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The 20 Best Trailers of the Last 20 Years

Trailers for blockbusters, trailers for modern American epics, trailers that even showed the whole film in two minutes.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

There’s so much exhilarating energy and infectious swagger in the “Kill Bill Vol. 1” teaser trailer that you wish every feature-length action film could have half the energy of this nearly 2-minute preview. Set to the rollicking guitar of Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honor or Humanity,” the trailer for Tarantino’s martial arts revenge tale rattles off a nonstop barrage of bone-breaking, gravity-defying fight scenes. It’s an orgy of Tarantino-brand movie violence that you just know will be a thing of dark beauty on the big screen. — ZS

Red Eye

The trailer that ruined misdirection for everyone else. Perfectly mimicking the beats of a rom-com meet-cute (a Rachel McAdams/Cillian Murphy pairing would still work, honestly), the twist to the on-board horror and subdued shhh-ing is as sinister as anything director Wes Craven has ever done. While this may have swerved away from a rom-com and past what the actual movie was about (Murphy’s literal red eye is a red herring for the film), it set a bar for mid-trailer fake-outs that no film has been able to clear yet. Far superior to the film’s second, spoiler-heavy trailer, this did what the best trailers are meant to do: leave you demanding to see what happens next. — Steve Greene

Little Children

Is there a trailer that does a better job cutting to the emotions at the heart of a film’s drama? There’s virtually no set-up, exposition or plot details. We are immersed in the world of married parents caught in a web of their own thirst (Kate Winslet), lust (Patrick Wilson) and suspicion (Jennifer Connelly) and — like the beautiful match cuts to the toy trains suggest — these raw emotions, laying beneath idyllic images of New England, are on a dramatic collision course. — CO

Don’t

Fake trailers have become a cottage industry, especially given their built-in viral appeal. But the 2007 Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino team-up “Grindhouse” offered a few slots for those imaginary ads to be built directly into the fabric of the double feature (one of which eventually birthed the co-directed-by-Rodriguez “Machete”). “Don’t,” written and directed by Edgar Wright, is a pitch-perfect parody of ’70s horror fare, stocked with a litany of top-tier, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them British cast members. Self-contained and breakneck-paced in true Wright fashion, “Don’t” is a worthy addition to the genre canon it’s parodying. (Special mention to the best fake trailer that doesn’t feature a career-best voiceover from Will Arnett: “Satan’s Alley.”) — SG

WALL-E

Despite the now-common inclusion of “From the studio that brought you…” in film’s marketing campaigns, few studios have been able to use their involvement as a stronger selling point than Pixar did in the summer of 2007. This simple teaser not only evoked the animation house’s past creative successes. It was a way for “WALL-E” and “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton to solidify the Pixar origin story and guarantee a worthy successor in one fell swoop. Toss in Michael Kamen’s iconic “Brazil” score and some of the best moments of the lovable robot’s wordless opening and it’s all the character introduction audiences would need. It’s the ideal mix of past and future, a perfect blend for the film it was eventually leading to. — SG

Up next: Ushering in the viral age

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