Year in Review: The 15 Best Trailers of 2009

There are a lot of movie lists floating around these days, and while they don’t always share the same choices there is one thing they all have in common… a shared implication that the movies on the list are the best. When looking at the best trailers of the past year though it quickly becomes obvious that the quality of the movie itself is irrelevant. Great movies can have terrible trailers, and bad movies can have fantastic trailers. The only real deciding factor here is does the trailer accomplish it’s singular job… does it increase your interest in the movie? All of the trailers below did so in spectacular fashion.

Regarding the selections below, I wasn’t sure if the list should only include trailers for movies that actually released this year or if this should be a list of trailers that came out in 2009 regardless of when the movie is scheduled to hit screens. So I compromised and turned my Top Ten list into a Top Fifteen… and it includes trailers for actual 2009 releases as well as for movies that don’t come out until 2010. (And yes, the recent French trailer for Inception would have easily made this list if the studio hadn’t asked all the web sites to pull it.)


It’s tough getting an audience to show up for your animated film if your name isn’t Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, or 20th Century Fox… and it certainly doesn’t help matters if your plot involves the annihilation of the human race. So what do you do if the deck is stacked against you and your little film? You cut a kick-ass trailer together that showcases just how impressive your CGI and animated action set-pieces are, and then you add in some powerful instrumentals. Sadly, much like James Cameron’s Avatar, the makers of 9 forgot to add much in the way of substance or story to their beautiful little movie… but you can’t tell that from the trailer.

(500) Days of Summer

This anti-romantic comedy has ended 2009 as one of my top five movies of the year, and it represents one of the few times when a great trailer manages to equal a great film. “”This is not a love story. It’s a story about love.” A strong opening narration is soon joined by an uptempo but unfamiliar song (“Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap) and a series of images showing us the highs and lows of a relationship. Add in Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, two actors who rarely disappoint, and the movie looks even better.


The folks who put together this first full trailer for Avatar knew exactly what they had to work with and what to do with it. They wisely eschew all but three words of dialogue and instead focus entirely on the movie’s amazing visuals to sell it to an audience. Even in this truncated form you may still find your jaw dropping at the mere glimpses of a world unlike any you’ve seen before. From the opening sonic boom to the closing roar, this trailer is masturbation for your senses… which I guess makes the movie itself like sex with a brain-dead supermodel.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

This early trailer for Werner Herzog’s latest movie is endlessly quotable and filled with WTF moments… the fucking iguanas, the break dancing soul, the lucky crack pipe… and they all combine to form a perfect representation of the movie itself. Trailers for Nicolas Cage movies usually reek of mediocrity, paycheck acting, and toupee glue, but this one actually demands you see the flick by virtue of it’s sheer audacity and zaniness.


As with many of the best trailers the music selection here is a large part of what makes it so good. Placebo’s cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is moody and beautiful. The trailer also gets two other key aspects perfect… it hooks you with a simple but intriguing premise and then pairs it with some truly impressive visuals. I’m happy to report the movie delivers on the trailer’s promise (we saw this at Fantastic Fest and loved it), so definitely check it out when it opens this coming January.

District 9

Anonymity can be both a gift and a curse sometimes, but for this (relatively) small science fiction film the general lack of awareness worked entirely in it’s favor. No one knew what to expect, and they were blown away when this trailer (and the movie itself) first arrived. It does a fantastic job of highlighting not just the action and effects, which are both pretty damn impressive, but also gives a glimpse of a possible social awareness. Beautifully rendered aliens, sweet-looking giant robots, and a pseudo-documentary feel all worked to create one of the summer’s must-see movies.


I was already pretty interested in Matthew Vaughn’s comic adaptation before this redband trailer hit a couple weeks ago, but now I’m literally counting the days until Kick-Ass hits theaters. If the movie is even remotely as cool, bloody, and audacious as this trailer then it just may be one of the best movies of 2010. Chloe Moretz has become one of my favorite child actors with her work in (500) Days of Summer and Not Forgotten, but she is absolutely out of control here. It’s no great honor, but you can already see her onstage at the MTV Movie Awards holding a golden popcorn statuette for Best Ass Kicker. And yes, I do realize that this means Nicolas Cage is in two of my top fifteen choices… probably the only list this year where he can make that claim.


Rob is the Chief Film Critic of Film School Rejects. He doesn't eat cheese on weekdays.

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