Ah, movie trailers. We love them, we hate them, we don’t quite understand them. We complain that they tell us too much, or deride them for including all the good jokes/explosions/scares, but there’s no doubt that we rely on them to make our movie-going decisions — and that they’ve becoming something of an art of their own. So join us for a look back at the year in trailers, and at ten spots whose artistry and craft rose above mere hype.
A throwback to ‘70s-style trailer narration, just like the poster for Alex Ross Perry’s women-undone tale centering on a toxic friendship and relationship gone wrong. The imposing voiceover suits Perry’s taste for psychological horror tales like Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and brazen Fassbinder dramas, both influences on the Elisabeth Moss-starring film. We also had a fondness for the trailer focused on Moss and an unseen “unrepentant piece of shit.”
The bone-chilling trailer for Robert Eggers’ The Witch plays on the tension between the film’s Puritanical and Satanical symbols. Jarin Blaschke’s stunning cinematography and Mark Korven’s anxious score is nicely (terrifyingly) highlighted.
Nothing sweeps audiences away like the rush of nostalgia. Star Wars was featured in last year’s best-of trailers list (all 88 seconds of it). But the final round of clips released this year offered a closer look at the much-anticipated characters in JJ Abrams chapter in the Star Wars universe, including Daisy Ridley’s Rey as a central figure and more of John Boyega’s Finn, the first face we met in last year’s teaser.
Like George Miller’s slyly feminist story, packaged as a head-spinning summer blockbuster, the trailer starts off with knuckle-gripping action (flamethrower guitars!) and shifts its focus onto Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, the heart of the movie’s pro-woman message. ”This is a story of survivors of sexual violence, fighting back and reclaiming themselves,” our own Jason Bailey wrote earlier this year. “That they are first revealed in a vaguely eroticized bit with a water hose is a clever bait-and-switch on Miller’s part, and a sly acknowledgment of the way (as writer Matthew Monagle notes) exploitation filmmakers have, from the Corman era forward, smuggled progressive messages into their genre sheep’s clothing.”
Samuel L. Jackson is the Señor Love Daddy-style narrator in the trailer for Spike Lee’s modern-day Lysistrata adaptation, set against gang-ridden Chicago. Cut to a group of women denying the “access and entrance” of all men. Sold!
Joe Manganiello gives a lap dance to a Pepsi refrigerator, Channing Tatum bumps, grinds, and makes sparks fly. It’s self-aware and over-the-top, so we can forgive the lack of “Pony.”
Our first look at a tatted-up Jared Leto as the Joker for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, about a group of supervillains who take on lethal missions for clemency, felt like the equivalent of drinking too much Four Loko. But he made a great impression in the film’s trailer, which introduced other highly anticipated characters, like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The dark tone was matched with a haunting and ethereal song, which turned out to be a remake of the Bee Gees’ tune, “I Started a Joke.” It’s a bizarre combination of elements, but refreshingly un-superhero.
The face-changing trailer for Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy could play as a short film in a gallery installation all on its own. “Mommy’s” surgical bandages are enough to give us nightmares, but the sense of dread continues to build to the tune of a creepy lullaby.
Love, heartbreak, betrayal, sumptuous visuals, and a powerful woman at the heart of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s film — a twist on the wuxia genre — are all present in the trailer.
“At its heart, Carol is a movie about that feeling, and about finding a respite from it — even if only for a moment,” our own Jason Bailey wrote about Todd Haynes’ romantic drama. And the trailer for the ’50s-set star-crossed story about Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett’s characters made us lovesick before we even got to the theater.
This piece is part of Flavorwire’s series of essays on 2015 in culture. Click here to follow our end-of-year coverage.