Movie trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week, let’s rank The Best Movie Trailers of 2019.
What a tough year it was to pick this year’s best.
There were some true diamonds in the rough out there to choose from, and even though people are decrying the impact of studio consolidation, there is still room to make an impression. It’s still possible to have a trailer that’s bold, takes some risks, and plays with the format a little. A bigger budget does not always equal a better trailer, and the notable exclusions of this year’s top-grossing films on this list, with one exception, is proof of that. These are my opinions as someone who has been doing this for 15 years now, but at the end of the day, I’m just one jamoke who’s watched way too many trailers.
Without further ado here are your runners-up for the Top 10 for 2019:
The Boys: Season 1 – How do you cut through the noise of too much television and not enough time while getting someone’s attention? Make something like this.
Joker – Look, no one burned anything down and no one was hurt in the street by this movie’s message. What this thing ended up doing, however, is making a lot of money. As well, a solid trailer.
Waves – Beautiful, stirring, and complex. The way a family should be.
Relaxer – Seriously demented and straight up my alley.
The Fanatic – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
And now, here are the rest…
This is about as close as I came to see this movie. I don’t know how things end up for these kids, but the trailer is bananas. Imbued with some kind of courage on behalf of the trailer maker, some moments are allowed to breathe here. It’s brilliant as we get to know who our two protagonists are and, at about the 1:10 mark, it’s enough to pull at your heartstrings. You’re bought in, you strap in, and the rest of the trailer falls like well-placed dominoes.
9. El Toro
None of you saw this last year. I didn’t see this last year. However, this trailer is a Top 10’er. I don’t know who is singing or even what this trailer is really about, but you can feel the love and sheer artistry of a filmmaker who wanted to tell a story. This story. I understand that we all don’t have the time to watch all the movies but since trailers are so small and can be sincerely precious, here’s one that I hope finds its audience, wherever they may be.
8. Stranger Things: Season 3
Did this one live up to the hype? Was everyone satisfied by this season’s offerings? No matter how you felt after seeing this season’s surprises, this is one solid trailer. It shamelessly preyed, visually, upon any Gen X’er who grew up during the golden age of the shopping mall, with its bright pink neons and checkered socks. It also gave you enough intrigue and emotional pull to bring you back into the fold to see what would happen next to these kids. Rightly or wrongly, this trailer checked off all the boxes to get you to tune in and it did it very well.
7. Long Day’s Journey Into Night
I was not expecting that. For about the first minute you see what appears to be a fairly conventional movie that looks superbly shot and well-acted, but then things come off the proverbial rails. Nothing seems conventional after that and the pull-quotes only help to reinforce that what you’re seeing is something extraordinary. The sights, the sounds, the novelty of this being one long take, it all adds up to this being one of the best foreign language trailers I saw all year.
6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The label on this one is that it’s a teaser trailer. From my perspective, they didn’t have to come out with another trailer, because it didn’t get better than this. That’s not to say the other official trailers weren’t as well-made, but we’re given moments that breathe here. It’s not a wham, bam, off to the next moment. We actually have to slow down to appreciate what’s happening, and there are a few of those moments peppered in here. It’s a wonderful amalgam of selling Tarantino’s latest while also making you work a little bit.
5. Ms. Purple
Such a hauntingly beautiful and smart trailer. The Svengali who put this together was sharp enough to pepper in pull-quotes that would give reassurance that even though you have no clue who anyone is, this movie was worthy of your time. As well, all hail the decision to make Japanese Breakfast’s “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” its soundtrack as there is no other song, besides a Mazzy Star ditty, that would have fit so wonderfully to carry us through to the end. This is a sad story, a different kind of love story, and taken together, this trailer is devastating.
4. Uncut Gems
For me, it is partly because of Eric Bogosian. Not only because I’m a superfan of Eric’s work but because he, and a lot of other supporting characters, get oodles of screen time. It would have been wickedly easy to cut everyone out and just make this trailer about Adam Sandler. However, no one took the easy way out and this trailer is better because of it. The music is pulsing to the point where it feels like your heartbeat is going out of control and events feel like they could get out of hand at any moment, but, through it all, Sandler weaves in and out of moments like a piece of thread through a needle. I am in love with this trailer.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
Without realizing it, last year’s number three for me was held by Mission Impossible: Fallout. The common denominator between both, obviously, is Tom Cruise. The man just loves to put it all out there for our amusement and this trailer just solidifies that. If ever there was a piece of IP I am hoping equals the excitement of the first, this would be it. The trailer is solid, plays on the beats that made the first one such a rush, and is edited so tightly there is not one wasted second. I have to dock a few points for the obvious, blatant, and egregiously lame removal of the Japanese and Taiwanese flags (speculatively speaking, most likely at the behest of Chinese co-financier Tencent) from Maverick’s jacket but, other than that, this thing is aces.
If this isn’t in someone’s top three trailers of the year, write those maniacs out of your life. The person who helped craft such a beautiful, artful trailer, and gave form to the formless, is a miracle worker. No doubt because of the Sisyphean task to explain in sixty seconds why this is not only a different kind of Watchmen story, but a different kind of television experience altogether, I am left speechless that whoever had this assignment pulled it off wonderfully. After this thing ends you’re not only left thinking “I need to see this now.” But you’re left in an ecclesiastical state knowing you have zero idea about what’s coming your way.
1. John Wick 3: Parabellum
When you come at the king, blah blah blah. I haven’t seen the first, second, nor the third installment of the Wick series but I’m rethinking that decision based on this trailer alone. To craft an entire trailer around the Man of La Mancha’s “The Impossible Dream” knowing full well that the target audience of this knife, gun, and violence fest probably thinks this is “My Way” by Frank Sinatra is ballsy. What’s more, this one has it all. From the narrative setup that quickly gets us out of the gate, to the unfolding of events that eventually lead to chaos, I can think of no other spectacle of sight and sound that is as enjoyable as this was last year.
Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp
In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at this week: