I’ve decided to do this list so that filmmakers can start to take every aspect of filmmaking into consideration. And selling your films is a major piece to the puzzle. You want people to see your films and, “How do you do so?” With a trailer that grabs their attention. I’m going to give you trailer techniques in this article that will surely give you more insight on the use of the trailer. We’ve all gone to the movies and had to sit through various movie trailers, but what is it exactly that makes you want to go see that film? Is it the story line, or how it made you jump out of your seat or choke on your popcorn? Maybe it was a comedy you know you would laugh your butt off to and be able to escape the turmoil of your busy family life. Or plausibly, and ever so more realistically it’s that dreadful Romance movie that your girlfriend is going to make you watch the following week because her favorite heart throb is in it. Oi Vay! One way I see it though is that we did see that awesome Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi movie coming out that week, and I’m sure we might (pretty big might) be able to talk her into it.
No matter what it is that catches our eyes and liking I’m sure it has to do with a great sound design, beautiful visuals, emotional story lines, and composition of the cinematography. Before you think negatively about the list, try and find out what it is you liked or could possibly stand about it. You might find out there’s more than the appeal that makes you want to go see a certain movie or not.
Instead of talking about the history of the movie I’m going to answer this question;
“Why did the ‘Movie Trailer’ actually make the list?
Top 10 Movie Trailers – Flawless Film Techniques?
10. LEGEND (1985) Ridley Scott
Show the main “Conflict” of the story and the “Inciting Incident” while setting an emotion for the genre of the film.
- However, this narrows down who might go watch the film. You’re trying to catch a specific audience. Fantasy, Slapstick Comedy, Horror, etc…
Ridley Scott’s Legend trailer opens with a the hum of the sound design actually in the movie, which sets the emotional tone. From the very beginning we see and hear a dark presence that settles into our soul, all the while capturing our attention with the flickering light of candles coming into focus. The first dialogue that is said is, “Mother Night,” the montage of quick cuts leads us to an extreme close up (ECU) shot of Lilly’s face. Her eyes are empty with no light symbolizing the emptiness that lays deep inside of her (The ignorance of a child).
We are followed by another set of montage cuts which lead us to Jack. In his shot we see that his eyes are full of light, but it’s origin is coming from Lilly. That light is his motivation that he searches for throughout the movie.
The eyes are always the doorway to the soul and in the final of the three montage cuts we go back into an (ECU) shot of Lilly whose eyes are still empty! We gather valuable images from the following cuts as we see the Unicorn and Lilly reaching her hand out to touch the Unicorn. It’s within this picture that the Inciting Incident is established and the story takes off.
Halfway through the trailer we have the rising emotional tone quickening and Our Director’s Title Page is shown. In our last few montage of shots, the protagonist “Darkness” is finally introduced by stepping out of the glass, and into reality. Darkness is reality and it has taken over. To do so he must kill the last Unicorn and expel their fantastic realm into everlasting darkness. The major conflict is established and we see that it must be stopped, but how?
9. CLOVERFIELD (2008) Matt Reeves
Leave the audience with a “Cliffhanger”. Pose the question, “What is it?”.
In Matt Reeves Cloverfield we open with a Title Card, that tells us the place , and that we are about to watch a video from a camera retrieved from the place that an incident has taken place. What is it? The characters are quickly introduced with the word “Suprise”. Playing with the fact the characters really are in for a surprise. What is it?
We see a major explosion and a montage of chaotic events unfold. Size an Importance is established when we see that the Statue of Liberty’s head flies through the air. But what is it? When the character introduces himself into the camera, he says, “That some thing has attacked the city and that if we are watching it the video then we probably know more about it then he did at the time.” What is it?
Upon finishing the trailer we get the final statement that it’s being recorded because one of the characters feel that it history in the making and somebody needs to preserve it. But What is it?
8. DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964) Stanley Kubrick
“Absurdism In Title” and the use of the “Catch Phrase Title Cards” to sum up the story in question (?).
In Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (For short) we open up with Laughter, but this isn’t your every day laughing bit. It has meaning subtext. It’s that kind of laugh that’s reeks of insanity. Our exposition is given within 15 seconds of the trailer. In Title cards we see;
- Title card: “Why did the US…” followed by two characters: “Attack” & “Russia”?
How witty is that?
- Title card: “That was the first word said on the hotline…” Character: “Oh”, ignorantly!
- Title card: “Why did the US paratroopers invade their own…” Character: “Base”?
How absurd is that?
- Title card: “Why does Dr. Strangelove want…” Stangelove: “10 females to each male”?
How insane and absurd is this Dr. Strangelove? Who is he?
- Title card: “How does the fate of the world hang on… Image: Nuclear bomb Mushroom cloud!
The trailer is now giving us more exposition by implementing visuals into the back of our mind.
- Title card: “What is…” Character: “The Doomsday Machine” character: “Blast off!”
Finally, Let’s just come out and give the theme of the movie into the title.
Dr. Stangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
7. 300 (2006) Zack Snyder
This Traier CAPTURES THE FILMMAKING STYLE OF THE DIRECTOR in the “Establishing Shot” and the use of “Slow Motion” to exemplify the power and the beauty of the shot blended with the “Awe of God-like” music that emotionally drives us through the trailer, and all the while using a 1st person narrative to tell exposition.
Zack Snyder’s 300 is most likely one of the most beautiful shot films that blends the technology of Digital and Film. The Trailer opens up with a surmountable array of massive establishing shots that catches our attention right from the start. The exposition of the story is told by a Voice Over from some who was part of the events that are in the trailer.
The trailer is very theme set for a genre. There is so much action happening through the visuals that we as an audience that what we are about to see is filled with “ACTION and ADVENTURE!”
I did notice that the trailer was cut to the song they laid over it! Which in my belief is always key! An emotion is what you want to give your audience. Set the emotion and the tone and grab your audiences attention right from the start!
6. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) Christopher Nolan
INVEST IN THE ANTAGONIST by using the “Event” in the movie and the “Intent of Conflict” by posing the question, “Who is the Antagonist?” What will the Antagonist be dealing with? How intelligent or evil is this bad guy?”
Never have I seen a trailer before that showed pretty much an entire sequence of scenes of the movie. Once I saw this trailer I felt like I already invested so much into this bad guy that I had to go see if Batman was going to catch the Joker or not. Most Producers wouldn’t want to give away so much of the story without the audience paying for it, but that wasn’t the case here.
From the very beginning of the sequence we hear an array of Dolby Digital Sound Effects mixed with the thriving Musical Score that progresses the story with an emotion. We see that the Antagonist (The Joker) isn’t even trusted by or cared for by his accomplices. The whole time the exposition of the story is told by a group of bank robbers, who keep implying notions about “Who” and “What” this boss of theirs is.
As we conclude the scene we find out that the Antagonist is not only an intelligent person, but his neurotic and “Strange” (as he likes to call it) personality will be hard to overcome. I’m not certain that showing an entire scene of a movie will work for all trailers, but if you have a well developed story and character than I’m almost certain that you will make your audience feel “Invested” into the movie before they even see it.
5. ALIEN (1979) Ridley Scott
THE LULL OF DIALOGUE that drives emotion by design of “Sound Effects” in an array of “Montages” that EXPLODES INTO LOGLINE.
Ridley Scott’s Alien Trailer doesn’t have any dialogue. Nor is it belted with beautiful shots that catches the eyes. This trailer is all about Sound Effects and projecting the emotion with precise cuts of the film that catches your intrigue. The trailer opens with the black abyss of the unknown, as the sound of a white noise and space is interrupted by that of a hatching eggs that startles you. From this moment we know that this isn’t your average Sci-Fi movie. There’s something that lulls in the world that humans are ignorant of.
Once the egg is hatched we here that of a high pitched irritating whaling noise that causes your heart to race. That sound effect is preceded by a thumping sound effect that represents the heart. The heart that drives the human spirit.
