I don’t watch many movie trailers these days because I hate being spoiled. Few things are worse than a movie that ruins itself because its trailer gave away too much.
Producers are happy to give away every plot point, hoping it’ll be enough to entice us to spend a few bucks on it. Indeed, it seems like well-made movie trailers are going out of style.
But what makes a movie trailer “well-made”?
It’s hard to say. You know a great movie trailer when you see it, and you know when a movie trailer is hot garbage, but trying to explain exactly why it’s one or the other can be tough.
Movie trailers are their own form of art, and art can be tricky to dissect. Here are some of the best movie trailers I’ve ever seen and what I think makes each one great.
10. It Appeals to Higher Emotions
The Interstellar movie trailer is pretty low-key compared to the others on this list, but it’s so effective because it appeals to higher-level emotions that we all share: hope and destiny.
It makes us reflect, and those emotions are amplified by the wonderful, otherworldly score by Hans Zimmer.
That final shot of the shuttle launching into space leaves us wanting for something greater, and this movie trailer promises to deliver on that—so of course you have to watch it now.
9. It Spotlights an Epic Scene
While I didn’t think 2014’s Godzilla was all that great, I’m still impressed by its hair-raising movie trailer.
The iconic HALO jump set to the foreboding voice-over speech is the perfect introduction to what this movie is going to be. The final scene with the epic Godzilla reveal? Masterful. If that doesn’t make you want to see a film, I don’t know what will.
8. It Knows the Selling Point
This one is more of a movie teaser than a movie trailer, but it’s more effective than most trailers I’ve seen.
Only four lines of dialogue are spoken. You don’t see any faces. No scenes from the film are shown. All you get are five names: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. And then you get the name of the film.
But that’s all you really need to know, isn’t it? This movie trailer knows exactly why this film is going to be so big.
7. It Captures Mood and Tone
If you played the movie trailer for The Social Network on mute, it’d be far from remarkable. But combine it with Radiohead’s “Creep” as a backdrop? Now you have something special.
The juxtaposition of social media and college life with the somber, chilling track turns an everyday topic into one of intense contemplation. It perfectly captures the serious nature of the movie and prepares you for it.
6. It Has an Intense Climax
The movie trailer for Whiplash is doubly clever.
First, it misdirects you into thinking it’s yet another romantic comedy and/or coming-of-age story. The twist comes 40 seconds in, letting you know this isn’t the movie you thought it was—this isn’t like any movie you’ve seen before.
The intensity ramps up from there, paired with the snare drum’s quickening pace, until the unbearable tension is broken by a climax timed to the film’s name. Whoo, what a ride!
5. It Focuses on Character
Is the movie trailer for Detective Pikachu one of the best movie trailers of all time? Nah, far from it. But did this trailer get me hyped for a movie I initially didn’t care about? You bet!
The biggest success in this trailer is how it focuses on the character of Pikachu and who he is in this film. A confident, lovable mouse with an attitude? Yeah, that sounds promisingly entertaining. Sign me up!
4. It Raises Intriguing Questions
The movie trailer for Alien is one of the best trailers ever made for a horror movie, precisely because it does one thing: it makes you ask question after question, without ever giving you an answer.
WTF is that egg? Who are these people? What’s going on? Why are they screaming? By the end, you need to know the answers, but you’re afraid of what those answers could be. That’s good horror.
3. It Sets Up the Premise, Then Stops!
The worst thing a movie trailer can do is give away all of its plot points. If you know what all three acts of the movie are going to be, it deflates a lot of the anticipation.
And the movie trailer for Buried understands that. In one minute, we’re introduced to the protagonist, the situation, and the stakes.
Once we know those things, we know everything we need to know about whether this movie is something we’ll enjoy or not. For me? I know that it’ll be a crazy claustrophobic thriller. Boom, sold!
2. It Teases the Main Attraction
I really like the movie trailer for A Quiet Place because it expertly highlights the main attraction of the film—sound-sensitive monsters—without ever showing them on screen.
No dialogue means no exposition, no discussions, no quarrels. We’re shown everything we need to know about this movie’s main premise without ever being told. We’re curious, and that just makes us want to see it all the more.
1. It Has a Badass Revelation
The Avengers: Endgame movie trailer is a masterclass in hype.
It has the introspective music that builds to an epic crescendo. The dramatic weight of all previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films. The humorous end-cap with Scott Lang unexpectedly showing up at headquarters.
But the best part—the most “Whoa!!” part—is the five-second tease of a new Hawkeye. Viewers expected him to make a return, but like that? A badass revelation makes for super anticipation.