I love watching movie trailers, but these days I would love them even more if they didn’t all look and sound the same. Most trailers work more at pushing products we all know and love rather than offering us something unique and unpredictable. People may be comfortable with the same old thing, but I want movie trailers to give me a good reason to go out to the local cinema. Me, I’m always waiting for the trailers that stand out from the pack and don’t use the same music from “Requiem For A Dream.” Every once in a while, a movie trailer can truly surprise me with its creativity, and that gets me even more excited about seeing the movie as soon as it is released.
These are my picks for the ten best movie trailers I have ever seen. I can watch these ones over and over and never get sick of them. It doesn’t matter if the movies they are for are good or bad; the trailers themselves are classics to me in their own way. I present them here in no particular order.
This marked the directorial debut of horror writer Stephen King who adapted it from his own short story “Trucks” which was featured in the “Night Shift” collection. It stars Emilio Estevez, Pat Hingle and Yeardley “Lisa Simpson” Smith in one of the most annoying performances ever put on film. This movie made my list of “The Ten Biggest Directing Failures by Celebrities” and for good reason. “Maximum Overdrive” sucked in so many ways; the pacing is off, King is unable to get good performances out of even the best actors in the cast, and the story really makes no sense. Even King dismissed his film as a “moron movie” which he made when he was high on drugs.
However, the trailer for it is sublime as it features King talking about the movie and how he “wanted someone to do Stephen King right.” That little twinkle in his eye and that crooked smile do seem to genuinely promise you a terrifying time at the movies, and his creepy façade highlighted by some strong lighting really enhanced that promise. Putting it to the music of John Carpenter’s and Alan Howarth’s score to “Halloween III: Season Of The Witch” was also an excellent move.
Of course, watching the movie trailer for “Maximum Overdrive” is entertaining for a whole different reason; we now know just how bad of a movie it is.
Click here to view the trailer for “Maximum Overdrive.”
Here’s another movie based on a Stephen King novel which was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Scatman Carothers, “The Shining” was one of those horror movies that grows on you every single time you watch it. The first trailer for it is amazingly brilliant because it is so simplistic in its design. We are looking at two elevator doors in a hotel lobby as credits for the movie ascend above to some truly creepy music that sounds unlike anything in the mainstream. Next thing you know an ocean of blood pours out of the elevator doors and right into our faces. From this presentation, we walk into “The Shining” with the belief we will be watching a horror movie like no other.
Click here to view the trailer for “The Shining.”
Directed by Todd Field and adapted from the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, “Little Children” stars Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly and Jackie Earle Haley. The trailer for it really feels like a short film more than anything else. Starting off nicely and capturing the feel of a small town environment with not much going on, it edges into a slow burn through the sound on an oncoming train that feels like it is on the verge of a nasty collision. The key line from this trailer is when Kate Winslet talks about the “hunger for an alternative.” This is one movie trailer that captures the tension of a desperate need for change that builds and builds throughout, and it succeeds in portraying this without the use of any music.
Click here to view the trailer for “Little Children”
Now this is truly one of the all-time best movie trailers ever! At over 6 minutes long, they don’t make them like this anymore. What’s so brilliant about it is how Alfred Hitchcock, who in taking us on a tour of the Bates Motel and the adjacent house, deliberately misleads us into the kind of movie we think we will be in for. I seriously doubt you will find any movie studio today who would even attempt to deliberately mislead anyone. Along with some light music, Hitchcock makes the trailer darkly comical, and it is not until the very end that we get a big scare when the lady in the shower screams at the top of her lungs. Audiences, back when this movie came out, probably thought it was going to be fun and maybe a little scary. But no one had any idea just how scary “Psycho” was going to turn out to be, and Hitchcock gleefully plays with the audience with this and other trailers for his movies. You never knew what to expect from the man, and that was just the way he wanted it.
