I love a good movie trailer. Some people don’t care for them. I, however, like to make sure my ass is in the theater well before the movie starts. The ritual of viewing trailers is just as integral to me as the movie I paid to see.
I like to think of a solid movie trailer as one that sells tone more so than plot; gives you a sense of scale and impact more than company branding or, *deep sigh* another cinematic universe. If it does the job, then I won’t need any word-of-mouth buzz to get me lining up. (I steer well and clear from those obnoxious critic pull-quote trailers.) Whether this is a prelude to my eventual Best Films of the Year list remains to be seen. Nevertheless, these were the trailers of 2019 that worked for me.
Honorable Mention: Mulan
Way to pull a fast one on me. I had this list already compiled and then last week’s slew of new trailers happened and I’ve been scurrying ever since. Now, I was game for a live-action Mulan long before I found out there wouldn’t be any musical numbers. Because the fable of Mulan was exactly that: a fable, not a fairy tale. There’s something already magical about the footage we’ve seen so far, of epic martial arts action harkening back to films like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As far as Disney’s live-action remakes go, they’ve been hit-or-miss. I adored Cinderella and Dumbo, but kinda loathed Aladdin and Lion King. Regardless, after that orchestraic rendition of “Reflection,” my daughter and I will be there opening day.
10. No Time to Die
Like I said, a fast one. I wasn’t expecting a trailer until Christmas, but it appears Christmas came early. Daniel Craig’s final outing as the titular spy sports the massive globe-trotting and death-defying stunts worthy of the 007 canon. What I find most interesting is how No Time to Die looks like Casino Royale and Skyfall rolled into one. It’s also a continuation of the narrative loose ends of Spectre and, by association, Quantum of Solace, but at least it’s taking the best parts a la Christoph Waltz and Jeffrey Wright. But who am I kidding, with the sheer talent on board that includes Captain Marvel’s Lashanna Lynch, Blade Runner 2049-star Ana de Armas, writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, AND director Cary Fukunaga, I’m ALL IN.
9. Long Shot
I’m a sucker for a well-used David Bowie song and Long Shot fits the bill. (The best use, however, remains in Frances Ha). The song, of course, is just a hook. The line and sinker for me was the rom-com pairing of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, a comic combination so lethal that it makes you wonder how Hollywood never thought of this sooner. (Not enough of you have seen Theron in Young Adult and IT SHOWS.) In general, I’m down for anything with June Diane Raphael in it, but it was O’Shea Jackson Jr. who sold this movie by his damn self with the dynamite line: “She’s Richard Gere and you’re Julia Roberts!”
8. Wonder Woman 1984
Perhaps this is cheating since the trailer only dropped yesterday, but I don’t care. The wait for this one has been agonizing, but oh so very worth it. Patty Jenkins is going all in on the retro vibes and attitudes of the ‘80s. That needle drop is boasting serious Thor: Ragnarok feelings and that’s a damn good thing. (Excuse me while I put this trailer on a playlist.) Sequels tend to go darker, but Wonder Woman’s second outing feels exuberantly more colorful than its already richly realized predecessor. Diana is no fish out of water this time around but fingers crossed that we get to see her and Steve Trevor hit up the arcade and grab some Orange Julius on the way out. Also, who needs an invisible jet when Diana can lasso swing VIA. LIGHTNING BOLTS. Screw the Snyder Cut, bring on this new era of wonder.
Ari Aster earned my confidence with Hereditary, a film that to this day I have only seen once. It was clear right from the get-go that Midsommar would be a whole new beast. The trailer sold its curious daylight horror premise, put forth Florence Pugh’s performance front and center, along with dread-inducing imagery of violence and malevolence. (Don’t ever show me levitating feet, or a group of people grieving in sync.) I was SO intrigued to see how Aster would pull this one off. As far the “Americans back-packing in Europe” subgenre, I’ve seen enough films to never fucking do that in my life. But Midsommar’s trailer conveyed the most unspeakable horror of all: being the uninvited fifth wheel.