The pace of the trailer starts out extremely slow and as it progresses it begins to rapidly speed up until finally it EXPLODES into a chaotic montage of deathlike and painfully visual images to the human eye. We see the Silent Screams of the victims of the antagonist. We here and see the main logline or catchphrase of the movie all in this heart pounding moment and in the final lull (absense of sound) We visually see the logline on a Title Card. And as we read shivers crawl down our spine.
Logline: “IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM”
Afterwards we are left with the thought, “What if that was you screaming?
And that my friends is probably one of the scariest trailers you will ever watch.
4. JAWS (1975) Steven Spielberg
“Melodrama, Mickey Mousing, and Metaphoric Storytelling by Narration”.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws trailer opens up with the movies musical theme and a Narrator who explains the “Exposition of the story,” and “Character background information,” while at the same time doing so through a beautiful metaphor. We open up visually under the depths of the ocean blue. The camera slowly progresses forward the the deep depths of the water.
“… There is a creature alive today. Who has survived millions of years of evolution.. without change… without passion… and without logic. It lives to kill. A mindless eating machine. It will attack and devour anything. It is as if “God Created The Devil And Gave Him… Jaws!”
We visually move up towards the surface of the dark depths of the water by 1st person point of view, towards a swimmer, who swims at the waters surface and unknowingly is dragged under. After the sudden death of the swimmer, we transition into the more cheery, yet not so corny exposition of the story.
We are given an introduction of the characters and through their direct dialogue we are given their purpose (goal) and personality traits.
- The line “It’s all Psychological,” is directly followed by a a shot of a magazine with a shark holding a blue air tank in it’s mouth, foreshadowing the end of the movie. But what’s great is that when you first watch the the trailer you never even realize that bit of exposition ever shown.
- The main conflict of the story, “To catch a Shark before it catches you” is given throughout the story without ever literally exactly saying it. It’s all psychologically telling us what might happen. It’s not the question of “Will they catch the shark?” that is important, but “Will they survive or be taken into the sharks jaws” that is.
- We end the trailer with an Introduction of the actual actors playing the characters, which catches the audiences eyes (also they do try and promote the production company because it’s so well known) and makes you want to go see that actors performance.
“Jaws. See it before you go swimming” (Logline/Catch Phrase)
3. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) Stanley Kubrick
Make the Second Best “MONTAGE” ever by cutting it to “Music”
It’s that simple! And the trailer explains it all. No more words have to be said to explain something of this magnitude. It pretty much poses it’s own question, and answer. All in 1 minute of trailer.
“What The HELL Did I Just See? “I Want To See It Again!
2. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: TRILOGY (2002) Peter Jackson
“Make the Best “MONTAGE” ever by cutting it to “Music”.
I don’t believe this is an official trailer, but if you know more information on it… Please comment below, as I’m willing to post your thoughts about the Trailer and link your site into the description. Thanks. All I can say is wow!
1. PSYCHO (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
“Narration by Director”.
“Good Afternoon,” says Hitchcock, as he begins to explain the plot, setting, and the descriptive emotions behind every event that takes place in the movie. However, he never once tells you what exactly happens. He only describes it to you, as if he was a witness, who saw the events unfold before his very eyes, and didn’t have the nerve to talk about it again.
He gives wonderful character descriptions and actually takes you on a journey into the story. I feel as if he is reporting the actual layout, all the while giving hints about certain scenes. Subtle hints such as quoting words like: “The Sinister House, The Bathroom, This Picture, The Stuffed Birds, The Bathroom, A Very Important Clue… ‘Down There..,’ (He points toward the toilet.) And the whole time we are watching him show us around the house and the motel this chipper, happy-go-lucky music is playing. Putting us to ease, and then all of a sudden he says,
“The murderer, you see crept in here. Very scary. Of course the showers… There was no sound… And uh…” Hitchcock
Honorable Mentioned Trailers
Your opinion matters! Your voice will be heard! You can decide on the Greatest Movie Trailer Ever by commenting below. I will write a small blog for your trailer here and add it to either the Honorable Mentioned Section on this page that I will make soon or put it into the top 10!
“WHOMEVER’ LEAVES THE LATEST COMMENT DOWN BELOW MUST ANSWER: WHAT IS THE GREATEST MOVIE TRAILER EVER?