Undefended: The Best Trailers of the Decade

As the decade comes to a close, FilmFisher’s writers will be spending the next six months looking back at the cinema of the 2010s and compiling “Best of the Decade” lists in various categories. This month, they tried something new and picked the best trailers of the decade.

Timothy Lawrence

  1. The Social Network (above) – In 2010, the trailers for The Social Network and Inception (bwahm) defined a whole decade of trailers. I picked the former because the latter has been copied more often, and with worse results.
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I wasn’t allowed to see the film when it was released, and repeatedly watched the trailer for consolation. I haven’t seen The Wolfman, but know Elfman’s score (a minute and a half of it, at least) well because of its use here.
  3. Man of Steel – We all know how the movie turned out (bombast to the extreme), but the teaser is all delicate atmosphere and reverence.
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Say what you will about the new Star Wars movies, Lucasfilm’s marketing department has done outstanding work. This trailer made promises so sublime, so extravagant, no movie could possibly fulfill them.
  5. Hail, Caesar! – A Serious Man and Hail, Caesar! are, respectively, the fullest expressions of the Coens’ cynical and hopeful sides. It is only fitting, then, that this trailer plays like a mirror image of A Serious Man‘s incredible trailer.

Robert Heckert

  1. Steve Jobs: Using the Mac “on” sound as the soundtrack? Genius.
  2. Baby Driver: Audio engineering got me like 😍
  3. Godzilla: Simply stunning
  4. Rush
  5. Inception (above): The bass has become as ubiquitous as the barcode.

BONUS: Halo Reach E3 announcement: Bungie kept it minimal for this one. Halo’s own lore, rather than the cinematic aspect of it, does the heavy lifting, the frantic radio calls recall the opening of Zero Dark Thirty and “Falls 2010” is a genius line.

Robert Brown

  1. Trailer, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012). The Hobbit films went from being disappointing to being outright terrible, but this trailer is still a perfect encapsulation and wistful reminder of all that they could have been. Note to directors: If you can have your composer score your trailer and introduce the leitmotifs of the film, do it.
  2. Trailer #1, Foxcatcher (2014). Steve Carell is terrifying.
  3. Trailer, Logan (2017 – above). I haven’t even seen this movie, but this trailer is incredible. This is how you use a song to structure your trailer and give it an emotional arc.
  4. Trailer, Avengers: Endgame (2019). Sure, much of the trailer is fairly generic, but it opens and ends so well, and Marvel should be credited for how the trailer is 100% emotion and 0% plot. Thanos demanded silence, and he got it.
  5. Teaser, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). When you start with a scene that riffs on Wild West showdowns and North by Northwest, use the same tagline as The Phantom Menace teaser, and end with that ominous image and that bombshell, you have figured out the secret to movie trailer alchemy.

Tim, glad you mentioned Man of Steel; much the same scenario as The Hobbit. Robert, glad you put in Godzilla; that was my #6.

Tom Upjohn

  1. Suicide Squad
  2. The November Man
  3. Dunkirk
  4. 10 Cloverfield Lane (above)
  5. Oculus

Jackson De Vight

  1. The Dark Knight Rises
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Suicide Squad (I truly do not know of a trailer I enjoyed more for a film I enjoyed less)
  4. True Grit
  5. The Social Network
Royce Benson

  1. The Tree of Life (above) – The universe’s inception and a suburb family, the indescribable wonder of it all.
  2. Logan – A “superhero” film disguised as a contemplative western of mortality scored by the strings of Cash.
  3. Drive – A neon-saturated, stylized love letter to ’70s noir.
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis – Humor resides within sadness in a way only the Coens could write.
  5. Hereditary – A polarizing family melodrama that keeps its cards buried deep.

Joel Bourgeois

  1. Nightcrawler (above)
  2. Gone Girl
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey Official Rerelease (2014)
  4. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Remy Wilkins

The best part of Zack Snyder’s career are his trailers imo.

  1. A Serious Man (above): One of the most unorthodox trailers you’ll ever see.
  2. The Witch: The star of the movie is actually the dulcet tones of Ralph Ineson.
  3. A Ghost Story: Plenty of movies are easy to sum up in a trailer, most of those leave you not wanting to watch the full feature.
  4. Blade Runner 2049: The teasers are almost always better than the full trailers, fyi.
  5. Only Lovers Left Alive: I doubt any other vampire movie could be described as beautiful.

Travis Kyker

  1. The Master (above) – Word has it that Anderson himself cut this trailer without the studio’s knowledge. This makes sense, because not only is it the best trailer of the decade, but it also captures that ineffable “PTA feeling” that seeps through his films. Also, I never fail to laugh at the cut that follows “Is your behavior erratic?” and then feel like crying by the end.
  2. The Tree of Life – This pick will probably have to go in the penalty box for a while because I feel like it finds its way onto most of my lists, but for real, this is an incredible trailer. Captures the mosaic-like grandeur of the film, what with the imagery and classical score and spiritually momentous voiceovers (that fact that one of these never makes it into the film renders the trailer all the more excellent). It’s pretty much a two-minute condensation of the movie as a whole: a Diet Tree of Life.
  3. Phantom Thread – Ditto to what I said about The Master’s trailer. You can feel the excellence bleeding through every second. The music has a lot to do with it. PTA is the Reynolds Woodcock of cinema.
  4. Baby Driver – Not to flex or anything, but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve watched this trailer I could almost afford to see it in IMAX.
  5. Inside Llewyn Davis – This movie is a masterpiece and the trailer knows it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a total folk music junkie.
Bonus Round: Rerelease Trailers
  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. Schindler’s List
  3. War and Peace (1966)
  4. Apocalypse Now – Final Cut

Also, ditto on Man of Steel. Not a great film as I recall, but the trailer makes that seem impossible.

Timothy Lawrence

Timothy Lawrence attended the Torrey Honors Institute and studied screenwriting at BIOLA University. He writes essays and fiction, and enjoys reading books, watching films, and discussing both. He is especially fond of the works of the Coen Brothers and George Lucas.

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