6. The Rise of Skywalker
Angry Kylo Ren. Mad Max Fury Poe. A Ride of the Rohirrim charge atop a freakin’ star destroyer. A peek at my girl Kelly Marie Tran. I became a full-fledged fan of this galaxy far, far away following the subversive Last Jedi, but it was this final Rise of Skywalker trailer that made me realize how much I didn’t want this saga to end. All of the Star Wars trailers are exceptional, but this one is by far the most resoundingly emotional all due in large part to John Williams’ grandiose theme and a brief but heartfelt bow towards the late Carrie Fisher. Her whisper of “always” is so delicately placed that it had me in tears. If I were to give any trailer a standing ovation, it’s this one.
5. Doctor Sleep
Stephen King’s The Shining is classic horror literature. Its sequel Doctor Sleep, painfully less so. So imagine my surprise that I wound up indubitably hyped by its delicious teaser trailer, its quiet yet sweeping score conjuring all kinds of hair-raising chills. It evinced the mood and deliberate pacing of Kubrick’s own classic adaptation and hinted how successor and horror-maestro Mike Flanagan would reconcile both the novel and film. I nearly bludgeoned myself with a mallet for even doubting how Doctor Sleep would turn out. I’d never been happier to be proven wrong.
4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
I lost interest in Quentin Tarantino post-Inglourious Basterds. It became such a talking point that he was only going to do 10 movies that it seemed as though there was no one more hyped for a Tarantino film than, well, Quentin Tarantino. This reveal of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood renewed my faith in the man because it felt like he was back to his revisionist ways made evident in Basterds, this time by recreating the era in Hollywood he fell in love with. (I’ll take passionate Tarantino over obnoxious Tarantino any day.) This teaser was like cruising in a time-travelling DeLorean, practically oozing with its ‘60s fever dream. Tarantino’s 9th affair was sold primarily on the charismatic star power of its cast—and a committed Mike Moh Bruce Lee impersonation to spare. Hell, if you’ve got the cast, USE THEM.
I know the trailer for Us *technically* debuted in 2018, but there’s no way you can tell me that we weren’t talking about this thing all the way up to its March release. Hot off of Get Out and featuring a sinister remix of “Five On It,” the trailer for Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort prompted its own discourse. And there’s plenty of blood-curling imagery: a Candyman-figure on the beach, slow-mo prance through fire, Elizabeth Moss pulling a John Travolta in Face/Off, scissors (which would reveal itself in the film to be the ultimate ironic symbol), and a ferociously committed Lupita Nyong’o boasting an equally blood-curling voice. It’s hard to sell an original property these days, even harder for an original horror movie, but Universal Studios made this one look easy.
Endgame was sold to us long before the credits rolled in Infinity War. Turns out, Disney didn’t actually reveal much in the trailers, but they didn’t have to. I’ve never seen hype sell an idea of a movie the way Endgame did. Because half of the trailer is footage from past Marvel films. (Heck, some of Endgame’s footage isn’t even in the actual movie.) Of course, it’s deliberately crafted to showcase the time travel plot that would prove essential, just as the film itself would prove essential for the entire 10-year MCU endeavor. The sheer buildup of music and emotion is such a masterclass in anticipation that even revisiting the trailer now it still feels straight up pulverizing to witness. Whatever 👏 It 👏 Takes 👏
No other trailer impressed me quite like Joker. It is it’s own short film, characterizing a rise and fall the way an actor of Joaquin Phoenix’s caliber can. Even his narration feels so poignant, so melancholy that it positions him (falsely) as the hero. The tragic symphony of Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” meshes perfectly for the fable teased, that of a man who laughs his way through the pain, until one day the pain makes him smile. I might’ve been divided by the end results, but as a trailer it stole my undivided attention, catapulting Joker from a curious project filled with curious talent to one of the most anticipated movies of the fall. There was simply no escaping Joker, for better or worse. Should Warner Bros. go on to tell more villain origin stories, they have their very profitable template.