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The 12 Best Movie Trailers of the 21st Century

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | May 21, 2015 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | May 21, 2015 |

Trailers: You know I love ‘em. I think they’re misnamed, though, because in terms of my affection for movie marketing material, they trail absolutely nothing. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ladies. Gentlemen. You’re welcome for that.

I will agree, though, that the market has gotten a bit overcrowded of late. Trailers. Teasers for trailers. Vines for teasers for trailers. X-Men franchise, I am looking right at you, and you know where you can shove it. Nowadays, studios often opt for quantity over quality, counting on the fact that movie blogs will gobble up every single character poster or promotional video they’re spoonfed so as not to feel like they’re falling behind their competitors. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any original trailers anymore. These 12 from the last 15 years got it right:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The twee era as a whole might not have aged particularly well, but dammit, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is still a great movie, and this is a great trailer. The intro makes it eye-catching and original to the point that, 11 years later, I still distinctly remember seeing it in a theater. If you’re wondering, now redirects to the Universal Pictures Home Entertainment website, but Capital-J Journalism (aka plugging the URL into the Wayback Machine) yielded this antiquated gem:

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Warning for autoplay. If you visit at work, your boss may think Tom Wilkinson has visited you for a chat, and won’t that be weird to explain? Sadly, the self-evaluation quiz no longer works. Buzzfeed. Get on this.


There’s absolute genius to the simplicity on display here. Warner Bros. knew Gravity had one scene in particular that would really sell it—the destruction of the space shuttle that leaves astronaut Sandra Bullock and astronaut George Clooney stranded—so they cut out a two-minute chunk, slapped some music and some titles on it, and sent it out to give everyone on the Internet a panic attack.


Zack Snyder may not be the best when it comes to storytelling, but there are three things he’s good at—visual effects, casting, and the marriage of image and music—and all three of them are on display to brilliant effect here. The movie might not have wowed, but damn did this trailer ever encapsulate the feel of the Watchmen graphic novel perfectly. The first Man of Steel teaser is a runner-up, bumped from the top ten only because I found the music choice, though fitting, also distracting, because I associate that song so heavily with The Lord of the Rings. Speaking of…

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

I have the song that starts at 1:40—”Requiem for a Tower,” a variation of Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” from Requiem for a Dream—on my iPhone and have racked up truly absurd play count over the years. Put it on when you’re doing literally anything and you’ll feel like you’re on an epic quest.


This might be best known as the trailer that launched a thousand BRRRRMMMMMs, but it also—like the above Two Towers trailer—features some truly excellent music in the form of “Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey.

Inherent Vice

The movie itself might have gotten mixed reviews, but this trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is the perfect mix of pulpy crime drama and oddball lightness. The editing immediately following “Ordinarily we’re the ones asking the questions,” in particular, is inspired. HAIT. HAIT. HAIT.

Mad Max: Fury Road

You knew this was coming. We love Mad Max: Fury Road now. It’s kind of our thing. This first trailer, with its bonkers visuals and use of Verdi’s “Requiem, Dies irae,” instantly shifted Fury Road from “Ugh, another rebootquel. Why are we doing this?” to “Holy shit.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians was a risk for Marvel Studios, which until then had gotten pretty comfortable in the (mostly, Thor excepted) terrestrial adventures of the Avengers. The Guardians of the Galaxy, on the other hand, were obscure even for many comics fans. And a talking raccoon? Really? Given the source material’s level of general unfamiliarity, the “Star-Lord”/”Who?” exchange was a witty, meta way to start the trailer. Along with the “What a bunch of a-holes” line at the end, it provided a perfect capsule of what audiences had to look forward to from what would become the funniest Marvel film yet (and since). But it was the OOGA CHAKAs that landed Guardians on the top of most-anticipated lists worldwide (and “Hooked on a Feeling” back on the charts).

The Social Network

A choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep” and screenshots of Facebook go really well together. Who knew? None of us, until David Fincher decided to prove that you could make an interesting movie about a social media site and give it an unusually intense trailer besides. And aww, look at baby Andrew Garfield in his pre-Spidey days.


Like the above example from Gravity, the first Chronicle teaser kept the normal trailer trappings—fast edits and dramatic musical cues—to a minimum in favor of letting the footage speak for itself. It indicates a real confidence in the material; after all, a well-done trailer can make just about any movie, no matter how bad, look good. Lady Liberty may have a case of big head syndrome, but damned if that shot wasn’t striking the first time you saw it.

The Raid 2

This list was originally only going to be 10 trailers, with The Raid 2 as a runner-up, but I can’t disrespect this adrenaline-fueled masterpiece like that. The movie or the trailer. Look at all the assholes Rama is going to have to punch.


And over in this corner, we have Christopher Nolan making me emotional about space. Can I have soothing, inspirational Matthew McConaughey narrate my life?


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We’re home, Chewie! We’re hooooome!

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