This article is part of our 2019 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from 2019.
At the risk of getting mushy about marketing ploys, boy oh boy do I love a good trailer. There’s nothing quite like a well-made, funny, or otherwise unforgettable preview striking you down with “oh shit I have to see that” lightning. And as gross as it may be to romanticize ad campaigns, there is an undeniable art to getting butts in seats. That there are plenty of trailers on this list with final products of dubious quality is proof enough.
Personally, I understand the “I don’t watch trailers” mentality. But in practice I’m selective. I avoided the trailer for Parasite like the plague but relished any glimpse of Quinten Tarantino’s latest. Suffice to say, if you want to stay in the dark, mute functions are your friend. Though I have to wonder, how do trailer-adverse folks handle pre-shows at the cinema? Maybe they’re the ones keeping The Ostrich Pillow in business.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the good stuff: here are the trailers that stunned, scandalized, amused, and kept the hype train chugging in 2019. Consider this list as a sort of time capsule: a quick, bite-sized peek into how cinema sold itself this year.
25. Waves | Official Trailer
Say what you will about the trailer for Trey Edward Shults’ latest offering, but it goes hard — conjuring a sense of grandeur out of intimacy and impressing scale and lyricism out of domestic scenes and small gestures. Waves’ trailer keeps its narrative cards to its chest and its heart on its sleeve. And you gotta respect that.
What it’s selling: Frank Ocean, drama, and a full-color spectrum.
Best moment: “Everything I do is for you. Everything.”
24. Pokémon Detective Pikachu | Official Trailer #1
Remember when the news broke that there was a live-action, photorealistic Pokémon movie in the works called Detective Pikachu and we all laughed loudly and wondered how the heck that was going to work? Well, it turns out: like this. Far from the monstrosity we were all worried about (our fears would later be realized with the nightmare of Sonic’s first pass), Detective Pikachu’s trailer paints a rather exciting, charming, and adorable picture of an unexpectedly approachable gritty reboot.
What it’s selling: Grit, neon, compellingly animated creature design, a brain-breakingly cute mouse-rabbit.
Best moment: Menacing Jigglypuff.
23. Jojo Rabbit | Official Trailer
What you see is what you get in the boppy official trailer for quirk king Taika Waititi’s latest. The entire movie unfurls before our eyes, promising low blow laughs, familiar faces, and feel-good affirmation that Nazis are stupid. We respect authenticity in marketing here at FSR, and Jojo Rabbit gets points for owning its “comfy film about late-war German Nazism” -ness. It’s a trailer built on charm, kitsch, and if that’s your thing, it’s bound to leave an impression.
What it’s selling: Needle drops, cute kids, and schoolyard digs at one of history’s most harrowing and existentially nightmarish human rights atrocities.
Best moment: Any time Archie Yates, the best part of Jojo Rabbit, is on screen.
22. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood | Official Trailer
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’s trailer is the marketing equivalent of a “get ready to cry in public” bat signal. Representations of genuine, incorruptible kindness go a long way these days, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’s trailer wisely hinges on that selling point: the effect and influence of an unimpeachably good man. It’s heartfelt to a fault, but damn it: sometimes you need a good cry.
What it’s selling: Nostalgia, hope, and a celebration of one of the greats.
Best moment: That first shot of Tom Hanks being Fred Rogers.
21. The Last Black Man in San Francisco | Official Trailer
Tired: Christopher Nolan bwaaaangs. Wired: freighter horns. The trailer for Joe Talbot’s poignant domestic odyssey features some truly fantastic sound mixing, fading in yearning strings and rumbling narration to wondrous effect. Smartly highlighting its rousing score and enchanting visuals, The Last Black Man in San Francisco’s trailer sets its stage neatly, welcoming us into a tender, beautifully shot slow boil portrait of a city and a friendship.
What it’s selling: Heartbreak, delicate cinematography, and a meditation on the fallout of gentrification.
Best moment: That cover of Scott McKenzies’ “San Francisco.”