At the end of the day, trailers often make or break a film. A trailer can quickly turn “Why are they making a movie about a talking raccoon?” into box office gold. On the other side of the coin, a bad trailer could dampen our sky-high hopes for an upcoming franchise sequel. Terminator: Genisys, I’m looking at you.
Some trailers give away too much about the movie, and some too little. There are, however, a handful of trailers that are a perfect blend of plot, style, and tease – and 2014 had some great examples.
But what were the best?
Sorry, trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel, you were great, but you hit the Internet last October. Yes, it’s awesome to have a new Avengers trailer, but is it really the best of the year? Even with its unsettling use of “I’ve Got No Strings,” we’re going to say no. And as much as we loved hearing John Williams’ original score in the Jurassic World trailer, the preview for the Chris Pratt film doesn’t quite match up to the genius of that other Chris Pratt film. You know the one.
That aside, here are the top ten trailers of 2014:
10. What We Do in the Shadows
From the guys who brought you “Flight of the Conchords,” comes a mockumentary following a group of vampire roommates, including “Conchords”’s Jemaine Clement, in New Zealand. If it weren’t for Chris Rock’s Top Five, we’d say What We Do in the Shadows is the best comedy of the year by a country mile, and its trailer does due diligence in suggesting that.
9. Inherent Vice
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest Joaquin Phoenix-starrer is a far cry from the brooding drama of 2012’s The Master. Anderson switches to comedy for his follow-up, pairing up dramatic actors Benicio del Toro, Michael K. Williams, and Josh Brolin with… Owen Wilson? Based on the peculiar trailer and cast list alone, Inherent Vice’s mad misadventure across California’s beaches looks like a must-see, and we can’t wait to watch Phoenix’s Doc fumble around solving crimes for a couple of hours.
The first time you see the trailer for Dan Gilroy’s breaking news thriller, you wonder what the hell happened to Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s nearly gaunt, has greasy hair, and there’s a desperate, deranged look in his bug-eyes. His Nightcrawler character, Lou Bloom, is as psychotic in the trailer as he is in the film, and the rapid reiterations of his mantra – “You have to make the money to buy a ticket.” – drive home how perilously shaky Lou’s sanity is.
The trailer for Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash starts out like any kind of old-fashioned, uplifting, life-affirming coming-of-age drama. Think Dead Poet’s Society or Mr. Holland’s Opus. Then suddenly, with the hurling of a chair, things are suddenly very different. Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) isn’t going to stand on any desk and salute his music instructor, the abusive and unforgiving Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). If anything, Andrew is going to have a nervous breakdown. The samples from Whiplash’s soundtrack, coupled with quick editing, make for one of the most intense trailers of the year.
Director Ava DuVernay and screenwriter Paul Webb were right to focus on a single event during Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life rather than attempt to capture its entirety. With that focus, Selma transcends the feel-good clichés of a normal biopic and that comes across in its trailer. It’s intense. It’s timely. It makes you want to go outside and change the world.
Any trailer that has Michael Caine voiceover is an automatic addition to any “best of” list. It helps that the acting legend is yet again lending his cockney accent to a Christopher Nolan film and not, you know, Winter’s Tale or something equally as terrible. Hans Zimmer’s score and the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey’s career heighten the galaxy-hopping scope of Nolan’s latest intellectual opus, Interstellar.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
The first official trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road brought up the blood-lust and automotive chaos up to eleven, but it’s the sneak-peek from San Diego Comic-Con that deserves to be on this list. The SDCC trailer starts out quietly, sneaking up behind our hero (Tom Hardy) overlooking the barren, mutated wasteland of Fury Road. A second later, with use of exceptional editing, the trailer ramps up and teases what can only be a fraction of the all-out, run-for-your-lives wrecked anarchy of the next Mad Max installment.
3. Gone Girl
Gone Girl’s first trailer – the one with Richard Butler’s cover of Charles Aznavour’s 1974 song “She” – was alright, but it’s got nothing on the follow-up. The second Gone Girl trailer throws Aznavour aside and uses the film’s score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. That pulsating score, along with the narration by Rosamund Pike’s character – the titular “Girl” in Gone Girl – reminds us that nothing is quite what it seems in the David Fincher thriller. Someone’s playing a deadly game here, but who – and more importantly, why?
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
Ooga-chaka, ooga-chaka, ooga-chaka. With one song – Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” – Marvel successfully sold us a movie starring a beefed-up Andy Dwyer from “Parks and Recreation,” green Zoe Saldana, a tree, and a raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. It also helps that Guardians ridicules Marvel’s own shtick, poking fun at the superhero genre, whilst giving us a first taste of Chris Pratt’s unexpected leading male charm.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Oh, come on. If any other trailer had a chance. With the return of the Millennium Falcon and John Williams' score, the trailer for The Force Awakens has enough original trilogy content to allow us to temporarily forget about the prequel trilogy. That's a huge feat. John Boyega’s sweat-covered face is already iconic, and he only shows up in the trailer for about four seconds. Why is he dressed as a Stormtrooper? Tell us, J.J. Abrams! Tell us now!