Ranking the best teasers, trailers, and teaser trailers of an exciting year at the movies.
Considering that I write about 42+ thousand words for Film School Rejects every single year, it should be difficult to pick out my favorite piece to write each year. Should be, but isn’t: my favorite article is the Top 10 Trailers piece I put together every December. At worst, movie trailers provide a glimpse at movies that we’re all excited to see; at best, they serve as their own self-contained pieces of art, with editing and soundtrack decisions on par with anything we see in feature-length movies.
What follows is my own personal list of the best trailers from 2017. It was a pretty good year for movie trailers – hell, it was a pretty good year for movies – so don’t be too upset if your favorite trailer didn’t make it onto the list. Just know that I wouldn’t bump any of these off for all the money in the world, especially not if the trailer you want to bump is Buster’s Mal Heart. That is one beautiful bundle of cinematic question marks.
Baby Driver (Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: I have two small quibbles with the first trailer for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. First? It ruins the best joke in the movie, the exchange between J.D. and Bats as they riff on their confusion about a Mike Myers mask. Second? In hindsight, it promises a whole bunch more Jon Bernthal than the movie actually delivers. And that’s it. The rest of the Baby Drive trailer is an exercise in rhythm and syncopation that only heightened audience’s (already) sky-high expectations for Wright’s latest film. If only Kevin Spacey’s presence in the movie didn’t sour the whole thing a little.
The Bad Batch (Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: “The chaos of this world is vast and unknowable.” It’s hard not to love any trailer that begins with Keanu Reeves growling out his character’s utopian philosophy, but that’s not what makes the first theatrical trailer for The Bad Batch so special. For many trailers, the right song – or the right portion of a song – can be the difference between a disposable piece of movie marketing and a snack-sized piece of art. Black Light Smoke’s ‘Firefly’ is the perfect accompaniment for the dirty, neon-soaked imagery of Ana Lily Amirpour’s movie.
Black Panther (Teaser Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: I’m going to make one small request of Disney before I praise the hell out of this trailer: it’s time to retire that slow-motion flip shot. We saw something similar in the Captain America: Civil War trailers, and honestly, watching a superhero flip over cars just isn’t that impressive. As for the rest? It’s tough to put two Marvel movies on any year-end list of best trailers, but just like Thor: Ragnarok below, Black Panther finds its own voice by putting its characters’ blackness and politics right out in front. Throw in the impressive special effects, the incredible costumes, and whatever kind of Grade A+ villain Michael B. Jordan looks to be, and you have a movie that everyone wants to see in 2018.
Buster’s Mal Heart (Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: Some movies are harder to market than others. While the reviews for Buster’s Mal Heart were generally positive, the descriptions – “weirdness,” “idiosyncratic,” and “dreamlike” are all featured on the film’s RottenTomatoes page – speak to a film that cannot easily be summed up in 79 seconds. Instead, the first trailer for Buster’s Mal Heart tries to put you on the same wavelength as the film, hinting at its layered storytelling with a mixture of mid-century visuals and survivalist paranoia. The end result is an alluring puzzle box that invites viewers to take the plunge.
The Florida Project (Official Trailer)
What Makes It Great: Sometimes all a trailer needs to do is hook you on a couple of the performances. That’s certainly the case with the first trailer for The Florida Project, which immediately sold audiences on the idea of a warm and friendly Willem Dafoe – unleashing countless “Willem Dafriend” jokes on social media – but it also introduced us to Brooklynn Prince, the heart and soul of the film. You knew in the first fifteen seconds of The Florida Project if Prince was an actress who would tug on your heartstrings, and everything else the trailer gets so, so right – including the montage of beautiful buildings and grand adventures – is just the icing on the cake.
I, Tonya (Official Teaser)
What Makes It Great: While the rules regarding a trailer and a teaser trailer are becoming increasingly difficult to figure out – compare the 50 second teaser to I, Tonya with the below two-and-a-half minute “teaser” for Stephen King’s It – I still maintain that everything you need to know about a movie can be found in that first, shorter cut. The I, Tonya teaser gave us our first look at Margot Robbie’s Tonya Harding and the mad glint she’d keep in her eye; while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the theatrical trailers that followed, they only expanded on promises that the teaser had already made. Virtuosic performances and bleak satire about American celebrity? Sealed, signed and delivered, thank you.
It (Teaser Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: It isn’t often that you can say a trailer – not a feature film, but a trailer – upends an entire industry, but that’s exactly what happened with the first teaser trailer for Stephen King’s It. When It broke the record for the most views in a single day, its popularity dominated the conversation for weeks; it also sparked a half-dozen profiles of professional clowns who feared their career was in jeopardy. “It’s cool and hip not to like clowns,” one current (former?) clown lamented to Digital Spy. Oh, and that trailer? It’s pretty awesome, too.
It Comes At Night (Teaser Trailer #1)
What Makes It Great: When It Comes At Night hit theaters, one of the points raised by its detractors was that the final product seemed nothing like the movie advertised in trailers. Whereas the teasers (and title) suggested some dark entity lurking in the woods, the actual film played more off interpersonal tensions and old-fashioned post-apocalyptic paranoia. And sure, maybe there’s a conversation to be had about aligning marketing materials with your final film, but let’s not ding the production company behind the It Comes At Night teaser. They made one of the best trailers of the year, period, and created something so impressive it could only let people down in the long run. Job extremely well done, I’d say.
mother! (Official Trailer)
What Makes It Great: There aren’t a lot of trailers that stand out on the basis of their typography, but mother! is the rare exception that proves the rule. Sure, there’s plenty of arresting footage on display; the first trailer shows without telling, giving audiences a glimpse at the religious undertones audiences would discover in the final film. That’s hardly the highlight, though: it’s the combination of Penderecki-inspired strings and ’70s-era exploitation that makes mother! impossible to resist. Both retro and modern, the trailer promises a unique experience at the movies in 2017, which probably explains why it can be found on so many best and worst lists at the end of the year.
Thor: Ragnarok (Teaser Trailer)
What Makes It Right: Back in March, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn hinted that the first teaser for Thor: Ragnarok was going to be the “best Marvel Studios trailer ever,” and it wasn’t long before Marvel fans discovered just how right he was. Thor: Ragnarok may not have been the first big-budget trailer to use Led Zeppelin in 2017 – that honor goes to Guy Richie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – but it flashed a side of the franchise that fans hadn’t seen before. Gothic, bombastic, funny, and effortlessly cool? Sounds an awful lot like the movie most of us saw on theaters.
Just Missed: Atomic Blonde; Deadpool; The Death of Stalin; The Disaster Artist; Ingrid Goes West; Lady Bird; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri