he knew how to sell it. Going as far as to make Showtime throw away their planned marketing materials, Lynch crafted the perfect set of teasers, ranging from donut chomping to brief plunges into the darkness. Of course, an event like this one is rare, but Showtime and team knew the perfect way to sell it: less is much, much more. And in some cases, showing no actual footage from the series is all we needed.
Good Time, Okja, Thelma, I, Tonya, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Columbus, Dunkirk, mother!, Free Fire, The Killing of Sacred Deer, Kong: Skull Island, The Bad Batch, Brawl in Cell Block 99, The Untamed, The Void, Annihilation
Continue: The 50 Best Films of 2017