The cryptic new trailer for JJ Abrams’s Super 8 is so well-executed that it actually makes us want to pay $15 to watch the entire film. (What’s inside that armored boxcar?!) It is refreshing. There’s no godlike voiceover, violin crescendo, too-revealing dialogue selected from the best scenes, or increasingly rapid stream of images climaxing with a sober shot of the movie’s title. To celebrate this departure from fixed formula, we’ve rounded up ten trailers from the past decade that were brave enough to defy the standard Hollywood fanfare. Viva creativity.
More JJ Abrams. Here, a surprise party for a friend goes well until something on the other side of the city goes terribly wrong. Shot entirely from a first-person perspective, we only ever know as much as the guy with the camera does. The trailer is intimate to the point of being claustrophobic.
Here, Jerry Seinfeld mocks Hollywood’s tendency to mass-produce trailers like it were in the garment industry — and why one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to film.
Back when M. Night Shyamalan still gave us the shivers, he crafted vignettes like the above. Nothing much is provided besides a mystery — which means the trailer is robust, economical, and inviting.
Red Eye (2005)
This trailer would not exist if it weren’t for the hundreds of romantic comedies preceding it. We know the routine: A serendipitous event causes two handsome, young individuals to meet; they exchange awkward words and glances until one of them asks the other to meet again at a later date; they fall in love, encounter a problem that strains their nascent relationship, then fall back in love again. In this case, it looks like this couple’s problem is that he wants to kill her.
Femme Fatale (2002)
While most trailers are reviled for giving away too much of the plot, Femme Fatale intends to give away the whole story. It’s an innovative attempt to transfer the blame onto the viewers, who, by later watching the feature-length film, admit they were too dim to get it the first time.
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez combine their talents to create an it’s-so-bad-that-it’s-good kind of trailer. But maybe we shouldn’t say that. Maybe the duo just really like the retro style and want to honor the B-movie auteurs of the past. That’s probably more accurate.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
“Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up” proclaims the Arcade Fire, who provide the soundtrack for this trailer about feeling bored, longing for adventure, and being a kid. This is one of those clips that unapologetically aims to make even the most calloused viewer slightly more tender, the most cynical audience member a tad more willing to trust.
Cast Away (2000)
This one has the typical opening: A well-intentioned man, devoted to his job, struggles to balance his work life with his home life. Near the end, the viewer can’t help but think: “Oh, shit. Now what’s going to happen?”
Little Children (2006)
With the ingenious overlapping of words with images, children with adults, and fornication with afternoon playtime, this trailer continues to weave all these threads together until the individual strands disappear completely. In addition, the swelling sound of a train coming closer overtakes the viewer’s ability to reason through it all. A collision is imminent.
Kill Bill (2003)
A Samuri-sword wielding heroine dressed in a yellow jumpsuit. A relentless guitar riff played with attitude over a basic 4/4 rock beat. Revenge. Lots of it. Whatever else you can find in this trailer is mere garnish.
If you haven’t seen this already, you should. It’s called “Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer,” and it’s a parody of the most banal, cliched trailers this world has ever produced.