Click here to view the trailer for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”
Still considered by many to be Dario Argento’s Italian horror masterpiece, “Suspiria” stars Jessica Harper as a new student at a ballet school which actually turns out to be a witches’ coven. The trailer for the US movie trailer for “Suspiria” is good, but the one made for its international release is far more impressive and unlike any I have seen before. No dialogue from the movie or any voiceover narration is featured. What we get instead are snapshots from the movie put to the unforgettable film score by Goblin. This movie trailer really made me want to see “Suspiria,” and the images presented along with Goblin’s music made this movie seem all the more original from your average horror movie.
Click here to view the international trailer to “Suspiria”
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Coming out the same summer as “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” the teaser trailer to Jay Roach’s sequel to “Austin Powers” brilliantly sets itself up as the underdog for the summer of 1999. As it talks about how “a battle was fought and an empire was destroyed” while going through something which looks like the Death Star, you can’t help but think it was the latest movie trailer from the eagerly awaited prequel. But then that chair swivels around to reveal Mike Meyers as Dr. Evil, and then we get his groovy creation of Austin Powers dancing all over the place. What I love is that the whole talk about battles and empires, while making you think of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, could easily be applied to the first “Austin Powers” movie as well. I also love how New Line Cinema plays on how they know people will be flocking to “The Phantom Menace” before they bother catching up with this sequel.
Click here to view the teaser trailer for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Directed by Chuck Russell and, of course, starring Robert Englund, the trailer for the third “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie was shown back when Freddy Krueger was still truly scary. Seeing it attached to “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” freaked me out as he really was the thing of nightmares to a 10-year old. Simply put, it has a young girl sitting on her bed singing “1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you” while holding a model of Nancy’s house from the original movie. The trailer ends with Freddy’s glove hurling itself through the roof of the model house, and this proved to be a more frightening image than seeing Freddy in all of his burnt flesh glory. Very effective, and it definitely got us all excited about checking it out who would be Mr. Krueger’s next unlucky victims.
Click here to view the teaser trailer for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”
The Last House on the Left
This movie trailer came up with a tagline that has since been blatantly stolen (and thoughtlessly so) by so many others:
“To avoid fainting keep repeating,
It’s only a movie
..only a movie
..only a movie
..only a movie.”
That deep booming voice of the narrator promising “to the daring, a look at the final maddening space between life and death” is to be taken very seriously. Wes Craven’s original “Last House On The Left” has lost none of its power to shock or seriously shake up its audience, and the trailer promises a terrifying experience that will be like none before it. I also admired how the trailer didn’t show too much in terms of what the movie was specifically about. We only see the two girls running around the forest, but we don’t why or who they are trying to escape from. It’s what you don’t see that makes this trailer get all the more frightening, especially with those musical stings coming out of nowhere.
Click here to view the trailer to Wes Craven’s “The Last House On The Left”
While the actual movie was fun, “Machete” has nothing on the fake trailer which was attached to Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse.” Directed by Rodriguez himself and starring Danny Trejo, this trailer brilliantly sends up all those exploitation movies it emulates and demands comparison to, and it is made to look like it has been through the film projector far too many times. It’s all so demented and over the top, and I loved Cheech Marin’s priest character who is willing to set aside his vow of peace to kill a few men. Furthermore, Marin has the best line in the trailer (you’ll know it when you hear it).
Click here to view the original fake trailer to “Machete.”
A longtime dream project of director Barry Levinson’s, the first trailer released for “Toys” has Robin Williams doing his improvisational shtick in his attempt to describe this crazy new movie in a different kind of preview. This was made back when Williams was consistently funny on a regular basis and not doing soulless comedies like “Old Dogs” or “RV.” The stuff he comes up with in this trailer like playing on other popular movies and presenting it as a foreign film is comic genius. I also loved how he jokes about studios thinking about releasing “Toys” on a traditional holiday like Rosh Hashanah. Williams’ spot on impersonation of Dustin Hoffman is the perfect coda.
I still find myself laughing at this trailer after all this time. “Toys” was a critical and commercial failure, but I do have several friends who love it and consider it to be one of the strongest antiwar movies ever made.
Click here to view the teaser trailer for “Toys” (it was the best one of it I could find)
Please let me know which movie trailers are your favorites as there are still many more to view and talk about.