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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.


The most notable thing about the “Cloverfield” trailer is that at first glance, it might have seemed like a lazy attempt to tease interest — no voiceover, no real clues as to the story. All we knew was bad things were going to happen to Manhattan 20-somethings. But the trailer, with its balance between character moments and spectacle, proved to be a perfect encapsulation of the actual film — abrupt, chaotic, and surprisingly human. — Liz Shannon Miller

Be Kind Rewind

Michel Gondry’s fourth feature may not have had the full cultural cachet of his masterpiece “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (which, as we mentioned before, was a strong contender for this list). But as a self-perpetuating piece of metatextual ephemera, “Be Kind Rewind” brought “sweding” into the vernacular. Marrying the film’s official trailer with the in-movie practice of recreating classic films with ultra-low budgets and flimsy setpieces, Gondry himself is front and center. (His lack of differentiation between characters and his near-inability to capture the rhythms of Jack Black’s impromptu “Ghostbusters” theme rewrite are as magical as anything in the movie.) This three-minute chunk is proof that Gondry’s at his best when he’s having fun. And having a dash of Billy Preston doesn’t hurt either. — SG

A Serious Man

Nothing goes right for the downtrodden Larry Gopnik: His wife is divorcing him, his students want to take away his upcoming tenure, his car has been totaled, his life has become a monotonous repetition, and not even his synagogue’s rabbi wants to speak with him. Bottle up all of these depressing elements and you get the ingenious trailer for “A Serious Man,” which captures the comedic Coen Brothers’ darkness we all know and love. There’s a systematic downfall in the way this trailer moves that is both comical and spine-crushing. It’s the perfect tease to one of the Coens’ best movies. — ZS

Where the Wild Things Are

Nobody could have guessed what a live-action adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are” would’ve looked like… especially one directed by Spike Jonze. James Gandolfini? Karen O? Life-sized puppets? Then you hear Arcade Fire’s ‘‘Wake Up’’ play over this combination, and Jonze’s film crystalizes into a singular vision. This is masterfully edited trailer – filled with such a wide spectrum of feelings – it’s hard not to get choked up when the title cards roll out and you’re reminded this is all from one of the most beloved books of all time. This is a trailer that will make you feel like Max, eager for the wild rumpus. — RG


Showcasing Wally Pfister’s swooping cinematography, sleek and vast production design, and the arresting visual innovation of Nolan’s dreamscape, this second “Inception” trailer is a perfect hint at the film to come. Prominently featuring Leonardo DiCaprio’s delivery of some of Nolan’s most fascinating lines of dialogue and the now-infamous ‘BWAMs’ of Zack Hemsey’s “Mind Heist,” this trailer also avoided the spoiler territory that foils too many modern blockbusters. An original film of this scale needs a great trailer and “Inception” got just that, playing a vital part in propelling it toward massive box office success. — Kyle Kizu

Up next: Enigmatic masters and a Marvel refresher course

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