What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets).

Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time. 

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

The Wolf of Wall Street

There is no better way to deliver the ego, the self-importance, and the decadence of Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street than through the dulcet tones of Kanye West, all screams and YEAHS and thumps and beats and whatever it is the kids like these days. Sure, the sounds and screams of the first full-length WOWS trailer recommend it, but the entire thing becomes an instant classic around the twenty-five-second mark, when Leonardo DiCaprio just casually tosses a glass of orange juice into a bush. That’s all you need to know about WOWS, in a juicy little nutshell. -Kate Erbland

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The teaser trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty perfectly presented the feeling of the film without giving away too much of the plot. Thanks to Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws,” this trailer came across as exciting, uplifting, quirky, and magical without needing to say more than a few words. The hypnotic feeling of “Dirty Paws” draws you in as we see how Walter (Ben Stiller) looks at the world before crescendoing off a wave from Sean Penn, making the song feel like it was written for the trailer instead of being placed in it to simply grab attention. –Allison Loring


As one would expect from a Chan-wook Park film, the trailer for Stoker shows a highly stylized journey through the Stoker family’s odd and off-putting dynamic. The trailer not only highlights portions Clint Mansell‘s fantastic score, it also shows how important the use of sound is throughout the film from the crushing of an egg’s shell to the scrape of a shovel to the tick of a metronome. Every look and every shot in Stoker means something and the trailer hints at how much lays beneath the surface with these distinct characters. –Allison Loring


With the simple strikes of the piano keys and Emmanuel Lubezki‘s command over a camera, never has the serenity and vastness of space looked so beautiful. Only, to then, feel instantly like paralysis in motion. Many films have depicted space, but as this trailer shows, no other picture has ever truly captured just how frightening it can be to have all your wits and movements, but still have no control. Cuaron’s film is arguably the most immersive and exhausting picture of the year, and this trailer in all its hyperventilating glory lets you know precisely what you’re getting yourself into when you sit down in that seat. –Adam Charles

The Wind Rises

The Studio Ghibli label, and the Hayao Miyazaki name as an extension of the studio, always tends to evoke two very powerful emotions in many of those who still long for the days of hand-drawn animation artistry. One emotion is of immediate excitement, the other of fantastic wonderment. Ghibli pictures, and Mayazaki’s specifically, are historically spiritualistic fantasy stories, but this trailer of Miyazaki’s latest (and final) picture puts forth a picture in the era of World War II that looks balanced in poignancy and affection. It’s something we haven’t really seen from the studio since Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. Not much is derived from the trailer other than setting and possible theme, but the gracefulness of Miyazaki’s animation is highlighted to perfection to distract us from caring what the film is primarily about while selling us on the soul in its visuals. –Adam Charles

Iron Man 3

For those disappointed with Iron Man 2, this was a nice shot in the arm to get excited for the latest installment. It showed us that the new movie retained a bit of the look and feel that Jon Favreau established five years ago, but it also revealed a darker tone we expected from Shane Black as director. While this (and many other trailers recently) gets pretty spoilery at the end with the wonton destruction of Stark Manor and his Iron Man suits, it managed to keep the biggest (and most controversial) Mandarin surprise in the film hidden with misdirection. Also, kudos to the studio for resisting an “IRON M3N” title card at the end. –Kevin Carr

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